Day Six: Living Creatures And Mankind

Genesis 1:24-27 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds- livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

INTRODUCTION

We’ve made it to the last day of creation, day six. Because there’s so much critical glory in it, I’ll take the next two weeks to unpack it for you all. God’s original creation was dark and so He created light; first to shine from his own glory (day one) and then from the sun, moon, and stars (day four). His original creation was without form and so he created the sky, the dry land, and bodies of water (days two and three). And God’s original creation was empty and so he created vegetation (day three), fish (day five), birds (day five), and as we will see today, land animals and people (day six). God illuminated and formed the world in such way that it could and would be filled with life—especially human life—for his glory.

We’re going to cover a lot of ground this morning. We’re going to consider God’s creation of the land animals. Insodoing we’ll see again the power of the word of God, new distinctions within God’s creation, and the goodness of God’s creative work. We’ll also consider the beginning of God’s creation of mankind. And in that we’ll see a hint concerning the triune nature of God, the uniqueness of mankind among creation, part of man’s purpose, and part of man’s nature. That’s a lot to take in and a lot to apply to our lives. Let’s pray for God’s help in both—for ourselves and one another.

DAY SIX: CREATION OF LIVING CREATURES

Welcome, once again, to the final day of creation. It’s interesting to me that God so clearly chose to highlight the uniqueness of mankind among the rest of creation, but at the same time did so on a day shared with the land animals. God did not give mankind his own day of creation. I couldn’t find any legitimate explanation as to why that is. Perhaps it is to keep us humble even in our supremacy. Regardless of the reason, God began his work on the sixth day of creation with living land-creatures and finished with the creation, commission and blessing of mankind.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds- livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

I want to briefly draw your attention to a few aspects of this marvelous work of God. First, for the seventh but not for the final time, God is said to have created by his word. The living creatures of this passage were brought forth once again by the familiar phrase, “And God said…and it was so”.

Second, again once again, God created the living creatures “according to their kinds”. Four times in vs.24-25 this fact is highlighted. God created things and distinctions within those things. God’s created distinctions matter as much as his created things. In particular, 1:24 tells us that God made three kinds living creatures: livestock (cattle), creeping things (snakes and lizards), and beasts (wild animals).

Third, the clear and divinely inspired structure of Genesis 1 is seen here as well. On day three God created the dry land for the day-six animals to live on and vegetation for them to eat. God’s creative work was not random or haphazard. It was purposeful and perfect and he helps his readers to see that even in the way the passage is organized.

Forth, God’s creation was good. Nothing in his original works possessed faults of any kinds. They were all and only good. Thus, the familiar refrain in v.25 says, “And God saw that it was good.”

Finally, we see in this passage, along with the rest of creation week, a hint as to why God can seem distant at times. This is a critical observation for all of us and especially for those prone to discouragement and loneliness. There is an aspect of the way in which God created the world that helps us to understand why God’s presence isn’t always obvious. I mentioned this briefly in the sermon on day four. I’d like to say it again even more explicitly here. God created the world supernaturally, but he designed it to continue on “naturally”. He first spoke plants and fish and birds and animals into being out of nothing, but he created and blessed all of them in such a way that they can reproduce on their own—their reproduction doesn’t require anything additional from God. Similarly, he created the earth, sun, moon, stars, and light out of nothing, but they continue to shine and spin (from our perspective, anyway) on their own. To us this can often seem like divine silence. In reality, however, with eyes of faith, it is actually a continual proclamation of the presence and glory of God. Far from an indication of God’s absence, his “natural” design for the world means that the whole earth is continually proclaiming the active presence of God. When we truly understand Genesis 1, wherever we look we see evidence of God’s nearness. Every baby animal, every sunrise and set, every season, every new leaf or fruit, every time a flower grows, everything that appears natural to us, is really an expression of God’s closeness. Remember this, Grace. Rejoice in this. Find comfort and hope in God in the Genesis 1 knowledge that God is always near and you are never alone.

Kids, who created the creatures that walk on the earth; the cattle, snakes, and wild animals? Who, then, is the king of the living creatures? Who decides what they are and what they are for?

DAY SIX: CREATION OF MANKIND

And that brings us to the final aspect of the final day of creation; the pinnacle of God’s creation: the creation of mankind. Look again at vs.26-27.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Again, there is so much in here. Books have been written about each of the things I’m about to show you in this passage. Praise God with me for his glory and goodness. Pray to God with me for his insight and help to obey.

Everything Toward the Creation of Man

The first thing to see is something I’ve mentioned several times in previous sermons: all of creation was moving toward this moment, the table had been set, the earth was ready for the crown of creation: mankind. There are several things in the text that help us to see the uniqueness of mankind’s place in God’s creation. Among them are the fact that man is the last of God’s created works, the change in creation language (from “let there be” to “let us”), man as the unique image bearer of God, and the divine assignment of dominion to man over the rest of creation. All of these things together help us to see that God has a special place and special plans for human beings.

