On the Image of God – Genesis 1:26-27

             Last month I went to Sandwich, Illinois for a class in how to carve people’s faces.  That was a lot of fun, and I spent 6 hours making eyes and noses and mouths.  Now the trick will be to put them together in the right places.

            In the evening there was a class called Drawing for Wood Carvers.  Carvers usually work from a drawing or a picture.  I like to carve things from my own life, but it is hard for me to draw those things.  So I thought the class was a good idea.

  GOW09-08       In the picture you see, we were supposed to draw in about 20 minutes a picture of a teen aged girl sitting in a chair.  What we soon learned is that we had to keep looking at the model and then back to our drawing.  If I drew what I thought was there, or what I remembered, the picture would be wrong. 

 Drawing is about seeing first.  You notice shapes, sizes, light and darkness and try to reproduce that in your picture.

            My picture was not bad for a non-artist.  I had to apologize to the model, because she looked a lot younger in real life than she did in my picture.

             Why am I telling you this?  Because, God created human beings in his image and likeness.  So you and I are like a pencil drawing of God.  This girl is not made of paper and pencil, she was a living person.  God is not made of skin and muscle us, he is a Spirit and does not have a body like a human being.  Yet we are, somehow made in God’s image.

            What does this mean to be made in God’s image?

            It means that we will have to keep looking carefully at God through the Word of God to see what this means.  We can not look to human opinions, but we have to look and keep looking to God to see what this means.

       Students in Gateway are reading a book called “Bible Doctrine” by Dr. Wayne Grudem.  In this book he says that we should not worry about coming up with a specific detailed definition of what it means to be made in God’s image.  In stead he says,

            “[Genesis] only needs to affirm that man is like God, and the rest of Scripture fill is more details to explain this…..the more we know about God and man the more similarities we will recognize and the more fully we will understand what Scripture means when it says that man is in the image of God.”  (p. 190)

             What Dr. Grudem is saying is that like an artist drawing a picture, we need to keep looking up to God.  We need to keep reading the Word of God, in order to understand what it means to be in God’s image.


Habakkuk 2:4 – A Case for Context

The interpretation of Habakkuk 2:4 is a case in point of reading a verse in the context of its book.  the Book is in three chapters.  Chapter 1 is a dialogue between the Prophet and God over the sad state of Israel in the 7th Century BCE.  When the Lord tells the Prophet that his instrument of correction is the Babylonian Empire, the Prophet has a fit!  He says that he will stand on the ramparts and wait for an answer.

The answer comes and it is verse 4.

Habakkuk 2:4
    “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
        but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The exegetical arguments are often whether this verse proves the theological point of Justification by Faith – since it is tied to Romans 1:16-17.

If one reads this a the turning point of the book, then we see that v. 4a, the part about Babylon (“he is puffed up”) is explained in the remainder of chapter 2 with 5 “woes” or words of prophetic judgment.  yes, God will use Babylon, but he will also hold them accountable for their excesses.

Then if one reads chapter 3, it is the prophet’s prayer/hymn to the Lord – in it he expresses faith –

Habakkuk 3:2
    O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
        and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
    In the midst of the years revive it;
        in the midst of the years make it known;
        in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    [18] yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    [19] God, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer’s;
        he makes me tread on my high places.

So it seems that the righteous live by faith in God, not in their own goodness or strength, whereas the puffed up live in confidence and trust in themselves and their power.  Faith is contrasted with arrogance, self-trust and violence.  Faith is based on what is promised, not what is actually seen.

so the application of “the just shall live by faith” in the New Testament passages of Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 make particular applications of that general principle.  Romans says it well, that the righteousness of God is “from faith for faith” or “from faith from first to last.”

That is the start, the middle and the end are lived by faith, not self-confidence, not confidence in what is seen or touched or experienced, but in God who speaks truthfully.

II Kings 22,23 – Chiasmus

I told someone this week that I was discovering a “chiasmus” in the story of King Josiah, found in II Kings 22,23.  He asked what that was.

