Interpreting the Bible 2.0

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple Faith“Then the LORD God said, 

it is not good that the man should be alone; 

I will make him a helper (‎עֵ֖זֶר) fit for him.” 

(Gen 2:18 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

 In earlier reflections, I noted how important hermeneutics is to understanding scripture, distinguishing Christian groups, and sorting out controversies in the church. In this reflection I will give an example of how to interpret scripture focusing on just one verse, Genesis 2:18, cited above. In this verse, God talks about creating Eve and refers to her as Adam’s helper.

A Patriarchal Read?

Historically, Genesis 2:18 has been used to justify male dominance in the marriage relationship. This view has then been supported by pointing out that Adam named Eve, another sign of dominance, and in Genesis 3:6 Eve yields to Satan’s temptation, a sign taken as weakness on her part. 

An alternative interpretation notes that Adam and Eve are created together as a pair: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) Later, in marriage Adam is to give up his father’s household to live with Eve (Gen 2:24), which was not the typical custom among other people groups in the Ancient Near East. Further, if one reads the temptation narrative closely, Adam is standing next to Eve when she get tempted. If he is truly “the man of the house”, then why does he stand there mute while his wife is talking to a snake? Is the snake addressing the boss?

Key to this patriarchal interpretation is the word translated as helper (‎עֵ֖זֶר). While helper can sometimes mean a slave, more typically it refers to a higher status person or even God himself: “Behold, God is my helper (‎עֹזֵ֣ר); the Lord is the upholder of my life.” (Ps 54:4) Webb (2001, 128) writes:

“…a survey of the Hebrew world for ‘helper’ (ezer) should caution against using the word itself to support either position. When including both the noun and verb forms, there are about 128 occurrences int he Old Testament. The majority of uses (72%) are of superior-status individuals helping these of a lesser status. Yet, there are a number of examples where the ‘helper’ is either of equal status (18%) or of lower status (10%) than the one being helped…Only contextual factors beyond the word should be used to establish [status].”

Here we find that the original author, Moses, is unclear as to the intent of the passage. Readers of the passage are likewise divided. However, in scripture we find a clear statement by the Apostle Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) While some commentators will debate Paul’s commitment to equality, his comments on family relations in Ephesians 6:1-9 completely undermined the patriarchal system of his time, when the father’s rights over women, children, and slaves were absolute. The early church functioned as a defacto family group (hence, terms like brother and sister used throughout the New Testament to refer to fellow believers) in which equality among the members was a dominant virtue.⁠1

The patriarchal position is harder to argue from scripture than male and female equality, especially in today’s cultural context. Mexican Christians will sometimes joke about two types of husbands: those that are happy and those who think that they are the boss!

Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve?

After many years of Evangelicals saying that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, gay commentators began turning this argument around, albeit tongue in cheek.⁠2 If the Great Commandment (love neighbor, love God; Matt 22:36-40) is true and should be our ethical and interpretative guide as Christians as advocated, for example, by Jack Rogers (2009, 65) , then sometimes the perfect helper for Adam is truly Steve, not Eve. If Adam loves Steve, who is to say it is not so? After all, God had just introduced him to all the living creatures and birds of the air, looking presumably for a helper for Adam (Gen 2:18-20).

Why might we find this interpretation unconvincing?

Two prominent reasons suggest that this is a speculative reading. 

First, the author of the passage, Moses, uses these verses (Gen 2:18-20) as a foil to introduce Eve and Adam is happy with God’s new creation: “Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Gen 2:23) The immediate context of the passage rules out any substitutes for Eve.

Second, if any confusion existed on how to interpret Genesis 2:18, then Leviticus 18:22 explicitly and unequivocally forbids homosexual relationships.⁠3 Because Moses wrote both Genesis and Leviticus, one would need to argue that Moses somehow disagreed with himself or changed his mind about the Genesis 2:18 passage, which seems unlikely. Looking to the New Testament for further guidance, the Apostle Paul refers to homosexuality and lesbianism both as a curse for having rejected God and his self-identification in creation (Rom 1:19-28). In this context love means accepting people as they are, but caring enough to help them to move beyond their fallen state as we see Jesus doing with the woman caught in adultery (John 8).

Why Bother Talking About Hermeneutics?

The point of these examples is to encourage Christians to take scriptural interpretation seriously. Weak or unusual interpretations typically either take scripture out of context or focus exclusively on a reader context. Considering also the author’s intent and the wider scriptural context generally provide a more balanced reading than  talking exclusively about “what scripture means to me” as a reader. 