Again, Grace, contrary to popular opinion, mankind is not a different branch on an evolutionary tree. Mankind is not basically the same as the rest of the living creatures or the earth’s vegetation. God made us unique, indeed over, everything else he had made. We need the rest of scripture to know exactly what that means and why God did it this way, but here we find out in no uncertain terms that God created the world in such a way as to make it suitable—fine tuned—for his highest creation: human beings.

And God Said…

The next thing to see is as familiar as it comes. For the eighth and final (creative) time, God spoke something into existence. By his word mankind was made. Having drawn your attention each week to one more way in which this reality continues to develop throughout the bible (“and God said” does not end in Genesis), I want to share with you one final demonstration. The surest proof and demonstration of the unmatched power of the Word of God was the coming of the very Word of God in the flesh.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The ultimate expression of the power of God’s word, the ultimate example of “and God said…and it was so” was the incarnation of the Word, Jesus Christ. It is precisely this that we celebrate at Christmas. Just consider for a moment how the much of creation account is tied to Jesus in the opening words of John’s Gospel. The word by which God made the world, John wrote, became man.

John 1:3-10 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him…

Jesus is the very Word of God. It should not be a surprise, then, that the same divine power that brought the world into existence was able to control the world that he made. “And God said…and it was so” continued on in the person and work of the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus merely spoke and people were healed (Matthew 8:8). By the Word, unclean spirits were forced to flee (Luke 8:29). By Jesus’ word the wind and waves were calmed (Mark 4:39). By his word the paralyzed were made to walk (Matthew 9:6-7). And most significantly of all, by the Word of God in the person of Jesus, sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2).

This is no small thing, Grace. Jesus is the very word of God through which He created the heavens and the earth. In Jesus is all the power of the word of God and in Jesus is true dominion over all that has been made. Praise God for this, Grace. This Christmas season, praise name of the LORD most high!

Let Us. In Our. After Our.

The next thing to see is the shift in language concerning God; Moses moves from singular to plural in v.26.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

What does this shift mean? There have been many suggestions made. Some have argued that it is a divine council (God and the angels). Others have suggested that God was speaking to the earth that he had just made and out of which mankind would come. Still others are convinced that it is a plural of majesty (“We hereby decree”) or a plural of deliberation (“What are we to make of this?”). Most of the earliest Christian scholars assumed it to be a reference to the Trinity.

What makes the most sense to me, exegetically and theologically, however, is what contemporary theologians have called “the plural of fullness”. In that sense “us” and “our” refers to the Father and Spirit (mentioned in v.2). Certainly Moses would not have been able to imagine God as Trinity when he wrote what he wrote—and he certainly would have understood what he wrote. At the same time the God who inspired Moses to write this knew he would eventually reveal that he was one God in three persons (Galatians 4:4). In other words, Moses thought of himself as writing of the fullness of God calling man into existence—Father and Spirit—while at the same time the Father thought of the fullness of God calling man into existence—Father, Spirit, and Son.

Whatever the case, everyone agrees that this shift to the plural is an indication of glory in the highest. No one but God alone can do what God did in bringing the universe into existence. And it was God in his fullness that did so. Don’t allow your hearts to miss this, Grace. Don’t allow yourself to be indifferent. Praise God!

In Our Image, After Our Likeness

The glory of God is not all that is on display, though. The God-imparted glory of mankind is on display as well.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…

God is glorious and mankind has been made in his glory. We have been made in God’s image and likeness. In saying this, I want to clarify something for two different audiences. To the group that isn’t surprised to hear this, I want to remind you that there is a critical difference between God’s glory and your glory. God’s glory is entirely in himself, whereas your glory was given to you by God. God’s glory is original. Your glory is derivative. To the audience that looks in the mirror and feels like they really are looking at God’s image and likeness, you probably need to be reminded that you have nothing glorious in you that wasn’t put in you by Another, and that He’s done the same for every other man and woman on the planet. The point is this: you brought nothing to the glory-table and did nothing to deserve the glory God gave you. Be humble.

The other audience that I want to clarify this for is the group that can’t even begin to imagine that the glory of God is in them, that they have been made in God’s image and likeness. You look in the mirror and can’t believe for a second that you share in the glory of God. You usually don’t even like what you see. For that group, you need to be reminded that God’s Word, not your feelings are what determines who you are. You need to be reminded to believe God’s promises rather than your own intuition. You are made in the image and likeness—the glory—of God as much as every other person. Your identity isn’t yours to define; it’s yours by God’s design. The point is this: you have glory because God put it in you. Be humble.

