Imaging God Through Vocation
I'm not writing here about what the image of God is, in its essence, but what it's for. Why have we been created in the image of God? For what purpose? To answer that question let's begin with Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
It seems from this verse that the purpose of being made in God's image is that we would have dominion over the rest of His creation. Now we need to consider what it means to have dominion. The Hebrew word behind “dominion” is radah. It means to rule or to govern. God alone actually has dominion over all creation. He alone is Lord, or dominus, in Latin. However, He has delegated a considerable portion of His dominion to the ones made in His image. Thus, as image-bearers of God, we are to reflect His own dominion, His own rule. This is illustrated well in Psalm 72, a prayer of Solomon.
1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
Notice in verse one that Solomon prays that God would give the king His own justice and righteousness. Why? That's answered in verse two. So the king may rule God's people with the justice and righteousness he received from God. So the king will imitate God's own kind of dominion over the people entrusted to his care. The Hebrew word for dominion, radah, shows up in verse eight, but the whole psalm is about the kind of dominion this king is to exercise. His rule is to reflect God's rule. As we see in 72:12-14:
For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
Here the king does the same things for the poor and needy that God does throughout Scripture. He reflects God's own rule. Let's put it together now. In Genesis 1:26 we see that the purpose of being made in God's image is to exercise dominion over His creation. Psalm 72, then, gives us an excellent picture of what godly (or God-like) dominion looks like.
How can we apply this to our lives? Obviously we will never be kings or queens of Israel. But God has delegated to each one of us a portion of His dominion in our vocations. This might be your household, your classroom, your crops, livestock, or your current project at work. However small, He's given us some measure of influence or authority over part of His creation. As those who bear God's image, He desires that we would imitate His own kind of dominion over the portion that He's entrusted to us. He would have us love our neighbors, care for the poor and needy, and always do what is just and right.
The image of God in humans has become corrupt through the Fall. The work of the Holy Spirit, among other things, is to renew the image of God in us. This renewal will not be complete until the redemption of our bodies on the Last Day. On that Day, we will be like Christ and we will even reign with him (2 Tim. 2:12). But this eschatological promise is already breaking into our lives, and through us, into this present evil age, by the Holy Spirit. The result is that in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation we who are being renewed might shine as lights in the world. The likeness of God is renewed in us so that we would “be imitators of God,” and “walk in love, as Christ loved us” (Eph. 4:24; 5:1-2). We are called to bring the blessings of God’s righteous dominion to this broken and fallen world.
Enough about us. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Solomon’s prayer for the king in Psalm 72 was fulfilled with the coming of the true Son of David, the Son of God. He’s not only the King of Israel, but of the universe. Psalm 72 describes Jesus’ dominion over all creation. And yet, by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, he calls us to imitate his rule:
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45)
Take this knowledge with you into your vocations. God has given you a portion of His dominion so that you might rule (serve) others as Christ has served you. You bear the image of God in order to reflect the righteous rule of King Jesus.