Meditation on Imago Dei

: Imago Dei. Image of God. Man was created in God’s image—male and female.

If God is King and Creator, covering us in inescapable grace, and in our quest for truth we know that we are to deepen roots and produce fruit, how should we then live? We ought to live as He created us: as His image-bearers. So what does it mean to be a creature, a created-one? What is it to be a bearer of His image?

Well, what does the Bible say about this?
Genesis 1:26 & 27 “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Genesis 5:1 “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”
Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image.”
James 3:9 “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”

The Bible very clearly says that we, as mankind, are created in the image and likeness of God. But do we have any real idea of what this means? To be an image means that you are not the actual thing, but an image of a thing. You show its likeness like a replication, a duplicate, even a mirror. But you are not the thing itself. Pastor and writer John Piper says, “If you create an image, if you make a sculpture of someone, you do it to display something about that someone. You put it in the square in the middle of town, and you want people to look at it, notice it, think about that person, think something about them — that they were noble or strong or wise or courageous or something… God created us in His image so that we would display or reflect or communicate who He is, how great He is, and what He is like.”

So every time we see another human, we are seeing another image of our great God and eternal King. Think about that! Billions and billions of images—every one of us imperfectly imaging Him—but each one reflecting something of our Creator. Looking at another human ought to cause us to wonder, for it is seeing a reflected glimpse of God. John Piper said, “being created in the image of God means that we image God. We reflect God. We live in a way, we think in a way, we feel in a way, we speak in a way that calls attention to the brightness of the glory of God.” As parents, the way kids are reflects something about their parents. I think you know what I’m talking about: haven’t you ever heard a parent laughingly say, “oh I hope they don’t make me look bad” when they’ve dropped a kid off somewhere? What they are saying is an acknowledgement that their children reflect them. For good or for ill, we reflect our parents—our children reflect us. In this same way, we reflect our heavenly Father in whose image we were created. And we do make Him look bad! What I mean by that is that we are marred, imperfect images of Him. We only reflect a small part of His glory and majesty. Our hope and prayer is that as we continue down our life of sanctification, that we continue to be honed and sharpened and polished so that we are ever more accurately reflecting our Father, our Creator, our King.

As we bear the image of God, we are all made to glorify and magnify the Lord—and this is for all His image-bearers, all of mankind. Our Creator gave His image to all humans: He created Adam and Eve in His image before sin entered the story, but then all of humanity after our first parents have likewise borne His likeness. Regardless of salvation. Even those who live and die in unbelief bear His image. We can not escape His glory. To one extent or another, we all bear His image and reflect His glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Ever since the fall of man, we have rejected the glory of God—His glory has been replaced with idol after idol, false image after false image, and they lack the glory of God. But the fall of man and our sinful nature did not change the fact that we bear God’s image: but Romans 8:29 tells us that His chosen people are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This is part of our sanctification, ever onward toward glorification and eternal praise of our Father in heaven.

C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

But then let’s go one step further and see that not only did God make humans in His image, but He made them male and female. This is a countercultural way to talk in our current social climate. But it is extremely biblical. It is straight out of Genesis 1. This establishes the pinnacle of a Christian worldview. Kevin DeYoung writes that what is at stake here by God creating His image male and female is “nothing less than the gospel. That’s all.” Because without it, we would not have marriage, we would not have procreation, we would not have the continuance of His image. And Paul tells us that it is a profound mystery, that marriage refers to Christ and the church. This is not by accident. God did not have to make humanity this way. But it reflects Him most, and it glorifies Him best—this was God’s very own, very good idea. In His infinite wisdom, when He put Adam to sleep, He formed a woman for Adam’s companion. And the two together were the image of God. In some mysterious way.

So as you look at one another, I challenge you to see the glory of God reflected in each other’s faces. As you play together, I encourage you to find the glory of God reflected in the bodies around you. God has fearfully and wonderfully knit one of you—for His glory and in His image. Let us prayerfully seek to grow in our reflecting of Him, in our bearing of His glory, and to embrace the gift of being male or female specifically created for His praise.

