What We Were Made For - July 9, 2023
Have you ever gone to a garage sale, or a thrift shop, or an antique store and found some bizarre looking tool and wondered, “what is that supposed to be? What is it for?” I once went to a small town museum of antique tools and they had a whole section of tools for which the museum curators did not know the purpose. It even had a sign asking “if you know what any of these are for, please tell us!”
Many times, these obscure tools are for things that nobody does anymore or for technologies long since obsolete – like tongs for carrying ice blocks to the icebox, or a tiny scale for calibrating the balance of a record player arm, or sometimes the tool is something cobbled together in someone’s garage for a one-time highly specific use.
Where these specialized tools have fallen into disuse for decades or even centuries, without an owners manual or something describing what the tool is used for, it can be next to impossible to determine its purpose or how to use it.
Like forgotten tools, as a society, we seem to be in the process of forgetting what we are and who we have been made to be. Fortunately, unlike the mystery tools in the museum, we DO still have the owner’s manual – a document we call “the Bible”. And today, we will be considering a passage that tells about the time God made humans, some of the neat features of humans and some of the purpose behind creating humans.
The passage I am reading from is found in Genesis 1:26-28 (Legacy Standard Bible): Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, so that they will have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that creeps on the earth.”
The Deliberateness of the Creation of Man – v26
In the creation account, God repeatedly says “let there be” which is followed by the refrain “and there was”. In this way, God creates the heavens, the earth, the stars and the animals merely by speaking them into existence. But suddenly God changes His formula and says “Let Us make man”. God COULD have said “let there be man” just like He did for everything else, but instead He stops and gives deliberate consideration to what He is about to do, signaling that there is something special and different about this human kind which He is about to create: God is not creating yet another animal; He is not creating another mere feature of the universe; humanity is something different than what was created before – something special. (Exell, 25)
But, if you turn on your TV or open a newspaper, you are likely to hear a very different story: “there is no God”, “the universe formed by chance”, “you are an accident of evolution”, “there is nothing fundamentally special about you or me or anyone else”. Isn’t THAT a hopeful view that fills you with vigor and a zest for life? Of course, I find this view is terribly implausible – that out of nothing, caused by nothing, everything came into being, proceeded to organize itself into a stable universe, and spontaneously produced life which built itself up into ever more complex forms until we got here. Yeah, and my house and everything in it was formed by a brick factory exploding.
The Bible tells us a very different story than the one that we hear on TV: that we are NOT some cosmic accident formed in an uncaring universe, but that we have been MADE by the only infinite and almighty God. And it tells us that we were not a casual afterthought, but that we were made quite deliberately and thoughtfully by a caring God.
In God’s Image
Not only does God say “Let Us make man”, He says “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness”. Unlike the animals, God is not making human kind as another mere animal made of flesh and blood, but He is making man a creature with a spirit – having intelligence and moral and creative agency like God Himself (Exell, 25-26).
By contrast, in insisting that we are random products of evolution, the folks on TV tell us that we are mere animals. Maybe, goes the popular story, we are smarter than the rest of the animals, but we are animals all the same – not superior in any way. It is sometimes taken a step further by declaring that we are actually worse than the animals – that somehow the animals are ethically superior to us because they don’t build cars or houses or do the things people do, and that we ought to behave more like the animals or that animal behavior justifies our own behavior - or, to put it more crassly, “you and me baby ain’t nothing but mammal, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery channel”.
Yet, if we take an honest look at ourselves, we KNOW we are not like the animals. There is something deep inside of us that KNOWS we are more than that, that we are made for some greater purpose. The animals go about largely seeking to survive and to fulfill their baser instincts. But inside every human heart we find a longing for something beyond mere survival: a longing for greatness, a longing for meaning, a longing to know and to be known, a longing for something beyond food and shelter and pleasure. This longing is not something you find in the animals, and I believe this longing points to the fact that we were deliberately created in God’s image, that we are in some small way like God.
