Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Fallen Creation in Adam, but a New Creation in the Second Adam

This biblical theology assignment was to trace the theme of the creation through the Bible. I found it a real joy to work through. My prayer is that it will encourage others as well.

    The creation is described, logically, in the opening verses of the Bible, Genesis 1:1-2:4. The actor is God, Elohim, not given as Yahweh. Again that is logical, since the revelation of God by His covenantal name would have no meaning in the then-absence of the subordinates in the covenant, i. e., mankind. I take the plural form as an indication of a united effort by the Godhead, not of the individual Persons, before the Spirit departs to His particular work in verse 2.
    The creation proceeds in a roughly hierarchical pattern, from the physical substrate, i. e., the earth in its chaotic state, to a primitive form of the surrounding universe, to the land and waters as organized elements. The God directs His attention to the first life, the vegetative element, and then its sustenance in sun and stars, to the self-motive element of sea- and air-life, the dwellers of the land, and finally Man. Its last day is a day of rest, of God’s self-religion of satisfaction in His works, for they were “very good” (1:31).
    To the crown of His creation, Adam and Eve, God gave the task of viceroyalty, to exercise dominion under God, ruling, organizing, and filling the creation. He gave the couple only one explicit restriction in their labor: they were restricted from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I am sure this was not the only rule of life that they were to obey. However, in their prelapsarian state, His law was naturally-engraved in their nature. The tree was added as a counter-intuitive law, a visible sign that their rule was not independent, but subject to the a priori government of God as their Maker and Owner.
    Job recognized this relationship among Creator, creation, and human headship in Job 12:7-10. He cites beasts, birds, vegetation, and fish, as witnesses “that the hand of the Lord has done this [i. e., the disasters that he had experienced].” In this book, probably pre-Mosaic, the writer is using the relationship among the branches of the Creation to give meaning to the losses that he had undergone, losing wealth and posterity. Later in the same book, Job 38:4-11, God does the same thing. Speaking as Yahweh, indicating, I think, the mediatorial involvement of the Second Person, He challenges Job and his friends: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Obviously, Job wasn’t anywhere. “Who determined its measurements… and prescribed limits for it?” The answer to Job’s question, why had these things happened to him, was that he had neither capacity nor right to challenge what he had received from the hands of God, because he had neither the standing nor the experience from which to judge, nor even to understand the hand of God. In Job 40:15-24, God continues by describing just one creature in His creation, a creation beyond human understanding or control. Yet, Job expects to have the perspective from which to comprehend the actions of God?
    In the Psalms, David emphasizes the creation mandate to demonstrate the spiritual significance of mankind. In Ps. 8:5-8, he reminds God that He had “given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Of course, this ultimately refers to the Son of Man and Second Adam, Jesus Christ, who restores the dominion lost by Adam’s fall (I Cor. 15:27 and Heb. 2:8. In Ps. 65:5-13, David recalls God’s creation activity, creating the mountains, watering the earth, and prospering the fertility of land and beast, as proof that we can look to Him in prayer, and satisfy the elect with His goodness. Asaph makes the same case in Psalm 74. He refers to God’s victory over Leviathan (as He Himself did in Job), and especially the creation of night and day (v. 16) as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the past, apparently during a time of God’s wrath. Ethan the Ezrahite makes the same case in Ps. 89:11: “The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours; the world and all that is in it, You have founded them.” He is exulting in the wondrous works of God as the undergirding of His promises to David. Moses applies that power to all the people of God in Ps. 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” An anonymous sufferer repeats the words of Moses in Ps. 102:25-27: “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands… [for] You are the same, and your years have no end.” Doing great deeds of creation are passing moments to God, so doing great works on our behalf are easy for Him, not endangered by the flash-in-the-pan existence of mere men.
    The anonymous Psalm 104:5-30 makes extended use of the theme of God as creator. “He set the earth on its foundations… covered it with the deep. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down.” The birds and beasts are considered, along with the sun and moon. Leviathan makes his third appearance. The Holy Spirit goes forth. Why does the writer give this litany of the works of God? Verses 33-35: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live… for I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” All of the mighty works of God are signs. To the faithful, they give a basis for praise and assurance. For the wicked, they guarantee the certainty of judgment.