It is a literary form where the elements of a story (A, B, C) are repeated, modified in reverse form (C’, B’, A’).  Chiasmus refers to the shape being an “x” or “chi” in Greek.  Often the main point of the story can be found in the center, where the “x” marks the spot.  The number of elements vary. 

English readers need to look for this as it is not a literary form we are as accustomed to as the ancient Hebrews.   We are used to jokes with three elements (minister, rabbi and priest jokes for example), with “inclusio” returning at the end to the beginning.

In my analysis of II Kings 22, 23, I found such a structure.  Notice below that at the start Josiah is affirmed and at the end.  He has the book read to him and he reads it to others, he was restoring the temple, then he restores the people, etc.  The B’ is a long section detailing the repairs Josiah made as a result of his recommitment to the Covenant. 

This is helpful in finding what the intent of the passage might be.  If you see this structure, it is likely pointing you toward the mid point. In this narrative, that is Hulda’s word form the Lord for Josiah and for Jerusalem.  The passage has good news for Josiah, but bad news for the people.  Overall, what it is saying is that rebellion was so advanced and so deeply set in the people that there was no chance that the judgment of God could be averted.  A very serious point.  However, whatever may be the case for the nation, Josiah was still intent on obedience and he was still rewarded for his repentance and faith.

there is this structure.

A – Josiah Affirmed  22:1,2

    B – Josiah Repairs  22:3-7

            C – The Law Recovered  22:8-10

                    D – Josiah Reads the Law  22:11-13

                          E – Josiah Inquires  22:14

                                    1. Jerusalem  22:15-17

                                    2.  Josiah  22:18-20

                    D’ – Josiah Reads the Law  23:1,2

             C’ – Josiah Recovers the Covenant 23:3

     B’ – Josiah Repairs 23:4-24

                        Jerusalem – 23:4-14

                        Outlying Area – 23:15-20

                        Passover – 23:21-23

                        Idolatry – 23:24

A’ – Josiah Accepted; Jerusalem Rejected  23:25-30

            1. Jerusalem – 23:26-27

            2.  Josiah – 23:25, 28-30

Psalm 19 – Two Books

This is the classic text on General and Special Revelation.  The terms refer to the idea that God reveals himself generally, to all people, in nature and history, and perhaps in human nature.  The second term refers to more specific revelation through the Scriptures which contain the story of the faith descendants of Abraham.

Note that in the first 6 verses there is an exuberant and all pervasive communication to all the earth about the “glory of God.”  We find a universal but general message.  It is interesting that the word “God” (El in Hebrew) is used here.  This message is widespread but not specific.

Psalm 19:1-6
    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
        and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    [2] Day to day pours out speech,
        and night to night reveals knowledge.
    [3] There is no speech, nor are there words,
        whose voice is not heard.
    [4] Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,
        and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
        [5] which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
        and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
    [6] Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
        and its circuit to the end of them,
        and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

   The following Verses celebrate with great joy the specificity of scripture.  There are 6 sayings that match nouns, adjectives and verbs, and then there are additional adjectives and verbs.  So you get a tapestry of specificity.  I note that there are different words for scripture (law, statues, precepts…) for their qualities (perfect, trustworthy, radiant…) and for their effect (making wise, reviving, giving joy).  V. 11 adds that there is both warning and reward – the Word is a two-edged sword, or if you prefer, there are two sides of the coin – both “Do Not” and “Do.”

Psalm 19:7-11
    The law of the Lord is perfect,
        reviving the soul;
    the testimony of the Lord is sure,
        making wise the simple;
    [8] the precepts of the Lord are right,
        rejoicing the heart;
    the commandment of the Lord is pure,
        enlightening the eyes;
    [9] the fear of the Lord is clean,
        enduring forever;
    the rules of the Lord are true,
        and righteous altogether.
    [10] More to be desired are they than gold,
        even much fine gold;
    sweeter also than honey
        and drippings of the honeycomb.
    [11] Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
        in keeping them there is great reward.

However, the world and the word are not enough for the Psalmist – he is concerned for his inability to honestly and truthfully hear, becasue of self-blindness.  So he calls upon the Lord to preserve him.

