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THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY
ORDER & WELL-BEING THROUGH IMAGE GOVERNANCE
CREATION, ISRAEL AND THE GOSPEL

THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY

GENESIS AND THE COVENANT INSTRUCTION GIVEN TO ISRAEL

A. By the mercy of God humankind was not left in the dark as to how everything began. Beyond the limits of human existence, the everlasting God gave man revelation concerning the creation of all things and the beginning of time and history.
Gen 1.1 (NASB95) 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
B. In contrast to the utter confusion of pagan mythologies and worldviews that lack any sense of purpose and have no correspondence to reality, the Scriptures present a narrative that communicates very concretely the actions and words of the Most High God. They actually communicate a message.
C. It’s a message that tells us that there’s a beginning originated by God, and because of that He has all the authority over everything that came into existence. The God who has always been and will always be, created and possesses all things and can do with them as He pleases, including redeeming all of it for His glory. He is the living and everlasting God!
Psalm 90.2 (ESV) 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 104.24, 31 (ESV) 24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. […] 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works…
D. Despite the witness of creation itself, which calls humanity to honor, trust and obey the Creator, they have consistently rebelled against Him by suppressing the truth of that witness (Rom. 1). As a result, their darkened hearts are inclined to foolishness and deceit. In His longsuffering God Himself had the initiative of choosing and calling a people out of the rest of humanity that would be granted the precious gift of the knowledge of the truth.
E. Although a commonly overlooked fact, the message and worldview contained in those initial chapters of Genesis were originally entrusted to that specific people. The Law or Torah of Moses within which we find the story of creation was in fact a part of the covenant instruction given to the people of Israel.
Psalm 147.19–20 (ESV) 19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the Lord!
Romans 3.1–2 (ESV) 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles (words) of God.
Romans 9.4 (NASB95) 4 …who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises…
F. This was part of their calling and destiny to be a “light unto the nations” (Isa. 49:3-6). The nations would in turn acknowledge the wisdom and privilege that the gift of God’s words constituted for them.
Deut. 4.5–8 (ESV) 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me… 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
G. And indeed, light has shone unto the nations. The God of Israel has sent forth the knowledge of the truth to the very ends of the earth, including the truth about creation. Therefore we can, together with Israel, praise and confess that “the unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psa. 119:130). [Share the stories of Hindu men who read the Bible from beginning to end and realized that it was not a book on mere ritual or religion but in fact the best explanation of origins and of history that they had ever heard.]

ORDER & WELL-BEING THROUGH IMAGE GOVERNANCE

A. Beyond producing raw elements like water and dirt, what does the divine act of creating primarily entailed? The picture given in Genesis 1 and 2 is not a science lesson on biology, geology and astronomy. Ancient people were not thinking in those terms. The main concern of those chapters was to communicate “Who” did what, and for what purpose?
B. The passage declares that God did it, for the purpose of establishing cosmic order by means of righteous governance, in order to grant well-being or “the good” (cf. Gen. 1:4, 11, 12, 18, etc.). The goal was the establishment of a place suitable for God’s dwelling among men from where He would be the source of life and good (cf. Psa. 36:9), unto the honor of His name as ruler over everything.
Gen 1.31–2.2 (ESV) 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. […] 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day (implying the establishment of a “resting place”, i.e. temple or dwelling place) from all his work that he had done.
Romans 11.36 (NASB95) 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
C. God showed His unlimited power by having set boundaries over chaotic waters, by bringing forth life and abundance out of an empty dry land, and by setting forth stars to govern from the sky. He arranged all things in the heavens and the earth, and ordained a governing mechanism that would ensure the proper rhythm of life within His creation.
Gen 1.16–18 (NASB95) 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness…
D. At the center of His design He fashioned man out of the ground, and established him as His image on earth so that he would be its primary administrator. It’s important to note that the notion of ‘image bearing’ must be understood within this governmental framework.
Gen 1.26 (NASB95) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule […] over all the earth…
E. Very significantly, covenant was the means through which the Lord would administrate that governance. In the mindset of ancient people that meant a special agreement between a sovereign and a servant by which the sovereign would guarantee certain benefits and the servant would pledge faithful allegiance to the sovereign.
Hos 6.7 (ESV) 7 But like Adam they (Israel) transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
Jer 33.20–21 (ESV) 20 “Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, 21 then also my covenant with David my servant (an Adamic representative) may be broken…
Psalm 119.89–91 (ESV) 89 Forever, O Lord, your word (covenant pledge) is firmly fixed in the heavens (guaranteed by the consistent pattern). 90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
F. It is in that light that at the consummation of the ages the entire hierarchy of creation is summoned to praise the Lord:
Psalm 148 (ESV) 1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! […] 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! […] 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! […] 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. 14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!

CREATION, ISRAEL AND THE GOSPEL

A. Statements like the last sentence in Psalm 148 raise very important questions. Why would a psalm about all of creation praising God end with a declaration that He will raise up a “horn” for his people Israel? Without getting into detail, other passages (cf. 1 Sam. 2:10; Luk. 1:69) make it clear that the idea of “the horn” has royal-messianic connotations. It’s about a promise to Israel concerning their King. A King that would be responsible for the ultimate administration of creation, and therefore its restoration.

Heb 2.5–8 (ESV) 5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come (the new creation that will praise the Lord), of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere (Psa. 8), “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

Acts 3.19–21 (NASB95) 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

B. Having considered the previous things, it becomes evident that our understanding and witness of the gospel must be rooted in those foundational convictions. The reason that man must repent and trust God is because as the Creator he actually owns our lives. So all of humankind, not just Israel, is accountable to Him.
Acts 17.24–31 (ESV) 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, […] 25 […] he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, […] 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. […] 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
C. We must also humbly acknowledge that the revelation of that truth was entrusted to them. When we open our bibles what we have in front of us are “the Scriptures of the prophets” “of Israel” (cf. Eze. 38:17; Mat. 26:56; Rom. 16:26). And on that basis, by the mercy of Israel’s God, we’ve been made participants of the coming redemption granted to them.
“The God who created will also re-create, and the miraculous potentials he activated at the beginning will again be seen at the end, when he restores the flesh-and-blood people Israel to their land and station, renders justice to Jew and Gentile alike, reverses the very real tragedy of death, and ushers in a better world without it.” —Jon Levenson, “Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel”