The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: I

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Image and likeness of God

The world was bright and new, and our ancestors Adam and Eve walked with a light and confident step through God's lovely garden. They had the right, for they were made in the image (form, appearance) and likeness (capacity, authority) of the "Elohim" -- the mighty ones, or angels, who executed the commands of the Almighty from His heavenly throne (Gen 1:26). To them, and them alone, had been given the wonderful assurance of dominion over all God's creation. And so, placed in a special class, with heavenly tutors, they were instructed how best to fulfill their mandate -- to subdue the earth (v 28) and live upon it to the ultimate glory of the Creator.

Why was "Adam", as the first man, the crowning glory of God's creation? Undoubtedly because he alone had the intelligence to reflect the glory of God. God, being the Source of all knowledge and all love, necessarily desires to see His characteristics reflected in His creation. It is true in the abstract that the heavens themselves mutely "declare" the glory of God (Psa 19:1). It is also true that the lion, the peacock, the cedar of Lebanon, and even the "wee beasties" in the test tube all "sing" together of the Divine Hand that formed them. But, if there were no man, who but God would "hear" their song? Who would appreciate such wonders and reciprocate the intelligent love of such a Creator?

It is apparent that, above all else, God desires knowledgeable and loving obedience from those creatures made in His image and likeness. He could easily have had a sort of "obedience" by simply making man a robot. Then He could have pushed the right button and, for ever and a day, the dutiful robot would have cried out, "Great is Yahweh!" But could there be any real pleasure in that? Such a robot would have been only one more variety of animal that, by instinct or "programming", did only what it was supposed to do.

But how to create love? That was the question. Love must be a conscious choice of will in the mind of a being who has the capacity also to refrain from loving. God has the choice to do what He pleases -- He chooses to love us. A creature, to be made truly in His likeness, must have that same capability of choice. And so, in an act of great daring, God made a being one giant step above his fellow creatures, a being capable of choosing right and wrong, good and evil. I say, an act of daring, because something was now loose in the universe over which the Almighty no longer had absolute control: a brain capable of grasping the eternal, yet capable also of repudiating it. In order to receive the greatest pleasure from His work, God was forced to allow the possibility of the greatest disappointment.

God put into the hands of Adam, and thence into our hands as well, an awesome power -- a power far surpassing that of any other creature -- the power to distress and sadden our Creator. No ravening beast, no rampaging river, can cause God hurt -- but a flimsy little fabrication of bone and flesh can bring tears to His eyes.

And yet, though our power to hurt God is so great, our ability also to please Him infinitely surpasses that of any other creature. There is a wonder in this beyond description. The Omnipotent, Omniscient Lord of all creation, to whom the mighty stars are so many grains of dust, condescends to hold our hands, His little children.

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psa 103:13).
And the smallest faltering step of one of those children along the road that leads to life brings Him boundless joy -- the joy multiplied a hundredfold of the human father who watches over his child's first steps.

Such power there is in the grasp of each one of us, and such glorious privilege! How can we ever neglect it?

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1Jo 3:1).
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