Old Testament, Part 1

In my last blog I began to talk about the difference between the two halves of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments.  After talking about one point of major difference between the two halves, the presentation of God, I talked about the main focus of each.  The Old Testament focuses on the establishment and development of a nation in relation to God while the New Testament focuses upon restoring a personal relationship with God.

Please do not misunderstand this broad stroke presentation of the Bible.  There is much in the OT that points to and models an intimacy with God.  There are places in the NT that talk about God’s intention for and relationships with the governments under which we live.  I was talking broad strokes not specific topical points of inquiry.

I then said, “Both halves of the Bible are important for us today.  The next blog will tell you how.”  This is the next blog.  Again let me emphasize that the Bible is a big book with many different points for inquiry.  I am only highlighting a few that are important to me as I view it.  Here we go.

I.     Intentions of God from the creation of the world.

I know there are those for whom a literal 6 days of creation is the central point of first creation story in Genesis.  I listened to that teaching and followed the cultural debate for 40+ years.  I believe that emphasis is off point.  I believe the primary purpose of Genesis 1, 2, and 3 is to reveal a sovereign God’s orderliness in creation, the unique relationship human beings have been given with that God, and the consequences we experience when we choose to live differently than God designed.  These first 3 chapters of Genesis set major themes for much of the rest of the Bible and beliefs that inform and impact us today. Here are a few:

  1. “In the beginning God…”

The Bible does not attempt to explain the existence of God, it begins with the assumption that God exists, period.  That impacts the world today in important ways.  If God does not exist then human beings created the idea and personage of God for a variety of reasons.  If the Bible is not true on this point then we should move on to other understandings of social order and human purpose proposed by non-theists.

However, if God does exist then there are other questions that need to be addressed.  Did God simply start the world spinning and let it evolve or devolve in whatever direction it might unfold?  Or, has God stayed involved in the progression of creation, managing its growth and change, a progression human beings have been able to study with increasing aptitude as technology has developed?  Is God distant in that involvement or, does God desire some sort of relationship with the created world and all who live within it?   It is this last question to which the Judeo-Christian heritage responds with a resounding “YES.” God is not only creator but God also desires on ongoing relationship with that creation and especially the human portion of that creation.  This is a critical issue for our world today.

2.  Human beings stand in a different relationship to the creation than all the rest.

The way it is said in Genesis 1 is that God proposed and then created humans in God’s own image.  This was not said concerning any other element of the creation.  Human beings have the power and ability to create (not simply pro-create).  What is frightening is human beings also have the ability to manage or destroy the rest of creation.  No other segment of creation has this ability.

3.  God’s Image

One aspect of being created in the “image of God” that is often overlooked is the relational component of that image. The way Genesis 1:26a, 27 says it is,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

As a Christian I see an early glimpse of what we come to describe as the Trinity of God.  God is relational in God’s very being.  As a result God created humanity to be relational as well.  Note that the definition of humanity in the text is relational, “male and female.”  When we injure or destroy relationships at any level: parent-child, husband-wife, employer-employee, governing-governed, nationality-nationality, etc., we are working against the creative intent of God for humanity.  Note how this particular portion of God’s intention plays out in the 2nd creation story.

4.  Relational focus in the 2nd Creation Story

The 2nd creation story in Genesis 2 reveals that Human beings have been created with 4 special relationships:

A.  Spirituality:  “God breathed (ruach: breath, wind, spirit) into Adam the breathe of life and he became a living being” (2:7);

B.  Ecology:  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (2:15);

C.  Psychology:  “It is not good that man should be alone” (2:18);

D.  Intimacy: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (2:23);

These four special relationships are central in the lives of human beings.  These four relationships became broken when Eve and Adam chose to turn from their special relationship with their creator and from the order God had created so they might do life the way they desired not the way God had designed.  As a result

Spirituality became broken: They hid from God (3:8-10);

Psychology became broken:  They felt shame and began to cover up (3:7);

Intimacy became broken:  They blamed others for their decision (3:11-13)

Environment became broken: “Cursed is the ground…(3:17)

Some would say that “the rest is history,” figuratively and literally.  History records how we have devolved spiritually, psychologically, environmentally, and interpersonally.  Religions and societies formed as ways of keeping order amidst the brokenness and attempting to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.  Many aspects of the historical development has been good creating orderly societies with some degree of survival and purpose.  Some recorded developments have been bad revealing the attempts of some to gain power and control over others through greed, war, religion, etc.

It is when we acknowledge the intention of God within creation and our present position of being separated from that intent that we can begin the journey of human life as presented in the Bible:

reconciliation with our Creator and

restoration of God’s purposes.

That is the next blog.