So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:27,28
Pagan creation accounts represent the gods creating humans as their servants to do things the gods themselves don’t want to do, and getting upset with humans for being too noisy. The Genesis account stands as a stark contrast and lets us know that God, the true God, really has quite a different perspective on us humans.
Humans are created in God’s image. What an amazing statement! In some sense God goes out of His way to make humans with a special quality, the quality of being like God. Theologians and philosophers, exegetes and Bible students, have wrestled long over the meaning of this concept. Is the image of God in humans the ability to think, feel and decide? Is it righteous character? Is it the ability to have personal relationship? Or is it the right to rule over the earth with God? It seems best to include all these ideas in the concept of being made in God’s image.
We see the ability to think, feel and decide as an aspect of the divine image in Isaiah 1:3 where God compares the people of Israel to a donkey because, despite their superior intellect, they do not have as much sense as the donkey when it comes to recognizing who “butters their bread.” We see the aspect of righteous character referred to by Paul in Ephesians 4:24 of “the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” We see the relational aspect of God’s image throughout the Scriptural emphasis on God’s desire to have a loving relationship with humans. And we see in this very Genesis context the aspect of rulership with God when the Lord tells humans to “subdue the earth.”
God wants us to rule with Him. He does not give up rulership of the earth, as plenty of Scriptures tell us (for example, Psalm 50:10). But He wants to share dominion over the earth with us. He is not content to relegate us to a minor role in the earth, but desires to elevate us to the highest position. David marvels at this in Psalm 8 where he says,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor. (verses 4,5)
So right here, at the very beginning of the Bible, God wants to make sure that we know how much He thinks of us and wants for us. Though sin in our lives has caused us to fail on many counts at co-ruling with God, He still desires it for us. He wants us to look to Him for guidance on ruling the earth as good stewards with Him of it’s precious resources. But the fact is He wants to partner with us because He values us above all of His creation. Don’t ever doubt that God has nothing but good will for humans. We are His princes and princesses if we want to be. All this is possible, of course, through a redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ, whose rulership is our example and promise. In Him we become the rulers God always meant us to be.