And God Said...

Genesis 1-2

Genesis 1:26-31  /  Psalm 8

As we begin this new sermon series entitled, Back to Our Roots, let me tell you why I think this is important.  We’re going back to Genesis (when I say back, I mean way back).  Genesis is where everything begins.  It is in Genesis that we’re introduced to God, Man, Satan, sin.  We see faith and faithlessness, trust, betrayal, failure and triumph.  We learn those names that will be imprinted on the pages and in the message of the New Testament:  Adam, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.  If you want to understand who you are, you have to know where you came from.  And so for a few weeks we’re going back to our roots.

There’s an old joke that still makes a powerful point – One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"  But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.  God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

It must have been a heady time during the mid 1700’s – science was really coming into its own.  Age old questions were finding answers, diseases were being cured, superstitions were being explained, new vistas of human experience were being opened – from the reaches of the stars down to the microscopic world of germs.  It seemed that there was really nothing that couldn’t be answered or solved or explained if science was given long enough. 

The Bible was brought down off of its perch of uncontested authority.  God wasn’t completely exiled, but his necessity was relegated to areas of relative unimportance – he was a god of the gaps – those areas man couldn’t explain…yet.

It is interesting then, that as science has become more advanced, and technology more sophisticated, that we have come full circle.  Science has discovered enough to admit that it not only doesn’t know everything, but can’t know everything. 

Evolution has fallen on hard times.  Once the standard scientific model for explaining the existence of everything, science has finally come face to face with the astronomical odds of evolution explaining the existence of much of anything – there are too many unresolved difficulties, too many glaring evidences of a created order to relegate it all to chance and accident.

True science demands a God who masterminded and created it all.  Don’t think I’m saying science has given up on evolution – far from it – but what was once an impenetrable fortress is beginning to crumble and there are gaping holes in the evidence, and many scientists are realizing it can’t be the explanation for everything.

Understand, the Bible is not a science textbook – it doesn’t explain everything, or really attempt to explain anything.  The book of Genesis gets a bad rap when people start applying modern scientific canons to its descriptions and accounts of creation and ancient life.  Most especially the first eleven chapters are thrown out as simply mythological and unbelievable. 

And that’s unfortunate.  Because although the Bible isn’t a scientific reference book, when it speaks to the subjects of astronomy and geology and botany and zoology and anthropology it does speak accurately and authoritatively. 

The problems have come from some of the conclusions that have been drawn from scripture.  Those have tended to lessen its credibility.  When, in the 1600’s, a church theologian named Bishop Ussher added up all of the genealogies in Genesis and the reigns of the kings and the days of creation and came up with the first day of creation beginning at 6 pm, Saturday night, October 22, 4004 B.C. it was accepted as absolute truth and printed in the margins of all of the King James Bibles. 

What do you do with dinosaurs?  What do you do with geological evidence that the world has been around a long time?  As science has discovered more evidence that points toward an earth that is very old rather than an earth that is very young, those who thought they were defending the Bible argued that God just created it to look old and planted dinosaur bones in the geological strata to confound scientists.  Even those of us who believe in the absolute truth of the Bible have a tough time accepting that kind of reasoning. 

Let me give you a modern version of that:  Over the years, different individuals and groups have tried to extrapolate the various numbers in Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelation and piece together when the end of the world would come.  They would set a date, announcements would be proclaimed, preparations would be made, Jesus didn’t come.  “We got the date wrong” – recalculate – “here’s the new date” – all over again – Jesus didn’t come.  It brought discredit and ridicule on all Christians, but especially the Bible.  But the Bible itself says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.” (Mk. 13:32-33).

The fact is that the problem is not with the Bible, but with misinterpretations of it.  Genealogies were not exact lists, reigns of kings were not always in exact numbers, generations were sometimes condensed.  The Bible was not written by 21st century historians and mathematicians and scientists with the purpose of providing a detailed reference book.  It was written to majestically portray the dynamic splendor of the relationship between the Creator and his creation.

