Thursday, March 15, 2012

The First Creation Festival, Part 1

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than the gods,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
-Ancient Hebrew Poetry (otherwise known as Psalm 8)

I’m a pastor and a Bible student (which are just euphemisms for “It’s my job to help people get closer to Jesus” and “I read the Bible so much it comes out of my toes”) and I need to let you in on a trade secret about God: He likes good press.  Some might say that He’s got a problem with pride or that He just does it for the fame—whatever you like to think.  But all these words like “glory” and “majesty” and “holy name”—they all have to do with God’s reputation, or how the media represent him.  And words like “praise” “splendor” and “honor” mean that He’s getting what he feels he deserves.  If He had his way, the international press would constantly be referring to him in positive terms: “God does it again!”  “Amazing feat by God!”  Kinda like the Daily Planet headlines on Superman. 

            Although it’s hard to imagine, that’s the main reason God created the earth.  For the good press.  The most natural question is: But who was there to be impressed?  Us folks who wouldn’t exist for a really long time? In the next century are we going to dig up an old reel: “God makes a big bang—film at eleven”?  Nope, wasn’t us.  Frankly, God already had an audience that he was concerned about much more than us insignificant folk.  In Genesis 1, they are mentioned in the passages in which God calls himself “we.”  In Psalm 8, the passage above, this audience is called “gods” and also “adversaries.”  Who are these “gods”?  Is the Bible secretly promoting polytheism?

            Not exactly.  These are powerful beings that have done great work in our universe, although they are rarely understood except as spectators and messengers.  In fact, “angel” a Greek term for these beings literally means “messenger”, although the Hebrew phrase “son of God” is probably more well-rounded.   They helped create the world, they counsel with God as to the destiny of the universe, they rule over nations and they dictate the present and future of humanity.  They truly are “gods” in the ancient polytheistic sense.

            And yet the Bible isn’t polytheistic.  It demands belief in one God. How, then, does it hypocritically speak of many gods?  Which is it?  As often happens when we find a seeming contradiction in the Bible, the answer isn’t either/or, but both.  Yes, there is but one God, with no one his equal.  And there are powerful beings, called angels or demons or “gods” who are real, and very powerful and under the One God’s orders.   If you want to see how it works, then look at Job 1. 

            This is the audience that God was trying to impress by creation.  There is still a problem—weren’t angels created after the universe?  If the universe was created after angels, then where did they live?  Was there a spiritual temporary shelter until God was ready with the ultimate development project?  The problem is in the way we see the creation of the universe.

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