Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Gen 1:26–31

GOD CREATED EVERYTHING for his pleasure, but he created humanity in his own image and likeness. Speculative proposals for what this denotes multiply:
  • Maybe it’s that we have a spirit (Heb. ruach) or a soul (Heb. nepesh); however, animals are also said to have both nephesh (Gen 1:20, 24, 30) and ruach (Gen 6:17; 7:15).
  • Some suggest that it’s the degree of human intelligence that constitutes the image; however, that explanation seems a recipe for humanitarian disasters of a Nazi-like order if it means failing to identify the fetus, infant, or mentally handicapped as fully human.
  • Some suggest that man’s use of tools constitutes the divine image in humanity; however, we now see that chimpanzees and even some sea creatures fashion and use what can fairly be called “tools.” And since I’m not very adept with tools myself, I’m not sure I like this explanation at all!*
  • Others suggest the human desire and ability to create constitutes the image. If so, it’s a strange twist that this is the very aspect of human existence that’s turned so readily against God in the crafting of images to be used for idols!
  • Others suggest that the desire for fellowship with God constitutes the image and likeness; however; however, it’s more likely that this is not what constitutes image and likeness, but hat it’s a result of our bearing the divine image.
All these suggestions ignore the fact that the creation account itself gives us the answer to the question. It defines image-bearing in the functional terms of divine appointment: “They will reign” over all creation as God’s representatives (Gen 1:26), to “govern it” (v. 28). Being God’s image and likeness has to do with being God’s royal representatives ruling over his earth on his behalf.

God also gave humanity a mandate to fill the earth. That involved more than just expanding human population but also extending paradise, so that the whole of the earth would be a paradise-like realm for God’s presence and rule.

Sadly, the Genesis account quickly turns to humanity’s fall into sin. But just as quickly, God’s note of gracious hope returns. Right after God’s judgment on Adam and Eve, condemning them to death for sin, we read a human note of hope: “Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live” (Gen 3:20). And the very next verse we see a divine note of grace: “And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (v. 21). The line of God’s image and likeness would continue after all—and with divine protection and provision.

Lest we think that humanity no longer bore God’s image and likeness after the judgment for sin, the next great judgment (the flood) is also followed by a note of divine commitment to man serving as the divine image and likeness: “If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image” (Gen 9:6). This condemns violence against the very image of God. But it also reaffirms the authority of human beings to rule—even in capital cases.

Adam and Eve were created as prototypes of divine rule through human rep-resentatives. Later this pattern came to a degree of fulfillment in David and his dynasty. Of course, all of this could only be a limited version of what will happen through the one who is “the visible image of the invisible God,” not as God’s creation, but as the one who “existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Col 1:15).

“The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor 15:45). And when he comes forth from the grave, he will live and reign forever. God called on human beings to subdue the earth (Gen 1:28); and all things will be put under Jesus’ feet (1 Cor 15:27; Eph 1:22). And as renewed image of God (Col 3:10) the saints will share in that reign (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:6), for which humanity was created in the first place (Heb 2:8).

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments
  • How might you and your family be more faithful to the mandate to live and reign over creation as God’s image and likeness? Remember that ruling, subduing, and filling was not just about making a paradise, it was about extending the realm of God’s presence and power in the earth through representative rule.
  • Today when you pray, “May your Kingdom come son,” may you continue with the words of that prayer which constitute both an explicit request and an implied commitment: “May you will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Make it a request, “O God, manifest your rule through my life.”

*Depending upon the context, ruach means everything from “spirit” or “Spirit” to “wind” or “breath.” Similarly, nephesh, refers to means to the “soul,” the “self,” a “life,” or a “being/creature,” or even the “throat.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Re-blogging Jesse Tree series

I'm re-blogging the Jesse Tree series. I'm just re-posting each of the lessons in a series that I posted for Christmas 2009. I'm not sure how we'll they're updating on my blog, though. If you come into them from my facebook page, you come to the right lesson each day; however, if you just come to my blog, it looks like you comes to the last of the series, no matter what day.

Introduction to Jesse Tree

Isaiah 11:1–10

THE BIBLE SAYS, “God chose [Jesus] as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last day” (1 Pet 1:20 NLT). In fact, God says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Eph 1:4 NLT). God was working his plan of salvation long before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Jesse had seven sons. Some of them may have seemed impressive sorts to Samuel, whom God had sent to anoint one as king. But God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by [their] appearance or height…. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7 NLT). In fact, God had chosen Jesse’s youngest son to become Israel’s greatest king. David was the first royal branch from “the Jesse tree.”

This family tree held great messianic promise, through thick and thin. The promise of an eternal Davidic dynasty stood true whether Israel and the Davidic dynasty measured up to God’s expectations or not. Even when the Davidic kings broke covenant with God, God’s promise to David and his descendants still stood. So Isaiah could promise, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit…. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isa 11:1, 10 ESV).

This figurative language about stumps, shoots, and branches promised renewal of the Davidic dynasty. Out of the apparently dead “stump of Jesse” there would sprout a new shoot (Isa 11:1). This new branch would bear “fruit from the old root,” that is the promise to David’s family would yet come to fruition in a “Son of David” (e.g., Matt 1:1). He would rule well because God’s Spirit would rest on him, enduing him with all the attributes of a righteous king: “the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD” (Isa 11:2 NLT). Much later, the apostle Paul looked on that promise and found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Rom 15:12).

Just as God would not look on outward appearances when appointing his chosen king (1 Sam 16:7), this Davidic king would “not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay” (Isa 11:3). Rather, the Spirit’s anointing would enable him to “make fair decisions” (v. 4). He would rule like God himself rules over his people (vv. 3–6). A righteous king should “Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes” (2 Chr 19:7).

And that just rule will establish a kingdom of perfect peace—indeed heavenly peace (Isa 11:7–9). Animals that now fight or fear each other will live in peace (v. 7), babies will be safe even “near the hole of a cobra” (v. 8). “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” (v. 9a), which was the site of the ancient Davidic throne.

More importantly, it was God’s own throne, upon which God’s anointed king would rule over God’s people. Under the Old Testament arrangement, that meant divine rule over Israel. But even then, it included others who joined Israel in worshiping the one true God. That might be David’s own great-grandmother Ruth the Moabitess, or a resident alien who came to be a disciple of the LORD God. The ultimate goal of this kingdom was not just to bless Israel alone with peace and righteous rule. No, God’s goal was to bless all nations. That was why he called Abraham in the first place (Gen 12:1–3), and it was why he raised up the Davidic dynasty. So the days of fulfillment for the Davidic promise are described this way: “In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place” (Isa 11:10 NLT).

From now until Christmas, the Jesse tree lessons will keep reminding us that God keeps his promises, especially his greatest promise. The Bible stories in the Jesse tree book show how God kept on reminding his people that a “Son of David” would come and fulfill every promise God ever made. When we celebrate Christmas, it ought to be with this note: “All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory” (2 Cor 1:20 NLT). That should be the underlying motivation for our Christmas shouts, “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments
  • Meditate on the linkage between the Jesse “tree” and our contemporary notion of a “family tree.” We tend to look backwards when we’re talking about the family tree; however, the family tree of Jesse was very much a forward-looking genealogy.
  • As you read the description of the messianic kingdom that Isaiah gave us (Isa 11:1–11), refresh your contribution to the prayers of saints in all the ages: “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).