This article was created years after most of the others. In just one week I happened to come across several examples of where I think that some experts have dramatically missed the point. I think it was because they failed to see the heart of God in the scriptures they were interpreting. This is why I get so passionate about so many other issues related to the Image of God. I think you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
My Bible experts are absolutely top notch. I have several of their books; seen them live; and in video presentations. I have learned many things from them and none of this is compromised by the following issues that I will raise. I have heard other authors and preachers discuss the same issues and make the same mistake, but I guess it took me by surprise to see a couple of my personal heroes make the same mistake.
How do you read Genesis 1:28?
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NASB)
Now the question:
a) Did God bless them and command them to be fruitful and multiply; or
b) Did God bless them saying, be fruitful and multiply?
Now to me, it’s a no-brainer. God’s words are defining the blessing that He is bestowing. If I wanted to prove it, I would look at mankind’s history to see if the populous nations (China and India), became so large by being obedient to God’s command to fill the earth or because they inherited that blessing. But my expert in creation treats this as a command. Now, if I asked him he might say that it was a blessing but he clearly treats it as a command.
For example, when you get to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4 you see:
4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
My expert says they were clearly disobeying the command of God to fill the earth and that is why God stepped in and scattered them. Of course I read the Babel account differently. The people had not stopped increasing in numbers (filling) but had sought to exult themselves and keep the focus on themselves (not God) at this city.
Does this seem unimportant? Well, God is forced to divide the people into many nations and the subsequent history of wars and violence is absolutely horrid. First stop — it was man’s propensity for evil that caused the wars, not God. But the suggestion that God initiated the scattering because we had broken His ‘command’ to fill the earth make’s God look vindictive and legalistic. It also seems inconsistent because Cain built a city and that was OK. (Actually it was bazar because he was bound over to be a restless wanderer.) Building towns that grow is quite natural. No, the problem God identified was a united people exulting themselves through their technology.
After fill the earth and rule in verse 28, Genesis 1:29-30 continues:
29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. (NASB)
One author said that this unambiguously teaches that the created state was vegetarian. These verses are commonly taken this way, but for some reason the ‘unambiguous’ adjective offended me a little more than usual. You see, in the previous verse God had just given man dominion over the animals. I choose to see this as a continuation, where God is now allocating the plant food sources. He gives man the right to take the best of the land’s produce, that is, the seed and the fruit, but tells man to leave the pasture land to the animals. Isn’t that an equally valid interpretation?
Do you want to play the game of who’s correct? It won’t prove much because this is a once off state, but I would point out how the Israelites used to put walls around their vineyards and orchids and establish boundary stones around their fields. So, they were exercising their rights to the fruit and seed, but they left the pasture lands open for the animals. In fact, giving man the best of the land’s produce is part of His pronounced blessing. I could go on and point out that Abel offered what resembled a fellowship offering to God from his flocks. But the fellowship offering is eaten by man after offering the special parts to God. So Abel exercised his dominion over the animals, to eat from his flocks.
OK, so vegetarian diets are not an unambiguous interpretation. To me, it’s not even close. The point seems minor, but because of this understanding, men teach that carnivorous behaviour and physical attributes was the result of God’s curses after Adam sinned. Now, can you see why it offends me? God’s curses were specific, constrained and excluded the animals. Further, this is continued to suggest that killing an animal for food or sacrifice was a bad thing. This defames God because He was first to kill an animal to provide coverings for Adam and Eve. Then God, who changes not, seemingly changed His mind about what is bad, and allowed man to eat animals in Genesis 9:3. (See Reviewing Genesis 9:3.)
Something is wrong when we make assertions that are consider incontestable, yet reflect so badly on God. So, what got us into this terrible state? My article “Created Mortal”, has a lot of hints where we read perfection rather than very good into the created state. Perhaps more important is that we read no death before Adam sinned as applying to animals as well as man. But no one expects animals to be raised into heaven. Jesus is our kinsman redeemer – of man not animals. And when God talks about death, it is the second death, that is, judgement, which brings eternal separation. Failure to appreciate this attribute of God has led us to overstate scripture and when we go beyond what is written, we usually tarnish our image of God.
It’s easy to point the finger and suggest someone has gone beyond what is written. I’m a huge target myself. The prophetic understanding of Genesis 1 as God’s Timetable could be so challenged. But I am confident it will stand the test because it better reveals the glory and sovereignty of the Father and the Son.
