Why humans?

Science is the endless and fascinating quest to find out what our universe consists of and how it all came into existence. But the question still remains as to why it came into existence in the first place. Why would a ‘Big Bang’ suddenly happen? And why, of all things, would it create male and female humans too?

Fortunately, we have a book that answers both questions, and it starts off with its own Big Bang in Genesis 1:26, when it states clearly, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” In one simple sentence, therefore, we find out why our universe came into existence, and why it came up with male and female humans: It was, and still is, God’s way of revealing himself.

WHY God did it this way, however, is beyond me. As yet I cannot grasp why God would create a vast physical universe and then on one tiny planet plop a rather frail creature as his means of revealing himself. How could a creature that was physical – and would soon prove it wasn’t all that bright either – properly bear the image of an invisible, eternal, perfect spirit God? And why would this “us” God in verse 26, who had obviously been happy and fulfilled and living in harmony forever without humans, make a creature that would miserably fail in its God-given purpose and cause all sorts of problems and heartache?

But this is the God we’re introduced to in the Bible. Despite being happy and fulfilled there was a point at which the “us” God agreed to bring our world into existence. That raises another question, though, as to how God who had no beginning, and had never lived with time and watching the clock, could create a point “in time” when our world began. Scientists talk of the beginning of our universe as a Big Bang, meaning there was a specific time – and location – when and where our universe appeared. But how could our universe begin in time, and appear in an actual location in space, when there wasn’t any space in existence already, nor was there any such thing as time in God’s dimension, and never had been?

I also can’t grasp why God took such a LONG “time” preparing the universe and our little solar system to make it livable for humans. The Earth, for instance, didn’t just suddenly appear as a nice round orb with blue oceans and pretty sunsets. It took three generations of stars and nine billion years to create the beating heart of our planet, a boiling cauldron of uranium and thorium that can thump out enough radiation to power a magnetic field strong enough to protect us from the sun’s radiation.

The sun didn’t just suddenly form at perfect suntan range either. It spent a long and moody four and a half billion years settling down to its present brightness. It also had to wait for all the other galaxies to spread out and stop banging into each other to provide a nice quiet spot in the universe for our little galaxy, far away from the supergiant galaxies and their immense gravitational pull.

It also took a long time for our own galaxy to sort itself out. For billions of years our gently named Milky Way was anything but gentle. It spewed out its own lethal brew of radiation as far out as 20,000 light years from the black hole at its core. But a narrow band 26,000 light years from the core began to form, beyond the reach of danger, where our little solar system found conditions just right for a hideout on Planet Earth for humans.

The Earth wasn’t in a hurry to settle down either, however. It took billions of years to slow its rotation from a three-hour day to a twenty-four hour day, nearly four billion years to lift its atmospheric oxygen to the right level, and several billion years waiting for all the planets – and especially the great planet Jupiter – to line themselves up as a protective shield against asteroids and comets hitting us. The Earth didn’t stop wobbling, either, until the moon was placed in exactly the right spot to steady it.

It took a lot of time, 13.7 billion years, to make our planet ready for us. There are also hints in the fossil record that God may have dabbled with prototype humanoid creatures that evolved through several stages of physical and mental development. But why would God, who can instantly create something from nothing and “calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17), take time to mould and shape anything? Was he learning along the way, perhaps, or was he simply having fun being a creator and making things? OR – as Paul mentions in Romans 1:20 – was there something about God’s “eternal power and divine nature” that could only be “clearly seen” by ever so gradually creating a physical universe and a creature that bears his likeness?

But that raises another question: Why would God want to make his power and nature known in the first place? If the ‘us God’ had been happy for eternity NOT making his power and nature known through a physical universe and humans, what changed his mind? Or did he always have it in mind to form a physical creation with creatures made in his image ruling it? But how do we know? The only way to find out, it seems, is to simply accept that we’re already here as male and female humans, and go along for the ride to see what happens.

And that seems to be what God had in mind too, because he didn’t waste any time in Genesis explaining things. He got right down to the business of what he wanted humans to do: ‘I made you in my image, Adam – and created all this amazing stuff you see around you – NOT to wonder what got me all stirred up to make it in the first place, but because I’ve got a job for you to do.’

And the job included Eve as well, because in Genesis 1:27, “male and female he created them,” and the reason he created both male and female was for the two of them to ”rule over” the creatures of sea, land and air (26, 28). Together they would be governors and co-regents of Planet Earth, and somehow, simply by the two of them fulfilling this role they would perfectly reflect God’s eternal power and nature.