    The various authors of the Proverbs used the divine Creation to demonstrate the wisdom of God. Solomon, well-known for his own subordinate wisdom, says of God’s (Pr. 3:19-20): “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.” Notice that he couches the creation in a covenantal context, Yahweh instead of Elohim, drawing a relational aspect that Moses did not.In Pr. 8:22-31. Solomon continues this theme of wisdom, personifying it: “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old… When He established the heavens, I was there… When He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him…, and I was His delight…, delighting in the children of man.” Solomon gives an abbreviated description of the days of creation, culminating in the delight of Wisdom in mankind. Is this the pre-incarnate Christ? It uses the covenantal name of God, so I am inclined to say so. Nevertheless, it expresses a confidence in God, founded on His nature as revealed in His great acts of creation. And lastly, in Pr. 30:4, Agur, son of Jakeh, asks, “Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His son’s name?” Not the petty idols of this city or that one, but the One God Who overrules them all!
    It is only a passing remark, but Solomon makes another interesting use of the Creation account in Ecclesiastes 3:10-13: “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.” He recalls the dominion covenant of Gen. 1:26-31. For, “He has put eternity into man’s heart.” That mandate has been incorporated into man’s nature. “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live.” Human happiness is bound up in fulfilling the purpose that God built into our creation way back in Genesis. “This is God’s gift to man.” It isn’t drudgery; that is the curse. The calling brings contentment and fulfillment. He brings that principle up again in 12:1: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” The physical breakdown of aging is also part of the curse, so find fulfillment in dominion before that inhibition makes your work impossible.
    The Prophet Isaiah relies on creation theology in much of the latter half of his prophecies. In Is. 40:25-31, God makes much the same case as in Job: how can a man or a people question Him, considering the lofty things that He has done? Of the stars, He says (v. 26), “[I am] He Who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name.” When the sinner seeks to comfort himself in his sin 9v. 27), He responds (v. 28), “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” And, given that (v. 31), “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
    This same sustenance is promised to the Servant to come in Is. 42:5-6: “Thus says God, the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out…, I will take You by the hand and keep You; I will give You as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations…” The God Who made all things will sustain the Servant, that He, in turn, may be a Savior for that same world. For (Is. 43:1), “thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, He Who formed you, O Israel, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” And again (Is. 44:24-28), “I am the Lord, Who made all things, Who alone stretched out the heavens, Who spread out the earth by Myself,... Who says of Jerusalem, She shall be inhabited, and of the cities of Judah, They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins…” The promise of release from exile by Cyrus is sure, because (Is. 45:7) “I form light and create darkness,” and (v. 12) “I made the earth and created man on it; it was My hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” Consider what I have done, and then you will understand that it is a small thing to bring to pass the release of Israel by the hand of Cyrus. The manifest power of God makes His promises secure.
    And, just as God made the heavens and the earth, He will recreate them, restored to their “good” state of Genesis 1:31, and even better. In Isaiah 65:17, God through the prophet says, “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth.” And v. 10, “Behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” He will reestablish His good creation with a renewed church to replace the failed viceroyalty of Adam. And the curse shall be undone. Verses 20, 23: “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not fill out his days. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity…” Thus, God recreates the world, in part, by undoing the exact curses as they were given to Eve, in her children, and to Adam, in his labor. The futility and hardship of both, consequences of their fall, will be undone by Him Who created it in the beginning. For (Is. 66:2), “All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.”
    In the New Testament, the creation is again taken up briefly by Paul. In Romans 8:19-23, he describes the creation waiting for the restoration of the people of God, as described by Isaiah. Paul says, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God, for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, in hope that that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” And in II Corinthians 5:17, applying it to each individual, he adds, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old [creation] has passed away; behold, the new [creation] has come.”
    Peter also takes up this theme in II Peter 3:10-13. He reminds us of God’s promise through Isaiah in verse 13: “According to His promise, we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The old creation, in which unrighteousness dwells, is to be wiped away (v. 10), again restoring the creation to it “very good” intended state.
    And finally the Apostle John in Revelation 21:1-6: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Jesus gives John a wonderful vision of the new creation, with the new people of God, with all the sorrows of the fallen old creation passed away.
    Thus, we have another full cycle, from a good creation from the hand of God, then brought under a curse of pain and futility through the sin of Adam, now restored to its original goodness in the Second Adam, freed from all the pain and futility. The secure knowledge of the latter is based on the historical surety of the former.

No comments: