Isaiah

Until recently, this book was not well-served by commentaries of any stripe. But now, there are many good commentaries.

First-rate: Motyer, Alexander, Baltzer, Oswalt, Young, Blenkinsopp, Goldingay, Beuken/Koole (HCOT), and Wildberger

Second-tier: Seitz/Hanson, Tucker/Seitz (NIB), Childs, Kaiser/Westermann, Leupold, Watts, Gray, Sweeney, Webb

Forthcoming: Goldingay/Payne (ICC), Bartelt/Raabe, Paul, Schultz, Leene

Conservative: Motyer, Alexander, Oswalt, Young, Leupold, Webb

Moderate: Baltzer, Blenkinsopp, Goldingay, Beuken/Koole, Seitz/Hanson, Tucker/Seitz, Childs, Watts, Sweeney

Liberal: Wildberger, Kaiser/Westermann, Gray

N.B. Not all of these commentaries comment on the whole of Isaiah. There are many listed here on the so-called “Deutero-Isaiah.”

Remember the Sabbath Day

Genesis 2:1-3
Have you ever hated being tired? I have. It is one of the things I hate most is being tired. I can’t do what I want to do, go where I want to go, read what I want to read when I am tired. I do many things to fight fatigue. The really great thing, though, is that God knows about our fatigue. He provided a way out. It is called the Sabbath.

Creation is completed. God has effortlessly created the entire world merely by speaking it into existence. In verse one here, “vast array” is literally “hosts.” The hosts of heaven and earth (that is, the occupants) now ruled over the realms that God had created. This first verse of chapter 2 is really a summation of chapter 1.

On interesting side note is in order here. Our chapter divisions are not part of the original Hebrew text as written. They were introduced in the 16th century by a man named Stephanus, and therefore, the chapter divisions are not inspired. This Stephanus must have been somewhat asleep when he did the chapter division here. The seventh day is obviously the completion and climax of the creation week. These three verses therefore belong with chapter one as the goal and climax of the creation week. We can see this even more clearly when we see verse 4, which says, “This is the account.” Those words always introduce a new section of the narrative. They occur twelve times throughout the book of Genesis, always introducing a new patriarch, or a new series of events. The second chapter should therefore start where verse 4 is.

As we have seen so often throughout the first chapter, Moses’ words are a polemic against other Ancient Near Eastern gods and mythologies. The account of the Sabbath Day is no exception. Mesopotamian calendars ran on a lunar cycle. Therefore, on the seventh day of every week, worship would be given to the moon-god. Not so for Israel. The reason for worshipping the true God of Israel would be that God stopped His creative work on the seventh day, and therefore, Israel should stop their work on the seventh day.

Furthermore, Mesopotamian gods created man so that mankind would be a slave to the gods, so that the gods could finally rest. But Moses pictures God as creating merely by the Word. Therefore, God does not need rest. On the seventh day, He merely ceased from working. And mankind was not created to relieve the burdens of God. Rather, God hallowed the seventh day for mankind’s benefit, so that mankind could be refreshed. Mankind needs the rest. It is built into our very system.

The communists once tried an experiment. They tried giving people one day in ten as a day off. The experiment was a profound failure. Far more productivity was possible when the people had one day in seven for rest. People need that one day in seven simply by our very nature. So it is not true that we relieve the burdens of God on the Sabbath. Rather, God relieves our burdens on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is one of the three institutions that God gave to man at the very beginning. The other two institutions are work and marriage. All three of these institutions are given to us in chapter 2 of Genesis. Since all three are given at creation, they are all binding on humanity for all time. They are not limited to the people of Israel. All people work, and all peoples of the world have marriage. So also, all people need one day in seven as time off of work. It is important for us to realize this, since our culture would tell us that the Sabbath was limited to Israel as part of the Ten Commandments. When Christ came, He abrogated that law, and we do not have to observe the Sabbath anymore. This argument fails to see that the Sabbath was there from the time of creation. It was not a law that Moses came up with on the mountain. This was a law from the very beginning of time. Sin does not annul the Sabbath any more than it annuls marriage or work. We still do work and we still marry after the fall. Therefore, we should still observe the Sabbath after the fall. The Sabbath is therefore a creation ordinance, or law. The only thing that could change a creation law is a new creation law. Now, I will argue later that when Christ was resurrected, indeed a new creation came. However, that new creation that Christ brought about did not annul the creation ordinance. Instead, Christ’s resurrection merely changed the day on which we celebrate the Sabbath.

Now we come to the point. The question we must ask ourselves is this: how did Christ’s coming change the Sabbath, or did it change the Sabbath? Christ had many arguments with the Pharisees about the Sabbath. He often healed people on the Sabbath. His disciples picked heads of grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry. When challenged on these issues, Christ would respond, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. My Father is working even now, as I also am working.” It is important to realize that Jesus was not objecting to OT law. After all, He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. Instead, Jesus was reacting against the additions to the law that the Pharisees had made. Jesus was restoring the Sabbath to its proper place in the life of the church. Works of necessity (such as eating when one is hungry), and acts of mercy (such as healing the sick) are proper works to do on the Sabbath, contrary to what the Pharisees said. Okay, that is what Christ did. But what about what Christ said, especially about the Ten Commandments?

