Ancient Manuscripts: Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

I had bought a swing set for my young children one spring and was eager to get it home so I could watch their little faces as they climbed up the ladder to the slide or as they flew high on the swing. Oh, the good times we were going to have!

But there was one thing, one little phrase actually, that stood between me and my dream to be Superdad to my kids: Some Assembly Required.

I got home with this huge box not even remotely shaped like a swing set (that should have been my first clue) and began pulling out all the parts onto the back lawn, which was still partially frozen from the fading Idaho winter.

Like a good scientist I tried to lay out all the parts in the same pattern shown on the instruction sheet: there were the A-frame poles, the cross bar, the slide deck and slide… it was a long list… and of course, not all of the parts matched the list on the packing slip. But oh, well! I could figure it out!

Then I began dutifully putting the pieces together according to the instructions (which were written in Chinese first, then English, almost as an afterthought). The first few pieces came together beautifully. I was on a roll. I should have this thing done before naptime was over and the kids could wake up to Superdad and his Superswingset. I was going to score major points!

Then I hit my first hitch. The instructions said to insert bolt 3B into the hole of crossbar 12. There were lots of bolts, but none of them were labeled with a code. And crossbar 12 had 10 holes in it. Which bolt goes into which hole?

It got worse from there. “If slide is desired, add ramp 23023C to ladder before assembling.” What? Of course slide is desired. I paid $100 extra to have a slide on this stupid thing! And what the heck is ramp 23023C? It’s not in the box or on the ground in front of me. And come to think of it, how come I didn’t see any ladder? How were my 2- and 4-year old children supposed to get up to the top of the slide? Maybe it didn’t matter since it looked like there wasn’t going to be a slide! Argh!

All I wanted to do was give my kids a swingset! Sydney (left) and Ryan (right), Idaho Falls, circa spring 2003.

All I wanted to do was give my kids a swingset! Sydney (left) and Ryan (right), Idaho Falls, circa spring 2003.

We’ve all tried assembling something using poor instructions or none at all and it can be so frustrating. You see, clear communication matters. If I had blindly followed the swingset instructions (which were obviously written by an 11-year old in China), my kids’ lives would have been in danger. That thing could have collapsed to the ground or exploded or blasted off like a rocket at any moment.

But our God is the Great Communicator. The greatest of all communicators, in fact.

  • He spoke to Adam and Eve audibly as they walked together in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2).
  • He spoke to both Lot and Abraham in the form of an angel (Genesis 18 and 22).
  • He spoke to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3).
  • He even spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a stubborn old donkey! (Numbers 22) (And I know what you’re thinking but no, it was not his wife. It was an actual donkey!)
  • And He continues to speak to you and me today through His Word, the Bible.

But what about speaking the universe into being (Genesis 1 and 2)? At some point in history, God spoke the physical laws into being, the laws that govern how matter and energy behave. And when it was time to create life, He wrote detailed instructions for those physical laws to follow in the form of DNA: follow this manual to make daisies and this one to make toucans. And follow this one to make people.

The Creator is a meticulous, detailed communicator with the laws of the universe, writing out instructions for even the smallest life forms that far exceed any human literary volumes. The simplest genome is that of a bacterium called Mycoplasma, a single-celled creature that causes significant disease and may even play a role in assisting HIV transmission from one person to another. And yet this “simple” genome requires over 500 genes to function, coded on one chromosome of nearly 600,000 nucleotide pairs. That is a lot of information just to instruct the construction and function of one of the simplest living things on earth!

So how does this attention to detail in the form of DNA apply to our daily lives? If the Creator can speak with such clarity and specificity to the physical laws, which have no choice but to obey, how much more clearly and specifically will He speak to you and me? We have ears to hear, eyes to read and see for ourselves, and a heart that can connect directly with His. If we are attentive, His message to us is clear.

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:36

His message is that, despite our sin, we can be at peace with the Father through the sacrifice of the Son.

Having been made in His image, His message to us to so much more than “do this” and “don’t do that.” We are so much more than DNA. His message to us instead is “I love you” and He’s willing to say it a million times in a million different ways until we hear it. Our job is to hear the message and respond. But unlike the physical laws of the universe, we have a choice.

And you won’t find that in the human genome.


Questions for further thought

Are you a good communicator with your friends and family? What about with the Father?

Biologically speaking, the Creator uses the same language to speak to all living things. What might be the significance of this? Why not one language for bacteria and another for tigers?

When was the last time you opened your Bible to let the Creator speak directly to your soul?



Lord in heaven, your name is holy. You have given us a glimpse into your creation through DNA. Help to understand why. Show us how to use it to glorify you. And reveal some of yourself, your divine power and mystery, through this most amazing language. Yours humbly, amen.


About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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One Response to Ancient Manuscripts: Some Assembly Required

  1. Phil Herrington says:

    I have always been most strongly persuaded by God’s purposive design in the universe. Even for the non-scientific mind, (only slightly ahead of that 11 yr old author of swing set instructions!) the complexity of a single cell is mind blowing. The heavens testify nightly to his expansive magnificence & glory.

    Phil Herrington


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