Fortson, S. Donald and Rollin G. Grams. 2016. Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition. Nashville: B&H Academic.(Review)

Hellerman, Joseph H. . 2001. The Ancient Church as Family. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Review)

Rogers, Jack. 2009. Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.(Review)

Webb, William J. 2001. Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Downers Grove: IVP Press.(Review)


1 This is an important finding, in part, because the prevailing interest among many writers today is to allege that the patrilineal kinship group model is used rhetorically to promote hierarchy at the expense of socially disadvantaged groups. Hellerman (2001, 221) disagrees writing:

“those who had the most to gain from the image of the church as a family were the poor, the hungry, the enslaved, the imprisoned, the orphans, and the widows. For brother-sister terminology in antiquity had nothing to with hierarchy, power, and privilege, but everything to do with equality, solidarity, and generalized reciprocity.” (221)


3 Fortson and Grams (2016, 251-258) discuss this issue of intent in Leviticus as interpreted in the New Testament at great length.

Interpreting the Bible 2.0

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra,
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer for church workers and a reflection on the Trinity as seen in the Creation accounts of the Book of Genesis.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

 Monday Monologue, Trinity in Creation, April 9, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Living into the Image

Doug_and_Christine_08272016bLiving into the Image

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Service for Recommitment of Vows for Christine Nousheen Hiemstra and Douglas Warren Ferrer,

Centreville, Virginia, September 4, 2016

A quiet little secret in this postmodern age is often overlooked by those of us who seldom read our Bibles: marriage is God’s idea, not ours. Marriage was not enacted by an act of Congress or decreed by the Supreme Court; marriage was not invented by some church committee way or some really popular saint way back when. Marriage was God’s idea which we know because the Bible begins and ends with a wedding.[1]

How do we know? (2X)

The short answer comes in verse 27 of the first chapter of Genesis:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27 ESV)

In other words, God created us together in his image and, in case there is any misunderstanding, this image couple was given a mission-statement in the next verse:

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28 ESV).

The vows are then repeated in chapter 2 where we read:

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:23-24 ESV)

So after the wedding ceremony is over, Adam and Eve are a couple on their own, not living with mom and dad in stark contrast with the custom in pagan societies of the ancient world.[2]

But what does it mean to be created in the image of God? (2X)

The answer to this question is found in our second reading from the Book of Exodus. The context for this verse is that after God gives Moses the Ten Commandments (and after Moses broke the first set of tablets), he says to him directly:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod 34:6)

Much like Congress after passing legislation will publish a “conference report” explaining how to interpret the new law, God reveals his character in five key words as a tool for interpreting the Ten Commandments. These five character traits are repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments in different forms, which is the Bible’s way of saying stop and pay attention here. Let’s take a moment to reflect on each of these five traits, as they give insight into God’s prescription for marriage.

The first of these traits is: mercy. Mercy is what you ask the judge for right after you have just admitted that you are guilty. Mercy is unwarranted and undeserved forgiveness.

Christine, offer mercy to Doug when he screws up; Doug, extend mercy to Christine when she has just done it again. When you offer mercy to one another, you honor God and make love possible.

The second of these traits is: compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin expression, with passion, in the sense of having passion out of understanding for someone else. A great example of compassion was going around on social media earlier this year—a policeman was called to grocery store to arrest a woman for shoplifting. She explained that she stole food to give her kids a meal and, instead of arresting her, the policeman bought her a cart load of groceries and drove her home.

Doug, take time to understand Christine when she screws up. Christine, walk alongside Doug when he does not seem to be himself. Understand each other before you criticize each other. Remember the policeman’s heart.

The third of these traits is: patience—be slow to anger. The Hebrew used here literally says:  be long nostrilled!  In other words, take a deep breath; listen; and count to ten before responding when something is not quite what you were expecting. Patience is so under-practiced in our “I WANT IT NOW” generation.  Be a rebel: practice patience!

The fourth trait is two Hebrew words, rav hesed (‎רַב־חֶ֥סֶד), which does not translate well into English. It literally means “great love”, but the context suggests something other than “abounding in steadfast love”. God has just given Moses the Ten Commandments—kind of like a superpower promising a military alliance to a small country in a dangerous neck of the woods. Love here means that you keep your promises—especially when it hurts. I call this “covenantal love”.

