The great blessing

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give you every seed- bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food generic cymbalta.” It was so.
God saw all that he had made- and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:28-31

Notice a the similarities and difference in the “God said” bit (relating to blessing) between v22:

v22: God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply…
v28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…

  • The blessing here is similar to v22, where God’s blessing is directly related to fruitfulness and multiplication. In fact, the blessing here is in the context of reproduction – a blessing to reproduce. And this blessing is in the context of “Fill the earth and subdue it!” The ability to reproduce is needed for filling the earth and ruling over time/generations.
  • God has enabled (given the ability to do) what He has commanded man to do (in this instance)
  • The blessing here is different to v22 in that it was addressed to individuals “to them”. This appears in every translation. When God said to the fish and birds, it reads like a proclamation over the species but here it reads like a command to a few individuals – where the individuals have the capacity to understand the command. Man is distinct over all of creation.

The rulership of man:

  • So far, God created every living thing without mentioning it’s relationship to each other with regards to it’s purpose. Here God purposes created things in relation to one another and begins at the top: man’s purpose is to rule.
  • Although the word “subdue” has a negative connotation of conquered or put in bondage against one’s will. It is used here not to show an opposing or strained relationship but one of dominion. This is clear from the context.
  • When it comes to the rulership of man, God makes no mistake to include everything that man has authority over:
    • The “it” that comes after subdue is obviously the earth – every rock, creek, mountain, land, water, mineral/harvestable resource , etc
    • The three classes of created beings are also placed under man – every fish, bird and land creature. The animals were purposed to be subject to man. Man could harness animals for their benefit. 

The food of man and the rest of created beings:

  • The addition of the word הִנֵה (hinneh), which is often translated as “Behold”, is meant to bring to attention what God is doing in the present time. There could be several reasons why this was pointed out:
    • Because it was a gift: Notice how this part reads like a gift and not a command. God gives mankind the vegetation for food.
    • Because it establishes order in a hierarchy: Notice that there is now a hierarchical in authority – mankind, animals, vegetation with man on top and plants below. God makes clear where vegetation sits in the mix of creation and it’s purpose. This is an extension of man’s rulership.
    • Because it is a divine diet: vegetation is purposed as food for anything that had the “breath of life”. This is the diet that God commanded for all living creatures at this point: man & animals on top, vegetation below. A divine food chain. This is later changed in Genesis 9:3.

A note on the type of vegetation: only “seed bearing” plant and trees with seed in it’s fruit is for food for man and any green plant for food for anything that has life. Does that mean we can’t eat plants that propagate without seed and/or are not green? I’m thinking purple lettuce, seaweed, bamboo, etc (please excuse my ignorance if I’m wrong about some of these plants)

I don’t think this passage was prescriptive that way. The effect one gets from reading the passage is that God has given all creatures (“everything that has the breath of life”) all vegetation (“every green plant”) for food. That is the heart of the message. If we depart from this thought process, then God didn’t create the other planets, birds that swim (i.e. penguins), birds without wings (i.e. Moa) or land creatures that swim (i.e. platypus, seals and otters) because they weren’t specifically mentioned.

Another thing to note is the use of “breath of life”. God has included all animals into those with the breath of life! Here we make a distinction between creatures with an eternal spirit (God’s breath, Genesis 2:7) and creatures who simply are alive and have breath. The word breath in Genesis 2:7 is different from the word breath here.

I love how the passage ends with “And it was so.” This gives the effect that God’s blessing and commandment effected the minute it was said. The blessing on man to multiply, the rulership and hierarchy of man, the food chain of the whole world, all set in place in a split-second!

Lastly, God considered “all that he had made” and proclaimed (using the word hinneh again) “it was very good”. When it says God considered all, it truly means all. All meaning everything. Imagine what it means to perceive, understand, analyse, approve, discern the whole universe (and meta-universe) all at once. Every large thing thing like the sun, to every minute detail like nano thingamajigs. It takes mankind years of collective observation, analysing and discerning before we can understand a little something of creation yet God does so without effort. Truly, only God can. Mind blown.

The proclamation “very good” is not to be missed here. Very good is God’s ultimate stamp of approval. If there some something God was pleased with, it was all of creation. And this was the sixth day.

ἐκκλησία

The common translation for church in the New Testament is ekklesia (ecclesia) but If I was in Corinth in first century A.D. and I asked a passer-by for an ekklesia to get me to a church, I’d most likely end up in civil assembly – like a city meeting. This is because ekklesia is the word for assembly/gathering and not the religious assembly we have come to know as church, but a civil assembly.