Sure, we bear some similarities to the animals in that we are made of physical matter, have flesh and bones and blood, and many of the basic principals of how our bodies work are like those of animals (Exell, 24). But in addition to being embodied we are also spiritual beings – like God. We have been given the ability to make moral decisions – to do what is right or to do what is wrong. We have been given intellect with which to understand God’s world – mirroring God’s far greater intellect – and we have been given the ability to be creative – exerting our will upon the raw materials of creation – mirroring God’s immeasurably greater creativity.
Created to Rule
The text continues: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, SO THAT they will have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So, as we have established: God intentionally and deliberately created humans, and created them in His own image and likeness. The Bible goes on to say that God did this SO THAT we would have dominion – so that we would rule over the earth and all that is in it – to rule as his representatives or “viceroys” here on Earth (Exell, 26). Now, this does not mean that each of us gets to do whatever we want, for God is also a God of order. But, as the human race, we have been created to collectively rule over and cultivate the earth.
These days, we so often talk like the world belongs to the animals and as if we are somehow intruders here on this earth. Mainstream media talks as though – at some level – we should not use any of the earth’s resources for our benefit, as if everyone should be reduced to abject poverty in order to return the earth to it’s “pristine” state or to “save the planet”. To be sure, we need to exercise care in how we go about developing, cultivating and stewarding the world, but God created the world for us and us for the world. Wisely developing the earth, cultivating it, and utilizing its resources and the animals in it for the benefit of each other and the other creatures that call it home is well within our mandate to rule over and to subdue the earth.
Created Male and Female to Procreate
The text goes on to say: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it;’”
For a culture that cries out “trust the science”, science being an observational discipline, we sure have a problem believing the basic observational evidence set before our eyes on the matter of biological sex. We have somehow got the mad idea in our heads that a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and men and women can become things other than men and women. It is a complete and utter rebellion against God’s design. God says to one “you are a man”, and to another “you are a woman” and we have the audacity to raise our fists and shout back to God “NO! You are WRONG! I’LL decide what I am.” And the thing is, being made male and female is IMPORTANT to God’s design for us! God created us male, and female – and then He proceeds to instruct us to use that maleness and femaleness to procreate (in the context of marriage – this is not license to sow one’s wild oats) – to make more human males and more human females, to have kids – so as to fill the earth, something that we need to do in order to fulfill the previously mentioned mandate to rule over the world and to subdue it (kind of hard for just two people to rule over the earth and subdue the it by themselves). By denying our maleness and femaleness and futilely seeking to alter that through chemical and surgical means – in some fevered dream about trying to change one’s sex – we are deliberately destroying the means by which God instructed us to fill the world.
And for those who have not bought into the transgender vision, we hear in pop culture things like “the world would be better off without people”, and “the earth is over populated”, and “we should stop bringing children into the world”. And so with “the best of intentions” (TM) we have created a new conventional wisdom that encourages blatant disobedience to God – a conventional wisdom that encourages married couples to seek to avoid having kids at all costs – whether through contraceptives and sterilization or through out-and-out legalized infanticide – euphemistically called “abortion”.
Now I know that not every male/female couple is fertile – and this is not intended as a judgment against such. In such cases, there other other options for rearing young or otherwise being spiritual mothers and fathers which are beyond the scope of this talk. And – as mentioned before – those who are single are not going to be able to have kids, and the scriptures make it clear that is fine, although Paul – a New Testament writer in the Bible – also sets an example in being a sort of spiritual father to Timothy even though he himself is unmarried – so there is something there as well.
To summarize: men and women were intentionally created by God as beings both physical like animals and spiritual like Himself, having moral and creative agency for the purpose of filling and ruling over God’s world and every thing and every creature in it as God’s representatives. On every point here, the Bible stands in stark contrast to the narrative that the world presents.
