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Posts Tagged ‘Genesis 1’

a-birdPoem like and filled

With wonder and the stirring of earth’s worth

The cadence of creation

Let there be … and it was so … and it was good

So good, for it was Yours

Made at Your hand

Triune God almighty

From eternities past

How far back stretched Your hand

Your beauty, Your knowledge, Your triune joy

Into eternity

Before You reached forth and brought life at a Word?

Into the measureless span of no time

Spoke time into being until time shall be no more

How far forward reached Your mind, all-knowing, all-loving, supremely just

To see where Your creation would fall, and further yet, where You would enter

At the moment before time when all was good

So good, for it was Yours

All-knowing, those first words You spoke into this universe

Let there be light

Were spoken knowing the Light that would one day

Descend from Heaven to lighten a darkened earth

A promise to reclaim the world who has forgotten You

Who so easily forgets

But you did not forget

From the cadence of creation until now

You remember this world

For it is good because of Your hand … because of Your Word … because it is Yours.

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The Unfolding Image: a God of Light and Life

A powerful aspect of “The Great Hymn to Aten” is the sense of wonder that the author, Amenhotep IV, weaved throughout the poem. It is not a dry and stark rendition of creation or of an impersonal god, but a personal recognition of a God who has brought light, not only to the world at large, but to the individual. Amenhotep even changed his name to Akhenaten to convey his spiritual transformation in the presence of this God. The hymn reads as though the writer experienced a deep sense of awe at this “Sole God” who created light and, by it, brought all things into existence. In this way, “The Great Hymn to Aten” is similar to Psalm 104 in the Bible, which also reads as a work of worship to a singular God, creator of light and life. Neither writing is a monotonous liturgy; they are more sweeping acknowledgments of a powerful and glorious God who has also worked in the heart of the individual.

In “The Great Hymn to Aten,” the author makes use of overarching word pictures, writing of a God whose “rays embrace the lands” and “nurse all fields” (7, 95), who “makes waves on the mountains like the sea” (89), and who “made millions of forms from yourself alone” (104). The sense to be gained from these lines is one of awe at the magnificent power of this God. The writer also weaves in words and lines that bring forth a concept of the individual attention that this glorious God bestows, stating that God bends his rays “for the son whom you love” (10), and that he “feeds the son in his mother’s womb” and “soothes him to still his tears” (48-49). The poem engages God at the macro level, encapsulating his power over the world at large, yet descends to the micro level and captures a sense of his care for individuals on earth.

Psalm 104, like “The Great Hymn to Aten,” is a writing that attempts to encapsulate the magnificent and creative power of God, describing him as one who “stretchest out the heavens like a curtain” and “walketh upon the wings of the wind” (v. 2, 3). Not only does this God control the heavens and the firmament, but also the world; he “laid the foundations of the earth” and “causeth the grass to grow” (v. 5, 14). This God is not only an impersonal being, however, for a later verse states, “… the Lord shall rejoice in his works” (v. 31). The writer of the Psalm sees God as having humanlike emotions and finding joy in his creation and the works of his hands. This also conveys – though in a different manner from the hymn written to Aten – the concept of a personal God rather than a being completely detached from his creation.

Another Psalm, presumably by the same writer, takes this idea a step further, describing God – “the Lord” – in very humanlike terms. Psalm 23 uses the metaphor of God as a shepherd who provides for those in his care. The writer sees this God as one who provides (v. 2, 5), as one who leads and guides (v. 2, 3), and as one who comforts (v. 4). This author feels the individualized care of his God so strongly that he remarks, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (v. 4). He also trusts in the ultimate promise that he will “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (v. 6). When taken with the context of Psalm 104, one gains an overall view of God that is similar to what is seen in “The Great Hymn to Aten.” Both read as a personal revelation of a God who is magnificent and omnipotent, yet whose presence takes a personal approach in his concern towards the individuals he created.

Although the two authors are from different cultures and their writings are dedicated to two “different” gods, their experience and conception of this creator God of light and life and nature is uncannily similar. These particular writings convey that even though the writers’ cultures and backgrounds and worship were dissimilar, their perception of God was a personal experience that superseded their differences; both came to recognize a God of the heavens and the earth whose glory was clear in all that he had made. What is more, both writings saw God as a being who was focused on the individual creations that he had made.

This concept of an individual or personal God becomes more powerful in light of a line from “The Great Hymn to Aten” that observes, “You made millions of forms from yourself alone” (l. 104). Amenhotep perceives his God, Aten, as not only “lord of sky, lord of earth” (30), but also as the being from whom humanity came forth. The Book of Genesis – the foundational scripts that the writer of Psalms would have been intimately familiar with – conveys the same idea. It states, “And God created the human in his image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). If a God stamped mankind with his likeness, infused humanity with his character and personality, it follows that this God would be personally devoted to that creation and would do anything to protect and care for the thing he molded in his image.

Psalm 104, Psalm 23, Genesis Chapter one, and “The Great Hymn to Aten” all seem to proclaim this vision of God. They reflect wonder at a supreme God who controls the forces of nature and the heavens and life itself, but who is devoted enough to breathe life into the nostrils of humanity and ensure that his creation will never completely forget from whence they came.

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