To begin with their role would include three things: first of all, taking care of a small patch of the Earth called the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:15; secondly, in Adam’s case, giving all the animals and birds names (19-20), and thirdly, Adam and Eve operating as a husband and wife team (21-25). And regarding the two trees in the middle of the garden – all Adam and Eve had to do was steer clear of the one labeled ‘knowledge of good and evil’, because to eat off that tree would bring God’s agenda for all creation – and humans’ role in it – to an immediate and grinding halt (9, 17).

So here’s Adam, a fully functioning adult human in a beautiful world full of amazing creatures, finding himself being entrusted by God with this little kingdom he’s now responsible for, and if he and his lovely wife do a good job of it they will start the process rolling of God revealing both his power and his nature in and through them. How that would happen they did not know, nor did they see any significance in the good and evil tree, other than it shouldn’t be touched.

But why on earth would God create a tree that shouldn’t be touched? It made no sense. Obviously it was there for a purpose, and it had to tie in with God revealing his power and nature, but why make the fruit of a forbidden tree so delicious looking and easy to reach? And why put such awful temptation in Adam and Eve’s way in the first place, when it would put God’s entire plan at risk?

Well, one creature in the garden had a ready answer for all these questions: The tree, said the creature, would not wreck God’s plan at all, because if Adam and Eve knew good and evil just like God did – well, they’d be much better equipped to reflect God’s power and nature and rule his creation properly, wouldn’t they?

And to Eve that made total sense, and especially when God had deliberately made the tree’s fruit so attractive as well. So she ate the fruit, but instead of revealing God’s power and nature, she revealed the power and nature of EVIL. Evil was crafty, cunning, attractive, deceptive, hypnotic, and totally opposed to God and his plan for humans. And it was also extremely powerful, because even when Adam knew the serpent was telling a blatant lie, he hadn’t the strength in him to resist.

It was a highly revealing moment, because at no point did God step in to warn Adam and Eve what the serpent was up to, nor did he stop evil in its tracks, either. He let humans be taken in by evil, lose sight of his purpose for them, and totally prove their inability to bear his image. So why did God even bother with humans after that, then?

Well, think about it from God’s point of view. He’s just spent billions and billions of years carefully crafting the universe in every detail to provide for this one tiny planet in the vastness of space, and lovingly crafting two humans who could perfectly reflect his power and nature by caring for his creation and loving each other.

It’s like the idyllic scene at the beginning of a Disney movie. The sun’s shining, the sky is bluer than blue, the birds are twittering, and all the animals are smiling. Everything is bright and full of vivid colour, and everybody’s happy. BUT – as we all know in every Disney movie – evil lurks, and any minute it will appear, and from that moment on the main plot of the movie will focus on the battle with evil and eventually defeating it.

And in the Bible it’s the same story. It starts off with light and beauty, but evil strikes like a snake in Genesis 3, and in only seven verses God’s original plan is shattered. Darkness descends on the land, and the pungent smell of death, guilt, pain and fear is overwhelming. Thorns and thistles cover the land, men become infatuated with power, and mothers carry the endless burden of worrying what evil will do to their children. And from this moment on the main plot of the Bible switches from God showing his power and nature through his good creation, to showing his power and nature by how he sorts out this mess that evil has caused.

But clearly this is how it had to be, because evil had to be revealed for what IT is too, a deadly venom infiltrating the creation to destroy it, and no one is going to “live happily ever after” until evil is faced head on and defeated.

It also reveals God for who HE is, though, because he doesn’t wave a wand, wipe everything out and start again. Instead, he creates a little pinprick of light in the darkness called Abel, Eve’s second son, and from this tiny new beginning God sets about ANOTHER plan that will take thousands MORE years of painstaking patience until triumph over evil is accomplished. What we see so far, then, is a God who is determined to see his plan through, so that what he created humans for will be done.

But, like so many Disney movies, evil has everything going its way to begin with, because Cain kills Abel, snuffing out God’s one little speck of light immediately. But that’s evil; it’s a boat full of vicious pirates sailing the seas of God’s creation with one goal in mind, to stamp out God’s plan, and so far with great success too – UNTIL – up from the ashes pops Abel’s baby brother Seth in Genesis 4:25 – and this little comment in verse 26 – “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.”

People are voluntarily tuning into God. From Seth, then, a thread of light has begun, that continues through Seth’s family line in Genesis 5. But again, evil strikes in Genesis 6, and that’s when even Seth’s descendants (the “sons of God,” verse 2) are taken in by “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become” (5), to the point that God, seeing evil snuff out his light yet again, did actually think of ending it all (6-7).

But there was still ONE speck of light in the darkness: Noah (Genesis 6:8). And because of Noah, God, even in his grief and despair, bent his shoulders to the plough yet again to preserve that little trickle of light in the darkness through Noah’s son, Shem, and keep it alight through Shem’s family line to Abraham.

