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Created for a Purpose

Have you ever arrived late at a movie, missing the first ten minutes of the show, and then realize you really don’t get what’s going on in the picture? I have done this very action and realize how disorienting missing the beginning of a movie can be for understanding what is going on in the story. We quickly learn that in movies and stories, beginnings matter – they were created for a purpose. The beginning reveals the main characters, introduces us to the purpose and direction for the entire narrative, and important details that will help make sense as to what type of movie/story we are about to watch. The biblical writers understood the importance of beginnings as well.

We continue in our new series The Divine Prequel: The Life of the Son by examining verse three of John 1 where he writes,

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

The Purpose of The Son

Last week we learned that in the Old Testament, the Word of God was powerful and effective and was seen to manifest itself as it created new worlds and new life, and healed the wounds and brokenness of humanity. The Word revealed God’s pattern for the way to thrive in life and was true and dependable. The Word of God revealed to us God’s identity and desires and appeared to proceed from God, but John explained that the Word of God was not a “what,” but was a “who.” The Word of God was the Son of God and was the man Jesus of Nazareth. All of these wonderful attributes of the Word of the Lord in the Old Testament were attributes of Jesus, who was the ultimate Word or revelation of who God really was. If you want to have a relationship with God, you have to have a relationship with Jesus.

John continues with the beginning of his story by drawing us back to the beginning of the Grand Story. We learn that not only was the Word of God the Son of God, but that the Son was responsible for the actual creation. When it says that God said something, it was actually the Son who was the Creator. John wants us to understand the wonderful and powerful presence and work of the Son prior to the incarnation. The Son does not mysteriously appear in the middle of the Story; rather, the Son was present and active in the establishment of the direction and purpose of the Story.

The Purpose of Creation

The Apostle Paul provides a beautiful reflection of this in his letter to the church at Colossae,

“Colossians 1: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Why is the belief of a Creator so important? The universe is not a mistake. The universe was created for a purpose and direction for which it was made. We did not simply appear out of nothing, but were placed here by God. This begs the question: What is the purpose and direction of Creation? In order to identify the original purpose of Creation, we need to go back to the beginning of our Story.

In order to gain a better understanding of Genesis 1-2, we need to pause for a moment and take a look at some other Creation stories from the Ancient world. We need to remind ourselves that Genesis what written to a particular time, place, and people. The words and images would have made sense to the original listeners, but do not always make sense to us. That is why scholars and preachers have to do the difficult work of understanding the original context of these narratives and then bridging the cultural gap from then until now. If you have read Genesis 1-2 before you may be surprised to hear similar themes and challenges addressed by these non-biblical explanations for the beginning of humanity.

(The following synopsis is taken from Barry L. Bandstra – Reading the Old Testament)

The Egyptian Creation Story

“In the earliest Egyptian creation story, the world began as a formless watery void, entombed in darkness. When this primeval “water-stuff” subsided, the first mound of earth appeared. On this first island the creator-god Atum brought into being all other creatures and things.”

The Mesopotamian Creation Story

“The Atrahasis Epic, named after its human hero, is a story from Mesopotamia that includes both a creation and a flood account. It was composed as early as the nineteenth century B.C.E. In its cosmology, heaven is ruled by the god Anu, earth by Enlil, and the freshwater ocean by Enki. Enlil set the lesser gods to work farming the land and maintaining the irrigation canals. After forty years they refused to work any longer. Enki, also the wise counselor to the gods, proposed that humans be created to assume the work. The goddess Mami made humans by shaping clay mixed with saliva and the blood of the under-god We, who was slain for this purpose.”

The Babylonian Creation Story

“The Enuma Elish is the best-known Babylonian creation account. It existed in various versions and copies, the oldest dating to at least 1700 B.C.E. According to this account, before heaven and earth were formed there were two vast bodies of water. The male freshwater ocean was called Apsu and the female saltwater ocean was called Tiamat. Through the fusion of their waters successive generations of gods came into being. As in the Genesis 1 story, water is the primeval element, but here it is identified with the gods, who have unmistakable gender.”

 

“Younger gods were created through sexual union. These younger, noisy gods disturbed the tranquillity of Apsu, so Apsu devised a plan to dispose of them. The wisest younger god, Ea, found out about the plan and killed Apsu. To avenge her husband Tiamat decided to do away with the younger gods with the help of her henchman Kingu.”

 

“When the younger gods heard about this, they found a champion in the god Marduk. He agreed to defend them only if they would make him king. After they tested his powers, they enthroned him. When finally they met on the field of battle, Tiamat opened her considerable mouth as if to swallow Marduk and plunge him into the immeasurable deeps.”

 

“Marduk rallied by casting one of the winds into her body, expanding her like a balloon. He then took his bow and shot an arrow into her belly, splitting her in half. Marduk cut her in two like a clam, and out of her carcass he made the heavens. The “clamshell” of heaven became a barrier to keep the waters from escaping, a parallel to the Genesis notion of a barrier or firmament. Marduk also fixed the constellations in the heavens. They, along with the moon, established the course of day and night as well as the seasons.”

 

“Then Marduk devised a plan to relieve the drudgery of the gods. They were tired of laboring to meet their daily needs, so he created humanity out of the blood of Kingu to be the servants of the gods. In appreciation for their deliverance, the gods built Marduk a palace in Babylon, called Esagila, meaning “house with its head in heaven.” There Marduk sat enthroned.”

As you read these various accounts, it is interesting where we find common themes and where the Genesis account diverges from these other Creation accounts. Let’s explore the Genesis account to see where these stories diverge.

In Genesis 1 we read the following,

“ 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In Genesis 2 we read,

“15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

The Purpose of Humanity

In Genesis we learn that we were also created for a purpose. God created humanity to be his image bearers. What does this mean? Genesis 1 and 2 are structured in a way to model the building of a temple and sacred space in the ancient world. God creates Eden, a garden, and then wilderness that exists outside of the garden.

We will see this threefold structure repeated in the structures of the tabernacle and temple later on in the biblical narrative. The difference between the biblical narrative and the other accounts is that humanity is elevated to be images (statues in a sense) of God and not viewed as slaves; rather, they are seen as replicas of God and are to rule over the world.

God’s purpose for humanity is to experience community, leadership, multiplication, growth, change, exploration, work and worship all throughout the world. The original male and female are to be equal partners in this endeavor and it is their job to expand the temple (presence) of God throughout creation. The God of the biblical narrative wants to be present with humanity and wants them to function as priests and priestesses in expanding the garden into the wilderness.

One of the interesting themes in Genesis 1 and 2 is the use of the word we translate as “work.” The Hebrew word abad also means worship. Work and worship were meant to be the same. The garden was both work place and worship sanctuary because work is worship and worship is our work. Perhaps you have heard the Reformed statement, “All of life is worship,” which originates from the Creation account.

How might this change how we look at our various jobs and roles in our normal everyday life? What if we viewed all of our activities as reflection of my love and gratitude for all that God has done? Worship is not something that only happens in a church building on a Sunday morning; rather, everything that we do has the potential to be an act or worship towards God.

John tells us that the one who provided the purpose and direction for humanity was the very same Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth who is the center of John’s narrative. If the Creator and Jesus are one in the same, how does the original purpose of humanity fit with Jesus’ mission and message?

We were created for a purpose. What may seem surprising, is that the purpose for Jesus followers today is very similar to the original directions given at the beginning of the Story. We are still called to expand the presence of God throughout the world and multiplying the number of Jesus followers. We are called as men and women to be in community and live out our worship in every facet of life and provide leadership and hope for those who continue to live in the wilderness. May we hear these words and actually live them out.

 

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