Let us consider the Sermon on the Mount. With regard to the command not to murder, and the command not to commit adultery, you will remember that Christ raised the bar on those commands. Or one could say that he revealed what was true already about those laws, but which had become dim. Now, in the NT era, we should not only refrain from killing and committing adultery, we should also refrain from hate and lust. Plainly, Jesus was only using these particular commands as examples of the entire law. The bar is raised, not lowered. Now, if someone were to say that the Fourth Commandment (Sabbath observance) is annulled by the coming of Christ, then that person is putting the Fourth Commandment in a totally different category from the other nine commandments. What that person would be saying is that Christ raised the bar on all the other commandments, but He really annulled the Fourth Commandment. Nowhere is Scripture could one find statements to support such an argument.

Now, an important point to consider is the actual meaning of the Fourth Commandment. Scripture says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maid-servant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” By what Moses says here, the essence of the Sabbath day is not worship. The essence of the Sabbath day is rest from work. Now, the reason that God made the Sabbath to be a rest from work is so that we would have time for worship and works of mercy that we don’t normally have time for on the other days of the week. But it is certainly the case that worship is not the primary meaning of the Sabbath. In Exodus here, the reason given for keeping the Sabbath is the example that God set at creation. Let us call this the “creation” reason for keeping the Sabbath.

In Deuteronomy 5, the other place where we can find the Ten Commandments, another reason is added to the creation reason. Here what Dt. says, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you…so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” You see, when the Israelites were in Egypt, they had no rest at all. The Egyptians forced them to work and work and work without being able to have days off. In order to give them rest, God redeemed them out of that land so that Israel could have rest. Let us call this reason the “redemption reason.” So, we have the creation reason, and the redemption reason for keeping the Fourth Commandment. How do these two reasons change when Christ comes?

First of all, with regard to the creation reason, Christ brings in a new creation. It is called a new era, the era of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” It is important to realize that the Greek does not actually say, “He is a new creation.” Rather, the Greek says, “there is a new creation.” So we could translate it this way, “If anyone is in Christ, that is proof that there is a new creation. It is here, replacing the old creation.” Now, this replacement of the old creation by the new creation does not mean annulment of the law. It is important to make a distinction among the various aspects of the law. The ceremonial sacrificial system was brought to fulfillment by Christ. So that stopped. The second part of the law was the law that Israel particularly had to follow, such as circumcision, dietary law, capital punishment for the son being disrespectful of his father, those kinds of laws that only Israel had to follow. Those also were fulfilled in Christ, who was the true Israel. However, there remains the moral law, which is universally binding on all mankind. This is codified in the Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments are never abrogated. They are always in effect.

So, when Christ brings in a new creation, he does not abrogate the Sabbath. Rather, the date on which the new creation came, which was Easter Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ, that date changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday. It is a new creation. That is why we celebrate worship on Sunday. Christ brought in the new creation on a Sunday.

With regard to the redemption reason for the Sabbath, Christ ushered in a new and greater Exodus. He has brought us out of our spiritual Egypt, just as God brought the Israelites out of their physical Egypt. Ours is the greater deliverance. Therefore, we have all the more reason to celebrate the Christian Sabbath, which is Sunday. We have all the more reason to cease from work, since Christ finished His work of creation with the resurrection. His resurrection means that there is a rest remaining for us. Paul says this in Hebrews 4:8ff. Because Jesus is our high priest who has entered into that rest, we should strive to enter that rest. What this means is final eternal rest.

In the background to this, it is necessary to remember the Sabbath structure of the OT. You have the Sabbath, which occurs on the seventh day. Then you have a Sabbatical year, which occurs in the seventh year. During that year, the land was to have rest, and slaves who were fellow Israelites were supposed to be released. Then you have the year of Jubilee, which was a seventh Sabbatical year. It was truly a Sabbath of Sabbaths. All land that had been sold to someone else was to be returned to the original owner. There is a telescoping of these Sabbaths from week to year to Jubilee. This points to the great Sabbath of eternity that still remains for the people of God. It is that Sabbath that Paul is talking about in Hebrews. If we are truly to be Sabbath keepers, then we need to have Jesus as our high priest, who has passed through the heavens and entered that rest. See, the reason we might not enter into that rest is our own sin (Hebrews 4:11). Only pure people may enter into that final rest. Jesus gives us His purity if we believe in him, so that we can enter that rest finally. So ultimately, the Sabbath command is a command to believe in Jesus Christ.