In my case, I told Maryam when we were married that I did not believe in divorce. I told myself that I would not let anything come between us in our marriage—not our friends, not our families, not even my own ego. Keeping our marriage vows was the priority over everything, short of my faith in God. For me, that is covenantal love.

The final trait is translated faithfulness. The Hebrew word, emeth (אֱמֶֽת), also means truth.  When the Apostle John says that: “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV), he is making an allusion to this very same verse in Exodus and, by inference, is making a divinity claim in reference to Jesus.

Faithfulness and truth go hand-in-hand, yet truth should only (2X) be told in a context of grace, otherwise it will simply not be heard.

Doug, Christine—be truthful with one another, but speak truth only out of love.

In closing, bear the image of God in your life with one another. Practice mercy and compassion, be patient with one another, honor your vows, and speak truth only in the context of love. Bear God’s image and draw closer to God and to one another as you do so. Amen and Amen.

[1] Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. (New York: Dutton, 2011), page 13.

[2] The Bible ends after the Second Coming with the wedding feast of the people of God. (Rev 21:2, 9; Rev 22:17)

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King Street

ShipOfFools_web_10042015It is not good that the man should be alone (Gen 2:18 ESV)

King Street

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I learned to ride a bike when we lived on King Street,
but I mostly remember the wall that I ran into first.
The wall was next to a turn in the sidewalk
And it was made of brick—I simply went too fast around that corner.

That was the year that President Kennedy was inaugurated,
but I mostly remember the snow drifts that I jumped in
which were almost as tall as I was.
Dad and Mom preferred to watch the speeches and parades.

I attended first grade when we lived on King Street,
My teacher used to read us stories sitting on a chair
while we sat on the floor
wondering why she did not wear any underwear.

That was year I learned that guys were supposed to have girl friends,
but I do not remember why.
So I walked around the cafeteria table and
Asked each girl—will you be my girlfriend?—until one said: yes.
After that we played together in school and out.

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Bugs and Shells

ShipOfFools_web_10042015Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens
and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. (Gen 2:19 ESV)

Bugs and Shells

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Dad collected things that were just amazing.

He shot rabbits and squirrels, but the best thing he ever shot was a bright colored pheasant. He had a turntable and about a hundred albums with all sorts of music. For a long time, an album came in the mail about once a week. And he played them just about every evening after I went to bed.

He brought home a television set with black and white pictures of all these famous people—Like Billy Graham who was always asking us to come on down—he’d wait—he was a patient man because so many people did come on down to pray with him. And like President Eisenhower who was a general and who came on now and then to let us know how things were going here and there. But I mostly watched RomperRoom and the Micky Mouse club and Captain Kangaroo.

Dad had a great rock collection, some big shells, and many, many stamps and coins. I collected those things too, but I really liked the butterflies and bugs that the teenage guys upstairs collected. I had my own net and I chased every bug in town—I even caught a green parakeet one time! The guys upstairs also had all kinds of neat model boats and planes that they built—too bad that they moved away. Dad helped me build models too, but I am not sure that he cared much for the bugs…

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Who is God?

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. (Ps 19:1–3)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was young, I wanted to be a pilot. I learned to read a map, work with a compass, and navigate by the stars in pursuit of my goal. The idea that God would use a star to guide the wise men to the baby Jesus fascinated me. Equally fascinating is how God reveals himself to us in the creation story. The Bible starts telling us that: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) What do these simple words tell us about God?

The phrase—in the beginning—tells us that God is eternal. If creation has a beginning, then it must also have an end. This implies that creation is not eternal, but the God who created it must be. If our eternal God created time, both the beginning and the end, then everything God created belongs to God. Just as the potter is master over the pottery he makes, God is sovereign over creation (Jer 18:4–8). God did not win creation in an arm-wrestling match or buy it online or find it on the street, he created it—God is a worker[1].

God’s sovereignty is reinforced in the second half of the sentence when it says: God created the heavens and the earth. Here heaven and earth form a poetic construction called a merism. A merism is a literary device that can be compared to defining a line segment by referring to its end points. The expression—heaven and earth—therefore means that God created everything[2]. Because he created everything, he is sovereign over creation; and sovereignty implies ownership[3].