Verse: Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Catechism Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in His own image to know Him, love Him, live with Him, and glorify Him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to His glory.

Blessedness vs. Wickedness

Trees have roots and fruits, and we see this in Psalm 1 applied to a godly man. How do we apply this to our walk with the Lord? What can we learn about blessing, delighting, meditating, prosperity, and fruitfulness? Where do we go for nourishment?

Verse: Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The book of Psalms opens with two psalms which really end up setting the stage for the entire rest of the book to come. It generally makes sense to begin in the beginning of a book before reading on through it, but not everyone has had that experience with Psalms. A lot of people are introduced to Psalms through super common ones like Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd – or Psalm 100 – about entering His courts thanksgiving and His gates with praise. But one of my absolute favorite ways to read wisdom literature in Scripture is from beginning to end. My kids and I read both Psalms and Proverbs this way: straight through, on repeat, all the time. I can not count how many times we have read those two books together already, and can’t imagine how many times we will have done it throughout our lifetimes. This is a good heritage to pass on, and a worthy foundation to set.

So if we were to approach the book of Psalms by starting at the beginning, we would see that Psalm 1 presents two ways of living—actually, very similarly to what Proverbs does with the way of wisdom and the way of folly—but here in Psalm 1, it is the way of the blessed man and the way of the wicked man. Some theologians actually say that Psalm 2 is not a separate song but a continuation of the first—the King mentioned there is not David, but a foreshadowing of Christ, the Son of David that God’s people were anticipating. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. But back to Psalm 1!

This is a wisdom psalm (again—that connection to Proverbs), it is intended for the training and instruction of God’s people. The book of psalms was the hymnal of the Hebrews, the Jews, God’s people. And right here in the beginning of that book is a teaching method commonly found throughout the Bible: two ways in contrast; a positive example beside a negative example; one meant for imitation and the other for warning. We’ve already established that the two options in Psalm 1 are that of blessedness and that of wickedness. What does blessed mean? This is actually the Hebrew word that my son Asher’s name comes from: asherey, ashrei, esher (it’s phonetic so you can find it transliterated different ways). It is a word that means happy, blessed, fulfilled. It is a contented state of joy that is an internal happiness which brings blessing from the inside out—not the outside in. It is not a happiness based on situation or blessedness based on materialism. This kind of true blessing, true happiness, comes from walking with the Lord.

The first half of this psalm gives beautifully poetic description about what the blessed man is like. We see the blessed man described as a tree planted by rivers of water, yielding good fruit, not withering but prospering! And from where did this tree stem? Where are its roots? Delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on the law of God day and night—that is where these tree roots are nurtured and nourished. And then back to the beginning, we see that this man steers well away from sinners and scoffers and wickedness.

We must see that the very first thing mentioned is the distinction between godly and ungodly influences. We must resist the influence of the ungodly, carefully protecting ourselves from ungodly influences. Therefore, we must rather put ourselves in the way of godliness, righteousness, and meditation on God’s holiness. This is where blessedness and happiness lie. This is the path of good fruit and prosperity. Psalm 119 is a long treatise on exactly this! Here is a brief example:

Psalm 119:97-106

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to keep your righteous rules.

Throughout the psalter, but notably right here in the very first chapter, we see that devotion to God and His Word is not a slavish duty nor hedge against superstition. Rather than a burden, it is a delight and pleasure and joy. He meditates on it! This meditation is considering, pondering, wrestling with, and being occupied with—meditating on God’s Word means focusing on it and seeking to understand it, memorize it, and—dare I suggest—even sing it.

But how does the psalmist go on to describe the wicked? In an abrupt shift, he declares simply: “the wicked are not so.” He describes them as chaff that has been shaken off the grain. Therefore, because of their very nature as inconsequential and useless, they will not stand in judgment but will blow away like the dry hulls of chaff when a farmer winnows wheat. Chaff is worthless, meaningless. Ultimately, we are told that the end of the wicked is far from prosperity: the wicked will simply perish.

