Made in God’s Image

ANIMALS are amazing. An eagle’s eyesight is so sharp that it can spot a rabbit two miles away – and it can keep the rabbit in focus as it dives out of the sky at 200 miles per hour. A sniffer dog has been known to detect a packet of drugs sealed inside a bottle submerged in a can of kerosene. Migrating birds can travel from one side of the world to the other with incredible accuracy, using a variety of navigational aids including the sun, the stars and the earth’s magnetic field.

But you and I are more amazing than any other animal—because unlike all other animals, we’re made in the image of God.

In the Beginning

Right at the beginning of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of the world and everything in it. Humans were the last to be created—the culmination of God’s great work.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:24–27).

What does it mean, “Let us make man in our image”? The Bible tells us that at the creation of the world “the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)—it seems the angels were involved in the creation, carrying out God’s work, and humans are made in the image of angels. We look like angels—in the past angels have been mistaken for ordinary people (Hebrews 13:2), and no doubt they still are.

But there’s more to it than that. We are able to think like the angels—like God Himself. Unlike other animals, we can appreciate God, we can have faith and we can choose to obey Him. And so as the Bible book of Ecclesiastes says: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all”(Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Giving Glory to God

When a fish swims in the sea or a bird flies in the air, in a way they give glory to God who designed them. But when you or I choose to love and obey God, we give Him something which animals cannot give:

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth (Psalm 96:8–9).

We can make the choice to give glory to God by responding to Him, returning His love, obeying Him and bringing our offerings of thanksgiving. That’s what He wants us to do. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11).

Consider that—you and I, feeble mortal specks, can give pleasure to the God of heaven!

The Breath of Life

In many ways animals are very much like us. For example, anyone who is acquainted with dogs will know how complex are their social behaviours. There are ants that cultivate crops, and ants that tend and milk herds of aphids just like human farmers tend and milk cows. Chimpanzees have outperformed humans in number memory tests. 

And the book of Ecclesiastes shows us another way in which we’re similar: “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19–20).

All animals live because of the breath God gives them. This is how Genesis describes the creation of life:  “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). That word ‘being’ is translated ‘soul’ in some older versions of the Bible. That’s what a soul is—it’s simply a living being. People and animals have souls while they live, and cease to have souls when they die (Ezekiel 18:4).

All animals live and then die, that’s the way it is. And many people believe that we are no different. In a way they’re right: “A man who is in honour, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20). But it does not have to be so. We are made in the image of God. God lives for ever, and He wants us to live for ever with Him. As Jesus once said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).