The Power of a Plural Singularity
Genesis chapter one poetically describes the magnificent Creator at work. At the sound of his voice, wondrous things that were not there before suddenly appear. Sky and sea divide themselves. Oceans recede and mountains rise. The dry land births grass and flowers and trees. A rising sun marks each new day while the moon and patterns of stars at night mark months and seasons. At a mere word, the waters and sky team with life and a menagerie of living creatures bursts forth from the earth. Our Creator is a God of superlative power.
1. Each day he examines what he has made and pronounces it good. With what words does he assess his work at the close of the sixth day (Genesis 1:31)
“God saw all that he had made and behold it was ______________ _________________.”
He is not only a God of power, but of superlative goodness.
Elohim is Plural
The powerful and good God of Genesis 1 is Elohim, a word not found in any other ancient Semitic writings. It is a form of El meaning majesty (as in his Majesty the King). The principal god in the pantheon of Canaanite gods was called El, but Elohim, the God of Israel, is unique. His name has a plural ending yet the word would never be translated “gods” because the verbs and adjectives associated with the name are always singular.
2. Note the pronouns used when God announces his decision to create the first humans. Genesis 1: 26, 27
Let ___________________ make mankind in ______________ image, in _________________ likeness . . . So God created mankind in _____________ own image.
Notice that when God is talking to himself, the pronouns are plural. He appears to be a group, more than one individual talking among themselves. But his creation is fashioned in “his image”—singular. Not in “their images”—plural.
We don’t need to fully understand this plurality, called the Trinity by Christians. We have no true human counterpart for a God-in-three-persons—always One, perfectly united in thought and purpose. Marriage, the family, and the church help a little. They are marked by “oneness” when functioning perfectly, but more often than not they don’t. Elohim is always of one mind—and more. Each member of the Triune God perfectly and completely experiences the pleasure and sorrow felt by any of that circle of three. This is a level of oneness that far exceeds human empathy.
Jesus revealed an exciting and mysterious thing regarding this oneness of God—that we were created to be part of it. We are not God, of course, and we never will be. We are creatures utterly dependent on him for life. But that Fellowship of One feels every twinge of pain, every rush of pleasure and joy in his creation. Elohim is one with us and longs for us to experience oneness with him.
Elohim is One
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus poured out his deepest longings in a beautiful prayer. He came to save the world, but he did not pray for the world that night. He prayed for the little band of followers who would tell the world about him. That prayer is recorded in John 17.
4. Finish John 17:11
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one ______________ ____________ _______________ ________________.”
He would soon be leaving his disciples behind, and he knew that the Enemy would assault them in any way he could—an Enemy stronger, slyer, and more experienced than they were. Separated, scattered, they wouldn’t stand a chance. But united with each other in the Fellowship of Elohim, they would be an unstoppable force of love and goodness that would transform the world.
4. Who does Jesus pray for next? (John 17:20)
This means all believers down through the ages. His prayer includes us—you and me.
5. What was so urgently important to Jesus as he faced the night of betrayal and day of death? (John 17:21-23)
“that ____________ of them may be ________________, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be _____________ ______________ so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to ________________________ ________________________. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Elohim is Glorious
Did you notice what Jesus gives his disciples to help them become one?
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one . . .”
His glory? What does that mean? I have found that it helps to think the word “Love” whenever the Bible speaks of God’s glory. Yes, glory means splendor, honor, brilliant light—but all those qualities are only the flashings of God’s magnificent essence of pure and perfect love.
When you read the word “God” throughout the rest of scripture, don’t allow yourself to slip into a fuzzy, sleepy sense of a generic god. (yawn) Picture the awesome Elohim—the Creator God of might and miracles speaking the universe into existence. A plurality, but not a committee. One God, with one magnificent purpose—restoring the world to superlative goodness. One God longing for all humanity to join as one with him.
Oh Majestic Elohim,
May we bring glory to your name in all the earth.
Make us the answer to Jesus’ prayer today—
One with you,
United in love with all other believers,
Extending the healing power of your love to a pain-filled world.
1. very good
2. us, our, our, his
3. as we are one
4. “those who will believe”
5. all, one, in us, complete unity