It's been a long time since I've read Genesis, and this time around, I was really struck by the metaphorical resonance of a passage we so often breeze through as antiquated or childlike. I think those of us who have grown up in the church can't escape the storybook Bible version of creation, or the image of clouds and animals on flannel board--and that's a great thing, because it shows the dimension of our history in the faith. But the thing is, we can't stop there. This passage is so rich with foreshadowing and mandates to the church that I decided to park here and camp out for a week or two on the Wednesday edition of the blog.
So let's start with the concept of being fruitful. If you notice, God specifically creates the plants earlier in this chapter so that they bear seed, then fruit. Then God goes on to "bless" the creatures of the sea and the birds of the air, commanding them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”
Thereafter, we get His commandment to us:
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
So what is at stake in this idea of being fruitful?
- The plight of the individual. God could have created every person who would ever inhabit the earth in less than the blink of an eye. After all, He knows us before we are even in the womb. So why did He choose to create one man? And then from that one man, create a woman, and then from their union, the rest of mankind? I don't know. That's a good question, huh? ;) But I do think that this process points toward the privileging of the individual, meaning God sees us right where we are for who we are. We're not just another member of the crowd to Him. Remember, it all started with one. We are one. We are just as important.
- The need for community. The passage above shows the importance God places upon living in community. Even the animals were commanded to do so. What does God go on to say later in Genesis? "It is not good for man to be alone." Fruitfulness begets growth: personally, socially, spiritually, and relationally. Maybe not physically. Unless we're talking about fruit candy. (Har har!)
- The responsibility of care. If you know me really at all, you know I absolutely love animals. I'm passionate about dog rescue in particular, but really, I love pretty much all animals and have been interested in them as long as I can remember. I'm also a member of Arbor Day and very interested in the plight of endangered species such as Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles. I hate, hate, hate the way elephants are treated throughout the world, even in circuses. Someday I'd love to use these situations as a backdrop for my books (i.e. character careers) and then donate some of the earnings to rescue groups. This passage is one I always go back to when someone asks me how I can be a tree-hugger and a Christian. But really, God's commandment to us here extends far beyond the obvious. We are to care for creation. To fill the earth with the image of God, then rule over it. Every tree, every flying bird, every lion and tiger. What a majestic calling, to be the movement of the living breath of God amongst His creation. To be that breath even to one another.
- The Edenic state as ever-evolving. We tend to think of the ideal as stagnant. I think that's why the concept of Heaven can be somewhat scary... a little part of us wonders what will happen if we eventually get bored, does it not? Okay, is that only me? :) But this scene in the Bible occurs prior to Eve's entry into sin, and thus demonstrates a wholeness of the earth not otherwise seen in the rest of the Bible. Yet, even in this wholeness, we see an evolution, a bettering, an ever-increasing fullness. It is almost as if the opposite of entropy is occurring. Goodness begets more goodness and more majesty in heavenly society.