In ancient times leaders would place images of themselves throughout their kingdoms. (And they do it today, too – one need only think of Kim Il Jong, the North Korean head of state or, previously, Saddam Hussein.) Such images served to remind their subjects of their ruler.
When God made the earth, he intended to place his image everywhere, a constant reminder that he rules the world. Humans were intended to be the living image of God, ruling creation (Genesis 1: 28) as God’s representatives, with his love and wisdom flowing through them to all creation. Everywhere one looked, or so it was intended, one would find the image of the gracious and benevolent king acting with grace and benevolence towards his creation.
When God created stars that manufacture nuclear energy on levels that we cannot even imagine, he was running no risk. When he made dinosaurs the size of buildings, they posed no threat. When he sent the earth spinning at nineteen thousand miles per hour and flicked it with his finger so that it sailed through space at 67,000 miles per hour, it was safer than a Sunday afternoon drive. But when he made man, he created the potential for catastrophe—and he knew it.
Do you remember? When God created the universe, everything he said happened just as he said. Remember the refrain: “He said . . . and it was so.” What could resist his will? When God said, “Let there be light,” it was so. When he said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water … it was so.” When he said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear … it was so.”
But man, made in God’s image, was given his own will. When God said to man, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,”8 it was not so.
Man was the X-factor; he was (from our perspective) creation’s biggest risk, and its biggest reward. No one can fault God for thinking small. He had great plans for humans – for us – and he still does. The story is still unfolding, and we have a part to play. Because people bear the image of God, they are tremendously valuable. The potential for humans –whether newborn child, world’s oldest man, or inmate serving a life sentence – is inestimable. Every person you know is priceless: the phone solicitor who calls at dinner time, the dentist, the restaurant server, the genius and the mentally handicapped, all are infinitely worthwhile. Worthwhile, however, is not the same thing as worthy. But that is another part of the picture, and it will have to wait for another time.
For now, learn this: God, who made everything by speaking it into existence; who holds all things – the four universal forces – together by his word; who holds you together by his word; is creative, remarkable, glorious, joyful, powerful and loving. He is someone you really should get to know.