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Renewed Vocation: The Garden Temple

In this series, we are reconsidering our human vocation. What are God's plans and purposes for work, and why should it matter to Christians? In the first lesson, we looked at creation. In the creation account, God designs with a purpose. From void and waste, God brings forward life and abundance. This lesson considers God's Garden Temple.


Although the creation narrative does not use the word "temple," many scholars recognize the literary design of the first creation account—the Hebrew Scriptures frame creation as God's Temple.

God can be seen as the temple builder. God brings order, life, and flourishing to creation over seven days from a void wasteland. By the seventh day, God had finished His work and rested.

Genesis 2:1–3 (NIV)

"Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."


The first creation narrative (Gen. 1:1-2:3) shows the creation coming forward through God over seven days. The seven days are significant!

"In the ancient Israelites’ world, temples were always dedicated with a seven-day ceremony. This was true not only of the Israelites’ Temple built for their God (Leviticus 8:33-35; 1 Kings 8:2, 8:65; Ezekiel 43:25-27), but also of neighboring nations’ temples which they raised for their deities. This ritual was so deeply ingrained in ancient culture that the Israelites would have immediately understood a seven-day creation story to mean that creation itself was a temple for their God." (1)


The pattern of creation can be seen as a three-part design. Ancient Israelites recognized this design pattern as they constructed the tabernacle and, later, the temple.

This design represents an important truth. Heaven and earth were not meant to be separate places. Instead, heaven and earth were designed to be places that overlapped.

God's presence was with humans in The Garden (ref. Gen. 3:8). In the tabernacle and later the temple, this pattern is again seen as God's presence fills these sacred meeting places (Ex. 40:34; 2 Chron. 7:1-3).


When God instructed the tabernacle building and temple, their design pointed back to the garden temple. For example, scholars have noted the tree of life (Gen. 2:9) is later represented in the lampstand.

Exodus 25:31–37 (NIV)

“Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them.

Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. “Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it."

God's design for the tabernacle and, later, the temple was purposeful. Moses was to build everything according to the pattern God revealed (Ex. 25:9). The design is intentional as it points back to the garden temple and God's purpose in creation.


On the sixth day of creation, God created humans in His image.

Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Seeing the creation narrative as God's cosmic temple, how should we understand humans placed in the center of His temple as images? Rethinking our human vocation, we consider what it means to be created in His image in our next session.




Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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