Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

We tend to think about refugees and other immigration issues through the lens of what we view on television, hear on the radio, or see shared on social media. However, if we regard God’s word as the authority for our lives, we also need to think about refugees as a biblical issue, because the Bible speaks repeatedly to God’s heart for refugees and other vulnerable foreigners. In fact, the Hebrew word for a “resident alien”—ger—appears 92 times just in the Old Testament. We’ll look at several of those passages this week, with some specific instructions from God to His people about how to treat “the stranger in the land.”

Even before we encounter any specific biblical injunctions concerning how to treat the refugee or other foreigners, we find that each human being—refugees certainly included—is made by God and in His image.

It is because each human being (regardless of ethnicity, gender, legal status, disability, or any other qualifier) is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Creator God that each has inherent dignity. We value and protect human life because we believe it is precious to God. That commitment to life compels us to do all we can to shelter and protect refugees, who in many cases have been forced to flee to preserve their lives.

That each person is made in the likeness of the Creator God also suggests that human beings have remarkable creative potential. Take Sergey Brin, for example: as a six-year-old, he and his family fled discrimination in the former Soviet and came as refugees to the United States. Using a God-giving creativity, he went on to co-found Google, which is now among the world’s most valuable companies, providing tools most of us use on a very regular basis and employing many people in the process.

As resilient and entrepreneurial people made in the image of their Creator, refugees have remarkable capacity to contribute, and we deny the image of God within them when we speak of them (or anyone) merely as a burden.

Reflection Questions:

1. What has been the primary influence on how you think about refugees? Have you ever before considered what the Bible might say on this topic?

2. How does the teaching that refugees are made in the image of God inform how you think about and respond to them?

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Genesis

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It records the beginning of time, life, sin, salvation, the human race, and the Hebrew nation. It begins with primeval history centered in four major events: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and the dispersion of the nations. Genesis then narrates the history of four great patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

Title: The English title, Genesis, comes from the Greek translation (Septuagint, LXX) meaning “origins”; whereas, the Hebrew title is derived from the Bible’s very first word, translated “in the beginning.” Genesis serves to introduce the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament), and the entire bible.

The influence of Genesis in Scripture is demonstrated by its being quoted over 35 times in the New Testament and hundreds of allusions appearing in both Testaments. The story line of salvation which begins in Genesis 3 is not completed until Revelation chapters 21 and 22, where the eternal kingdom of redeemed believers is gloriously pictured.

The title, Genesis (Greek, “Beginning”), was applied to this book by the Septuagint. The Hebrew title (bereshit) comes from the first word of the book in Hebrew (“In the beginning”). The book is divided by 10 units (toledot) under the rubric: “These are the generations of.” Thus, some have suggested that Moses had access to the patriarchal records.

Authorship – Date: With very few exceptions, Jewish and Christian scholars alike believed that Moses wrote Genesis. His authorship is supported by the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Palestinian Talmud, the Apocrypha (Ecclus. 45:4; 2 Macc. 7:30), the writings of Philo (Life of Moses 3:39), and Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 4:8:45; Contra Apion I.8.

Moses life extended 120 years (Deut. 34:7). The first 40 years (1525–1485 B.C.) he spent as Pharaoh’s son, learning the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). He spent the next 40 years (1485-1445 B.C.) in the desert of Midian as a shepherd (Exodus 2:15; Acts 7:30). The final 40 years (1445-1405 B.C.), he spent wandering in the Sinai wilderness with the children of Israel (Deut. 8:2). He very likely wrote all of the books of the Pentateuch after his call to lead the people out of Egypt, as recounted in Exodus 3. This would have been in his last 40 years of life, during the wilderness wanderings.

Background – Setting: The initial setting for Genesis is eternity past. God then, by willful act and divine Word, spoke all creation into existence, furnished it, and finally breathed life into a lump of dirt which He fashioned in His image to become Adam. God made mankind the crowing point of His creation, i.e., His companions who would enjoy fellowship with Him and bring glory to His name.

