Formations 01.31.2021: A God Who Speaks My Language

Genesis 2:4b-17

When I teach Old Testament, I ask my students whom they would cast as God in the six-day creation story in Genesis 1. The answers are usually actors with a deep, commanding voice. James Earl Jones is almost always among the top contenders.

Then I ask the same question with respect to the Genesis 2 creation story. Though a few students struggle to get out of the mindset of a vast, cosmic scale of Genesis 1, most of them grasp that the tone in chapter 2 is markedly different. Whom will they cast as God in this creation story? People who remember the movie Bruce Almighty invariably point to Morgan Freeman, who portrays God appearing to Bruce in the guise of a janitor.

It’s not a bad analogy, to be honest. Whereas Genesis 1 gives us an exalted, poetic account of creation in which God never even appears “on screen,” we read a much earthier story in Genesis 2. And God in Genesis 2 is much more humanized. This is a God who forms a man from dust, plants a garden, and gives the first human a job in taking care of creation. There is something about this God that reminds me of my late father-in-law, who loved nothing more than working in his garden.

Genesis 2 shows us a God who looks a lot like us. God plants a garden, creates the man not by speaking him into existence but by stooping and working in the dirt. As chapter 3 shows, this is the kind of God who enjoys taking afternoon walks. It’s a kind of God that is vastly different from the exalted God of chapter 1, who speaks and makes it so.

I’m grateful that Scripture gives us both of these images of God. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that God is all-powerful and utterly holy, so different from me and my experience that I can’t even comprehend.

At other times, though, the more humanized vision of God gives me great comfort. I need a God that I can talk to, a God I can relate to, a God who doesn’t mind rubbing elbows with people like me. In short, I sometimes need a God who is—by some mysterious grace—also one of us.

Genesis 2 invites me to contemplate a relationship with God that is different from the pomp and pageantry, from exalted liturgical language, from stately hymns—beautiful as they may be—and ecclesiastical structures. It invites me to let go of pretense and just be honest with a God who speaks my language.


• When have you experienced God’s splendor and greatness?
• When have you experienced God’s understated relatability?
• What other biblical passages point to God’s gentle presence? (For example: Elijah’s “still, small voice,” the birth of Jesus.)
• What practices or attitudes can help us be more “down to earth” in our relationship with God?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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