Bara: being CREATION-defenders

CREATE/CREATOR: bara. Verb. (Strong’s 1254)

Root: בָּרָא

Sounds like: bah-rah

When I’m not plunking away at this blog, I’m either hanging out with my family or friends, or I’m at work. I’m a library technician at the University of Prince Edward Island. One of the most popular library trends, these days, is to host a creative space… a space to share ideas and equipment… a place where people can gather together, explore possibilities and make & create things… all sorts of things. Libraries call this “MakersSpace”.

Of course there’s no MakerSpace without CreatorSpace. For that, we have to go all the way back to “the beginning”: 

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created [bara] the heavens and the earth.

Creation is a beautiful and well worth exploring! It’s the second Hebrew word, and the first verb, of the Bible. It’s the first action that happened in the universe, and the first action that happened on the Biblical page.

There is a positivity that surrounds the word “create”. It is GOOD to create. As God created earth, the sun, moon and stars, and all that were in them, seven times He called it “good”. And the final time, after reviewing all that He had made, it was more than good:  

Genesis 1:31a

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good [tov meod].

PIRO4D_Pixabay
Photo by PIRO4D (Pixabay.com)

Created and Made

God created [bara] certain things and made [asah] other things. There has been a lot of theological discussion around this. Many believe that the things God created was made out of nothing… the building blocks for what was created came out of God space. Alternatively, the things God “made” were engineered out of things God had already created.

God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), but the expanse between the two realms was made (Gen. 1:7). God created the sea creatures and the birds of flight (Gen. 1:21) but he made the beasts of the earth (Gen. 1:25). 

This idea that things that were created came out of nothing, really doesn’t work at all when we look at verses like this:

Joshua 17:15

Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and create a [u-be’re’ta] place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.”

Creating a place would be taking the land and making it work for you and your family. It’s not creating something out of nothing, rather it using the resources and making it into what you need it to be.

To muddle the waters even further, the creation of humans are described as both made AND created:

Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let Us make [na-aseh] man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

So God created [wah-eev’ra] man in His own image, in the image of God he created [bara] him; male and female he created [bara] them.

Perhaps we put too much emphasis on the differences of these two words, made and created. It appears that God did not consider one more important than the other. God rested from all the work equally, regardless of whether it was created or made.

Genesis 2:3

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created [bara] and made [la-asowt].

The Epic Story of Creation

To be honest, the creation narrative isn’t the main focus of the Bible. It is merely setting the stage for the epic adventure to follow. It’s the backdrop to the story of humanity and explains the purpose of why we are on this adventure in the first place.

The first four chapters of the Bible could be considered like a prologue. It begins with the Creation story and the story of the first family (Adam, Eve, and their sons Cain, Abel and Seth), and ends with this sentence:

Genesis 4:26b

Then men [humans] began to call upon the name of YHWH.

This simple sentence tell us so much. This is the moment when humanity recognized and turned to their Creator. They began to seek Him out and call upon His name. This is where the adventure really begins.

This verse is followed by the beginning of the epic Biblical adventure of humanity… starting with, “This is the book”, and it recalls back to the creation of humankind:

Genesis 5:1-2

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created [b’ro] man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created [b’ra’am] them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man [Human] in the day when they were created [hib’ar’am].

But as the epic story unfolds we find that wickedness has crept into the hearts of humans and the Creator regrets what He created:

Genesis 6:5-8

Then YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. YHWH was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. YHWH said, “I will blot out man whom I have created [barati] from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favour in the eyes of YHWH.

Noah became the human through which God allowed creation to continue. Creation was good, and YHWH found the one human who was good enough to let life continue. From this experience of regret and hope, God recognized that He wanted to save humanity… that creation was worth saving. God, from this point on, began to make covenants with his people (starting with Noah) in order to save them.

Genesis 9:8-13

Then God said to Noah and his sons with him, “Behold, I now establish My covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth—every living thing that came out of the ark. And I establish My covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

From very early on in the narrative God promised salvation to His people. And the people began to praise God… not only the people, but all of creation.

Psalm  148:1-5

Praise YHWH!

Praise YHWH from the heavens;  Praise Him in the heights!

Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!

Praise Him, highest heavens,  And the waters that are above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of YHWH, for He commanded and they were created.

God spoke (commanded) creation into existence. He created humans that loved Him and humans that turned away from Him.  He also created angels… angels that worshipped Him and angels that turned away from Him.

Of all who spurned YHWH, the Adversary [ha-Satan], stands to be YHWH’s greatest grief. Ezekiel 28 is often seen as a dual-prophecy… a prophecy addressed to the King of Tyre, but symbolically addressed the chief adversary of God:

Ezekiel 28:13-15

“You were in Eden, the garden of God;

Every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you.

On the day that you were created  [hi’bara-aka] they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there.

You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created [hi’bara-ak] until unrighteousness was found in you.”

The Adversary, [Ha-Satan], was one of YHWH’s creations, and all that God created was good, in the beginning. The divine being that would become the adversary was never intended to be evil… he was part of God’s Holy council, an anointed cherub, blameless in his ways. He was blameless until he chose to reject righteousness, and instead revelled in his unrighteousness.

Rather than follow God, The Adversary wanted to be God. But are we all that much better? Is that not what we have done?

