Read Psalm 28.
The Bible can seem complicated. There are patriarchs and prophets, sacrifices and symbols, Nazirites and Nazarenes. You’ve got two testaments, twelve tribes, and 153 fish caught miraculously, plus lots of Pharaohs, plenty of Herods, and more Marys than you can shake a stick at.
The Bible itself was written in three languages over a period of more than fifteen hundred years, and crafted into its final form by dozens of authors, editors, and compilers—all the while being breathed out by God. All this can be confusing, especially if you’re new to God’s Word.
But in spite of the epic nature of the Bible, the groundwork for the entire story of Scripture is laid out for us in the first few chapters of Genesis. Everything that follows connects back to our origin story in one way or another. Even a passage like Psalm 28, which at first glance appears to have nothing to do with the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, or a rebellious serpentine creature, actually draws us back into the reason for our creation.
In this psalm, David is once again pleading with the Lord for help, and he asks God to punish the wicked for the things they’ve done: “Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve” (v. 4).
And then David does something strange. He offers an explanation for why evil people deserve punishment. It should be self-explanatory, right? Bad people get punished, while good people get rewarded, as overly simplistic as that might be. But David says, “Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again” (v. 5).
He’s talked about “their deeds” and “what their hands have done” (v. 4), and now He’s talking about “the deeds of the LORD and what his hands have done” (v. 5). So what’s the connection? The garden of Eden.
In Genesis, when God created the first human beings, we read, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). To be made in the image of God is a description—we were made in God’s likeness (v. 26). But more than that, it’s about a job we were given. We were made for the purpose of bearing God’s image: to reflect His goodness, beauty, and truth to all creation. In other words, our deeds are supposed to be like the Lord’s; our hands are supposed to do what His hands do. We are to be His representatives on earth, doing what He does.
God is trustworthy and fights for the oppressed. He cares for widows and orphans, and is near to the brokenhearted. He does not show favoritism and deals fairly with people. He blesses others, and brings joy to desolation. He is holy, and therefore we are to be holy (Leviticus 19:2). In fact, the commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:7), can also be translated, “You shall not bear (or lift up) the name (or reputation/character/essence) of the LORD your God in a useless manner.” To turn this around into a positive command, we are to fulfill our original purpose—to faithfully represent the Lord God here on earth.
Here in Psalm 28, David’s enemies are guilty. The work of their hands does not match the work of the Lord’s hands. They know what God is like and have refused to behave as the human beings—the image bearers—they were created to be.
Bearing God’s image. That’s what it’s all about. It’s our reason for being. It’s why God has mercy on sinners. It’s the reason Jesus came, and lived, and died. It’s what we are called to do in this life, and it’s what we will do for all eternity.