The Breath of Life

May 11, 2011

I’ve been thinking recently about the creation of humanity (Genesis 1 and 2) with a couple questions stirring in my mind:

  • Is our being created from dust similar or analogous to the waters swarming with swarms (Genesis 1:20) teeming with life?
  • Twice God says, “Let the land produce…” (Genesis 1:11, 24)–are these to form the backdrop against which the “Let us make” by which humanity enters the narrative (Genesis 1:26)?  Are they set as contrasting or synonymous pairs?
  • Is there significance to the fact that we have been formed from another part of creation?  Does Eve’s creation from within Adam also bear significance?
  • The animals also appear to have the breath of life in them (Genesis 1:30; 7:22)–is it really accurate for us to say that humanity is specially  for humanity to be filled

Aside from sorting out a few questions related to the telling of humanity’s creation and the avenues we typically see as expressions of our uniqueness (i.e. formed from the dust, having life breathed into us), one thought in particular has stuck in my mind as something I’ve wanted to pass by you.  Here it goes:

Is it possible that man is filled with the breath of life (rather than being spoken in to existence) as another expression of many’s function as God’s vice regent-stewards?  In other words, does God refrain from creating man by a word so that man, newly enlivened by the breath of life, might expel that breath in words of our own as we multiply and fill the earth with God’s image and glory?

What do you think?


“As I sent you, I now send my Son”

February 8, 2011

Not a long post today, but hopefully a helpful one.

It seems pretty clear: Jesus’ mission is our mission, right?  “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).  He came to glorify the father through multiplying who would rightly reflect him.  As his people, sent by him, we live for the same things he did.  It’s hardly rocket science.

The funny thing about Jesus’ mission, is that it has always been our mission!  We might surmise that the Father’s sending of Jesus went something like this: “Just as I sent them, I also send you.”

If this seems strange to you, look again at God’s original commandments to man in the garden: #1 “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” (Genesis 1:28) and later, #2 the command about what trees Adam and Eve could eat from.  Why did God command Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth?  Because, as we read in the verse just prior, they bear his image!  God is saying essentially, “Fill the earth with my image!”

Not surprisingly, this is not the last time this command will be given:

“Go out from your country, your relatives and your father’s household to the land that I will show you
Then I will make you a great nation and I will bless you
And I will make your name great” (Genesis 12:12)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So, “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you”  Go multiply and glorify through the same kind of life-on-life Jesus practiced!

Why a virgin birth?

February 16, 2009

So I was reading Matthew’s genealogy the other day–I know, exciting stuff right?–with some Dutch people and one of them asked, “How can Jesus be Joseph’s son, since he wasn’t physically his father?”  (As I think about it now, I wonder if that isn’t a very Western thinking sort of question, but that’s not what I’m here to write about).  Anyway, that got me to thinking.  I don’t think I’ve ever really heard a satisfying explanation of the virgin birth.  

As I recall, the dialogue generally goes something like this: “So why was Jesus born of a virgin?” “Because it was prophesied in Isaiah” “Oh.  Great…Why did God go through the trouble of prophesying that he would come in the flesh through a virgin birth?” “Cause it makes Jesus birth even more special…I guess…”  Yeah, I’m not satisfied either.  So here’s what I’m thinking: 

The early chapters of Genesis tell us that eating from the forbidden tree would result in death for God’s specially appointed vice-regent stewards of the earth, Mankind.  Through the story (and Paul’s restatement in Romans) it becomes pretty clear that in Adam, all died, because no one seems to display the marks of life within themselves, and so Man’s role as vice-regent/stewards of the earth is somewhat called in to question.  How will humanity fulfill the task and potential to which God has called them (in relation to both Creation and God)? 

As the story moves along, in the precarious story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38) there arises a provision called the Leverite Marriage, which served to continue the line of families who no longer had a fitting heir (Another great example is found in the book of Ruth).  As Judah’s sons deny their duty to their brother, the narrative pronounces them “evil” and God kills them–(which I’ve always found to be a bit of an overreaction–but then again, the Leverite marriage has never seemed that important or meaningful to me either).

