Genesis 1:11 Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.
In the beginning, God created everything out of nothing (Genesis 1:1). Since then, he normally uses the means he built into creation. He could produce a million apples a day out of nothing, but prefers to use natural means instead. After he made the fish and the birds he said, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth (Genesis 1:22). At first, God created animals according to their kinds (Genesis 1:25). Since then, he uses the natural means he built into them.
God’s two ways of working can be understood as miracle and providence. Jesus healed many people miraculously, but God heals most people providentially. Small cuts normally heal through the means God built into the body. He may also use medicine, as well as doctors. This kind of healing is not technically miraculous, but providential.
Likewise, Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), but it does not normally drop out of heaven. He normally gives us jobs to earn money, so we can buy bread from the market. When Jesus fed the multitudes with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:17), he was providing miraculously. More often he uses soil, sun, rain, farmers, bakers and merchants to provide.
When we understand that God works providentially, not just miraculously, we will see his kindness in every plate of food, every healing, and every other need he meets. Miracles still occur (Psalm 77:14), of course, but God is always working providentially. Miracle and providence, we could say, are the right and left hands of God.
Genesis 1:27 God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
This was very important to the Israelites because in Egypt they were treated like beasts. They were Pharaoh’s slaves, and their primary job was to make bricks. And if they did not make their quota, they were given a beating (Exodus 5:1-18). Whole generations lived and died under the hot Egyptian sun, working like beasts and considered little more.
But here we learn that there is a qualitative difference between people and animals. People are made in the image of God; animals are not. It is not a matter of degree, but of kind, dignity and worth. Without clarity on this point, we will treat people like animals, and animals like people. In fact, there are places where cattle are treated with honor, while people go hungry. This is just one reason the Bible matters.
The image of God is also that which allows us to know God personally. You cannot have a personal relationship with a turtle, because a turtle is too different from you. And you cannot have a meaningful conversation with a cat, because a cat is too different from you too. But you can know God more deeply than you know your spouse, because you were made in the image of God.
This is also why the Bible allows capital punishment in the case of murder. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind (Genesis 9:6), wrote Moses. God sees murdering others as an attack on himself because every human being bears the image of God.
This is also why it is wrong to curse other people. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. . . . this should not be (James 3:9-10), wrote James.
Before we curse another person, or make an obscene gesture, we should remember whose image they bear. The image of God is so basic to our humanity, and to the ordering of society, that it is found in the very first chapter of the Bible.
Furthermore, God created people in his image because he planned to become one of us. When Christ came into the world, God took on our humanity, never to put it off (Hebrews 7:17). For all eternity we will relate to God through Jesus Christ, who is both truly God and truly human.
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
God gave Adam and Eve a very important job to do: fill the earth and subdue it. From this we understand that God wants people to contribute to society through work and family. Raising children, building roads, creating art, and anything else that contributes to the good of society is actually serving God. This idea was reinforced by the Apostle Paul who wrote, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).
Some people think the only way to serve God is through church, or some other religious means. It is true that every child of God has an essential role to play in the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). But the work we do for God in the world is also important. For example, Adam served God by gardening. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15), wrote Moses. Gardening was Adam’s service to God.
The work we do for the glory of God, and for the good of others, is not merely a way to earn money or raise a family. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. This gives meaning and significance to what we do, and should make our work an act of worship.
Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
God could have made the world an ordinary place, but chose to make it very good–and he wants us to notice! I was on my way to class, one afternoon, when I passed a familiar tree. I had seen it many times before, but this time was different. The lowering sun shone through the golden leaves and seemed to darken the branches. The tree itself was grand, but against the deep blue sky—it was art. I wanted to say to everyone, Look at that!
Before there was television, people went for long walks and called it marveling. They would look at flowers, trees and birds, and simply marvel at them. We can do the same, if we are willing to take the time. Creation reflects the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3), and he wants us to see it everywhere.
Genesis 2:3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
After God created the world, we might imagine he was tired. But the amount of God’s power that he used to make the world was mathematically zero. God’s power is infinite, so no matter how much he uses, it is never at all diminished. God did not rest because he was tired, but because resting is good. It is also good for us.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28), said Jesus. Many are surprised to learn that the way to heaven is not by working, but by resting. If all we had to do was a million good deeds, we would all be very busy. Or if all we had to do was pay a million dollars, we would all be working overtime. But the way to heaven is not by working, or even by being good, but by resting in the finished work of Christ. In repentance and rest is your salvation (Isaiah 30:15), wrote Isaiah.
A little girl was hiking with her big brother when she twisted her ankle and could not go on. The only way home was to climb on her brother’s back, and let him carry her. Likewise, we put all our weight on Jesus Christ, and trust him to carry us home.
Reflection and Review
How is a miracle different than providence?
How should the image of God affect our behavior toward others?
What does the beauty of creation tell us about God?