Reflecting God’s goodness
Generous and overflowing shalom
Goodness, generosity and shalom all fit together. We begin with the premise that we are representatives of the Prince of Peace. Scripture is full of encouragement for us to live in peace because it is through shalom that much else flows, including goodness and generosity. Goodness flows out of the shalom which is concerned with the overall well-being of others. It is goodness which governs justice, mercy, and humility – and does not allow us to be content with helping God to usher in only the minimal amounts of justice, mercy into the world but the fullness that stems from the overflowing goodness of God.
Our Creator and Temple-maker intended for us to enjoy his overflowing love and goodness. He provided us a place of abundance where he can meet all our needs, where He had a purpose for us as His stewards and His co-creators and where we could enjoy him and enjoy each other. This overflowing can be overwhelming when we consider the breadth, the beauty, the abundance, and the complexity of this temple he has provided. And we can marvel at the breadth, the beauty, the abundance and the complexity of the skills and abilities He has provided for us as his stewards and co-creators. Just look at what He has done and what we have done with what He has given us!
Trustworthy and Faithful
We can’t seem to avoid breaking promises; whether it’s the one’s others make to us or the ones that we make to others. We usually expect broken promises from some people because we know they lack sincerity. Then sometimes we experience broken promises because things happen beyond our control, circumstances change, priorities change, or other things happen. Yet, during all that, God calls us to be His ambassadors and to reflect his faithfulness to us. God calls us to faithfulness in all things, whether it’s in truth-telling, in love, in doing good, in prayer, in doing the work of the Lord, in confirming our calling, to mention a few. As we attempt to be faithful and trustworthy in all things and when we fall short – as we surely will – we can still point to the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Lord. The point must always be to not point to ourselves but to the Lord – God calls us to trust Him, be dependent on Him, and to put our confidence in His faithfulness and His sacrifice on our behalf.
Self-Sacrificing and Forgiving
Our life in God does not begin with anything we have done but with the sacrifice made by Christ Jesus, the perfect sacrifice that He made on our behalf to reconcile us to God. When by baptism we join him in his death, He also unites us with him in his resurrection. It is that resurrection power that enables us to present ourselves as living sacrifices, to worship him by continually dying to our sinsand offering ourselves to the service of God and to others. And just as the mercies of God flow into our lives, so those mercies should flow over into the mercy we extend to others on God’s behalf.
Although God’s first image-bearers had close, unhindered, intimate contact with their Creator, there was enough space given them to think freely, as if they were not being watched all the time. It was in this space that God gave us several mandates: procreation (be fruitful and multiply), stewardship (subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures), and a cultural mandate (work it and take care of it). He gave us the assignment to be fruitful, to fill all the earth, discover its possibilities and care for the world in the same way that God would care for the world. Just as God continues to create more living things and sustain all that he has created, we as his co-regents, can join him in sustaining and creating those things entrusted to our care.
He also gave us the responsibility to subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures. When there is resistance, we still have the responsibility to bring the rule of God to the world. Then He gave us the responsibility to work and take care of the earth, this will expand from taking care of the garden to taking care of all of God’s creations. Implied in all these things is that we should do everything in context of God’s love, to care for each other and to care for the earth and its creatures with the mind of the God who created us for love.
The work that He designed us to do was more than just tending the garden. In Genesis 2:15, God gave us a mandate to “work” and “take care of” the garden that He had created. These tasks within Ancient Near East culture, were more of a priestly nature, taking care of this temple where we reside with God.
We were to take care of this place which He designed to be a “very good” place for us to flourish in, creating whatever structures we needed to “increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” This task, this mandate, meant that we would eventually go beyond the capacity of gardening and create not just a bigger garden but cities, a flourishing civilization as pictured in Revelation 21 and 22.
When examined closely, we can see the breadth of what was committed to Adam and Eve. Subduing the earth would entail many physical, social, and intellectual activities. In the gardening we can see cultivation and farming; in taking care of the animals, we can see shepherding and domestication; in the naming of the animals, we can see a cultural and scientific activity which required understanding the nature and attributes of the animals and establishing authority over them. We can see that God had created things to be beautiful and, as his image-bearers, He expects us to also create beautiful things.
There is a sense in which we, as members of the Kingdom of God, now seem to be living in a foreign land. This puts us in a similar position as when the Babylonians took the Israelites into exile in Babylon. During their stay in Babylonia, God’s instructions were to settle down, build houses, get married, have children and to seek the prosperity of the city God sent them to, for “if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
But above all these things we can do, we should not lose focus on who we are. We are creatures designed by God to be like God to be in relationship with Him, the God who is a community in Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We should do everything in context of who we are. Remembering that God designed us to be human “beings,” not human “doings.” This viewpoint become clear when we compare the Biblical view of creation to the view of other Ancient Near East cultures. For the surrounding cultures, the gods created human beings to feed and serve them, whereas the Biblical viewpoint sees God being the provider for the people.
Originally, we see Creation designed as a temple, a place for us to “be” with God. Later, Jesus refers to himself as the temple, a human in whom God resides, then after that Paul declares that our own bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So here again, we see the mystery of perichoresis, where we are distinct from the Holy Spirit, yet the Holy Spirit becomes a part of who we are. In this we see the mystery of perichoresis unifying the persons within God, unifying the body, soul and spirit within humans, and unifying God and humans.
- What tasks did God provide for the humans?
- What kind of tensions did our rebellion create between humans and between the humans and God?
- Unlike other creatures whom God simply created as male and female, Genesis 2 gives a story of a man specifically made from the dust and a woman created from the side of the man. What do think was God’s purpose for describing the origin of his image-bearers?
- How can we, within the finiteness of our lives and our intelligence, see how beauty points to eternity?
- . While meditating on the limitations of life on earth, verse eleven slides in a reference to beauty and eternity. How does that verse impact the rest of the chapter?
- Think about how love relates both to sovereignty and service. What implications does that have for how we treat others?
- Think about how humility relates to both mercy and justice. What implications does that have for how we treat others?
- Read Deuteronomy 12; 1 Corinthians 14. These chapters contain explicit instructions about how and how not to worship. Since we do not yet experience the fullness of the new Kingdom, how can our imagination help us more actively engage in worship?
- Read Exodus 18:21; Luke 16:10-12. In what ways can we challenge ourselves to be more faithful?
- Read Romans 12:1-21. Christ’s sacrifice for us included his death on the cross. What kind of sacrifice are we expected to make?