Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In the Beginning God...

In the Beginning God…

Genesis 1-2

As we begin to unfold the story of the Bible, we must start with the beginning. The Bible gives us the story of the beginning of the story of creation in Genesis 1-2. It tells us how we were God’s people (Adam and Eve) living in God’s place (The Garden) under God’s rule and blessing (perfect rest and harmony with God, one another, and the Creation). This is the 1st chapter you might say in the great story of God’s grand story. Interestingly, these 2 chapters and the final 2 chapters of Revelation are the only 4 chapters of the Bible where sin and death are not present. So, you might say that the whole Bible is bracketed by the story of the original perfect creation and the finally restored and perfect new creation. As we look at Genesis 1-2, I want us to focus on 3 primary lessons we learn about the storyline of the Bible.

  1. God is the King who created everything for his own glory.
  2. God’s image bearers are the pinnacle of creation.
  3. God’s rest is the goal of creation.

God is the King who created everything for his own glory.

We learn at least 3 truths about God from the story of Creation in Genesis 1-2:

God is Separate and distinct from (transcendence) yet related to and with His Creation (imminence).

Transcendence is shown by how he speaks the universe into existence (out of nothing) through just speaking it. He is separate from and above His creation. He is not like the gods of eastern religions who are part of the creation. He creates everything by the word of His power, and it all points to Him but he is not to be confused with it. He is not a God who needs man. He is a God who is in an eternally satisfying relationship within Himself. We call this the Trinity and we see this at work even in Genesis 1:1-2 (see also John 1:1-3). God is not “the big man upstairs.” We must stop lowering him, and making him altogether like us. We are made in God’s image. He is not made in our image! We do not have the freedom to say, “My God is this kind of God…” As if we have a designer God. God is God. He is wholly transcendent and separate from His creation.

He has revealed Himself through creation and most fully through His Word. He is a God who wants to be known and even described, thus why He gave His Word. But, just because we can describe him through his Word does not mean we can circumscribe Him. It does not mean we know everything. We can understand Him, otherwise He would not speak to us expecting us to understand Him. However, we cannot understand him exhaustively! When Job wonders why God has dealt with him by allowing his children to die, and by allowing him to lose everything, and suffer physical pain, God responded, “Job, Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” God wants Job, and us, to understand that He is God and we are not!

However, this does not mean God is distant and uncaring. God is not uninvolved with His creation either. He is not the God of deism, who wound up creation and sat back to watch it. He is the God who is intimately related to and involved with His creation. He is imminent. We see this through how he speaks to His creation. While God’s speech shows us his transcendence and sovereignty. It also shows us his intimate relationship with His creation! God intimately relates to His creation through his word. He relates to his created universe by His Word (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). He relates to man by His Word (Gen. 1:28, 29; 2:16, 18). Even his image bearers relate to one another through “word”. (Gen. 2:23).

Do you understand the implications of this? You have a powerful God, who is altogether different from you but who desires to be intimately related to you! He is the God who wants to communicate with you and thus gave you His Word. He is the God who is not far from you but who is always there. He is the God who loves His people and who if you draw near to God he will draw near to you. He is the God who will help you. Call on Him to help you.

God is the Sovereign King over his creation.

We see God’s sovereignty and his rule through the manner in which everything obeys his Word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God spoke and the universe leapt into existence! Therein is power and sovereignty. God ordered everything. There was no one commanding him. He did not ask anyone’s advice or permission. He created it all and he owns it all. He is the King!

We even see God’s rule in a partial answer of what it means to be made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27-28). Man is not only commanded by God what to do but he is, as an image bearer of God, given dominion or rule over the earth. To rule is to be like God. God even sets down a law for man in Genesis 2:16-17.

People will object and ask how we can counsel people in suffering if we have such a strong view of God’s Sovereignty. They say, “Well, if someone’s child dies, and God is Sovereign over that, then what do you tell them? Do you tell them this was God’s plan? How is that helpful?” First, let me say the answer is, yes, God planned it. Psalm 139 says he numbered are days before there was yet one of them. But, let me ask the counter question to this. If your child dies, and God is not Sovereign over that, then who is? Was God taken by surprise? Did he not care enough to intervene? Was it because you were totally irresponsible parents, or your child was completely irresponsible? Is this completely out of God’s hands and thus he is helpless to bring good from it? I guess this must be true if God is not Sovereign but I am not sure how that counsel is more comforting.