So, from the first sentence in the Bible we know that God is eternal and he is sovereign. We also know that he is holy. Why? Are heaven and earth equal? No. Heaven is God’s residence. From the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush (Exod 3:5), we learn that any place where God is becomes holy in the sense of being set apart or sacred. Because God resides in heaven, it must be holy. Earth is not. Still, God created both and is sovereign over both (Rev 4:11).

Genesis paints two other important pictures of God.

The first picture arises in Genesis 1:2; here the breath, or spirit of God, is pictured like a bird hovering over the waters[4]. Hovering requires time and effort suggesting ongoing participation in and care for creation. The Bible speaks exhaustively about God providing for us—God’s provision. Breath translates as Holy Spirit in the original languages of the Bible—both Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament)[5].

The second picture appears in Genesis 2, which retells the story of creation in more personal terms. As a potter works with clay (Isa 64:8), God forms Adam and puts him in a garden. Then, he talks to Adam and directs him to give the animals names. And when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve from Adam’s rib or side—a place close to his heart.

Genesis 1 and 2, accordingly, paint three pictures of God: 1. God as a mighty creator; 2. God who meticulously attends to his creation; and 3. God who walks with us like a friend. While the Trinity is not fully articulated in scripture until the New Testament, God’s self-disclosure as the Trinity appears from the beginning (Chan 1998, 41).

The Lord’s Prayer casts a new perspective on Genesis 1:1 when Jesus says: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Because we are created in God’s image, we want our home to modeled after God’s.

[1] Hugh Whelchel (2012,7).

[2] Heaven and earth can also be interpreted as proxies for God’s attributes of transcendence and immanence (Jer 23:23–24; Dyck 2014, 99).

[3] God’s eternal nature is also defined with a merism: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

[4] This bird (avian) image appears again in the baptismal accounts of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 3:16 we read: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.”

[5]Breath itself is necessary for life—part of God’s provision.


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¿Quien es Dios?

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Los cielos proclaman la gloria de Dios, y la expansión anuncia la obra de sus manos. Un día transmite el mensaje al otro día, y una noche a la otra noche revela sabiduría. No hay mensaje, no hay palabras; no se oye su voz. (Salmo 19:1-3 LBA)

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Como una persona joven, quiere ser piloto.  Aprendia que leer un mapa, trabajar con un compass, y siguen las estrellas por direcciones para perseguir mi sueno.  La idea que Díos usaría una Estrella a guiar por magos al niño Jesús me encanta.  Igualmente fascinante es cómo Dios se nos revela en la cuenta de la creación.  La Biblia empezo diciendonos que:   “En el principio creó Dios los cielos y la tierra.” (Génesis1:1 LBA)  ¿Qué nos dicen estas sencillas palabras acerca de Dios?

La frase—en el principio—nos dice que Díos es eterna.  Si la creación tiene un principio, entonces también debe tener un final. Se implicita es que creación no es eternal, sino que el Dios quien la creada necesita ser.  Si nuestro Dios eternal creó el tiempo, tanto al principio y como al final, entonces todo lo que Dios creó es suya.  Asi como el alfarero es senior sobre la vasija que hace, Dios es soberano sobre creacíon (Jeremias 18:4–8).  Dios no ganó creacíon en un partido pulseada o comprar en línea o encontrar en la calle, la creó—Dios es un trabajador[1].

El soberano de Dios esta reforzada en la secunda parte de esta frase cuando la dice:  creó Dios los cielos y la tierra. Allí las dos palabras, los cielos y la tierra, forma una estructura poetica llamado un merismo.  Esta estructura hecho como a una línea definida por sus puntos extremos. Entonces, la expression, los cielos y la tierra, significa que Dios creó todo[2]. Porque él creó todo, Díos es soberano creacíon, y la soberanía implica la propiedad[3].

Entonces, de la primera frase en la Biblia sabemos que Díos es eternal y soberano. Sabemos tambien que Díos es santo.  ¿Porque? ¿Son el cielo y la tierra igual?  No.  El cielo es la residencia de Díos. De la historia de Moisés y su encuentra con Díos acerca de la zarza ardiente (Exodo 3:5), aprendimos que cualquiera lugar donde Dios es estaria santo en la sensacíon de apartada (dedicada) o sagrada (santificada).  Porque Dios vive en el cielo, debe ser santo.  La tierra no esta.  Aún así, Díos los creó y es soberano sobre ambos (Apocalisis 4:11).

Génesis da dos otras imaginas importante de Díos.

