Perhaps the best-read book of all time is the Bible. But what kind of book is the Bible? Among many things, the Bible is a story—the Greatest and Truest Story of all. There are many ways of narrating this Story, but I love the way my husband, Glenn Packiam, did in one of his books, Lucky. Here’s an adapted excerpt.
In the beginning, God. A good God made the world, and He called it good. This is how the Story begins. Man and woman were made to be God’s image-bearers, the ones who would rule over creation and care for it in God’s name and as God would, the ones who would most fully reflect Him. They were to multiply, producing other image-bearers who would reflect and reveal God, and in doing so would cover the earth with His glory.
But the image-bearers were not content to be with God; they wanted to be like Him. More than bearing His image they wanted His power, His autonomy, His unbounded freedom. For the creature to seek freedom from the Creator, to desire to be the Creator, is to say “I don’t need You. I am better without You.” It is an affront to the Creator, the ultimate insult. This rebellion was the beginning of evil in the creature and the end of perfectly bearing the image of the Creator. From that moment on, the image was marred, stained, tainted by the rebellion.
Because we are still bearers of God’s image we have some idea of how things should be, how the song should go, what the painting should look like. And yet because that image in us has been tainted by our sin, we recognize when there is injustice, we know that the song is being sung out of tune, that the painting has been smeared, that all is not as it should be.
Most religious stories get their shape by a human search for God. A prophet wanders off in the wilderness in search of God. Or a wise philosopher climbs the mountain to ponder truth. Or the old sage begins a quest for truth. But this Story does not begin with a man or woman searching for God. When the image-bearers realize that their attempt at living independently of their Creator has left them frail and vulnerable, they hide. Man and woman are not searching for God; they are hoping to avoid Him altogether. It is God then who says to Adam, “Where are you?”
From the beginning, God. God who is calling, God who is choosing, God who is blessing. Adam had been blessed by God, commissioned to multiply, to fill the earth with other image-bearers so that the world would be filled with the glory of God. Adam chose to attempt autonomy instead. Adam’s descendants are a mixed garden of grass and weeds; there are those who listened to God’s call, some with remarkable intimacy like Enoch, and those who ignored it, some with astounding audacity like Cain.
The rebellion of the image-bearers reached a condensation point, and the sky became heavy with God’s judgment. It rained and rained and rained. When Noah and his family, singled out by God to survive these torrents, set foot on a land ready to bloom with new life, God re-issued His blessing: multiply, cover the earth with men and women who know God and reflect His image. Noah filled the earth, but with more fallen image-bearers. If God was going to show the world what He was like, it had to begin slowly, with one family, a family through whom all other families could be blessed.
So God blessed Abraham. Abraham’s blessing was special. It wasn’t simply to re-create, to multiply. It was a call to carry the blessing to the world. To be clear about His plan, God didn’t stop with blessing Abraham; He blessed Abraham’s son, Isaac, and He blessed the son who got Isaac’s blessing, Jacob, through the man who wrestled with him until daybreak. The ones who received this blessing are forever remembered when this God is named. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As the seed of Abraham multiplied, it is they who did the blessing, passing on what Yahweh had given them. They were not merely fallen image-bearers; they were to be luck-bearers. They carried God’s blessing, and they were to bring it to the world.
In Frederick Buechner’s novel of Jacob’s life, he describes the moment that Jacob realizes the significance of his children, born from four different mothers, but of the same seed:
I was like a man caught out in a storm with the wind squalling, the sand flailing me across the eyes, the chilled rain pelting me. The children were the storm, I thought, until one day, right in the thick of it, I saw the truth of what the children were…
…They were the dust that would cover the earth. The great people would spring from their scrawny loins. Kicking and howling and crowing and pissing and slobbering food all over their faces, they were the world’s best luck.
The world’s best luck. The world’s best chance of being renewed, of being restored with their Creator, would come through this nation, this people, Israel.
But this people chosen to carry luck to the world failed to keep listening to the Creator. There were glimmers of remarkable radiance, when they were a light unto the nations. Yet they set up golden calves, images borrowed from their pagan neighbors, and called them Yahweh. They forgot that when God told them to have no other gods He was telling them that He was enough for the. By using other gods to secure their wishes and control their outcomes, they were repeating the sin of their first Father and Mother: they were becoming a god unto themselves.