When the 5 year old daughter of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman died. She was accidentally run over in the drive way by her older teenaged brother. What do we tell them? Is the brother responsible for the accidental death of his sister, in the sense that he was driving the car? Yes. Was God surprised? No. On the blog dedicated to their daughter they talked of how they just celebrated her 5th birthday 10 days before this incident. They say the following, “…These words are unthinkable to type. And yet we trust in a God who was not surprised by this and because of Jesus I am certain through faith in Him we will see Maria again.”

God’s glory is the purpose of His creation.

Why did God create everything?

Psa. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psa. 19:2 Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

God did everything to bring fame to His own Name. He did it all to show He is glorious. To display His unsurpassed character and attributes. This gives me great hope. Why? Because my good is grounded in God’s glory! God created, ultimately, to show the riches of his glory---His goodness and His grace to the objects of His mercy! As those who believe in Jesus Christ we are the objects of His mercy! Everything was created so that he might show us how glorious He is! Romans 9:22-23 addresses this,

Rom. 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

Rom. 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

My eternal destiny is as certain and secure as God’s desire to bring glory to His own Name is! You want security? You want assurance? There it is! It is found in God’s jealous desire to make His own glory known to us in His Son!

God’s image bearers are the pinnacle of creation

Not only do we learn that God is the King who created everything for His own glory from the creation account, we also learn that God’s image bearers are the pinnacle of creation (Genesis 1:26-27). Now, while we are a central figure in Scripture, we are just not the central figure in Scripture God, in Jesus, is the central figure of Scripture. This does not mean man is unimportant. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation in the material universe. Arguably everything was created the way it was to serve the needs of man. God created us and gave us rule over all the earth. When God created everything and declared it good it is not until God creates man that he says, “it is very good.” Why? Why are we so important? Because we are His image bearers. In other words, we are created as those who reflect the image of God. So while the rest of creation certainly bring Him glory, nothing brings Him the glory of man properly reflecting His glory. We are created to be like Him in many ways. First, we are like Him in our ability to rule and reign (Gen. 1:28). God has given us dominion over his creation and over people in various relationships---and we are supposed to rule lovingly as he does. Second, we are like Him in our ability to have relationships (Gen. 2:18) God is not alone. He has been in relationship with Himself eternally. He has designed us so that we would not be alone but would be in relationships. This is why he saves us into a community called the church, which is essential to our growth. Third, we are like Him in our ability to make moral decisions (Gen. 2:16-17). No other creature can analyze the morality of a decision prior to making it. God doesn’t give a law to animals. They do not sin and they do not have a Savior.

This is why human life is so precious and why God instituted the death penalty for anyone who would dare take the life of a man. In the death penalty God is affirming the seriousness of murdering a person and the value of human life. This is why we fight against anything that mars or destroys the image of God. Our culture has thrown out God, is it any surprise we are now destroying His image?

  • We abort millions of babies every year, killing the image of God.
  • We pervert sex, which was given to man and woman to bring unity and reflect God’s image, thus perverting God’s image.
  • We participate in divorce, and thus tear apart God’s intention to bear his image through a married couple.
  • We have rampant homosexuality, and now gay marriage, completely perverting God’s image as most fully shown through man and wife.
  • We are participating in genetic experimentation that has frightening ethical implications!

And on and on our perversion and destruction of God’s image goes! What is amazing is how sin has messed up God’s original goal in Creation

God’s goal in creation is “rest”

God’s original goal in creation was that we would have “rest” with Him (Gen. 2:1-3). So, what is meant by rest? Do you notice that the 1st 6 days all have---and there was evening and there was morning---but the 7th does not? This is because God completed his work of creation on the 7th day. I don’t mean God stopped working. God obviously continues to sustain the universe. What I mean is that God stopped creating because it was perfect. He did not need to keep creating. He finished the job and it was perfect.

In Genesis 1, man’s place and role in the created order is just part of a list of many other days of creation. But, in Genesis 2, we get a greater focus on man’s place and role. We learn that God created human beings to live in the perfect creation he had made with Him. They are to work. However, their work is not a burden but a joy. To be in God’s “rest” means to live in the perfect creation as he intended it. It means to live in the creation in which we are God’s people in a completely harmonious relationship with God and one another.

We were to live in God’s place, the Garden, in a perfect and completely harmonious relationship with the creation. We were to live under God’s rule and blessing, with perfect and completely harmonious life that does not include death, conflict, and sin. Yet, we sinned in Adam. We fell.

The good news is we already see themes here in Genesis that are picked up by the Gospel. God created and we ruined it with sin but through Christ God has promised a new creation. A new creation which will restore all things as they were originally intended. A new creation in which we will “rest.” While that promise is future, it is also present. When you trust in Jesus you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God brings you to life spiritually and fills you with the Spirit. You are once again God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and blessing.

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