Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

God the Poet

I remember a professor of mine saying this to our class in college: “Our faith is like the ocean.  It is shallow enough that even a child can wade through it, but deep enough that you can grab snorkeling gear and never be finished searching the nooks and the crannies far deep below.”

How true.  Our faith is simple enough that my 4 ½ year old sons can tell you the basics.  But it is also so complex that even the most learned theologian can find something new lurking somewhere in the text.  If the devil hides in the details, how much more so does God within the details of sacred writ?!

I imagine that God hides in those crannies just waiting and longing to be discovered.  “It is the glory of God to hide things and the glory of kings to discover them.”  Proverbs 25:2.

I always love then when there is something in a passage of Scripture that has been sitting there right in front of your face your whole life and you just plumb miss it.

So tell me, how many times have you read, heard, or listened to someone read Genesis 1-2?  How many times have we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…?”
This is Christianity 101.  So many debates swirl around these first few chapters alone that even the most ardent atheist has at least heard of it.  Wouldn’t you think we have tapped into all that we could know?  Especially me as a Pastor?

But I learned something new this week that I simply have to share. I was reading a new book I received this past week, on the Psalms of all things.  It was talking about the purpose of poetry in the Bible.  It noted that the word for poetry comes from the Greek word meaning “to do, to make” It is the same word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the one the New Testament quotes from) for when God “makes” the heavens and the earth.

The book noted that it would be just as right to say that “in the beginning, God “poet-ried” the heavens and the earth.  In the Creed it would go like this, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Poet of Heaven and Earth.”

Poetry exemplifies creativity.  Poetry can say things better than just plain prose.  Poetry is intentionally crafted and is not done by mistake or error.

Genesis 1 is God using poetry to craft the world.  His inexhaustible creativity is on play with his words.  God is painting the world with his mouth.  Creation is his artwork.  C.S. Lewis and Tolkien both play on this in their fictional worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth, respectively, by having the gods of those worlds sing the world into existence.  Both these men caught this in Genesis 1 already.

But something happens in Genesis 1-2 that highlights this even more.  When God makes Adam, he says a bit of poetry.  His creative juices are reaching a climax!  

God created (poet-tried) man in his own image,
In the image of God he created him,
Male and female He created them.

All the classic Hebrew devices of poetry (another topic for another day) are used in this verse above.  It implies that all of God’s creative devices are at work in making you.  Where other creation myths mention the making of man as a mistake or an afterthought.  Genesis 1-2 is going almost out of the way to emphasis God’s personal choice to make you.

But that is not all.  The only words of humanity that we have before the Fall into Sin are also a line of poetry.

In Genesis 2, God has Adam name all the animals, and so he does.  God allows Adam to do his own creating as it were.  But none of the animals fulfill the need that Adam seeks.

So God makes Eve, the woman, from Adam’s side.

And when Adam wakes up, God presents Eve to him.

And just like when God made Adam and sang a bit of poetry, now Adam, the man who bears the image of God, sings a bit of poetry upon gazing at Eve.

This at last is bone of my bone!  
And flesh of my flesh!
She shall be called woman
For she was taken out of man.

The point is that Adam mimics his Creator by seeing in Eve purpose, uniqueness, and intentionality.  I had never noticed this parallel before and it struck me as filling in more than I had previously noticed.  It also gave me an appreciation as I marveled at the creative power of our God who makes and sustains us.

Even more so, I am humbled and amazed that details like this in the text, which stick out like sore thumbs, can be hidden in plain sight by our God.  Our faith and our Scriptures truly are a marvel and thanks be to God that we are never really done learning and seeing new things.  I pray that you also continue to discover more as you dig into the creative gift that is God’s Word.

In Christ,
Pastor Andrew Belt