But if you already believe in Jesus Christ, then there are further applications. I have argued here that the force of the Fourth Commandment is still in effect in the NT era. In fact, we have more reason to keep the Christian Sabbath than the Israelites had to keep the OT Sabbath. Do you work on Sunday? This day was given to you for a blessing. It says in Genesis that God blessed the Sabbath day. That means that he blesses the one who holds it sacred. If you are tired and fatigued, one of the reasons may be that you are not observing the Sabbath properly. It is a day of rest. We are to stop from our employment. We are to bask in the glory of God in worship. We are to feed the hungry, visit the sick, the old and infirm, we are to have fellowship with one another. We are to read healthy spiritual books that we do not have time for on the other days of the week.
When we do these things, we are calling the Sabbath a delight. We are honoring it by keeping it holy, we remember the creation of the world, and the new creation brought about by Jesus. And we remember the great salvation that God has brought about, which it written in all the pages of Scripture. That is the relevance of the Sabbath for us. “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Blessing and Dominion

These are the famous McCaughey septuplets
Genesis 1:28-31
It is often alleged in our society that the population is getting too big. It is alleged that there is not enough food to feed all the people of the world, and that we should therefore have smaller families. This pernicious idea is contrary to the express commands of Scripture. It is also completely untrue that there are too many people in the world. For one thing, if you were to give everyone an area of 1 ½ square feet such that no one would touch anyone else, you could fit the entire world’s population within half of the area of Jacksonville, Florida. Furthermore, if you wanted to give everyone a decent amount of living space, like, say, one thousand square feet, which is far more than most people in the world have, you could still fit the entire world’s population within Kansas and Nebraska, with a small portion of South Dakota added to it. The land mass of the world is 99.7% uninhabited. As to food, Iowa alone could feed the entire world perpetually by itself. As to the idea that we should have smaller families, let us see who would not be alive if people had stopped having children after the third baby (that is, who had adopted our modern ideas of family): of musicians, we would not have Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Wagner, Grieg, Faure, Caruso, or Copland. Of famous Christians, we would not have Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Dwight L. Moody, Corrie ten Boom, Ulrich Zwingli, or Cornelius Van Til. Of American Presidents, we would not have Washington, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Pierce, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, or Taft. The only president to be an only child was Gerald Ford. All other presidents came from larger families. 18 presidents came from families who had 4 or more children, and who were fourth in line or later. Fully thirty U.S. Presidents all told came from families of four or more children. People today will tell you that if you have more children, then the intelligence of each child will get less and less as you go on down the line. Well, Bach was 8th in his family, Beethoven was 5th, Mozart was 7th. All three were absolute geniuses. So how do these facts relate to our passage today?
God blessed humanity. Then He told them to multiply and fill the earth. Furthermore, God told them to exercise dominion over the creation. Put in a nutshell, this verse 28 gives us what is called the cultural mandate. We are supposed to rule the earth like God rules the earth.

The first element of that cultural mandate is reproduction. Earlier in Genesis we saw how God’s blessing on the fish actually enabled the fish to reproduce at an amazing rate. So also here, when God blesses humanity, the blessing that God gives is not some kind of wish. Rather, it is command and fulfillment simultaneously. When God blesses, He actually gives the ability to perform what He commands.

Humanity is told to fill the earth. It is a simple command. However, when the Fall occurred, we did not want to fill the earth. The tower of Babel incident indicates that people always want to converge on one spot, so as to challenge God in the heavens. Instead of scattering and filling the earth, mankind wanted to congregate in small areas. So God confused the languages of people. Have you ever thought about the fact that language problems today are entirely due to the fact that humanity did not want to fill the earth?

But how does this apply to us today? Well, when Jesus came to earth, He started something new. He started a spiritual kingdom which was to multiply and fill the earth. This kingdom of God did not annul the cultural mandate here in Genesis one. Rather, it adds to it a new dimension of godliness. If you will, the “cultural mandate” of the this new kingdom is given to us in Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” But Jesus’ command does not annul God’s command to multiply and fill the earth. Now, we must multiply and fill the earth with Christians. What better way to evangelize than to raise up missionaries in our own homes?

Dominion over the earth is the second aspect of God’s blessing and command. There are two parts to man’s dominion over creation: dominion over the earth, sea, and sky firstly, and secondly, dominion over the animal world. The first aspect includes science, agriculture, astronomy, and all forms of travel. We are to master these things. We are not merely to sit by so as to worship nature. We are to subdue it, making it a habitable place for human beings, and keeping it that way. Any profession that engages in this aspect of dominion is an honorable profession. Even garbage collection fulfills this aspect of the cultural mandate. The second aspect of dominion gave us trouble, however. We were supposed to rule over the animal world. Instead, when Satan came in the form of a serpent, we let the animal world rule over us. Instead of ejecting Satan from the garden, we let Satan in so that we were the ones who wound up getting expelled from the garden. As a result of failing in this aspect of dominion, God took away the ease with which we were able to carry out the first aspect of dominion over the earth, sea, and sky. No longer, would we be able easily to get crops to grow. It would always be difficult. Because we allowed the hierarchy of nature to be turned up-side down in one aspect, (namely, of animals) God turned it upside-down in the other aspect (of the earth itself).

