When we hear the words “once upon a time,” we know that what’s coming next is an introduction. Generally, an introduction that includes the concept of beauty, calm, order, or peace – or maybe all of the above! Whether it’s the character(s) we encounter, or how the setting is described – or perhaps both – “once upon a time” usually precedes a depiction of something good and beautiful and right. Something that is as it should be. We all know from experience with fairy tales that the depiction of the kingdom as a place of goodness and beauty doesn’t endure much beyond the introduction. In most cases, a problem or conflict is described pretty quickly thereafter. But that’s jumping ahead a bit.
This past week, we looked at the “once upon a time” of scripture’s story in Genesis 1 and 2, which shows us the goodness of God both in and toward his creation. In Genesis 1 we see God creating all things by speaking them into existence. Using the repeated pattern “And God said…, And it was so,” Genesis 1 introduces us not merely to a king, but to the High King of the Universe. We are not told that he is the king; we are shown in the depiction of sovereign decree. A king speaks, and his words become law. God speaks, and light exists. Matter is created, set in order, gathered and separated to form heaven and earth, land and sea. God speaks and vegetation springs forth. Sun, moon, and stars are set in the heavens to preside over days, seasons and years. Birds, fish, sea creatures, and living creatures of all kind inhabit the earth. All because God spoke, and it was so. Another repeated refrain echoes through Genesis 1, as well: “And God saw that it was good.” In God’s culminating act of creation, man, male and female, is created in the image of God, blessed, commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and given dominion (authority from God to fulfill his mission) over the other created beings. God’s work of creation is complete, at this point, and declared “very good” in its entirety. (Genesis 1:31) Thus we are introduced to God as king, and the kingdom over which he rules as creator. As king and creator, God is worthy of our obedience.
Fortunately for us, “king” is not the only image of God scripture provides. While we might agree conceptually with the notion that a king’s subjects owe him allegiance and obedience, our knowledge of earthly kings probably doesn’t inspire us to offer that obedience joyfully and unreservedly – nor should it, in many cases. It certainly wouldn’t have done so for the Hebrews, who as the first audience of Genesis, had been cruelly oppressed by Pharaoh as slaves in Egypt. As Courtney Doctor noted in our study book (p. 36), “The kingdom is affected by the virtue of the king.” The Hebrew people knew this from their experience under Pharaoh, but in hearing Genesis 1, they see more clearly that the God of creation – the God who had called them to be his people – is still (and always) the sovereign king over that creation. The High King of Heaven is not the king of their oppression, but of their rescue! He is not like the kings of man.
Though we will see the image more fully and clearly unfold as we continue our study, even in the garden kingdom of Genesis 1 and 2, we see glimmers of another aspect of God’s relationship with man: God is also our Father. Just as our knowledge of earthly kings might affect our heart’s inclination or disinclination toward obedience, our experience of earthly fathers may give us pause (or pain), as well. But, “when God refers to himself as Father, he is referring, not to our experience of fathers, but to the kind of father we were created to have….your heavenly Father is perfect in his love in every possible way. (p. 42)” We see God’s fatherhood in four specific aspects: presence, provision, protection, and parameters. God is not a deadbeat dad, an absentee father, or worse. Understanding and trusting God as the perfect Father our hearts long for is essential to our understanding of who he is and how we are to relate to him. Though kings and fathers alike are to be obeyed, though kings and fathers alike bear responsibility toward their subjects and children, we do not look for a king to love his subjects in the way that we expect a good father to love his children. Yet scripture speaks plainly of God’s enduring, abundant compassion, tenderness and love toward those who are His. Stop and ponder this for a minute. The God of all creation, the High King of Heaven is and longs to relate to us as our perfect, loving Father!
Whether as a parent, a child, or a keen observer of humanity, I’m sure you’ve realized that having a job to do as a member of the family is more meaningful than simply existing. Every character has to have a purpose in the story. Being the good Father that he is, God didn’t create us simply to exist; he calls us to participate in his work in the world as members of his family and his image bearers. We are to resemble and represent him as we exercise dominion over the creation as he commanded. The authority we’ve been given is not an authority of autonomy, but of stewardship. We answer to the High King of Heaven, who is our Father, as we do the work he has given us to do. Courtney Doctor describes that work, God’s mission, as “the establishment of his Kingdom in all the earth (p. 51).” Simply put, as God has made himself known to us, we are to make him known throughout the earth!
So how are we doing, ladies?
-Are you submitting yourself to the High King of Heaven in obedience?
-Do you entrust yourself (your relationships, your needs, your concerns, your fears) to your loving Father in humility, trusting Him to care for you as you cast your anxieties on Him?
-Are you enjoying and engaging your Father in relationship?
-Are you growing in resemblance to Him as you do so?
-Are you making him known in your arenas of influence and dominion?
We have the protection and provision of a great King, the love of a good Father, and a good work to do as his image bearers and representatives. I’m praying he’ll help us to more fully understand and walk in His light and truth this week!