So we see that there are two ways we can live—the Lord presents us here with the two paths: that of wickedness and that of blessedness. This is the ultimate distinction in life. And here is one simple yet profound note: although we would all like to think of ourselves as the blessed one, the tree planted by rivers of water… we are only that one thanks to the irresistible grace of God. But for that undeserved mercy, we would lie squarely in the path of the wicked one. Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan and gift of Jesus Christ! Because of Him, we can be blessed. We can be happy. We can be fruitful and prosperous. Like that tree representing the happy and blessed man, we do not have to fear dry seasons because of the constant water supply nourishing our roots. Because of the Living Water of Jesus Christ our Savior, we can endure adversity, persecution, drought, affliction. It is the law of God, His very Word—which we have the modern gift of carrying around in our very pockets, not to mention in a dozen different copies on our shelves at home—which is our sustenance. May we thus brim over with love for God’s Word. May we raise children whose roots are planted by the riverside. May our homes be orchards with fruit ripe for plucking and harvesting and sharing. This is how we can share in the prosperity and blessing of the man in Psalm 1. Rely on Jesus and trust in Him, letting Him be your righteousness and hope, your joy and delight. Do not walk in the ways of the wicked—but rather, choose to delight in the law of God and meditate on His living Word.

Trinitarian Blessing

We can not escape the grace of God. Father, Son, and Spirit—this God we serve is with us as our foundation, our protection, our all. Do not fear.

Weekly Verse: 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Weekly Catechism:
Q:How many persons are there in God?
A: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Our memory verse this week is a benediction—in fact, a specifically Trinitarian blessing—that emphasizes God’s love, the grace we enjoy because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship or communion we experience because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. (And our catechism focus is also on the Trinity.) There is unity here, yet diversity. Paul’s blessing ascribes specific blessings to the operation of each person in the Trinitarian Godhead. The finite human mind can wrestle with the doctrine of the Trinity for more than a lifetime: it is a mind-blowing truth, which remains a mathematical mystery for us. Jonathan Edwards noted, “I think [the doctrine of the Trinity] to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries.” But it is comforting and practical to the core. We can basically sum up Christianity this way: we come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. And in this verse we remember the fullness of God in how He redeems and blesses His people with grace, love, and fellowship.

There are many ways to apply this, but one way that I find comforting is the reminder that we can not escape the grace of our God. Perhaps this is a terrifying reality for some—but for those of us who find our safety, security, comfort, and refuge in the Trinitarian God, it gives us every reason not to fear. His grace reaches us no matter where we run! The grace of God is before us, behind us, above us, beneath us, with us, and for us. It is this gracious God who is our foundation, our refuge, our protection. We His children do not need to fear. We have His grace, His love, and His fellowship. He gives us Himself in grace and love while enfolding us into communion with His family.

If anyone has experience with this inescapable grace of God, it was Paul. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 is Paul’s testimony of this:
“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

You remember Paul, right? Paul was a blasphemer. A persecutor. An insolent opponent. He was ignorant and unbelieving. He proclaims his dire sinfulness! But here’s the thing. Even Paul—who was Saul at that time—could not escape the love, grace, and communion of our Triune God. And Paul invites us to give honor and glory to the only God, the King of the ages, because of His mercy and patience and faithfulness.

Why did the chief of sinners receive love, grace, and communion from God? Because the grace of our Lord overflowed for Paul with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. And this ought likewise to be our comfort and our hope, it ought to drive away fear and doubt. Our Lord Jesus Christ has grace for you and for me. Our God loves you and me. And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit reaches and embraces you and me. This is indeed a blessing. This is our firm foundation. This is encouraging. And it ought to give us hope to face trials and strength to climb mountains.