That is another problem that Jesus came to correct. Jesus re-established control over the entire world. All of Jesus’ nature miracles proved that He had regained that dominion over the creation that Adam had lost by his fall into sin. Now, if we believe in Christ, we are heirs to the entire world. When the world is re-created, we shall be rulers indeed over the face of the earth, because we shall participate in that rule over creation that Jesus Christ now exercises. So, we must believe in Jesus Christ, if we are ever to regain that dominion that God intended for us to have. That is true power over the creation: to believe in the one who actually has the true power over creation. The lion will lie down with the lamb, and the child will play with the cobra. There will be no more harm done in that new era that awaits us.

One thing it might be worth our while to examine briefly is the food that God gave to the entire world to eat. Now, in the Ancient Near East, it was thought that mankind was created in order to serve food to the gods. Moses here says instead that God provided food for mankind. So what is this food? From verses 29-30, it is quite plain that every animal on the face of the earth ate vegetables and fruit as their diet. Man and animal were not allowed to eat meat until after the Flood, when God said to man, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. As I gave the green plants, I give you everything.” But in the beginning, it was not so. Animals and man were only vegetarians, much as I hate to admit it. However, after the Flood, God gave us explicit permission to eat meat. Therefore, it is false that vegetarianism is the only Biblical way to eat. We may eat meat. However, I have a suspicion that meat will not be eaten when God renews the world, since there will no longer be death in the world.

So what does this mean for us in our world as Christians? First of all, what do we think of the family? All too often, we think of children as invasions of our comfort zone. Women especially think of children as obstacles to get around, rather than that which they should most desire. But as the cultural commentator Christopher Lasch said, “When money becomes the universal measure of value, then motherhood, which after all is unpaid labor, will come to bear the stigma of social inferiority.” What Lasch is saying is that when we value money more than anything else, then our decisions will be dictated solely in terms of how much money we can shovel into our bank account. Motherhood does not shovel money into the bank-account. Therefore, women should not be mothers, is how the argument goes. But Genesis here completely contradicts this way of thinking. If we are to multiply and fill the earth, then motherhood is the very highest calling that a woman can take on herself. There is nothing more important than raising children. Not only are you obeying God’s command in Genesis, but you are also obeying the Great Commission in Matthew to fill the earth with Christians. But also think about the fact that a career is a temporary thing: raising children has eternal consequences; a career might make you rich (except for the fact that the government taxes double-income families far more even in proportion than single-income families), whereas raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will make you rich with God. Titus 2:3-5 is very unpopular in Christian and non-Christian circles. It says this, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.” Women, does this text not say that if you are working outside the home and have small children, you are outside the will of God? Of course, this text addresses married women. Unmarried women who are forced to work while having children are to be much pitied and are to be cared for by the church. But married women, especially with small children, are to stay home with the children. That is not a trap. It is the highest calling to which it is possible for a woman to aspire. The wife of Jonathan Edwards was Sarah Edwards. They had quite a few children. Because Sarah stayed home with them, and did not work outside the home, their children and descendants have been extremely important in the life of America. Out of 1400 descendants located, 13 were college presidents, 65 professors of colleges, 100 lawyers plus a dean of a law school, 30 judges, 66 physicians plus a dean of a medical school, 80 holders of public office, 3 US senators, 3 mayors of large cities, governors of three states, one US vice-president, and one controller of the US treasury. And this study was done in 1900. Women, if you want power, think of Sarah Edwards. A career will only last so long. Money will only last so long. Raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will have amazing consequences both in this life, and in the life to come.

Our understanding of this passage then throws into sharp relief the horrors of abortion, genocide, euthanasia, murder, and even hate. All these terrible things go in exactly the opposite direction from God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.

Furthermore, we should deplore our culture’s separation of sexual intercourse from procreation. Now, as long as it is in the context of marriage, there is nothing wrong with marital intercourse for the purpose of pleasure. However, that should not distract us from the fact that the primary reason for marital intercourse is procreation. Our culture uses birth-control, the pill, condoms, any thing that it can in order to be able to have the pleasure of sex without the consequences. They have taught us that getting pregnant is one of the very worst things that can happen to a married woman. Of course, the availability of the pill, condoms, and other forms of birth control also means that teenagers who are unmarried feel that they can engage in intercourse without the fear of getting pregnant. They are taught in the public schools (with our tax dollars!) that sex is safe as long as you use these forms of birth control. Well, all these forms of birth control are flawed. They do not work all the time. They are not a protection. The only safe way is abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness to your spouse after marriage. We should not separate sexual intercourse from procreation.

Song of Songs

The last two years have seen an explosion of commentaries on this book.

