Friday, October 22, 2010

Multiplying Imago Dei in the Noahic Covenant

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

As for you be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:7)

God is very creative. He speaks of the same thing in a different way. As with this covenant that God established with Noah and his descendants, God once spoke of the same thing many hundred of years before to Adam and Eve. God told the first humans to be fruitful and increase in number. God specifically commanded Adam and Eve to multiply the Imago Dei on earth. However, since sin entered the world, no longer Imago Dei that has been multiplied but the broken image and the image of the devil. So God’s command could not be carried out due to humans’ confusion and incompetence. When Noah was 500 years old, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). So God was grieved and said: “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7). People breed evil instead of good. People breed imago Satan instead of imago Dei. Only Noah and his family were the remnant of the imago Dei (Genesis 6:8).

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth” (Genesis 6:11-13). Then God ordered Noah to build an arc, which was completed in 101 years, for God was going to destroy the entire world with water. After the completion of the arc, God united the water above and below, which was once separated in the creation of the sky (Genesis 1:6-8). So water covered the entire world and every living thing was destroyed. Only those in the arc were saved from the flood. Noah and his family, eight in all were the only humans saved. Consistent to his command to multiply imago Dei, God destroyed all the non imago Dei but saved the remnant. God, then, commanded the multiplication of imago Dei to the remnant. He did not renew the command to be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth to the non imago Dei, for it would be a disaster if the earth was filled with evil. The original intention in the creation of man has been reemphasized, so there is no confusion of God’s intention for all humans to multiply only imago Dei. God’s creative communication and punishment to evil provide an important understanding to all of us today so we may understand the real intention of procreation of the human species. Make no mistake, in our procreation, God’s command stands, which is the multiplication of imago Dei.

To Adam and Eve God said his command plainly without any dramatic prologue. But to Noah and his family, God said his command with the most dramatic prologue in the world. The destruction of the whole world, all the humans and animals, by the unification of the water above and below was the greatest grief in the human history, second only to the crucifixion of the Son of God. God made a very vivid statement by destroying all the wicked people, while saving Noah, for in God’s eyes “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Then God ordered Noah and his family to be fruitful, increase in number, and fill the earth. If we put the prologue together with the account of Noah and God’s command, then we got a crystal clear statement from God that his command for humans to be fruitful, increase in number, and fill the earth, means for the imago Dei to be multiplied, imago Dei to increase in number, and imago Dei to fill the earth. For sure God doesn’t want the evil image to be multiplied, increase in number, and fill the earth. That’s why I call this as God’s creative way of communicating his command and punishing the wickedness.

Twice God’s command of multiplication was commanded to two different families, one was commanded to Adam’s while they were sinless, and the other was commanded to Noah’s after the dramatic prologue of the saving of the remnant of imago Dei within the sinful world. Therefore, when people procreate only biologically and care not for the bringing up of the divine image in the human soul, they are guilty of sin. God abhors the wicked and saves the righteous. Nothing can be clearer than the account of Noah in that matter. So Noah was like the second generation of the imago Dei to bear the responsibility to breed divine image. Noah was in a different era than Adam’s era in the Garden of Eden. Both commands actually state the same thing. Only because the world has changed, then God’s way of communication to humans also changed dramatically in order for the message to get through. God could not plainly say the same command in the time of Noah due to the blurry perspective of human state under sin.

God established the covenant and his commands to Noah and his descendants, which means all of us on earth are bound to the same covenant and commandments. We are all the descendants of Noah and Adam, and therefore God’s command to breed divine image is for us and our descendants as well. The problem now is on the knowledge of imago Dei. Philosophers, religious leaders, theologians, are all in the quest of finding the concept of an ideal man. While they have reached great understanding, they have also failed to conclude according to God’s will. Some say that the ideal man follows the way of nature, and thus conforms to natural way. But some say that the ideal man leaves his fingerprints in nature, meaning making nature obeys him and making use of nature properly, and thus devises technology for the betterment of humanity. Still some say that the ideal man is free from the bondage of any religion, for God does not exist for them. Others say that the ideal man is united with the spirit world, making him able to defy nature and thus super. Others say that the ideal man is living for himself, while the counterparts argues that the ideal man is giving himself out for others. There are still many versions of the ideal man in the world of philosophy. But let me tell you a secret that God has revealed to all of us. The true image of God is Jesus Christ himself, for “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

Therefore, if we are to fulfill God’s command to multiply imago Dei, then we ought to find the pattern in Jesus Christ. All of us are to be transformed in his image. Then we ought to educate our descendants to follow the pattern of Jesus Christ. This requires faithfulness, discipline, patience, endurance, and full dependence in God. God alone knows the completeness of the true imago Dei. Our education to be provided must be the divine education as ordered by God according to his holy scripture. Amen.

* The Business of Christian Education XXIII

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