In the New Testament, “ecclesia” (signifying convocation) is the only single word used for church. It (ecclesia) was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens, duly convoked (called out) by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions.
–  Encyclopedia Britannica

Ecclesia [mediaeval Latin, and Greek – from : SUMMONED] -A regularly convoked assembly, especially the general assembly of Athenians. Later, the regular word for church.
– Oxford Universal English Dictionary

The Greeks had words for religious assembly such as thaisoi/thiasos for a religious society or synagogue for a Jewish gathering. Ekklesia was simply an assembly with no religious connotation. In Acts 19:32, 39, 40, ekklesia is a civil body in Ephesus (a disorderly group of citizens), but in every other place of its approximately 115 appearances in the New Testament, it is translated as church. Looking at the etymology of the word “church”, it is derived from the greek word kuriakos, which means belonging to the Lord (Revelation 1:10; 1 Corinthians 11:20). So why is the word church used where assembly or gathering might be more appropriate?

Because their assembly was how they did church, it was church in first century A.D. They gathered together as an assembly, like we do. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1, Paul writes the letter “To the ekklesia of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, also in Galatians 1:2 (in plural form). We know that the Christians did gather together in synagogues and homes, did community together (Acts 2:42, 46, 5:42; 20:20), had a line of authority of elders and deacons and enjoyed the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 14:21-23, 15:22). Paul’s letters were written to these gatherings.

So we know that the early christians had organised meetings and at it’s core, it was an assembly of people who believed in Jesus Christ. An important point to note is that the ekklesia wasn’t just a bunch of people tied together by spiritual ties or membership in a club but it was a physical assembly. Ekklesia comes from the verb ek-kaleo, which meant “to call people together” or “to summon” people. Thus, you couldn’t be a member of an assembly without actual physical attendance – duh.

Just like the assemblies of the early Christians, when we do church, we come together, bring unbelievers to believe and affirm each other in what we already believe in. Did the early church look like what our modern church looks like? Probably not. After all, we’re comparing the first century with the twenty-first century, it would be strange if it were exactly the same. That said, we do have many of the same elements/principles in our assembly – the lines of authority, the worship, the teaching, the fellowship and community and the breaking of bread. I’m sure they had many of the same problems that we have now, just look at the letters that Paul and John wrote to the churches! We’re flawed and we’re broken, but this is church. That is why we need the Messiah.

Three points to take from this:

  • Dont be deceived that we can belong to a church without actual physical attendance – that certainly wasn’t the understanding of the early church.
  • Don’t be deceived that there shouldn’t be any authority in church other than God – the early churches had Apostles and elders.
  • Don’t be deceived that the church should be perfect and problem free – the early church sure didn’t look like that.

Of sheep and sheep pen

Scripture

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 10:16-18

Observation

Context

  • Jesus is still explaining Himself and this time adds more to His message
  • This passage comes after Jesus’ indirect attack on the Pharisees by comparing them to thieves, robbers and uncaring hired hands
  • “I” is still used instead of “He”, this time it is used with prior claims – “I have other sheep” assumes that the hearer has accepted “I am the good shepherd”
  • The writer is still focused on Jesus’ claims, the opposition and their discourse