Before the beginning, God. God, the Three in One, who sees the end from the beginning. God, who decided before the foundations of the world that Christ the Son would be the Lamb of God, slain for the sin of the world.
God was not caught off guard by Adam’s sin. He knew His first image-bearers would taint His image in them by their own rebellion. He knew the people He chose to be His luck-bearers would instead become self-absorbed and syncretistic. He knew they would become a curse, a byword among the nations instead of a blessing to all peoples. He knew their eventual exile out of the Promise Land, like Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden, would only underscore the plight of all creation: a luckless world waiting for redemption, a redemption that could only come from beyond itself.
And so He came.
Christ entered into the luckless, joyless, lifeless world. He was born to the unlikeliest of people, a Jewish carpenter and his ordinary wife. Yet even His arrival in her womb elevated her. Because of Him, she, the scandal of her town, the subject of scornful whispers and smirking eyes, was called by an angel “highly favored among women.” She was blessed. Though they did not know it yet, the luckless had become lucky.
At His birth, vagabond shepherds, rootless wanderers, were visited by a choral constellation of angels announcing good news. Like Abraham the nomadic shepherd that God had visited thousands of years earlier, like Moses the shepherd in Midian tending his father-in-law’s flock who saw a bush on fire yet not consumed, like David the king God crowned while he was hidden in the valley tending his father’s sheep, God came again to shepherds. Something about them must remind Him of Himself. Dirty and stained, His image in them stills shimmers in the light of His glorious eyes.
Jesus, from His conception and birth, began bringing blessing to the world. This was the fulfillment of what God had promised Abraham. This was Abraham’s seed, the Chosen One, the One who would perfectly fulfill the call to reveal God to the world and to rescue and restore all created things. He is the perfect Image-Bearer for He is the “image of the invisible God”.
Not only is Jesus the Perfect Image-Bearer, He is also the ultimate Luck-Bearer. Through His life, death and resurrection, humanity will be redeemed and creation will be restored. Humanity had been wasting away since the first man, by his disobedience, brought death into the world. But now, through this “one Man’s obedience”, life—unexpected, undeserved, abundant, overflowing Life, the Life of the age to come!—wouldcome to all (Romans 5).
Walking the shores of Galilee, the God who called Adam out of hiding and Abraham from his father’s house began calling people out of their small, self-destructing lives. “Stop this attempt at autonomy. Stop trying to be better, do better, on your own. Stop casting your nets and toiling all night and hoping for different results. It is futile. You cannot live without Me. You were not made to. Come. Follow Me.”
As He healed the sick and drove out demons, He was signaling the arrival of His Kingdom. It was an invasion. But not an invasion of a foreign army; rather, more like the arrival of Creation’s rightful King. His rule was undoing the infection of evil. With every miracle He was announcing that the jig was up, the time had come. History was now turning on a hinge.
Isaiah’s vision of Messiah hundreds of years earlier was of one who by His own wounds would heal the fractures: in Israel, the nation torn apart by idolatry and sin; in the world, who had fallen into a constant state of war with one another; in humanity, who found itself irreparably distant from God. Messiah would lead to swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; war would be retired forever. Beasts and humans would live in harmony. The prophets tell of a Messiah who would take this world, sick and broken and fractured and fallen, and make it whole, set it right.
In His death and resurrection, Jesus did just that. At the cross Jesus carried upon Himself every sin, every rebellion of the entire race of image-bearers. And in doing so, He redeemed not only them but the whole cosmos they had knocked out of kilter. By taking the full weight of sin unto death and then rising up from the grave, He defeated sin and reversed the curse of death. He set creation on a new trajectory, one that creation itself “longs for”, one bound for renewal: a new heaven and a new earth.
Jesus, the Son of God, Creation’s rightful King and the world’s true Lord, had broken the stain of the rebellion, ended the luckless night that had fallen upon Earth, and with His resurrection awakened a new dawn, giving us hope for the fullness of Day that will come when He returns and all things will be made new and the cosmos set right.
As in the beginning, so in the end, God.