I had the opportunity to teach on theological anthropology (the theological study of man) last week. We looked primarily at Genesis 1 and 2. They are really fascinating passages. In them we not only get the creation of humanity, but also humanity’s nature, purpose, and vocation. That is in Genesis 1 and 2 we have answers to the questions: What are we? What are we made for? and What are we made to do?. One of the more interesting things to notice in these chapters is that we not only get humanity’s vocation, but humanity’s vocation from two different perspectives. Perhaps better put, they give two answers that point us to two different relationships.
When we look at Genesis 1, we read:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ v. 28
In these words, God is calling humanity to a kingly vocation. We are to imitate God, who is king. God’s work of creation was one of bringing order to disorder and fullness to emptiness. God called humanity to this same role. We are to bring order (dominion) and fullness (dynasty; filling the Earth with a royal race). Genesis 1 calls us to a vocation that is outward focused. Genesis 1 gives us a responsibility and a call as it relates to the earth and to each other.
Then we come to Genesis 2 and we read:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. v. 15
Reading this seems to be reminiscent of what Genesis 1 says. It sounds like God put us in the Garden to be gardeners. However, what we realize as we start to look at this language is that the only other time the words ‘work it and keep it’ show up together in the Scripture is in reference to the work of the priests. The language used here is language of a temple. Adam and Eve are to function as priests in the temple of God. Their ‘working and keeping’ of the Garden was a priestly service. The vocation set forth in Genesis 2 is one of priesthood.
So often when we talk about vocation we stop with Genesis 1:28. In essence, we assume that Adam and Eve’s calling is exhausted in the ‘cultural mandate’ found in this verse. However, what Genesis 2 shows us is that this is not the case. Humanity has a calling toward the earth. However, we also have a calling toward heaven. We are to fulfill our kingly vocation for six days and on the seventh day we are to fulfill our priestly vocation.
What we see in these two chapters is the vocation of humanity. Both of them are good but not eternal. The order matters. Six days of work then one day of rest and worship; work then rest. Work is order toward worship. That seventh day points us to an eternal rest. The ultimate goal of human life is rest; rest in the presence of God. One day the vocation on a earthly human level will be fulfilled and completed. The cultural mandate will be completed and we will rest forever. The issue is not a good vocation and a bad vocation. All work is good, but not all work is eternal. In the new heavens and new earth, we will still be kings, but we will be kings at rest. We will reign as priests always serving before the face of God. This is what we taste every Sunday during worship. This is what we catch a glimpse of when we gather together every Lord’s Days. This is what the psalmist talks about when he says:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. - Psalm 63:1
The place he find satisfaction then is:
in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory…. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. - Psalm 63:2, 5-7
The rest that the psalmist longs for, the rest we long for, is attained when we gaze upon the beauty of our Lord. When we, with all the saint, behold the face of God. We must learn to be good at our kingly vocation. The Lord has given it to us. Yet, one day that will end and we will forever engage in our priestly calling. My prayer is that we learn this vocation for it us our highest calling.