I’m sure you’re already putting the puzzle together, but here’s how I see this shaking out: 

#1  The mother of the savior must be a virgin, because, without the intervention of the next of kin (in whose image we have been made), mankind is “dead” and cannot possibly produce a rightful heir.

#2  If God, in Christ, is providing a rightful heir for humanity through the Leverite  marriage, then it must also make beautiful sense of the family terminology which permeates the rest of the NT.  Why are we a family?  Why are we “brothers and sisters”?  Why is Paul so fond of adoption language?  Because Jesus was born of a virgin, thus reestablishing our true humanity.  

Not to belabor the point, do you guys have any more thoughts on this?

Colossians 1:9-14

November 27, 2008

Now it to week two of our study of Colossians, we have broken in to the second portion of Paul’s introduction to his letter to the Colossians. Whereas the former section (Col. 1:1-8) centered mostly on Paul’s thanksgiving to God for his work in and among the Colossians, he now expresses his prayer for them. Again, brought to us by us from the NET Bible, here is the text:

For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects – bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

To begin our discussion Tuesday night, we first went back to the beginning of all things in Genesis.  The story of the universe, as God tells it, says that in the beginning, everything was perfect until sin came in to the world and what was perfect became marred.  In response to this marring God both pronounces a curse (Gen. 3:14-19) though with a promise in the midst of it (Gen. 3:15) that evil would one day be defeated.  How would this happen?  By what means?  

Back in Colossians, I found myself struck with the question, “Is Paul praying for the impossible?”  Specifically, can we “walk worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects” (1:10)?  To answer that question, we must again go back to the Old Testament where Paul has pulled these concepts from.  

Though Paul makes two requests here (“walking” and “pleasing”) he is actually making one petition: that the Colossians’ life of faith would enact a great reversal of the entirety of human history.  Here are the connections I see:

Paul prays that the Colossians…

…would find wisdom in Christ (Col. 1:9) as Adam and Eve were unable to do (Gen. 3:5-6)

…would take up the invitation of God (Gen. 17:1) to walk worthily (Col. 1:10) of the Lord like Enoch (Gen 5:24), Noah (Gen. 6:9), Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 48:15) did–unlike Adam and Eve who could not (Gen 3:8).

…would live lives that God could once again affirm as being pleasing (Col. 1:10)  and good (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

…would bear fruit and grow (Gen. 1:28) in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:6, 10).

Though Paul’s prayer is essentially that the Gospel would reverse the total effect of sin on humanity, he bears no misconception of exactly whose work it is to complete this work.  Evidencing this conviction Paul immediately turns his prayer not to the strength the Colossians will need to accomplish this transformation, but to the patience and steadfastness that will be necessary (1:11) as they wait for the Father to complete his work in them, his new creation in Christ.  Further illustrating God’s role, Paul then moves back in to thanksgiving for the work God has done (not the Colossians) in qualifying, delivering and redeeming his people (Col. 1:12-14).

Rebekah, Rebekah, Rebekah… I get it!

August 12, 2008

So I was reading through Genesis the other day and noticed that when it comes to tell the story of Abraham’s servant finding Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, which is told entirely in Genesis 24, multiple times you hear the story told of how it is that the servant comes to find Rebekah as the wife of Isaac. First the servant prays that the girl who gives him and his camels water will be the one, then you see this acted out as Rebekah does so, and then the servant tells it to Laban, that she who gave him and his camels water would be the one.

So why?

I get it. I even get bored of reading the whole event the third time. Yeah, Rebekah did what you prayed for. We get it. But I wondering, if repetition is a literary mechanism, and this really is repetition, than why is it in there for? Why is this event repeated three times to us? What is the author trying to show.

I’ve pondered this a bit and wondered if maybe, like Isaac, there is a threefold repetition that this is the wife of Isaac, as the promise was repeated to Abraham and Sarah multiple times before if happened. Maybe a connection? Or mabye there is something more? I can’t completely get it.