The best ones: Hess, Pope, Longman, Garrett, Keel, Murphy, Provan, Gledhill, Exum, Jenson, Fox

Second-best: Bergant, Durham, Burrowes, Gill, Weems (NIB)

Forthcoming: Watson (HCOT)

Conservative: Hess, Longman, Garrett, Keel, Provan, Gledhill, Durham, Burrowes, Gill

Moderate: Murphy, Jenson, Bergant, Weems

Liberal: Pope, Exum, Fox

Don’t know about Watson

BibleWorks 7

The newest version of BibleWorks is out, and it is unbelievable. Targums, Josephus, and Philo are available completely parsed. This alone is worth about ten times the price of admission. They’ve corrected the database in more than 50,000 occurences to make sure that the lexical information is correct that occurs when you roll your mouse over the word. They have unicode Hebrew and Greek fonts as well. They have a new, more user-friendly interface, absolutely stunning satellite maps, Metzger’s Textual Commentary, and abilities to integrate your own translations and study notes into the program. In short, the product is absolutely magnificent, and worth every penny.

Ecclesiastes

This is one of the most difficult books on which to teach. There are not very many excellent books on this portion of Holy Writ.

The best by far is Seow’s commentary in the Anchor Bible. Also excellent are Provan, Fox (A Time to Tear Down & a Time to Build Up), Kruger, Ferguson (The Pundit’s Folly), and Bridges.

Second-tier are Longman, Crenshaw, Lohfink, Barton, Murphy, Garrett, Brown, Gordis, Luther, Hengstenburg, Hubbard, Whybray, Leupold, and Towner (NIB). The reason Longman’s commentary is not first-tier is because I cannot agree with him on his interpretation of the key passage 12:9-14.

Forthcoming: Schoors (HCOT).

Conservative are Provan, Seow, Ferguson, Bridges, Garrett, Luther, Hengstenburg, Hubbard, Leupold

Moderate: Kruger, Crenshaw, Lohfink, Murphy, Brown, Towner, Longman (only moderate on this book; on others I would classify him as conservative)

Liberal: Fox, Barton, Gordis, Whybray

Don’t know about Schoors.

What’s in an Image?

Genesis 1:26-27
It’s all about image. That is the first thing they will tell you in any political campaign. That is what advertising companies are all about. Even in the Christian world, for a minister to be successful, he has to have the proper image: you know, he has to hover about two inches off the ground, because he is holier than the rest of mankind. He has to wear the right clothes, say the right things, have the right kind of wife. But in all this fascination about image, rarely does one hear about the image of God. Well, you can’t see God, if he even exists, so it is useless to talk about seeing His image, right? Wrong. The Bible tells us much about the image of God.

There are several key elements that distinguish the creation of man from all other creatures. Now, in ancient times, if a king could not be in all parts of his realm at once, he would put images of himself everywhere, just in case anyone was thinking of trying any funny business. The image would remind the people in that part of the realm that the king was serious about crushing any and all rebellion. Moses knows of this tradition. That is why he describes humans as the image of God. God rules over the whole world. Therefore, to have His dominion plain to all of creation, He has formed His image, a living, breathing creature who can think for himself, to rule over this creation. Now, the parallel is somewhat faulty, since God is everywhere in His creation, whereas the human ruler of a kingdom is not. But the idea is still the same.

Secondly, Notice that God speaks to Himself as the triune God. “Let us make man in our image.” Now, scholars have understood this reference to “us” in several ways. Some think that it means that God is addressing the heavenly hosts, such as the angels. The problem with this interpretation is that in no way could the angels be said to create mankind. Nor could we say that mankind is made in the image of the angels. So that interpretation is out. Another interpretation says that God is merely deliberating with Himself as we might if we say, “Let’s see, now.” “Let’s see” is short for “let us see,” when what we really mean to say is that I am thinking about something. The problem with this is the statement, “in our image.” That is not a deliberation, but a description of the end of the process, whereas deliberation always occurs at the beginning of the process. This interpretation also has great difficult with 3:22, “The man has now become like one of us,” as it says in the NIV. Rather, we should understand Moses to be giving us a glimpse of what later biblical writers will describe as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. At the very least, the “us” would include the Holy Spirit that was hovering over the deep in verse 2. And from John 1:1, we learn that the Son was present there in the beginning as well. So, mankind was fashioned in the image of the triune God. The entire Trinity is what mankind was created to be an image of. We will say a little more about this aspect of the image of God when we come to the description of man and woman.

The third distinctive element in the creation of mankind is the word “create.” it is used at the beginning to describe creation out of nothing. Then it is used when God creates animals that have the breath of life. Therefore, Moses uses this word when God is creating something new. In verse 27, Moses uses this word no fewer than three times. Remember, the Hebrew language uses repetition when it wants to emphasize something. So, when Moses repeats the word “create” here, he is emphasizing the novelty of this creature that God is making.