Passage

  • “this sheep pen” is His chosen people and nation – the Jews, “I have other sheep”, speaks of Jesus’ redemption extending to the Gentiles (v16)
  • “I must bring them also”, it wasn’t a choice or a want for Jesus, it was a must, in the same way that He “had to” go through Samaria (John 4:4) (v16)
  • “They too will listen to my voice”, the nature of the sheep are exactly the same as the ones in the sheep pen, they have the same relationship with the shepherd and can recognize and follow His voice (v16)
  • “there shall be one flock and one shepherd”, if the previous passage did not stress enough the homogeneous consistency of His flock, here He stresses it even more. The Jews and Gentiles all belong to one shepherd, their unity is found in that they belong to the same shepherd; they exist under the same protection and providence of the one shepherd (v16)
  • The implication of Jesus saying this straight after “I lay down my life for the sheep” is that God’s redemption plan of the cross includes the redemption of Gentiles unto Himself. Jesus Christ is not just for the Jews, it is for all mankind. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world…
  • Notice that the word “and” comes between “listen to my voice” and “they shall be one flock”, to imply that listening to the shepherd’s voice is a condition to being in this flock that belongs to Him – although this could be a matter of Greek grammer of starting the sentence with “and”, similar to the start of this verse (v16)
  • “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life”, this is the third mention of “lay down my(his) life” – His sacrifice; it is of upmost importance (v17)
    • As before, Jesus foretells His crucifixion and the reason for this sacrifice
    • Does this mean that the Father loves Jesus only because He lays down His life? Isn’t God’s love of His Son innate and not conditional? I think this question is moot. It is based on hypothetical assumption of “what if” Jesus does not lay down His life or is not fully obedient to God
    • This verses is perhaps better understood as the Father loves Jesus because He is at the same time God. Jesus can only do what the Father does, the will and enablement is one and the same (John 5:19, 30; John 14:10-11). That is the mystery of the Trinity!
  • “only to take it up again”, is a foretelling of His resurrection and victory over death (v17)
  • “No one takes it from me”, Jesus addresses the possibility that we might think His death is a surrender or loss to opposition (v18)
  • “but I lay it down of my own accord”, the fourth mention of His sacrifice (v18)
    • It is He who gives up His own life, this move is entirely of His own and is voluntary
    • This shows us the extent of His love, that He voluntarily went to the cross for us
  • “I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again”, the fifth mention of His sacrifice (v18)
    • Jesus’ authority is a key message, here He asserts that He has authority over not death and life
    • The cumulation of this message is in John 19:10-11 that shows God had ultimate control over the whole redepmtion plan
  • “This command I received from my Father”, Jesus has many times claimed that His authority is from God (John 7:28-29) (v18)
    • The Pharisees have difficulty believing Jesus’ authority, at times they have asked under whose authority does He teach these things (John 7:15). What they were asking is “Under which Famous Rabbi’s authority do you teach these things?” (in those days, Beit Shammai or Beit Hillel), Jesus again reiterates that His authority and teaching comes straight from the Father
    • These verses mirror John 3:35 that states “The Father loves the Son (v17) and has placed everything in his hands (v18)”, all authority has been given to Jesus by the Father

God’s redemption plan in Christ includes the Gentiles. For those of us who are not Jews, we have every reason to be thankful of this. If not for this inclusion, we would have no hope, no future, no salvation. We are not to equate ourselves to the Jews as if we are similar to them, for we are different. We are “other sheep” (grafted branches), but we are to see ourselves as one with them (“one flock”), as brothers, sisters and partners of Messianic Jews. Jesus’ words would have been offensive to the Pharisees from the School of Shammai, who were much stricter about the laws and absolutely hated the Gentiles. The Shammai Pharisees would have absolutely nothing to do with them. Note that Pharisees from both schools, Shammai and Hillel, were there, John 9:16 shows the dialogue between them and how they were divided about the issue of what was permissible on the Sabbath.

As Jesus prophesies about His death, He says that He does not fall under the hands of opposition, it is His own doing. This is expounded in 2 ways. Firstly, He says that it is of His own will not someone else’s will. He lays His life down on His own accord because He wants to. Second, His will is backed by God’s authority. Whatever Jesus wants, Jesus gets because He has the authority from God to do it.

Jesus’ will and authority stands at a stark contrast to the will and authority of the Pharisees. The Pharisees is typified as the selfish bunch, as thieves, robbers and hired men in this illustration. Their authority comes from the schools which they were taught, which carries the authority of the Head Rabbi there who interpreted the Law – man made authority. Jesus is typified as the good shepherd – unselfish and sacrificial. His authority comes from God above. In John 7:26, the people recognised the Pharisees and Jewish leaders as the authority when they asked “Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah?” but here Jesus sets it straight by saying that that no one else has authority over His life. No one can take His life other than Him. In addition to that, He says that He has authority to take it up again. It is a bold claim to be able to resurrect Himself by His own power.

Application

For God so loved the world (and not just the church), I must also love the world. I must love those outside the church, those who we loath to be identified with – the sexually perverse , the corrupt politician, the child murderer, etc. I was once at that place and grace was extend to me, I must now extend that grace to others.

Look at God’s will and authority and be amazed that with such power, He chose to lay down His life for me. Gratefulness is the least I can feel towards Him. Service is the least I can do to honour Him.

Prayer

Father God, I thank you that you first loved me. I thank you that you chose to redeem me. Help me to extend this redemption to those that society does not love, those the church struggles to love. Give me more of Your love that I would overflow with love for others. Let my attitude before you always be humble and grateful and my service to you always be from a place of thanksgiving.

Amen.

Edit / Update

Zechariah 13:7 and Matthew 26:31 connects this illustration to Old Testament prophesy. The picture of Jesus Christ the shepherd and His disciples the flock was prophesied many years ago!