Any thoughts?

The Eyes of Abraham and Lot

July 18, 2008

The Ides of March! (I apparently only do posts in pairs it seems)

18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest time of the day. 18:2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing across from him. When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by and leave your servant. 18:4 Let a little water be brought so that you may all wash your feet and rest under the tree. 18:5 And let me get a bit of food so that you may refresh yourselves since you have passed by your servant’s home. After that you may be on your way.” “All right,” they replied, “you may do as you say.”

I was reading this part in Genesis the other day and it caught me inquistively as to why Abraham had reacted this way to these men. As readers we clearly see at the very beginning that “the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks” and so we know this to be God. But I wonder how Abraham knew? Was he just given special sight, a sudden divine revelation that this was God and so he should go chase them down and bow down to them? Did Abraham even know? Or is the author merely letting us know that Abraham reacted this way at first just in kindness and generosity but came to know later that this was God? We could claim that Abraham saw the divinity of these men and knew them to be divine, but did he really? And then:

19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening while Lot was sitting in the city’s gateway. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face toward the ground.

19:2 He said, “Here, my lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house. Stay the night and wash your feet. Then you can be on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they replied, “we’ll spend the night in the town square.”

And again it happens. Two angels come and Lot reacts in the same way. Why? He subjects himself as a servant to these two angels, but why? Were they walking around with big wings and halos on their heads? What in Lot, or what in these men, made Lot aware that they were not just men but something more? Or did he know? Is the author just revealing to us that they were angels and Lot got lucky in treating them the right way?

Hmmmmm. I am intrigued.

Going back to the beginning

July 18, 2008

Recently I posted a post (post a post) about Genesis and animals and Cain and plants and Abel and curses and transformers. Cain was a transformer.

Anyways, Ryan Topper had brought up the verse from Genesis chapter 4 that has the woman, Eve, saying she has made/acquired/conceived a man by the help/from/like the Lord. How your interpretation has it is up to you and it matter not in what I am talking about. Here we will quote what the NET bible has:

4:1 Now the man had marital relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, “I have created a man just as the Lord did!”

And just previously in Genesis, in an earlier episode, during the curse God says to the serpent:

3:15 And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel.”

Now a cool thing that the NET says in it’s commentary (which can be read by clicking on the verse link) is that the woman believes she has given birth to the one who will crush the serpent’s head, the promised Messiah. This turns out not to be true as Cain instead just goes buck-wild and kills his brother, then becomes a vampire. You know, like common vampire mythology.

So we know it isn’t true that Cain is that Messiah and the Jews have been looking forward to this Messiah for years, looking for the one whom God will send to crush the serpent’s head. So I was thinking about that and since I have also been reading Luke at the same time I began to ponder this Messiah who will crush the serpent’s head. And I began to think about the controversy surrounding Jesus birth and how we often see it as bad because in society that day it would have been terrible for the woman to have a baby before Joseph had even married her, much less by someone other than Joseph. But I began to think about the controversy as well of what the authors’ created by writting the story down. In the story of Jesus conception Mary gives birth to a child by the help of the LORD. Let that sink in. Okay, so Jews are reading this story about this guy who the author claims is the Messiah and the first thing the Jew reads about is the child being conceived by the help of the LORD. Already at the beginning the author is claiming not that the child is just unique because he fulfills the virgin birth prophecy but the author is also showing that this child fulfills the original prophecy that a child is born by the help of the Lord that will strike the head of the serpent. This woman and child are like Eve and Cain, but where one had failed, this one succeeds. It all harkens back to the beginning.

If I were a Jew at the time, knowing the Torah as they did, I’d already be tuned into what the author is saying. Maybe the authors of the gospels were not just showing how Jesus was born but also tuning us into the idea that this is the one who will fulfill the prophecy of old.

Which then is interesting in that John doesn’t have the account of the virgin birth in his gospel. And Sailhamer would say that omission is a literary device to show us something.