Conclusion and Application
The world is going to tell you a lot of lies about who we are, about what our purpose is, and about how we should be living life. And living out lies is destructive. Consider what would happen if someone told you that a front-loading washing machine and dryer were made for washing and drying your priceless glass dishes. If you believed the lie and acted accordingly, you would shortly have a lot of smashed, broken and unusable dishes. And, very probably, you would also have a broken washer and dryer. Likewise, if we believe the lies the world is constantly telling us and choose to live for purposes and to live in ways contrary to what God designed us for, things are going to go badly for us and will do us a great deal of spiritual, physical and emotional harm – and can even lead to our eternal death if we never reject such lies.
But just as most people tend to value works of art, cars and other things that they themselves have put a great deal of time and effort into deliberately creating, so too God – who deliberately created us as His image bearers and co-rulers of this world – values us. You have inherent value in God’s eyes, even though you may be smashed up and broken because of choosing to live according to a purpose other than that for which you were made – choosing rebellion against God instead of obedience to God – choosing sin.
God saw the sorry and broken state that His creation was in, and because of how much he values us – His creation – because of how much He loves us, He came to earth becoming a man named Jesus – who lived and dwelt among us, and ultimately took the consequences of our rebellion – our living against His design, our sin – onto Himself by willingly dying upon a cross and later rising again to life. As a result, if you have lived contrary to God’s purpose for you, which we can do in so many ways beyond what I have covered here today, and you have experienced damage and pain and disaster as a result, God is willing to extend forgiveness to you and to bring you healing if you are willing to submit to Him and have your life brought into agreement with Him; if you are willing to turn around and abandon your way and do things God’s way; if you are willing to accept His gift of forgiveness and follow Him. If this is something you want to do, you can come talk to any of us here and we would be delighted to talk more with you about this.
And if you have already accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, if you are already a follower of Jesus, then seek to live according to the purpose for which you were made! I know it can be tempting to return to believing the lies of the world and living according to a false purpose, but we know what kind of destruction that leads to, so why would we want to go down that path again?
So if you were made a man, be a man – don’t try and be a woman! If you were made a woman, don’t try and be a man, just be a woman! Just as a hammer does not work as a screwdriver and a screwdriver does not work well as a hammer, so too men cannot fulfill the role of women and women cannot fulfill the role of men. Seek to be who and what God made you, and ask Him for His help in transforming you into the best version of that!
If you seek God’s good gift of sexual intimacy, seek it only in marriage with a member of the opposite sex. And if you are married, then I believe you should seek to have or foster or be a spiritual father or mother to children in some capacity, for God commands us to fill the earth, and I believe marriage is designed as a procreative union.
Seek, in some ways big or small, to have dominion over the earth – to bring order and beauty and flourishing to the things and the parts of the world God has entrusted to you. If you live in a small camp by the river, seek to keep it clean and beautiful, making it a welcoming place. If you tend a garden, strive to make it beautiful and productive. If all you have is your body and mind, seek to cultivate those into healthy and productive tools to serve you and others in this world. Consider what it looks like in your day-to-day life for you to have dominion over the things God has entrusted you, and strive to do so in a way that would please Him.
Seek to live more fully as a representative of God here on earth, reflecting God and His characteristics to others in your life. Submit yourself to God’s will and design in all things.
Let’s close in prayer. Dear God, You have created a beautiful and good world. And truly, you have crafted us in fearful and wonderful ways in order to be your representatives here on this earth, to rule the world alongside you. Lord, I know that in choosing to disobey you, our race has failed to live up to this design, bringing your curse upon the earth. I thank you that you love us so much in spite of this, that you sent Jesus to this earth to begin the process of putting things to rights, to begin restoring us so that your purposes would be fulfilled. May your Holy Spirit fill this place and stir our hearts to surrender to you, to accept your gracious gift of forgiveness, to bring healing to us and the damage we have done to ourselves and others by living contrary to your design for us. Please, transform our hearts and our wills so that we would live according to your design for us, exercising dominion over the world and loving one another in ways that will bring you glory and honor. Amen.
Exell, J.S. Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Funk & Wagnalls Company. 1892. New York.
Exell, Joseph. The Pulpit Commentary. Volume 1 – Genesis. Ed. H.D.M Spence. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.