Malachi 2:10

“Do we not all have one father? Has not One God created us [b’ra’anu]? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?”

We were created good, but we chose poorly. In our attempt to be gods ourselves, we have profaned and rejected the covenant. Although we turned away from God, YHWH promised to never forget the covenant He made with His people:

Deuteronomy 4:31-32

“For YHWH your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created [bara] man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it?”

God was right. The story of humanity, and God’s hand in everything that was created, is amazing! There’s nothing like it! Other contemporary cultures had their own creation stories: the Canaanites did; the Egyptians did; the Babylonians did. But in all those stories creation came out of violence… violence between multiple gods. And in those stories humans were made to be pawns of the gods; they certainly weren’t invited to be images of their gods, or caretakers and rulers of the planet. But that’s exactly what YHWH did:

Genesis 1:27-30

[And] God created [wa-yiv’ra] man in His own image, in the image of God He created [bara] him; male and female He created [bara] them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

God created this ripe, amazing planet, and handed it over to humans, like a gift. All we had to do was be good guardians, look after it, cultivate it, and help it flourish.

But in our greed we messed up. Instead of helping it, we abused it. We took more than we needed and gave little back. In the name of convenience we’ve cluttered it with garbage and over-cultivated it. We’ve polluted the air and the ground. We are not benevolent subduers and rulers. We are tyrannical oppressors and consumers.  Now, it seems, death has the upper hand. Extinction is on the rise, along with disease, and war, self-loathing, and pain… all brought on because we didn’t want to be reflections of God, we wanted to be God… just like Satan. Humans have become the adversaries of God, and the destroyers of this planet.

This needs to change. We need to be creation-defenders. The environmental movement should be a church filled, and church led, movement! It is part of our mandate as believers. This was the first job God gave us at the beginning of all things!

But maybe we feel it’s too late. Are we defeated? Has this world gone too far? Is creation doomed?

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, YHWH, the Creator [bo’reh] of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for YHWH will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

We are to remember that our Creator does not get tired… and those who wait on Him will gain new strength to carry on. Do not let the state of this world get you down. The Messiah is coming back, and until then we have a job to do. We must regain our role as caretakers of this planet! With the strength of God, we must carry on.

God chose to save His creation and so He sent a Messiah. Yeshua (Jesus) died so we could have the ability to conquer death… but we need the Spirit to overcome it.

Psalm 104:29-31

You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit [breath], they expire and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created [yi-bareh’un]; And You renew the face of the ground. Let the glory of YHWH endure forever; Let YHWH be glad in His works.

We are re-created in God’s Spirit. Death cannot take us. We need to be the renewal that this earth needs… so that death loses its grip and creation flourishes under the guidance of humans and the overwhelming love of YHWH.

Isaiah 51:6

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth below; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and its people will die like gnats. But My salvation [wi-yeshua-ti] will last forever, and My righteousness will never fail.

Yeshua (Jesus), whose name literally means “salvation” became the antidote to death. His death allowed creation to live. But the kingdom wasn’t set up quite yet. God promised that the Day of the Lord would come… that the Son of Man (the perfect human), Yeshua , would come back and set things right.

Matthew 24:35-39

Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

In Genesis Noah was the one human who God felt was good enough to let life continue. But Jesus was more than “good enough”. Jesus was the perfect human… the best example of what humanity could be… the symbolic Son of Man. Because of Noah, God allowed creation to continue. Because of Jesus, God made it possible for creation to live eternally in the place Jesus promised to prepare.

John 14:1-3

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Creating a New Heaven and a New Earth

This world will pass away, but a new heaven and a new earth will be prepared:

Isaiah 65:17-25

YHWH: “For behold, I create [bow’erei] new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create [bow’erei]For behold, I create [bow’erei] Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness.

I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed.

They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, and My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

They will not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by YHWH, and their descendants with them.

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says YHWH.

This new earth will no longer be under the curse of the fall. Here there will be no death, or destruction, pain or servitude. There will be no hierarchical food chain or class system, and, most amazingly, there will be an earth-wide recognition of the Creator:

Isaiah 66:22-23

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make [oseh] will endure before Me,” declares YHWH, “So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says YHWH.

Until then, we wait, and we hold on to the Scripture which tells us the whole story, from creation to creation. Even those yet to be born (created) would be able to read the story:

Psalm 102:18-28

This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created [ni’b’ra] may praise YHWH.

For He looked down from His holy height; from heaven YHWH gazed upon the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death, that men may tell of the name of YHWH in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve YHWH.

He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days. I say, “O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, Your years are throughout all generations. Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end. The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.”

Our prayer should be to constantly refresh our heart and our Spirit so that we can live as God’s created beings… always thankful for the resources of this earth and the beauty that we find ourselves in. David’s penitent prayer (after his tryst with Bathsheba) sums it up:

Psalm 51:10-14

Create [b’ra] in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

We stand in awe of God’s creation.  And it’s our awesome responsibility to defend the planet, help it grow and let it flourish… and that includes everything in it: air, soil, lakes & oceans, animals, birds, plants, aquatic life and fellow human beings! As God’s reflection on earth, filled with the Spirit, we are to be the caretakers of this awesome MakerSpace. It’s time to take our first job, as creation-defenders, seriously.

Next week: formless and void

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