The fourth thing that is distinctive about the creation of man is the fact that Moses mentions male and female. Notice that the fact of male and female is added immediately after the description of the image. The fact that God creation mankind to be male and female is part of the image of God. In other words, God did not create mankind to be alone. People are social beings. They need fellowship. It is not true what the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre about people, “Hell is other people.” That is not what the Bible says. To illustrate, the story is told of a boy in France who was abandoned by his parents at a very young age. The boy was forced to fend for himself in a forest. He lived, surprisingly enough. However, when he was found years later by some woodmen, he was a complete savage, unable to communicate in anything but grunts. They took him to the nearest village to be taken into society again. But he never learned language skills well. People need other people in order to be the image of God. The best example is Adam himself. When he was alone, God said, “Not good.” About everything else, He had said, “Very good.” But about a man being alone, God said, “Not good.” So God made Eve. Some of you might remember what it was like being single. I sure remember, though I try very hard to forget. The single life is the pits, in my opinion. But this fellowship between man and woman that God created is also part of the image of God, because God has fellowship with the other members of the Trinity. Marriage is a mirror, in which we see the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course, that mirror can be somewhat cloudy at times. Sometimes you can’t see anything in the mirror at all. Nevertheless, the mirror of marriage reflects the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The fifth and last distinctive aspect of the creation of man is the idea of dominion. (Vs 26) We will examine this more closely next time, when we look at God’s blessing on mankind. Right now, we need only see that man’s dominion over creation is part of the image of God.

That leads us to the question, “What is the image of God?” In what does that image of God consist? Many answers have been given to this question over the centuries. The answer is straight-forward in one way. The most fundamental idea of the image of God is that of likeness. Mankind is like God. Again, to use a metaphor we just used of marriage, mankind is a mirror of God. If you look at mankind, you are supposed to be able to see God reflected there in mankind. That is the simple part. We are supposed to be like God.

The hard part comes when we ask two questions, “In what ways are we like God,” and “what effect did the Fall have on man being in the image of God?” These two questions are related. Some historical observations are in order here. The Roman Catholic position is that mankind is two parts, flesh and spirit. The flesh of mankind is prone to sin (even at the very beginning). In order for the flesh to stay in line, God gave a supernatural gift to mankind, which restrained the flesh, preventing the flesh from sinning. This gift was a spiritual gift. When Adam fell, he lost this supernatural gift, so that, after the Fall, the flesh had no restraint left upon it. But the supernatural gift of restraint was not part of the image of God. So the image of God is left completely intact after the Fall. The only thing that was lost was this supernatural gift. That is the Roman Catholic view.

Martin Luther reacted very strongly against the Roman Catholic view. Luther defined the image of God as righteousness, right behavior before God. So, obviously, when Adam fell into sin, he completely lost the image of God. It was nowhere left to be found. Well, as is so often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. In order to make sense of what the Bible says, it is necessary to say, and this is the Reformed view, that there are two aspects to the image of God. Firstly, Man is a moral being. That is, he has the capacity to make moral choices. When Adam was created, he had the ability to either obey God, or disobey God. Under this first aspect of the image, we must include the mind, the soul, the emotions, memory, anything that distinguishes mankind from the animals, that is part of this moral agency, as we might call it. The second aspect of the image of God is righteousness, or moral excellence. When Adam was first created, he only obeyed God. He did not disobey. So we can see that moral agency and moral excellence are the two aspects of the image of God. Now, the Bible says that we are still made in the image of God, even after the Fall. Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” This verse would make no sense if mankind were no longer made in the image of God. Of course, murder only happens after the Fall. So this verse talks about a post-Fall time period. The reason for capital punishment after the Fall is that mankind is still made in the image of God. Man did not become a beast after the Fall. You can still tell the difference between man and animal. However, that image is seriously distorted and twisted because of the Fall. Because man lost moral excellence, there is no way for him to please God. He can still make moral choices, but all those choices will be bad.

So what is the solution? Colossians 1:15 says this, “He (referring to Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” This is quite a remarkable statement. We might think from Genesis that Adam was the first image of God in existence. That is not true: Christ was there, and He is the perfect image of God. Hebrews says it this way, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of Hs being.” The words “exact representation” translates a word used for stamping coins. The press stamps on the metal the very same image that is on the press. Hebrews says that though earthly coin stamps may be somewhat imperfect, Jesus Christ is a perfect representation of the image of God. To carry the metaphor a bit further, if you keep on stamping a coin to get the image clearer, you wind up with what is called a proof coin. The image is much clearer than ordinary coins. So what Hebrews is telling us is that Christ is the proof coin of God, who is the stamp. One important qualification must be added: Christ is not a created being.

When Christ came to earth, He came to re-establish the image of God. He came to melt down all this bad coinage, smelt it in the furnace, and re-stamp that metal so that it would look like Jesus, the perfect proof coin of God. So, the good news is that, even though we lost all moral excellence by the Fall, in part losing the image of God, it is restored in Jesus Christ. You need to believe in Him. You need to believe that Christ was truly morally excellent. In fact, He was flawless. And instead of coming before God with our own debased coinage, we need to have Jesus Christ stamped on our very being. When we believe in Jesus Christ, God looks at us as He looks at Christ. That image has been forged anew to look like His Son.

