I began this series of blog posts (here) introducing the historical background to what is going on regarding the redemption of Israel from 430 years of Egyptian captivity (Ex 12.40). God, having redeemed Israel to be covenant participants with him in his grand mission, is offering Israel an alternative story to what they have believed about the genesis (foundations) of life. So I contend that the purpose of the Genesis creation narrative serves as an alternative account regarding the raison d’etre for life, including who we are as people created in the image of God.
One of the claims of being a people created in the image of God is that we bear the likeness of God. “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” (Gen 1.26, NRSV). The word image in this passage is a term of royalty term. If we think about the way in which royalty is befitting of God, then there is something about that image which defines our existence as well. It does not mean that we, as creatures, are the same as the Creator which is why our passage qualifies our bearing the image of God as being in the “likeness” of God (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, 135).
This claim also comes on the sixth day of creation which is viewed by God as “very good” (Gen 1.31). While the first five days are regarded as “good”, day six has an even greater significance with God pronunciation of day six as “very good.” Though God loves and cares for all of creation, there is something very good about the creation of humanity. That is because we alone are created in the image of God, bearing his likeness.
How then does this claim serve as an alternative claim to all the other potential claims we hear about ourselves? In a world where the beauty, value, and self-worth of a person is often determined by many external factors such as physicality, race and ethnicity, sexuality and sensuality, material possessions, and even personal accomplishments or the mistakes we make, the claim of Genesis says such factors are baseless. As people, we are good, beautiful, and of worth by the very fact that we have been created in the image of God and bear God’s likeness.
I must also say a word about the reality of sin. I fully believe that we all are sinners and have acted in ways that betray our created intent, thus betraying the will of our Creator. However, this does not mean that we are totally depraved by nature, having nothing of good about us, as some theological trajectories have tried to claim. It would be easy to discount the claims of the creation narrative as being before the fall of humanity (Genesis 3) if it was merely a generic account of creation being spoken into a historical vacuum. Far from that, however, this story of creation is a foundational claim about who we are by nature of our creation and it is a claim spoken into a historical context where sin and evil already existed. God was not ignorant of the depraved ways in which his creation had already fallen into. God simply is reminding Israel that such depravity is not who you are and it is not who you will be as my people. The same is true for us who are called by the grace of God to become his new creation in Christ.