For centuries, theologians and scholars have struggled to explain how man is made in the image of God. Some argue that we bear the image of God because we are capable of rational thought in a way that animals aren’t. Others emphasize power, arguing that we bear the image of God because He gave us dominion. Some even suggest it’s our capacity for creativity. Our journey through the gardens of Scripture and the garden within suggests something more: words.
From the garden of Eden, through the garden parables, to the garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, the garden city, and our garden within, the Creator’s words are represented by an imperishable seed. While literal seeds may last hundreds of years, and the impact of human words can last for generations, the Word of the Lord lasts forever. God’s Word never passes away and it cannot fail to accomplish what it was dispatched to do. The Creator’s Son is Himself a Word who became a seed that was embodied to redeem the world. The power of God’s Word is indeed eternal. It cannot pass away.
In many ways humanity is not unique among the creations that occupy the heavens and the earth. Aside from the extensive parallels between plant life and human life, the relationships between us are undeniable. Plants and humans depend on each other to breathe; we co-respirate. But humanity has commonalities with the animals as well. We know animals do communicate with each other and a parrot can even imitate the sound of human words, but no other creation possesses the power of language that we do. Why? Because the Creator wanted to have a relationship with us. To walk in the garden in the cool of the day to talk with us. To be His children. We were meant to be part of the family. We see evidence of this in Scripture as well. On the sixth day of creation, after the animals were made, Scripture recounts, “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). The presence of the entire Godhead was significant to us being created in the image of God.
There is only one other time in Scripture when God says “let us.” Words are involved then too. It was the Tower of Babel.
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, “Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. (Gen. 11:1-8, emphasis added)
The Lord himself acknowledged the power the people derived from having one shared language — the capacity to speak and plant by the exchange of words — and one shared heart. They could wield the power of being made in the image of God even though they weren’t doing it in a way that pleased God. So the Godhead came and disrupted the unity of their language, but even then, and even now, we retain the image of God within us. Our words are still powerful. Our word-seeds can create and destroy. We must speak carefully. Our power is not the same as God’s, but it is a reflection of His power. Words are spiritually powerful. My Bible tells me so.
Dr. Anita Phillips appears on LIFE TODAY this Wednesday. Excerpted from The Garden Within by Dr. Anita Phillips. Copyright ©2023 by Anita L. Phillips. Used by permission of Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.