Now, the story does not end there. For we too will eventually need to be proof coins. Only proof coins are allowed into heaven. So what God does in the meantime is continue to stamp the image of Christ on our souls so that each time that stamp comes down, we look more like Jesus. But something marvelous is true about this process. We are part of it. We are told to put on Christ, even as we have already put on Christ. There is a sense in which we have Christ, and there is a sense in which we must continue to put on Christ. Do you strive for perfection? We say, “no-one is perfect.” But do we not sometimes allow that statement to be an excuse to stop trying? Jesus said, “Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We should strive for perfection, even while we know we can never get there. That is the hard part. To know that God tells us to strive for an unreachable goal is very hard. However, we must remember two things. Firstly, even while strive for perfection, it is God who works in us both to will and to do. That is the reason for working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Secondly, we will arrive to perfection at death. Death frees us from all impurity, if we are in Christ. Death therefore, is not something to fear, if we are in Christ. It is a door through which we come to see our God.
Do you view life as having sanctity? You may think you do because you do not believe that abortion should be legal. But what about children? Do you think of them as burdens? If you do, then you are not holding life as sacred.

I will mention one further application, and that by way of how we treat our fellow image bearers. C.S. Lewis says this in his book, Weight of Glory, “It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics, etc.” If someone comes to your home, do you watch TV and ignore this person-whom-you-might-be-tempted-to-worship? How might you treat that person if you thought of them as an ambassador from the King of Heaven? How will you treat your fellow image bearer? Will you try to help that person to heaven or to hell?

Proverbs

Not so many here, but the list is growing.

The best commentary is undoubtedly Waltke. Van Leeuwen (NIB) and Longman are also outstanding. Koptak, Kidner, Murphy, Bridges, and Fox are essential.

Second tier: Clifford, McKane, Perdue, Toy, Garrett, Horne.

Forthcoming: McCreesh, Loader, and the second half of Fox’s commentary.

Conservative: Waltke, Van Leeuwen, Koptak, Kidner, Bridges, Garrett, Longman

Moderate: Murphy, McCreesh

Liberal: Fox, McKane, Perdue, Toy

Don’t know: Horne, Loader

Beauty of the Beasts

Genesis 1:24-25
Martin Luther has a rather interesting presentation of how a mouse is formed, and I am not making this up. He says this: “But as far as mice are concerned, Aristotle states that certain animals are produced by their like, others by their unlike. Thus mice belong to the kind produced by their unlike, because mice originate not from mice alone but also from decay, which is used up and gradually turns into a mouse.” Then further on, talking about the power which produces this mouse, Luther says this, “The sun warms; but it would bring nothing into being unless God said by His divine power: ‘Let a mouse come out of the decay.’ Therefore, the mouse, too, is a divine creature and, in my judgment, of a watery nature and, as it were, a land bird; otherwise it would have the form of a monster, and its kind would not be preserved. But for its kind it has a very beautiful form-such pretty feet and such delicate hair that it is clear that it was created by the Word of God with a definite plan in view. Therefore here, too, we admire God’s creation and workmanship. The same thing may be said about flies.” Now, two things may be said about this. First of all, it is obviously a man writing this. I don’t know of a single woman of my acquaintance who would describe mice this way. We won’t even get into how these same women react when a mouse is in their house. Secondly, it is a man writing this who probably does not have to deal with a mouse problem in his home. Most likely, his wife Katherine had to deal with issues like that. When we come to the creation of land animals, thought, it is true that their beauty can be somewhat veiled.

On the third day, dry land appeared, as well as the entire vegetable world, the world of plants. Now, on the sixth day, God creates the rulers of that land realm. These rulers have a place well prepared for them. It has all manner of food stocked in the form of trees with fruit, and plants that animals and humans can eat. Notice that during the entire creation week, we have seen a progression of creation from lower to higher. This is not true in any evolutionary sense. But the birds and the fish are lower than the land animals in intelligence. The birds and the fish are also much more different from mankind than the land animals are. That is to say, land animals look a lot more like mankind than the birds and the fish. This progression that we see in creation points to the fact that the most important creation of the creation week is that of mankind. Only mankind was created in the image of God. But the animals that are created on the sixth day are of most use to mankind. Think of horses, dogs, cats, cows, sheep, buffalo, even coyotes, how helpful all these animals are to mankind. That is why Moses put the description of their creation right before that of mankind on the same day.

There are three categories of land animals: livestock, creepers, and wild animals.

The first is that of livestock. The translation “livestock” is actually a bit too narrow. If one translated it by “ the tamer animals” we might come a bit nearer. It does include cattle, which are not always so tame, as well as dogs and cats. These animals have immense importance for mankind. It is impossible to farm without them. Before tractors and combines, oxen and horses were used to plow the earth. Dogs are used even now in Alaska for transportation, as they are used also for any number of other jobs. Cats keep the mice (!) population under control.

In the OT the livestock was also used for sacrifices. Leviticus discusses these sacrifices in great detail. The fact that these animals are the closest to human beings means that they make the best substitute sacrifice instead of humans themselves, which was forbidden in the OT. Human sacrifice was not just forbidden because of the high view of life, though that was an important reason. Human sacrifice was also in part forbidden because God wanted to teach His people that they needed a substitute because of sin. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.