You wonder why God bothered, though, because Abraham’s descendants turned out to be total duds too, and God was down to just one man again: Moses (Exodus 32:10). Later on, Elijah thought he was “the only one left” too (1 King 19:14). Israel, therefore, was nothing like a “light” in the darkness (Isaiah 49:6). Instead, Psalm 106:43, “they were bent on rebellion,” the result being verse 40 (The Message): “God was furious; he couldn’t stand even to look at his people.” He hated even the sight of them.

But God chose Israel knowing this would happen. He even predicted it, when he told Moses in Deuteronomy 31:16-18, “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.“ Or as the Message phrases it in verse 18: “I’ll get angry, oh so angry. I’ll walk off and leave them on their own; I won’t so much as look back at them.” But God put himself through this agony with Israel on purpose, because in doing so it would reveal his power and nature.

It was all there back in Exodus 34 as well. Two chapters earlier, In Exodus 32:10, God had had enough of Israel and told Moses he was going to “destroy them.” But only two chapters later he’s telling Moses in Exodus 34:5-6, he’s a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness….forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” So, first of all, in a moment of extreme anger, God tells Moses to stand aside while he wipes Israel totally off the map forever, but in the space of only two chapters he’s telling Moses he never really wanted to destroy Israel because it’s not in his nature to boil over to the point he can’t forgive, even in the face of outright rebellion.

It’s a revealing insight into God’s divine nature, that, yes, he can get really angry, to the point he could even turn his back on Israel and never want to see them again, but Israel soon learns, as early on as Exodus, that God always relents and forgives. They may have to wait hundreds of years, but God would forgive them and release them from their punishment eventually. That part of God’s nature they totally trusted in, that it was never ‘if’ God would forgive them; it was only a matter of ‘when’.

That’s why the Jews expected the Messiah to come and deliver them, not hoped he would come, because experience had taught them that God always forgives.

That’s not to say God simply overlooked Israel’s rebellion, because he certainly didn’t do that. He punished them severely to near extinction at times where Israel was down to a mere remnant, but he never gave up on them, despite the endless grief and exasperation they caused him.

And in the process he revealed his power and divine nature. When Israel rebelled God clearly demonstrated his power by causing great kings and empires to invade and destroy their country. Israel knew God’s power all right. On the other hand, God also demonstrated his nature because he always stopped short of totally destroying Israel forever. He would inflict terrible punishment, yes, but he also stuck it out through thick and thin with Israel, despite the whole sorry cycle of rebellion, punishment, suffering, sorrow, and forgiveness having to be repeated over and over again.

But this is the way it had to be done, to make it clearly seen from Adam and Eve through to Noah’s day and on into the tragic history of Israel, that evil rules over humans with pathetic ease. But it’s just as clearly seen that God allowed Israel to fall victim to evil again and again, because in always forgiving them and always delivering them, no matter how much they rebelled, Israel would come to understand and believe that God’s love and patience can never be exhausted.

And it’s the same story back in Psalm 106, because right after God says he hates even the sight of Israel in verse 40, he then says in verses 44-45, “he took note of their distress….and out of his great love he relented.”

So this is why God put himself through all that agony with Israel: It was to reveal again his “eternal power and divine nature,” which again, just like the creation of this amazing universe, could only be “clearly seen” by this method. It was only by Israel constantly rebelling and by God becoming so angry with them he couldn’t stand the sight of them, but then relenting and forgiving them when they clearly didn’t deserve it, that they came to see God as he really was – and, most importantly, they believed it too. It took time for them to believe it, just like it took time to create the universe, but God’s purpose in revealing himself to and through Israel was fulfilled. So even when centuries passed and they were still under the rule of pagan powers like Rome, the Jews knew God would deliver them.

But unfortunately, they didn’t pass on what they’d learnt about God to others. Instead, they wanted God to crush their enemies immediately, and without mercy. So even though THEY knew God was merciful and his love and patience could never be exhausted, they didn’t bear that image of God in their own attitude toward others. They never caught on that the way God had treated them was an example to the rest of the world to help others see the kind of God he really is.

But there was one man among the Jews who did catch on.

He was the most unlikely person, though, because he was a despicable creature, and in his actions no better than the typical psychopathic terrorist of today who feels no remorse in causing immense suffering and death for innocent people in the name of God. He was a hypocrite and a total disgrace to his religion, but much worse than that, he created a horrible picture of God as a hateful ogre.

The name of this awful man was Paul, who, in his own definition in 1 Timothy 1:13, described himself as “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.”

But amazingly, same verse, he was “shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” What Paul did was horribly and obviously wrong, but God accepted that Paul didn’t know what he was doing, and God forgave him, just like Jesus said of his killers, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

But why would God extend grace to Paul when Paul, just like Cain, tried to snuff out God’s plan right from the start? Well, Paul knew exactly why God had shown mercy to him, of all people: It was to make him “an example for those who would believe on God and receive eternal life,” verse 16.