The historical background for the early events in Genesis is clearly Mesopotamian. While it is difficult to pinpoint precisely the historical moment for which this book was written, Israel first heard Genesis sometime prior to crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land (ca. 1405 B.C.). Genesis has 3 distinct, sequential geographical settings:

(1) Mesopotamia (chapters 1-22);

(2) The Promised Land (chapters 12-36); and

(3) Egypt (chapters 37-50).

The time frames of these 3 segments are:

(1) Creation to ca 2090 B.C.;

(2) 2090-1897 B.C.; and

(3) 1897-1804 B.C.

Genesis covers more time than the remaining books of the Bible combined.

Historical – Theological Themes: In this book of beginnings, God revealed Himself and a worldview to Israel which contrasted, at times sharply, with the worldview of Israel’s neighbors. The author made no attempt to defend the existence of God or to present a systematic discussion of His person and works. Rather, Israel’s God distinguished Himself clearly from the alleged gods of her neighbors. Theological foundations are revealed which include God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, man, sin, redemption, covenant, promise, Satan and angels, kingdom, revelation, Israel, judgment and blessing.

Genesis 1-11 (primeval history) reveals the origins of the universe, i.e., the beginnings of time and space and many of the firsts in human experience, such as marriage, family, the Fall, sin, redemption, judgment, and nations. Genesis 12-50 (patriarchal history), explained to Israel how they came into existence as a family whose ancestry could be traced to Eber (hence the “Hebrews”; Gen. 10:24-25), and even more remotely to Shem, the son of Noah (hence the “Semites”; Gen. 10:21). God’s people came to understand not only their ancestry and family history, but also the origins of their institutions, customs, languages, and different cultures, especially basic human experiences such as sin and death.

Because they were preparing to enter Canaan and dispossess the Canaanite inhabitants of their homes and properties, God revealed their enemies’ background. In addition, they needed to understand the actual basis of the war they were about to declare in light of the immorality of killing, consistent with the other 4 books that Moses was writing (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Ultimately, the Jewish nation would understand a selected portion of preceding world history and the inaugural background of Israel as a basis by which they would live in their new beginnings under Joshua’s leadership in the land which had previously been promised to their original patriarchal forefather, Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3 established a primary focus on God’s promises to Abraham. This narrowed their view from the entire world of peoples in Genesis 1-11 to one small nation, Israel, through whom God would progressively accomplish His redemptive plan. This underscored Israel’s mission to be “a light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6). God promised land, descendants (seed), and blessing. The 3-fold promise became, in turn, the basis of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:1-20). The rest of Scripture bears out the fulfillment of these promises.

On a larger scale, Genesis 1-11 set forth a singular message about the character and works of God. In the sequence of accounts which make up these chapters of Scripture, a pattern emerges which reveals God’s abundant grace as He responded to the willful disobedience of mankind. Without exception, man responded in greater sinful rebellion. In biblical words, the more sin abounded the more did God’s grace abound (Romans 5:20).

On final theme of both theological and historical significance sets Genesis apart from other books of Scripture, in that the first book of Scripture corresponds closely with the final book. In the book of Revelation, the paradise which was lost in Genesis will be regained. The apostle John clearly presented the events recorded in his book as future resolutions to the problems which began as a result of the curse in Genesis 3. His focus is upon the effects of the Fall in the undoing of creation and the manner in which God rids His creation of the curse effect. In John’s own words, “There will no longer be any curse” (Rev. 22:3). Not surprisingly, in the final chapter of God’s Word, believers will find themselves back in the Garden of Eden, the eternal paradise of God, eating from the tree of life (Rev. 22:1-14). At that time, they will partake, wearing robes washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 22:14).

Genesis is the foundational book to the rest of the Bible. Its important theological themes include the doctrines of God, Creation, man, sin and salvation. It teaches the importance of substitutionary atonement and of faith in God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. It also records the first messianic prophecies of the Bible predicting that the Redeemer would be born of the seed of a woman (3:15); through the line of Seth (4:25); a son of Shem (9:27); the offspring of Abraham (12:3); Isaac (21:12); and Jacob (25:23); and from the tribe of Judah (49:10).