La imágina primera viene en Génesis 1:2; aquí, el espiritu de Dios (o el aliento) es representaba como un aves que se movia sobre las aguas[4].  Revoloteando require tiempo y esfuerzo que suguiere participacíon activa y cuido para la creacion. La Biblia habla extensivamente sobre Dios y su provision para nosotros—la provision de Dios. El aliento traduce como Espiritu Santo en los lenguas original de la Biblia—ambos  Hebreos (Antiguo Testamento) y Griego (Nueva Testamento)[5].

La imágina segunda aparece en Génesis 2, donde dijo la historía de creación en términos más personales. Como el alfarero trabaja con barro (Isaias 64:8), Díos forma Adán y lo puso en un jardin. Luego, él habla con Adán y lo dirige a dar nombres a los animales.  Y cuando Adán era solo, Díos crea a Eva de una costilla o del lado de Adán—un lugar cerca de su corazon.

En consecuencia, Génesis 1 y 2 da tres imágines de Díos: 1. Díos como un creador poderosa; 2. Díos a quien cuida meticulosamente de su creación; y 3. Dios a quien camina con nosotros como un buen amigo.  Mientras la Trinidad no esta articulado en la escritura hasta el Testamento Nuevo, la autorrevelación de Dios como la Trinidad aparece desde hace el principio (Chan 1998, 41).

La Oración del Señor da un perspective nuevo sobre Genesis 1:1 cuando Jesus dice:  “Venga tu reino. Hágase tu voluntad, así en la tierra como en el cielo.” (Mateo 6:10 LBA) Porque estamos creado en la imagina de Dios, queramos lo mismo que nuestro hogar a estar como la casa de Dios en el cielo.

[1] Hugh Whelchel (2012, 7).

[2] El cielo y la tierra pueda tambien ser interpretado como indicadores de los atributos de Dios tales como la trascendencia y la inmanencia (Jeremias 23:23–24; Dyck 2014, 99).

[3]La naturaleza de Díos eternal es tambien descrito con un merismo:  “Yo soy el Alfa y la Omega” – dice el Señor Dios – “el que es y que era y que ha de venir, el Todopoderoso.” (Apocalisis 1:8 LBA)

[4] Esta imagen de díos como un aves (aviar) aparece también en las cuentas del bautismo de Jesús. Por ejempo, en Mateo 3:16 leemos:  “Después de ser bautizado, Jesús salió del agua inmediatamente; y he aquí, los cielos se abrieron, y él vio al Espíritu de Dios que descendía como una paloma y venía sobre Él.” (Mateo 3:16 LBA)

[5]El aliento mismo es necesario para la vida—una parte de la provision de Díos.


Chan, Simon. 1998. Spiritual Theology: A Systemic Study of the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Dyck, Drew Nathan. 2014. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

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The Potter’s House Ministry by Chris Looker

First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, VA
First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, VA

Our guest blogger today, Pastor Chris Looker, invites us to consider the potter’s work by learning the fine art of pottery throwing on the pottery wheel.

Potter’s House Ministry

The Potter’s House ministry began at First Presbyterian Church of Annandale this past September as a pilot program for 8 weeks.  The objectives of the program were to learn more about pottery, each other, and the Lord through prayer, listening to Taize music, and breaking out into small groups to throw, trim, glaze, and fire ceramic forms. Before it was over, we produced more than 100 finished and glazed pottery pieces.

The Original Potter

When God created the heavens and earth, God was like a potter at the wheel.  The Prophet Jeremiah wrote about a vision that he had saying:

[The Lord said] Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:2-7 ESV).

But pottery is not just the prophet’s imagination.  We are told in the Book of Genesis that:  the LORD God formed the man of clay [dust] from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).  From that which was formless, God created many beautiful things. From the clay of the ground, God created and formed life!

But God did not stop there!  God’s Holy Spirit formed Jesus in Mary’s womb out of nothing!  In Luke’s Gospel we read:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus … And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God (Luke 1:30-31, 34-35 ESV).

This is our potter at work.  God formed Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  It was not an accident; nothing was left to chance.  God was involved in each and every step.  He was born as the perfect Savior, fully human and fully God, all because the Creator himself was perfect.  Jesus Christ was and is and will always be a miracle of God’s handiwork–and so are each of you!  In Jesus Christ, God has shown Himself to be the greatest Artist of all.

