Creation by Transformation

In Genesis 1-2 we encounter three types of creative activity. God creates out of nothing. God creates out of something. And finally, God creates by transformation. I want to focus on the third for a moment. We can see this dynamic in days 1-3 of creation. After God creates light out of nothing we are told that he separates it from darkness (1:3). He then names what he has divided. “Darkness, your name will be night. Light, you will now be called day.” The division between light and darkness is creative transformation. He takes what he has made and brings about change.

We know from 1:2 that the earth was covered in water. On day 2 he goes to work transforming this situation. This part of the creation account has always intrigued me. God speaks to the watery earth: ” Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” (1:6). The result is a division of waters. Some remains below and some is held above (1:7). Day 3 picks up where he left off. He gathers the waters below into one place in order to allow the dry land to appear (1:9). He then names these two creatures earth and sea.

God speaks a formless world into existence (1:2). Like a potter he takes his clay and begins to shape it into something beautiful. He takes some of the clay and makes other things out of it (plants, animals, humans). The remainder of the clay is transformed by the steady hand of the divine artisan (separation of light and darkness, land and water). This is whats going on in creation by transformation. He is working the clay.

God chose not to create a completed world. He chose to create one that needed further work. It’s like a man who chooses to buy a plot of land and build a log cabin with his own hands. He is not interested in a pre-fabricated cabin. He wants to roll up his sleeves and use the resources on his own land. He loves the feel of the hammer as he transforms his plot into a home. I think creation by transformation reveals a God who loves to work. According to Genesis 2:2, God wore a hardhat for six days and the universe was his construction zone. Here we have the seeds of a theology of work and vocation.

The God who works is revealed further in the coming of the Son. The life of this carpenter is an extended sermon on the doctrine of vocation. In the incarnation he takes up his tool belt. His project is our salvation. The vigor of his labor stains his brow with sweat and blood. His vocation leads him to Golgotha, the construction site of the new creation. To complete his work he must relinquish his hammer. Instead of pounding nails he must receive them. On that bloody wood beam we behold the glory of the God who works for us.

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11 comments

  1. Pratt thanks for the encouragement man. Appreciate you. This vision of God and the gospel is very compelling. I am more and more convinced that God’s glory is seen most clearly in his humility. It is really fresh to think about God the laborer.

  2. God, the all powerful One we worship, works for us. We have it so backwards, don’t we? I think many of us view work as a necessary evil. If not that, then at least it’s menial, subservient and humble to work for others – especially those we don’t get paid by, such as family, neighbors, strangers, etc. We know Jesus said that in order to be the greatest in His kingdom, we must serve others as He did. Wouldn’t it be great if we had what, seen properly, was a high and elevated view of serving. What if we viewed serving others as achieving greatness and poured ourselves into it? Lord give us the faith and strength to labor for our families beyond just providing a house and food.

    Incidentally, I recently heard that vocation comes from the (Greek?) word vocare, meaning to call – a calling.

    1. Rob, thanks for the thoughts. I agree with you and am challenged by what you’re saying. I have often wondered too about imitating a Savior that didn’t come to be served but to serve. His service looked like a cross. I really appreciate what you are saying here about those we are not paid by or we don’t necessarily receive recompense from. In terms of vocation it does come from a word that meant calling. It was often used in the Reformation to refer to priests, monks, and nuns. They were believed to have a truly holy calling, a divine vocation. Luther blew this thinking out of the water when he used the term vocation for the farmer, blacksmith, and homemaker. He believed that the “menial” tasks of human existence were holy tasks. He believed that the diaper changing table and the blacksmith’s anvil were consecrated ground.

      1. Yeah, that’s good. We’re going through some mens fraternity material right now that talks about seeing work as a calling from God and something that’s done for God (Col.3:23).

        I’m intrigued by your statement about becoming more convinced that God’s glory is most clearly seen in His humility. If that’s true, and I do think there are some important, pivotal things to be learned from humility, then it’s another one of those seeming paradoxes like this service issue we’re talking about. Humility is certainly compatible with serviing.

        One thing I can point to about humility is that cultivating it puts us in a position of learning, and being able to understand. When I arrogantly think I KNOW whatever it is, then I’m closed off from learning and understanding. No person is as hard to teach as the one who thinks he already knows. And for me, understanding goes a long way toward accomplishment of something. Unfortunately, even that can get skewed when I refuse to act unless I can understand – faithlessness.

        What’s your take on humility?