Lest you think this only applies to the creation end of the Bible, let me show you this example. Though I had heard it before, this came through a champion of Grace. In my life time I have heard none better. His expositions on grace are life changing. But this time he talked about how God poured out His wrath on Jesus when nailed to the Cross. Now the intent of so many preachers who say this, is to convince us that we can now come into His presence with full assurance of His love, because He had his beloved Son beaten to death in the most brutal way known.
Now that’s not what they mean but it is effectively what they say. They say that was necessary because of our sin. It is true that Jesus had to die as a perfect sacrifice so that He could carry our sins to the grave; but no sin offering is ever tortured. Teachings like this make it seem like there is a big wrath bin floating around and someone is going to get it. So God dumped it on Jesus. Not so! If God did pour out all His wrath, then why is there more wrath to be poured out during the tribulation before Jesus’ rule and reign and then again at the end. Have a look at No Whipping Boy to better understand. In fact look at all the articles in that section, “The Way Back”.
In regard to Jesus torture, who did it? It wasn’t God — it was man’s jealousy and pride that did it. The Sanhedrin beat him; Pilate had him beaten, Herod had him beaten; and the guards, Roman and Jewish beat him. But there were two critical exceptions. Jesus tortured prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, (Matthew 26:36-38). This was testing Jesus’ resolve to follow His Father’s will. It would have been so easy for Jesus to just disappear into the darkness of the garden that night when he saw the soldiers approaching. Then in Matthew 27:40, where Jesus was on the Cross and people scoffed and said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” And Jesus could have! He had legions of angels at his command. Jesus literally hung in there for the love of His Father and His bride. Now ignore all this stuff about the wrath of God being poured out. It was love being poured out, and take that image in your heart when you stand in His presence, now with full assurance that you will receive that love.
Look, I think I have made my point, but there are so many amazing things that are happening on the Cross and some of us miss them. So please bear with me as I reshape your understanding. For sure you can now see that it was man who inflicted the torture on Jesus just prior to the Cross, but something changed when they nailed him to the Cross. Scripture declares that anyone hung on a tree is cursed (Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:23). Since before the beginning of time Jesus had been with His Father, but now he was cut off (John 16:32, Mark 15:34). Further, he who was without sin, was made sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 3:18). This was real torture to Jesus!
Isaiah 53 is tremendously important to understanding the Cross. Verse 10 declared that “the Lord was pleased to crush Him”. Why? You have to read all of chapter 53, especially verse 5 — it was for us that Jesus was crushed. God is pleased because His son has been obedient even to the Cross and has now made the way open for His children to return. As strange as it seems to us, the Cross displayed the glory of Jesus (John 17:1-4). I was considering discussing how, in his suffering, Jesus was fully identified with mortal man, and so made himself the perfect interface to take away man’s sin, but that gets a little too theological. What I want here is for you to see the raw passions at work on the Cross.
You just cannot find any place where God is pleased to pour out His wrath. The ‘pleased’ word in Isaiah 53:10 came from a Hebrew word meaning ‘desire’. God has no passion or desire for revenge or punishment. God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 33:11). It is always His desire that they turn back to Him and avoid judgement and eternal separation. What God sees on the Cross is His Son giving glory to Him, and making it possible for man to turn back by bearing our sin on the Cross.
I don’t want to be a policeman saying what is right and what is wrong, but how can I not sound a warning when we present such a bad image of God. I know the men whose statements I just criticised, and they work tirelessly and help many people. I know the many great insights I have received from their ministries. But it seems that as leaders seek out new ways and teachings, they are going beyond what is written, and it is the Image of God that suffers.
The Bible is there to introduce us to God. Jesus has removed the barrier. All that is left for us to do is to again choose Him; to live as His children, no longer in rebellion. And isn’t the image of God we see in the Father and in the Son, the things that clinches the deal. We start building this image from page 1, Genesis 1. Before we even get out of Genesis, God’s image takes a real hammering as we misunderstand how the Father had to exhaust all other options before He could send His Son.
Finally, Jesus begins to rebuild the image of God, culminating in the outpouring of His love through the Cross. God’s blessing on His children at creation and His glorious offer of restoration and redemption at the Cross are the very examples I have highlighted. That is what I want to protect from misunderstanding.