Paul knew that the way God had treated him was to be an example to the rest of the world of what God was like. And Paul knew what he was an example OF too: “I was shown mercy,” verse 16, “so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience.”

Paul knew that God had specifically chosen him and “poured out his grace on me abundantly” (14) to reveal what God was like. Paul’s life from then on, therefore, would be an open exhibition of God’s unlimited patience, mercy and grace. So, just as God displayed his power and divine nature to the whole world in his two great artworks of the universe and the story of Israel, Paul too would become a beautiful piece of artwork in God’s exhibition of himself. And Paul understood that, that the way God had treated him was meant for others, so that others could see God as he is and come to believe in him as well.

But how is all this relevant to us? Well, hasn’t God chosen us for the same purpose? The answer is: Yes, he has, 1 Peter 2:9, because as Peter states clearly we too “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, THAT you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Just like Paul, and like Adam and Eve, and like the nation of Israel, and like the universe, our job as Christians in the church is to reveal God as he really is. So what kind of God is he? Well, in OUR experience, just as it was in Paul’s experience and in Israel’s experience, we too “have received mercy,” verse 10. God has been incredibly patient and merciful with us as well, in never turning his back on us despite our weakness.

So we too have become an example of God’s unlimited mercy, grace and forgiveness for all those people who have no idea what God is like, or they’ve been given a wrong picture of him. The question then becomes: What kind of picture of God ARE people getting from us?

Is it just a one-sided picture of God in his power alone? Oh, it’s true that God will eradicate evil by his mighty power, and he won’t put up with any nonsense from evil people. He rewards everybody for his or her works, good and bad. Rest assured, therefore, that justice will be done, and people who resist God will go through hell. But is that where we stop in the picture of God we portray to people?

It’s a tough question to ask, because this world can make us extremely angry. It’s not hard to hate people, like those who kill innocent people in the name of religion, and those who horribly hurt women and children, and those who destroy God’s purpose for male and female by blurring the genders. But does our anger and disgust at these people make us want to condemn them to a fiery hell forever?

If so, then at least we understand how God feels, because that’s exactly what he wanted to do to Israel – banish them out of his sight forever. And with Paul, Jesus confronted him personally and angrily and blinded him for three days in response to Paul’s nonsense; so yes, that picture of God in his response to evil is true.

But is that how God is sorting out the mess evil has caused, by simply eradicating and severely punishing all evil people, and banishing them to hell forever? Then why didn’t he do that to Paul and to Israel, and to us too? Or is it that God, in his unlimited patience, allows evil to take its course so that after people have been taken in by it and after they’ve done unspeakable horrors to other people they learn about God from Christians and they come to their senses – just as Paul did, and so will Israel one day – and they discover that for all their stupidity, rebellion and weakness, God never closed the door to eternal life, and he never got so bitter at human behaviour that he blinded himself to the frailty of humanity and the power of evil?

But that’s the message of the universe, the message of Israel, and the message of the church, that God takes all the time in the world to make his plan happen. And in so doing he displays his power, because even the worst things evil does to people cannot prevent God’s plan from happening. But it also displays his divine nature, because if it wasn’t for God’s unrelenting patience, mercy, grace, and love, we’d all be in hell.

That’s why we can preach good news in the face of unspeakable horrors, because we know God is furious at what evil does to people, but somehow he manages to contain his grief and anger so that he doesn’t give up on us and hurl us out of his sight. And in that we have our guarantee that God will stick to the plan he began 13.7 billion years ago until evil is defeated, for everyone.

And one more thing; it’s also because of God’s unlimited patience that he’s included us in that thread of light he’s kept alive ever since Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, and Moses. And it’s a visible light, meaning people can SEE God’s power and nature in us, not only in how God treated us, but also in how we view and treat people too. Do they see that we, like God, hate the evil that people do? Do they see that we, like God, stand up for justice and due punishment for evildoers? But do they also see that we, like God, stand up for forgiveness, mercy and patience with very stupid people whose only real problem is not seeing God as he really is yet?

So, are we right in denying evil people forgiveness and mercy when the only reason that WE came to believe in God and repented was because God was merciful to us?

Yes it’s tough extending mercy when evil people do terrible things, but we know God and how long he took to make this earth inhabitable, how long he put up with Israel, and how long his patience lasts with our own wrong attitudes, providing us and the whole world with vivid and visible proof that it’s only by patience, grace, mercy and forgiveness that evil is defeated.

And when it is, God can then set about his original plan with humans, of revealing his power and divine nature through what we do with his creation, but this time without evil being a hindrance, thanks in total to the kind of God he really is.

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