In our reading of biblical verses this week, I love to see the pairing of the first chapters in Genesis with Isaiah 42 and 43. Many sages throughout time have taught that the deepest lessons in the story of the universe’s creation relate mostly to the creation of our moral purpose. Today’s readings, I think, show them to be right.
Look just a few verses into Genesis. We see directly that humankind was created in the image of God. Infused “with the soul of life,” becoming “a living soul,” Adam’s principal task was to “work and guard” the Garden of Eden. Many commentators understandably are off to the races right here at the start of the Bible in suggesting that the core message has little to do with cosmology. But, rather, it is that we are to serve God and live our lives in service of God.
This teaching, of course, only firms in the testing of, and consequences for, Adam and Eve after their fateful choices, and, of course, the drawing out from Cain of the never-to-be-forgotten question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”.
When the practice of matching readings from the Prophets with the Torah portions began, surely the sages and rabbis chose to use the occasion to teach more explicitly. Thus, now we see it all the more clearly in Isaiah.
The God Who creates the heavens and the world “gives a soul to the people upon it and a spirit to those who walk on it.”
God calls us in and with “righteousness,” protects us, and appoints us to bring the people to the covenant “to be a light for the nations.”
So, looking at both texts, what do we see? Perhaps the Narrator plants the seeds in Genesis. And then, in Prophets, we see more clearly and fully the fruit. We are created to serve God. We are to live in God’s ways. And, by doing so, principally through righteousness, we help fulfill our part in God’s handiwork, especially in service of the Divine aim that all people are to be redeemed and brought near.