Creation and Its Goal
Beresheet 5766 – Creation and Its Goal
BERESHEET 5766 – CREATION AND ITS GOAL
by Rabbi Russ Resnik
"The end is where we start from. 'In my end is my beginning.' Endings take precedence over beginnings. We begin a journey by first deciding on a destination."
(From Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in spiritual Theology, by Eugene H. Peterson, 2005.)
As we begin a new year and a new cycle of Torah reading, it is good to remember the destination of the year, of our lives, and of the Torah itself. We should not be surprised to read of this destination at the beginning, in Parashat b’Reisheet. There we learn that Creation is not an end in itself, but moves toward a goal—the completion of God’s order and shalom which were inaugurated in the creation week. The destination is a fulfilled Creation in which the glorious presence of God the Creator is evident throughout. This theme of Creation Fulfilled, introduced at the beginning, underlies the entire Torah.
Accordingly, when God creates humankind, he gives them a vital role in the fulfillment of Creation:
"Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’" (Genesis 1:28).
This verse reveals two mandates for Creation Fulfilled that are still in effect today.
First, God says to the humans he has just created, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” Rav Shaul summarizes the Torah’s teaching on the nature of humankind in 1 Cor. 11:7: “Man is the image and glory of God.” Human beings are created as image-bearers and representatives of God himself. Therefore, the more of us the better. There must be limits to population growth, of course, because of the limits in natural resources on planet earth, but the principle remains, “In a multitude of people is a king’s glory and splendor…” (Pr. 14:28). God blesses Adam and Eve with fruitfulness because such fruitfulness will enhance his glory.
Second, God instructs the humans concerning the natural order, “Subdue it and have dominion…” Heaven and earth are not created as perfect and finished, but as “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and ready to be fulfilled through a divine-human partnership. This partnership requires the human to subdue, to take authority, and to rule the Creation under God’s authority. His first assignment is the Garden: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15).
I was recently given a poster by a well-known New Mexico artist. She had done a painting of Adam and Eve standing together in their state of innocence in the lush surroundings of Eden. The poster announces, “God’s original plan was to hang out in a garden with some naked vegetarians.” A great thought, but not quite faithful to the biblical text. God planned for the humans to have genuine responsibility through tending and keeping the Garden. They had a share in his plan to bring in the fulfilled Creation where the presence of God is evident throughout all the earth.
Before the humans fulfill their role, however, disorder re-enters Creation in the form of a serpent. It entices Eve and Adam to disobey the divine command. As a result they are cast out of the Garden, and cut off from Tree of Life.
This expulsion is the first of many exiles in Scripture, as one of the earliest of the Midrashim notes:
"[The Lord says] just as I led Adam into the garden of Eden and commanded him, and he transgressed My commandment, whereupon I punished him by dismissal and expulsion…so also did I bring his descendants into the Land of Israel and command them, and they transgressed My commandment, and I punished them by sending them away and expelling them." (Genesis Rabbah 155-156.)
The Midrash makes a profound point. Just as God created Adam to represent him, so God will call Israel to represent him among the nations of the earth. But Israel, like Adam, will disobey and be sent into exile.
Finally, of course, the representative Israelite arises, Yeshua the Messiah, as God told the serpent in the Garden (Gen. 3:15): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”
Yeshua comes to fulfill the essential human role of representing the Glory of God upon the earth. The story doesn’t end there, however, for Yeshua charges us to represent him. Immediately after his resurrection, he appears to the band of disciples and says to them, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21). Rav Shaul describes the same assignment in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:20), “Therefore, we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, ‘Be reconciled to God.’” (JNT)
As we begin a new year it is good to remember our destination—to represent, display, and embody the glory of God in Messiah. In the case of the Messianic Jewish community, we are to fulfill this role within the house of Israel.
In the UMJC we capture this assignment in a simple mission statement: To establish, strengthen, and multiply congregations for Yeshua within the House of Israel. And we express our God-inspired desire for fruitfulness in a simple but compelling goal: To raise up over the next ten years a new, under-40 generation that is larger than the current, over-40 generation.
I cannot lay out a list of simple how-to’s in response to this vision. But the essential first step is to remember that this is our steady and permanent assignment—for ourselves and for our congregations. We are meant to represent the glory of God in the midst of an inglorious world, and we are meant to be fruitful in doing so.
Protestant minister William Willimon speaks of God’s summons to represent him “in a world where all too many people live as if they were answerable to nothing more than their own desires.” He says, "In saying yes to the summons, we yield to the adventure of a life free of the ideology of personal autonomy, an ideology that enslaves this culture. We are owned, commandeered for God, being used for purposes greater than ourselves."
Yeshua says, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” As we have renewed the cycle of the year, and our reading of God’s word, may we renew the adventure of representing him fruitfully in the power of Messiah!