With that having been said, what exactly does it mean that God created man in his image and after his likeness? I need you to bear with me as I read John Calvin’s answer. It is dense. It uses words and phrases that probably aren’t familiar to us. And yet if you’ll give him your ear and attention, you’ll hear some of the best news imaginable. You were made in God’s image and after his likeness, and this is what that means.

“Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent [protruding out of]: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it [flashes or sparkles of light] did not shine forth. For there was an attempering [a harmony] in the several parts of the soul, which corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and molded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order” (Calvin, Genesis Commentary, 53).

That is a remarkably precise, eloquent, and important way to describe what being created in God’s image and after his likeness means. It means that God created mankind with hearts and minds, affections and thoughts in tune with his. God’s desires were Adam’s desires. Adam understood, approved of, and delighted in God’s will, and he shared in God’s freedom such that he could obey it as well. What a truly glorious condition; one that would soon, unfortunately, be marred by Adam’s sin, but also one that would eventually be restored by the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Calvin’s description was of Adam’s nature before the fall, Jesus’ nature from the moment of his incarnation, and the glorified nature of everyone who will place their faith in Jesus. Grace, that is a lot to swallow. It’s a bit difficult to understand. But do not settle for small thinking about the manner in which God made you. Your ability to live in it in fullness of joy and fellowship with God is tied to your understanding of how God designed you. Think hard, therefore, and ask the Spirit for understanding. Sin has disguised and destroyed certain aspects of God’s image and likeness in us, but his grace has preserved some and his blood has purchased the rest for his people.

Have Dominion

That’s not all that this passage tells us about the original nature of man, however. We also learn that God made us to dominate the world he made; to have dominion over it.

26 … And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

To dominate in this sense does not mean that the world is ours to do with as we wish. It does mean, however, that it is ours to rule over, under God. In this passage we’re told that God made Adam and his descendents stewards of the earth. But again, God gave his world to us not to exploit but to make flourish. Like God, we are to turn wilderness into civilization. We are to hold back chaos and imitate God in creating and sustaining order. To do so, as we will see into chapter 2, is to receive blessing and provision from the earth. God gave the earth to man and man to the earth. Through man God would tend to the earth even as through the earth’s fruitfulness God would tend to man. It was meant to be a beautiful, harmonious relationship; one that sin deteriorated but one that Jesus’ death on the cross and eventual return will allow us to know again.

Praise God for all of this, Grace. Obey God in all of this, Grace.

Male and Female

Finally, there’s one more critical aspect of this passage that I want to draw your attention to: the distinction between the people God made.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

This passage, obviously, does not yet delve into the nature of the differences between male and female. It merely asserts here that there are differences and that the differences do not affect the divine image in both. Male and female are different in some ways, but the same in that they both bear the divine image and likeness.

Throughout the rest of the bible the purpose and nature of the differences become increasingly clear. At its most basic level, then, we find out in this passage that there are important and unchangeable differences within human beings; maleness and femaleness. Therefore, any philosophy that seeks to deny, ignore, or otherwise change this divinely authored distinction is entirely futile at best. Where God makes a distinction, mankind can no more change or eliminate it than he can change or eliminate the difference between a fish and a bird; a mountain and a river; an angel and a tree. Where God’s design is present, calling something by a different name cannot change its nature one bit.

Even as the differences between God’s intention for male and female become increasingly clear, so too does the fact that sin has made it increasingly difficult to appreciate God’s design and function within it. That’s what sin does. As we will see in chapter 3, the difficulty for men and women to live as God designed us to live is part of the curse of sin. And yet, as with the divine nature and likeness, and as with our dominion over the earth, Jesus’ death and resurrection, his glorification and his glorious return all work together in the promise to undo all of sin’s effects; to redeem all that sin has destroyed; and to restore all that sin has tarnished.

Kids, who made mankind? Who, then, is king of mankind? Who has the authority to give mankind dominion over the earth? Who has the authority to make mankind into male and female? The answer is God alone and so we must obey God alone. He is King.

Conclusion

“The sixth day reveals both the culmination and the goal of creation” (Ross, CB, 112): a world suitable for mankind, God’s own image bearers. The temple has been completed for God to dwell with man. Grace, in this passage we are given a remarkable description of mankind as God made us, intended us to be, and has promised to make us into once again in Jesus Christ. God is bigger than you can imagine. His plans and work are better than you can imagine. The good news of the gospel—the work of Jesus—is gooder than you can imagine. And fullness of joy offered to in Christ is sweeter than you can imagine. Chase down every thought you have that is contrary to God’s design as we see it in Genesis 1. Chase down every action you do that is contrary to the design of God. And chase down every affection you have that is contrary to God’s design. Give yourself to making the world around you flourish. Enthusiastically embrace God’s image, likeness, and design in you. And to the world around us that is drowning in ignorance, lies, and deceit, joyfully and unashamedly tell of this greatest story. The good news of Christianity is that for those whose hope is in Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God is already working these things out in you and in the world around you. Amen.