Psalm 19:12-14
    Who can discern his errors?
        Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
    [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
        let them not have dominion over me!
    Then I shall be blameless,
        and innocent of great transgression.
    [14] Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
        be acceptable in your sight,
        O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Note that in the Second and Third sections the Psalmist talks about and then to the LORD (Hebrew is YHWH).  This is the personal, covenant name that God uses with “his” people.  So in the end, the world and the word are personal!


Hebrews 1:1,2 “Many Ways”

So we did a little exploration of the “many ways” that the Lord has spoken “in the past”.  He is our list of 22, paired up, mainly because ampersands (&) are cool!

             Yes & No.  The very first command God gave was in Genesis 1:28 when he told Adam and Eve to go, to be fruitful and to multiply.  The very first “no” that God gave is found in the next chapter – they could eat from any tree, except from one – that tree, when eaten, would bring death.

             Blessing & Curse.  In Genesis 1:28 it says that God Blessed Adam and Eve – there are many times where God blesses people – that is he gives them some good thing.  Yet God also curses – the very first curses are found in Genesis 3, where God punishes Satan, Adam and Eve for the disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

             Dividing & Uniting.  As people multiplied in number, they became proud and tried to build a tower that would unite them and make them as powerful as God.  So God confused their languages and spread them across the earth.  Yet, when he called Abraham, he promised to bring all nations together to receive his blessing.

             Stars to count & stars to Follow.  God later spoke with Abraham and promised him many descendants.  Abraham found it hard to believe, because he and Sarah had no children.  So God said, go out and count the stars.  Abraham counted and God said, your descendants will be more than the stars – Abraham believed.  Later, there were wise men that saw a star that did not fit their star chats – they followed that Star and found Jesus, and worshipped him.

             A Flood & A Drought – In Genesis 9 God calls Noah to build a boat to save his family and many animals.  Then he sent a flood that killed everyone, except Noah and his family – the world had to start over with these few people.  In I Kings 18 God gave Elijah the power to stop the rain so that the Children of Israel would know that they had disobeyed his commands.

             Stone Tablets & Heavenly Visions.  God gave the 10 commandments written on stone.  He carved the stone himself, so that it contained the 10 things that summarized the rest of his laws.  In Isaiah 6, the Prophet was taken in a vision to Heaven, where he saw the holiness of God on display, and received his call to preach.

             Thunder & Whisper.   When Israel assembled around Mt Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, God’s voice sounded loud like thunder.  Thunder can be so loud that it knocks you off your feet.  It can rain so hard that you can’t keep up with it with your windshield wipers.  Yet when God wanted to speak to Elijah, he did not speak through an earthquake, a wind storm or through fire.  He spoke in a whisper, and he told Elijah what to do and say next.

             Studies & Songs.  The book of Proverbs begins with a call to study hard to learn wisdom from the Book of God – wisdom is available to all, but you have to be willing to study.  Psalms are songs that were sung to God in the Temple – and these songs contain many truths and promises.

            Plagues & Healings – In Exodus God used Moses to send terrible plagues on the people.  He sent frogs, flies, blood and darkness among others to show his power to the Man who thought he was a God – the King of Egypt.  Yet, through Elijah and Elisha God healed the sick and fed the poor.

             Angels & a Donkey – Many times God spoke through Angels – the most famous Angels are those we talk about at Christmas time – The angels announced the birth of Jesus before it happened and sang “Glory to God in the highest” afterward.  In the book of Numbers, one man was so stubborn, that God caused his donkey to talk to him.  Even the donkey was smart enough to know that you should listen to God.

            Nature & the Bible – one place says that God has spoken to us through two voices.  Psalm 19 says that the Heavens declare the Glory of God.  So the Stars and moon, the plants and animals, the wonders of the sky, the ocean and the land all speak of the power and wisdom of the Creator.  Psalm 19 also goes on the say that God’s written words are powerful, pure and life giving.  God speaks through nature, but he speaks most clearly through the Bible.