By David Williamson, part one of a series.
From the beginning, at the dawn of history, men and women are called first into a relationship with God. Then, secondly, they are called to participate with God in exercising “dominion” – managing, shaping, designing and developing the world that God has created and entrusted to humans.
The creator God is an active, working deity, vigorously personally in his creation, especially with human creatures, made in the image of God. Human creatures – remember, they are creatures – are made for a purpose by God: an active, trusting, faithful relationship with God, and working with God in continuing God’s creative work.
“In the beginning God created” can also be translated, “when God began to create.” God is a designing, imaginative, shaping fashioning creator. He created ex nihilo, out of nothing.
In John 1, we read, “in the begging was the word” The “word” word can also be translated or understood as “idea.” So God, with an idea, creates something – everything – out of nothing. It is a work in process. It wasn’t a snap of a finger, or a “zap” or “shazam.” It was the activity, the work, of YWYH, of the God whose very name and identity is the one who makes things happen, who “causes to be.” Activity, work, begins developing and forming the world, step by step, causing it to be.
God works, makes something out of nothing, engages in purposeful activity. God apparently works very hard, and takes time to rest, reflect and celebrate his work, at each definitive step. The natural or material world is a product of God’s imaginative activity.
God has an idea in mind, a logos, of a reality: earth, and the whole universe of creatures, that God calls into existence. John 1 says, “all things were made through him and without him not one thing come into being.” So an antithesis between the spiritual vs. the material is not biblical. The material comes from God, just like the spiritual, coming into being and life though God’s Spirit. It is intended for God’s objectives, created in the image of God and for God.
We need to hear this, and heed God’s objectives for our work. We need to explore what God does, how God does it, and thereby understand what our work is, and how it is to be done.
The first thing we notice is that when God goes to work, he starts to make order out of chaos, bringing form to the formless. This is not just something for the first moment of creation; it continues. Our work has dignity and purpose, contributes to the well-being of the whole. God takes the dirt, the material, and gives it shape and structure. God’s active process for that continues, partly through our work.
Notice the action verbs in this first chapter of Genesis: ”created,” “separated,” “called,” “made,” “set.” When we help bring order to the chaos around us, we participate with God and God’s purpose. Let’s look for ways, both obvious and subtle, we can bring better order to the chaos we find, and rejoice that we enter – indirectly as well as directly – into God’s purpose for our lives.
In each creation day, God adds more specific forms. Here, again, we see a process. God gives structure to the chaotic, perhaps setting the pattern for the work humans, made in the image of God, are called to do. Human work that helps to bring order, form and structure is God’s work and therefore “good.”
Conversely, all that destroys order, brings chaos, is contrary to God and therefore evil. Examples include pollution, addiction, and unjust violence or anarchy. Note, though, that while God’s work is not destructive, he sometimes actively uses destruction for re-ordering, restructuring and renewing – for example, the flood in Genesis 6-8.
Words help give definition to a thought or idea. So from the beginning, we find the work of speech: calling, directing, defining, classifying. And, there is the work of seeing, observing, paying attention, reflecting, assessing. God saw all of this as said it was “good.”
This is here now, and was there from “in the beginning.” This is God’s original intention, and continues to be there with our participation today.
We can go to work, each day, with healthy dignity, sense of purpose and joy, knowing that God has a purpose for what we are doing, sensing that in some small but not insignificant way we are joining with God in forming the world God intended. Together we are made in the image and likeness of God, and we work with him to actualize God’s design. Our work is thus part of God’s idea, intention, design and purpose. We are co-operators, co-creators, participating with God. In the ordinary activities of daily life, we are living our high calling, our high honor and our joy.