The best part of God’s creation is not kept secret for very long. After all, it is in the first chapter of the Bible. Yet that chapter seems to take its time to get there, which puts God’s work into context so that we will truly appreciate it when it comes. The appearance of God’s image bearer is the final and best brushstroke on the cosmic canvas:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” . . .
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26–27)
The Word of God speaks of the creation of man both expressly and artistically. We find ourselves reading these verses through both a literal lens and a literary lens. This is true in other places where the Holy Spirit reflects on God’s wonderful works in history, yet does so poetically. For example, after Israel crossed the Red Sea, Moses composed a song to celebrate and to commemorate the deliverance of God’s people. So also here, in the extraordinary days of creation, it is not just what the Bible says but how it says it that leads us to an obvious conclusion: God’s creation of man is utterly unique.
how the bible says it
The creation story points to man’s exceptional position in God’s new world in the way that the first chapter of Genesis is arranged. When we take it in as a whole, one of the obvious features is the structure. Creation is set within a framework of six days. Each day proceeds successively in anticipation of a coming new creature that will fill its appropriate realm. The momentum builds as creation becomes increasingly more distinguished, more specific, and more elaborate. Everything pushes enthusiastically forward toward the final day of the week. When the sixth day finally comes (and only after God has brought forth all plant life and every animal), one creature remains to be presented: man, the crowning triumph of God’s spoken word. In case the reader fails to follow the stepping stones of these verses, the second chapter of Genesis doubles back to man’s creation and explains the unique place, privileges, and calling of mankind.
Looking at Genesis 1 more closely, we inevitably notice how the narrative of God’s work is accented with poetic features. Refrains and repetitions thread their way through the creation story.
God said, “Let there be . . .”
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning, the [nth] day.
These phrases create a cadence as we read the account so that the narrative falls into a comfortable rhythm. At least, this is true up until the creation of man, when the account suddenly breaks from its pattern. For the first time, God does not merely speak and something hastens into existence. Now the persons of the Godhead speak to one another as They delve into a thoughtful soliloquy over the culmination of all living things. The divine council reflects out loud on the significance of this new creature who is about to appear in the created order. No other element of creation is deliberated upon in this way.