Our sin makes our very lives forfeit to God. We as the image bearers of God have spit in God’s face. We have dishonored Him. Our sin means a sundering of relationship between us and God. Life was lost. Life needs to be regained if we are to have fellowship with God again. In those times, that meant that a life had to be substituted for a life, so that the person did have to give his own life. Most of the animals offered on the altar were of this group of livestock, the first category of land animal that Moses mentions. As Paul says in the letter to the Hebrews, though, the blood of bulls and goats does not take away the sin problem. It does not atone for sin. Why? Because it was not human, first of all, and secondly, because it was not perfect. That is why Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice came to take away sin upon himself, so that we might have life: His life now lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was our great high priest, who offered up himself. He was both the priest and the sacrifice. And now, because He lives (since death did not have power over him), we can now live in fellowship with God. For a wonderful telling of this story, I would invite you to read C. S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

But all this means that we cannot trust to our own merits. We cannot think that anything we can do will get us to heaven. We have to realize our helplessness before God. We have to realize what the real nature of our sin problem is, realize that our life is forfeit, realize that Jesus died for us, and believe in Him. We often have a problem with the first one of those things, realizing our sin problem. We think we are pretty good people, by and large. We aren’t perfect, but God is supposed to know that an take it into account, right? Wrong. God is infinitely holy. No sin is acceptable in His sight. That is why you need to be clothed with righteousness, like a garment. It is the righteousness that Christ has that you must put on. So Moses’ account of the creation of livestock here points us to Christ’s sacrifice.

If we do believe in Christ, then we must ask ourselves whether we take those creatures for granted. Those of us who farm typically have quite a few of these critters around the farm. When you look at that cow that has just kicked you in the leg, do you thank God for sending His son Jesus to be a better sacrifice than that cow ever could be? When that dog leaves a present on your front lawn, do you think about those seeing eye dogs that lead people safely across crowded intersections, and then think of Jesus, who can lead you out of your blindness to sight? Every one of your livestock and every one of your domestic animals is a sermon in itself, pointing you to the love of God shown in sending His Son.

It might be harder to see God’s love in the creation of the little annoying animals like mice, rats, fire ants, squirrels, moles, scorpions, snakes, and other lovely creatures, as Luther would put it. We have to remember that God created these creatures as very good. They were not pests before the Fall. When the Fall happened, all these creatures turned against humanity. Instead of having an easy rule over these creatures, it is now hard. When you see a pest in your house, such as a mouse, remember that they are pests because of sin. Inasmuch as we are in Adam, it is our own fault that these animals are pests. Remember also that they will not be pests when God renews this world at the end of time. The child will play with the cobra. All this enmity between various species will end at the end of time. In the meantime, remember that God uses these little pests for our sanctification. Note the example of Corrie Ten Boom in the German concentration camp, when here sister told her that they had to be grateful for the lice. Only later did Corrie realize that the Germans did not bother the women because there were lice in the camp. We learn patience, do we not, when the church becomes infested with mice. We learn also how to be servants. If there were no problems in life, we could not become servants. We can serve other people when problems arise.

The last set of animals here described are the wild animals. These are animals that cannot be domesticated. This includes all game animals. Remember, Moses is writing this after the Fall. Even if there was no death before the Fall, Moses is writing to people after the Fall, and so uses categories that they would understand, such as game animals.

Notice here that no blessing is given to any of the three categories of animals. There are several reasons for this: Moses is anxious to get to the most important part of the day, the creation of mankind. Furthermore, if animals had the same kind of reproductive power that fish had, for instance, then the world would be overrun with animals, and, most importantly, mankind would be threatened.

So we see the manifold wisdom of God in creation: the world is now ready for the entrance of the crown jewel of creation: mankind. The light is there for him, there is air for him to breathe, he can live and move on dry ground, there are plants for him to eat, sun, moon and stars for him to tell time with, fish and birds for beauty, and for usefulness, and the same is true of land animals. Over all the creation that man can touch, he is to rule over it.

Psalms

An enormous selection of good commentaries.

Start with Van Gemeren (EBC), Craigie/Tate/Allen, Kidner, Wilson, Spurgeon

Second tier: Anderson, Alexander, Briggs, Gerstenberger, Kraus, Leupold, Mays, Plumer, Dickson, Terrien, McCann (NIB), Barnes, Hossfeld/Zenger, and Schaeffer.

Forthcoming: Wenham, Botha/Prinsloo (HCOT), Goldingay

Conservative: Van Gemeren, Craigie/Tate/Allen (though sometimes they disappoint), Kidner, Wilson, Spurgeon, Alexander, Leupold, Plumer, Dickson, Barnes, Wenham

Moderate: Anderson, Mays, Terrien, McCann, Schaeffer, Goldingay

Liberal: Briggs, Gerstenberger, Kraus

Unknown: Botha/Prinsloo. I do not have Hossfeld/Zenger either, so I don’t know about it.

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