Genesis covers more time than any other book in the Bible. It opens with the words: “In the beginning God created” (1:1), and it ends with “in a coffin in Egypt (50:26). Thus, it covers the whole plight of man, who was created in God’s image to live forever, but because of sin became destined for the grave. The book leaves the reader anxiously anticipating the redemptive intervention of God.

Doctrine: Twisted Human Motives and God’s Grace

The problem with the people of Babel was not that they wanted to be near to God — don’t we all? No, the problem was that they wanted to make a name for themselves. They were hungry for power and glory, and they were willing to go to great lengths to acquire it. A Chinese proverb says, “Those who think they are building a mound may only in reality be digging a pit.”

We often secretly hope that our deeds and aspirations for promotions and acts of service will attract recognition or even earn God’s approval. But we soon discover they may only drive us further from God and wreak havoc in our lives and the lives of others. When God saw the tower that the people of Babel were building, he said, “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Geneses 11:6), so he confused their language and disrupted their work. It’s as if God had said, “If I let their sin go unchecked, there is no telling how much worse it will get.” So there is grace even in this judgment: God graciously restrains us from digging our own graves, so to speak.

Creative Power

God has the power to create anything He desires. The book of Genesis informs the reader that God (Elohim) is our Creator and we are His creation. Only God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have creative power, wisdom and control to produce: the heavens, earth, light, day, night, seas, vegetation, trees, seeds, sun, moon, stars, seasons, days, years, galaxies, livestock, crawling things, wild animals, males and females.

When one truly accepts and respects God’s ability and creative power in all things, faith should always follow. During the seasons in our lives when we experience trials, we should take a look around and appreciate the glory of God’s creative power. God is able to create victory in your valley, triumph in your trials and conquests in your conflicts.

Oftentimes children of covenant overlook God’s creative power because of their inabilities and shortage of resources, but God owns all, created all and nothing is impossible for Him. Whilst in your valley remember that God is your source and He is able to create victory for you right where you are.

Usually we want to immediately get out of the valley experience, but for those who love the LORD, God is working all things out for their good and is creating something new in their valley experience, which will result in one’s overall victory.

We must invite God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in to create victorious situations for us HIS WAY! Victory doesn’t always mean you’ll escape or avoid your valley experience, but God is with you and He is able to create wonderful qualities within you that individuals will see and have to give glory and praise to God regarding his creative power operating in your life.

Throughout the Bible we read accounts of God’s creative power in the midst of his children’s valley experiences and each time victory followed as God came through.

For example:
The Israelites at the Red Sea
The father and his demon-possessed son
The birth of Jesus

There are many more examples in the Bible and I believe times in your life when God came through in creative power. The good news is that God’s creative power doesn’t stop! God comes through in power regarding your: healing, provision, protection, covering, salvation, loving, kindness, forgiveness, peace, joy, breakthroughs, turning points, revelations and freedom.

Praise Be To God for coming through in creative Power!

The Carpenter

The Bible gives us very little detail of Jesus’ life between the ages of twelve and thirty, when He began his public ministry. One of the only things Scripture notes about this significant chunk of time is that Jesus was known in His community for His work as a carpenter. This is remarkable! The only thing the Bible tells us about what Jesus was doing for half of His life was doing the work of a creator and entrepreneur, revealing to us this important characteristic of the Trinity.

Given Jesus’ ultimate purpose for coming to earth, you might have expected God to choose for the Messiah to grow up in the home of a priest, like the prophets Samuel and John the Baptist, or maybe in a Pharisaical household, like the Apostle Paul. Instead, God placed Jesus in the home of a carpenter, where for eighty-five percent of His working life, He would reveal God’s character as a creator and an entrepreneur, creating new things for the good of others.

In just three years of public ministry, Jesus revealed countless characteristics about His Father. To the five thousand, Jesus showed us that God is our provider. To Lazarus, Jesus showed us that God is the giver of life. And on the cross, Jesus showed us that “God so loved the world” that He would sacrifice His only Son in order to spend eternity with us. If Jesus was able to reveal so much of God’s character in such a relatively short period of time, the fact that Jesus spent twenty years revealing God’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit should stop us in our tracks.