God formed us from the clay of the ground.  We know this because in Hebrew the word, Adam ( הָֽאָדָ֜ם (Genesis 2:20 WTT)), means alternatively: Adam, man, or clay (soil, dust, dirt, or ground).  At funerals we are reminded of Adam’s curse for his sin:  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are clay, and to clay you shall return (Genesis 3:19).

What do we say?  Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  We live in certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.


Chris Looker in Jerusalem
Chris Looker in Jerusalem

Dr. Chris Looker is the Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Annandale, Virginia ( where he has served for the past 8 years.  He and his wife, Genny, live with their two boys, Ben and Sam, in Vienna, VA.

In the 50 plus years since FPCA was chartered, the community has morphed from being a Caucasian suburban community into an ethnically diverse, urban community.  FPCA has risen to meet this challenge by forming a partnership agreement with the First Korean Presbyterian Church of Virginia (FKPCV). This partnership involves a growing number of people in decision-making, financial support, mission, and worship.  FPCA and FKPCV have worked together to renovate the main sanctuary and much of the physical infrastructure. FPCA and FKPCV are also active in Christian Mission Service jointly supported the building of a 50 kilowatt hydroelectric dam in Lubondai, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the building of a Mission School in Catamayo, Ecuador.

First Presbyterian Church of Annandale (FPCA) is located in Annandale, VA off of Little River Turnpike (route 236) adjacent to Annandale High School ( at 7610 Newcastle Drive, Annandale, VA 22003-5422.

FPCA prides itself on its commitment to musical excellence.  On Sunday April 13, 2014 at 7:00 P.M., the Mormon Choir of Washington, DC ( will perform a concert in our sanctuary, as the second concert in our concert series.




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Whelchel Sees Call in Work, not just Ministry

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Hugh Whelchel.  2012.  How Then Should We Work?  Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington:  WestBow Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Mental habits are hard to break.  One particularly insidious habit is to worship the “god of the gaps” (gog) rather than the sovereign, Triune God.

Gog worship shows up in several ways.  One is the gog worshiped only between 11 and 12 a.m. on Sunday mornings.  Another gog appears like insurance—a kind of Aflac god who handles all the problems that we cannot.  Still another gog is observed only indirectly (a shadow gog)—whenever anyone expresses a concept of God that is too large (or too inconvenient)—that person is labeled a fanatic or fundamentalist.  Gog worshipers are easy to make fun of until one shows up in the mirror:  Gog worship is the default setting of the postmodern world–even for an economist turned pastor like myself.

In his book, How Then Should We Work, Hugh Whelchel reminds us that God created the heavens and the earth—everything. Everything is not a spiritual concept; everything includes everything.  All that we do—whether inside or outside the church; whether inside or outside the home—should be done in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:17).  God is as a powerful worker—he creates; he created everything (7).

Whelchel states his purpose as:  to explore the Biblical intersection of faith and work, attempting to understand the difference between work, calling, and vocation and how they should be Biblically applied in our daily lives(5).  His book is organized in 6 chapters which focus on carefully defining the concept of call. These chapters are preceded by a forward, preface, and acknowledgments and are followed by a biography of the author, notes, and suggested readings.

In the important area of defining call, Whelchel (75-77) cites 5 calls. He distinguishes the first call, the call to faith in Christ, as primary and cites 4 secondary calls—the call to family, church, community, and vocation.

Whelchel’s (56) concept of Biblical work focuses on 5 concepts, which are:

  1. The Four-Chapter Gospel (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration).
  2. The Cultural Mandate (The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15 ESV)).
  3. The Kingdom of God (being salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14)).
  4. Common Grace (seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV).
  5. The Biblical Meaning of Success (as seen in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:1-13).

Whelchel’s observed in the Parable of the Talents that the reward was the same for the 5-talent or 2-talent servants—we need only worry how to use our talents, not obsess over how many talents we are given.

In his final chapter, Whechel asks:  how do we integrate our work and our faith in a way that is pleasing to God? The first of his 9 responses to this question is the most telling:  we must rediscover that our primary vocation is the call to follow Jesus (117).

Whelchel holds a master of divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary; he is a former technology worker; and currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics ( located in McLean, VA.  As he claims, Whechel’s book is: a Biblical primer on integrating our faith and work (xxviii). He reviews the literature on vocational calling at great length and why we should care. Missing here perhaps is a link that applies these insights in the era of gog.  Still, I found my own faith journey reflected in page after page.  Perhaps you will too.

Whelchel Sees Call in Work, not just Ministry

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