  3. Rob,

    Good thoughts on humility. I agree with you about the position of learning–so true. In terms of humility I always come back to Philippians 2. I think that text is the clearest biblical definition of humility. It is interesting that it is God who is demonstrating it. The incarnation and cross seem to flesh out the meaning of humility. I suppose we could unpack that forever—and I think we probably will. What do you think about humility being glory?

    1. That’s what I’m asking you. How do you see God’s glory most clearly in His humility? The two seem contradictory. To glorify something is to exalt it and praise it, to humble something is to bring it down, but to what? To it’s real essence? When I am humbled, I am brought back to who I really am, not something greater than I think I am. God was certainly humbled via the incarnation. Additionally, he set aside at least some of his greatness – not considering equality with God as something to be grasped, emptied himself. But if a humbled God is one who is brought down to His real essence, then that’s not going to diminish Him in any way.

      Otherwise, the only way I can see humility being glory is through the process where God glorifies Jesus as a result of his humility and obedience. Is that true for us also?

  4. I think it is a paradox similar to his power being weakness and his wisdom being foolishness. I think the Philippians 2 passage ties in well with Mark 10:42-45 where Jesus comes to serve us rather than be served by us. He explains that his humble service to humanity is his greatness. He turns our definition of greatness and glory on its head. It is glory to be the servant of all. In the incarnation and cross we see that service. John seems to think that the event of the cross was the main event of God’s glory. What are your thoughts?

  5. Let’s first define terms. What is glory?

    It seems that there are different components to the term. Praise seems to be one aspect of glory. Heb 1 says that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. Maybe the word manifestation would apply there. Wikipedia says that the Hebrew word kabod (K-B-D) originally means “weight” or “heaviness.” The same word is then used to express importance, honor, and majesty. Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible translated this concept with the word doxa, which originally means “judgment, opinion”, and by extension, “good reputation, honor”.

    I can definitely see that, at the cross and through Christ’s humility, the greatest (most powerful and God-glorifying) event in history took place.

    I would like to additionally explore the concept of humility. I think that true, biblical humility has many strengths to it and is very misunderstood.

    1. Yeah good point on getting clear on definitions. The weight of God revealed seems a helpful starting point like you mentioned. I tend to think of glory as an umbrella term that captures the sum of his attributes. Its all of who he is that makes him shine with such brilliance. I think your right too that in Christ and at the cross we feel the full weight of God. It’s there that glory is defined—in my opinion. All our thinking on glory must be rethought through the cross. That is why I do think humility sums up glory. The weight of God is found in folly, weakness, and service.

      Tell me more of your thoughts on humility. In what ways do you see humility being misunderstood? What do you mean when you say it has many strengths to it? I agree we need to get more clear on what we are really talking about when we say humility. Look forward to further thoughts from you.

      1. Well, I think I’d say ‘apparent’ folly and weakness. God’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but not to those of us who see rightly by God’s grace. Mans wisdom is foolishness to God. Paul talks about God’s power being evident through his (Paul’s) weaknesses. But it’s still truly power. Even the paradox at the cross seems to be related to appearances, not reality. It ‘looks’ like Christ is defeated. And without a doubt, he endured a terrible physical beating, and theoretically (I say theoretically because I hear this said a lot, but don’t know of supporting scripture) a horrific spiritual beating. But the reality is: Christ’s exaltation and the salvation of mankind. The defeat of sin, Satan and death. That’s a present reality, and a future reality. And I think part of the explanation of this apparent paradox lies in the future reality. The passage you mentioned earlier, Mark 10, is relating earthly service to heavenly greatness. Future greatness. Greatness in reality, but not appreciated or experienced, at least in full, here on earth.

        Now, humility. I love your statement: we need to get more clear on what we are REALLY talking about when we say humility. Obviously, the word has a negative reputation. But as I said earlier, it’s the necessary posture for learning. Three times, Proverbs says that humility comes before, or leads to, honor. Christ is honored for his humility. In Jesus’ teaching on humility in Mark 14 he says that those who humble themselves will be exalted.

        I guess my take on humility is this: seeing yourself as you truly are. Is that possible? I think it’s difficult. How does a person be objective about the thing they’re most subjected to – who they are. I think we need God’s absolute truth to inform us. In there is the whole range of humanity. From a vapor, to the image of God. Wow, talk about paradoxes! We’re walking paradoxes. Desperately wicked, every inclination bent towards sin left to ourselves, but part of the spotless bride of Christ as the redeemed. Also, we need each other. We need someone, or ones, in our lives holding us accountable. People we can be humble with. Who will be humble with us. There’s great power in that.

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