Think back to the first entry in this reading plan. What God created in the first six days is astonishing, but what’s equally remarkable is what He did not create. After six days of work, God left the earth largely undeveloped and uncultivated. Then He called you and I to join Him as His co-creators, “filling and subduing” the world. When we create, we are emulating the entrepreneurial and creative character of the Godhead: Father, Spirit, and Son. Your work as a creator is not “secular” or “less than” the work of a “full-time missionary” or pastor. No, you are doing God-like work for His glory and the good of others. Glorify Him through your creating today!

The First Entrepreneur

The first thing God reveals about Himself in Scripture is not that He is loving, holy, omnipotent, gracious, or just. No, the first thing God shows us is that He is creative. In Genesis, He brings something out of nothing. He brings order out of chaos. He creates for the good of others. In short, God is the first entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneur” is a title thrown around so much today that it has become very difficult to define. I would submit that an entrepreneur is anyone who takes a risk to create something new for the good of others.

Using this definition, the Creator of the universe certainly qualifies as The First Entrepreneur. In Genesis, He is clearly creating something new. Before creation, “the earth was formless and empty” until The First Entrepreneur spoke. Then, in six days, His voice brought forth the heavens, the earth, light, evening, morning, sky, land, sea, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, animals, and man.

Not only did God create something original, He also created for the good of others. God certainly didn’t need to create the world and humankind. So why did He? Before creation, the Father, Spirit, and Son had been enjoying perfect community, serving and loving each other for all eternity. If the Trinity reveals the others-orientation of the Godhead, it stands to reason that one of the reasons why God created was to share the perfect love the Trinity has been experiencing for all eternity with us.

So, while God clearly created something new for the good of others, did omnipotent, omniscient God really take a risk when He created? Certainly He didn’t take a risk in the way you and I do when we launch a new business, compose a new song, or write a new book. But He did risk in a different, far more profound way. As Pastor Timothy Keller explains, “God made the world filled with human beings made in His image, human beings with freewill. So God made the world knowing what it was going to cost Him. Knowing what we were going to do. Knowing that [His] Son was going to have to come into the world and [die for us].”

God doesn’t stop revealing His character as creator and entrepreneur in Genesis. As the next two entries in this reading plan show us, the Godhead continues to reveal these characteristics throughout Scripture through the Spirit and Son.

God’s Dream: Threads of Passions (Part 1)

It’s easy to miss the point of Joseph’s story. What was God doing through Joseph’s suffering and the betrayal of his family and the unique gifts he possessed? Yes, he was refining Joseph. Yes, he was restoring Joseph to his family. Yes, he was using him throughout Egypt in many people’s lives. But ultimately God intended Joseph’s life to save many lives. With the famine coming, God would use the faith and obedience of one to save them all. Joseph had a unique need he was designed by God to meet.

We all are longing to live for something bigger than ourselves. As believers in Jesus with need all around us, we get to. We look past the normal of mundane jobs and boring places and see the need in them, and passions start to wake up. God built us to take the material around us and invest it into our nearest need. It’s how we’ve been wired: we are most fulfilled when we are meeting needs.

God built us to love different things so we could meet different needs. It’s beautiful that your heart doesn’t beat fast about the same things my heart beats over. When we start to lay out our threads, it is unbelievable to see how what felt average about ourselves starts to take on intricate beauty. Our untangling threads reveal God’s sovereignty and attention to detail. Beautiful is the body of Christ poured out into every crevice of this world, every city, every office, every home. It’s the unselfish passions of people displaying the love of their God in a million unique ways.

It’s beautiful that all your unique threads run in a direction that blesses people and shows God. That direction is usually determined by the things that cause you to beat the table, or lay in bed awake, or speak with exclamation marks.

Our passions determine our direction. We began this journey in hopes of discovering how to invest our lives. I promised no magical writing in the sky-only a journey to discover more of God and the pieces of life he gave you to make him known. Where does your heart bleed for the need you see around you?

Respond:

Where is God calling you to be brave and meet need?

What is holding you back?