One of the most difficult things to do (if not down right impossible) is forge strong, deep, relationships when our own lives are in disarray. As human beings we have a tendency to project ourselves onto others and create false narratives that cause us to react irrationally. For example, when someone cuts us off on the road, it’s tempting to assume we were disrespected on purpose. Surely they saw me and didn’t care. We never think, perhaps that person who weaseled their way in front of me is just a bad driver, has poor peripheral vision, or is sleep deprived due to a newborn baby keeping them up all night. Instead, it’s easier for us to project our own sins, thoughts and failures as a driver onto others with zero grace.
It’s the same when we’ve left a bad relationship, or if we’re still trapped inside of one. Establishing a new relationship can be difficult as we often tend to carry around baggage; a rotten corpse of previous failed connections. This baggage contains not only the sins and failures of others, but also ours if we’re honest. This makes it hard to fully commit to new people. We essentially turn off the lights in the theater, grab the popcorn, and start projecting all of our past and present failures onto the new relationship while waiting for the worst. This relationship then becomes toxic and has a much higher propensity to fail. When the prophecy of our failed relationship becomes reality, we add it to our collection of drama based movies. Later to be projected. The cycle repeats.
The emails I’ve sent over the last few weeks have been intentionally purposed to help you avoid a toxic relationship with God. Remember, we must rewire our thinking according to God’s worldview and not the world’s worldview. Unfortunately, this is necessary thanks to the effects of the fall. You will need to turn off your projector and truly analyze your beliefs about God. Else you run the risk of projecting onto Him which will put you in the same predicament as many others who live on this spinning rock. You will carry around your life’s baggage which will blind you to the truths of God. And you will render your plan to truly meet God obsolete by inflicting unnecessary damage into your relationship with Him.
Where we go from here is exciting. Remember to challenge the origins of your pre-existing ideas about God. Keep good posture, and constantly pray for His wisdom.
Genesis 1:26 is one of the most profound, mind-bending, stumbling blocks of a verse within the entire Bible. This verse is like a deer, who innocently prances into traffic on a dark highway. Springing you from your relaxed, euphoric, music induced trans-like state, to a fight or flight, I’m gonna die, heart in throat, why is there a deer on the (words I shouldn’t use as a Christian) road, freak out session. And boy, does it happen all so quickly! This one verse seemingly has the power to zap all intelligence from intellectuals. Bringing them to their knees as they offer up sacrifices of ego to appease their new master. This verse turns gods into mere mortals as it communicates that God doesn’t appear to be alone before He created man.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” - Genesis 1:26 (ESV)
Scripture uses the word us (and our) in this verse. The short answer as to why this is the case, is the Hebrew language is far more complex than English. Unfortunately, when most people think of Bible translations, they think it means word for word. However, the Hebrew language doesn’t allow for that. In fact the word “us” doesn’t even appear in the original Hebrew text. The real star of the show is the verb make, which in the original text, uses what’s called a stem and a conjugation. All verbs in the Hebrew language use stems which indicate verbal action and voice. Think of it as a two layered system for verbs. This is why it’s not enough to try and derive definitions or meaning from words alone when reading Hebrew. A very common mistake. How the words are formed in addition to context are what’s used to communicate meaning. In short, what we have is a first-person, plural imperative. In English it becomes a “let’s” imperative, inclusive of or implying “we”. This is where “Let us make” comes from. Ok, that was fun. Let’s (see what I did there?) get back to work.
Traditionally - at least for Christianity - one of the popular ways Genesis 1:26 has been explained is by injecting the concept of the Trinity into it. So in this sense, "us" means God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. I don't believe this to be correct. However, there was a time I shared this belief.
A couple of years ago I recognized I had fallen into a common ditch, purely by accident. I had been negating one of the golden rules for reading scripture. Exegesis over eisegesis. Read and extract what scripture is saying instead of injecting one’s own ideas into it. We’ve all fallen victim to doing this at some point in our walk, even if it’s unintentional. Many well-meaning Believers are innocently riding the train of tradition at this very moment, unknowingly practicing eisegesis. Cruising through life with a faulty understanding of the Genesis setup. And the reason why this verse is such a stumbling block is purely due to Christian tradition. It’s not because the text is hard, or needs deciphering, or spiritual intervention. It's because (as you'll soon see) there are serious implications if we take the text as it is. The truth is, God delivered the Bible in such a way a child can read it and know Him. The word us, simply means us. Yes, God wasn’t alone. How do we know? Because the word “us” tells us this. See? Simples. Shout out to Reading Rainbow.
