Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 2 2019 - Genesis 1:26-31 – Imaging God

On the sixth day, after creating all the other land animals, God created humankind, male and female, in his own image. As human beings, we are land animals but we are far more than mere animals.

Did you notice the words used by God in these verses, "Let us make mankind in our image." Who is God talking to and why does he refer to himself in the plural, "Let us…"? These words hint at a reality which is more fully revealed later in Scripture. There is only one God; that is the testimony of all of Scripture. But this one God exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is essentially relational – Father, Son and Spirit are bound together in unity and mutual love. That unity is here expressed in a common purpose and in united action, "Let us make mankind in our image."

What then does it mean that we, humankind male and female, are made in the image of God?

Firstly it means that we were created for relationship. It is not the man alone who is created in God's image; male and female together are created in the image of God. You cannot image God alone. You can only reflect the image of God in relationship with other people – in the deep and enduring relationships of mutual knowledge and respect. Indeed, we can only reflect the image of God in relationship with God himself; he does not give his glory to any other but delights to display his glory in and through those who live closely with him. We were made for fellowship with God.

The individualism of contemporary society in which each seeks to do what is pleasing in their own eyes, is a denial of the glorious purpose for which God created us.

Secondly, we image God as we share in his rule over all creation. The God who brings order out of chaos and whose light dispels the darkness calls upon us to partner him in exercising dominion over all that he has made. Exercising dominion like that of God himself excludes destructive exploitation; God loves and cares for all that he has made. Our government of creation must treat the earth and all its creatures as an entrusted gift, as life to be nurtured and enjoyed. Our use of all that is under our dominion is to reflect the creation care of God himself. To do otherwise would be to forsake imaging God in favour of making gods of ourselves.

The German theologian, Gerhard von Rad, expresses this thought as follows: "Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire ... so man [sic] is placed upon earth in God's image as God's sovereign emblem. He is really only God's representative, summoned to maintain and enforce God's claim to dominion over the earth. The decisive thing about man's similarity to God, therefore, is his function in the nonhuman world." (Genesis, SCM, 1963, p.58). I have emphasised the last sentence as it challenges us to think afresh about how we interact with God's world. How are we doing at caring for God's world?

Having completed his work of creation, God then declares it all to be "very good." What he has made pleases him and he takes delight in it all.

As those made in God's image, we are to conduct the orchestra of creation so that it may, in every part, reflect the glory of the creator – that creation too may image God.

Glorious God, help us this day to image you in our relationship with others and with the world you have given us. May the glory of your presence and goodness shine from our lives today.

Peter Misselbrook