Now, in case you need more convincing, we don’t even have to leave Genesis and we see this blind deer prancing in front of us again!
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” - Genesis 3:22 (ESV)
Again, we have the same language being used as in Genesis 1:26. But wait, there’s more! During the Tower of Babel event God decides to go check on the heathens and delivers this fantastic line…
7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” - Genesis 11:7 (ESV)
Again, the same thing. And during Isaiah’s commissioning the Lord says this…
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” - Isaiah 6:8 (ESV)
Notice the pattern? The reality is, when God kicked off the creation of the earth and heavens, He created other divine beings before man was formed from the dust. So this begs the question, who on earth (or Heaven) is God talking to? Well, there’s an easy answer for this as well and yes, it’s found in scripture. No need for us to invent anything crazy or inject ideas into the Bible.
The answer, is God operates a council of divine beings. Not only that, He exists within the company of other gods! Before you freak out, please notice the spelling of gods with a little “g”. In the event you don’t believe me, I will let the scriptures communicate this plainly.
1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: - Psalm 82:1 (ESV)
Now, we won’t go over this today, but realize scripture uses the word gods countless times. God (big G) never claims that gods (little g) don’t exist. That idea is rooted in tradition, not scripture. However, He does proclaim there is no other God (big G), or Lord but Him (Isaiah 45:5). Plus, thinking through this rationally, if gods aren’t real, then God couldn’t really take His place in the midst of them. Again, we’ll dig into this more in a later edition.
Back to the point as we wrap up. God has a divine council, or better understood in the Hebrew text as a community or assembly of divine beings. This divine council pre-existed humanity and would have been in operation by the time God got around to creating man. While we certainly get some exposure to this divine realm throughout all of scripture, Genesis doubles down on the creation of the earth, which logically makes sense as it’s the origin story for humanity. But make no mistake, the divine realm was in full operation well ahead of the earthly realm.
We get a bit more insight into this divine setup by looking at Genesis 6:2, Genesis 6:4 and even Deuteronomy 32:8. These verses shed light on the existence of the sons of God, which points to a divine family.
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. - Genesis 6:2 (ESV)
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. - Genesis 6:4 (ESV)
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. - Deuteronomy 32:8 (ESV)
This phrase, “sons of God”, is another deer darting out into traffic. But this is the kind of deer that stops, looks at you, and dares you to hit them. How on earth could God have sons, is a question that commonly follows the readings of these verses. A common explanation is these sons are actually men and that scripture is communicating an idea metaphorically or through allegory. But this explanation appears to be conjecture at best. How do we know? Because when you read the aforementioned verses you’ll see man, humanity, is distinguished from the sons of God. In the event you need more convincing (and we’ll touch on this in another edition) see the book of Job.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. - Job 1:6 (ESV)
Clearly, if sons of God referred to humanity, Satan - a divine being - would not have been cruising around with them. Plus, at no time in scripture have men been able to just walk up to God and have regular conversation. Well, except in Eden before the fall and later when Jesus (God in the flesh) arrived. But you get my drift.
The point is, sons of God is a term used for beings that have the spirit of God, and give Him reverence as their LORD. It’s not that God has children in the way humans have children. All created beings that serve the Lord are considered sons of God. It isn’t a term set apart specifically for humanity. Context matters. For homework, I will leave you with some verses that help communicate this truth. So don’t skip it!
We’ve only just begun to crack the surface as to what God’s divine realm looks like. We’ll dig deeper into these ideas in the upcoming weeks. Right now we’re just laying some necessary foundational work. For this week, my ask is that you’ll think on what it truly means for God to be a Father in the context of all (not just earthly) creation. I hope as you made your way through this edition it helped bring a little clarity around concerns that aren’t usually discussed in a traditional setting. Or at a minimum, got your wheels turning. I also hope you are beginning to see that your family doesn’t just involve humanity.