Genesis 1:1-2:3  gives us a panoramic view of creation.  We watch it unfold before our very eyes.  We see a beautiful symmetry to God’s creative efforts – marvelous thoughtfulness in which creation is designed around the interdependent needs of creation:

Day 1, God creates light

Day 2 – The sky which separated the waters above and below

Day 3– dry land & vegetation

            Day 4 – (Day 1 - light) light bearers –sun, moon, stars

            Day 5 – (Day 2 – sky and oceans) birds, marine creatures

            Day 6 – (Day 3 – dry land and vegetation) land animals and finally man

The perfect balance of nature, the complex variety of human and animal and plant life, and the availability of resources for all of life’s needs within the scope of planet earth all attest eloquently to the wisdom of him who designed it.  It cries out that God is active and caring in creation.

Did it happen in six 24 hour days?  Certainly it could have, but I don’t believe so.  And the Hebrew text doesn’t demand that we understand it that way.   The word “day” is often used in a non-literal way in the Old Testament.  The 24 hour day wasn’t actually created until day 3 when God created the sun, moon and stars.  So, rather than force science and the Bible into a battle that the Bible itself  doesn’t pick, why don’t we let God’s creation speak for itself? 

We should never be afraid or defensive of the evidence that comes to light.  Over the years, when Biblical theology went through an extremely liberal period when even biblical scholars were questioning the believability of the Bible, a lot of biblical stories were dismissed as fables or fairy tales.  But as archaeology over the past century has unearthed new evidence regarding biblical history which was in doubt, it always comes out reaffirming the accuracy of the Bible. 

And as science continues to discover new “truths” about the universe, those new truths always validate what the Bible says about God’s creation.  We may have to rethink some of our assumptions and pre-conceived notions about what the Bible says, but the Bible will always be found to be true.

Seven times we witness the creative force of God – “And God said…”

It ought to take our breath away – the very thought of God speaking everything into existence.  It was miraculous, it was immediate, it was spontaneous.  The Bible says he spoke, “and it was so.”

The word “Created” is found 47 times in all the Bible, 5 times in Genesis 1.  And the Hebrew word for “created” (bara) is distinctly different from the more general word for “made” (asa).  A blacksmith can “make” a sword, a leatherworker can “make” a harness, a woman can “make” a loaf of bread.  But their activity is working within the realm of what already exists.  Only God can “create” which signifies something absolutely new and with no previous existence.  When God “created” the heavens and earth, they were out of nothing.  He spoke and they came into existence. 

And each time God created, he looked at what he created and said, “it is good.”  And what made it good was that it would be beneficial for his ultimate creation, mankind.  Mankind, the pinnacle of God’s creation was the purpose for which he made everything.  He didn’t make us different just in degree, but in kind, and those who suggest that humans are just the latest rung in the evolutionary ladder have completely missed the point of creation.  God was working toward a climax. 

When he created man, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground….  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26-27) 

Don’t think this means we have unrestrained freedom to use and exhaust and leave in ruins this creation just because we can.  God made us stewards to use and enjoy, but also to manage and protect and take care of. 

In Genesis 1, we are given the vast sweep of creation, from the beginning in Day 1 to the pinnacle of creation on Day 6, and then in vs. 31 we read, “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.”

When we come to Genesis 2, the writer says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”  And then on the seventh day God rested from all his work.

But the writer isn’t finished, because in chapter 2, he takes us back to Day 6 and focuses our attention more closely on the creation of man:  “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) 

And then in vs. 15, we read:  The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 

Into this perfect world God puts the man.  In Hebrew the word for man is “Adam” (interestingly it comes from the word “adama” which means dirt – so from the very beginning Adam’s name was Mud – in answer to the age old question if a man is alone in the forest…) 

But the Lord looks at man, alone in the garden, and for the first time says, “This is not good.”  And he decides to make a helper fit for him.  But he doesn’t create woman as he created every other creation – out of the mud, but he makes Adam sleep and takes a rib from his side and creates the woman and brings her to the man and Adam looks at her and cries out “Woman!  Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (It’s not until 3:20 that Adam names her Eve.)  And then the writer adds a footnote:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  This union of a man and a woman is the completion of God’s creation.  Marriage was created by God between a man and a woman to fulfill the need that God created within us to have a companion with whom we can share our lives.

There was another footnote back in vs. 16 that anticipates something of even greater consequence:   And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  You see, the writer knows what is coming and he sets the stage for chapter 3.

The focus of these first two chapters of Genesis are:

1)         God as creator and sustainer.  God not only created the world, but he continues to sustain it.  He didn’t wind it up to send it off to fend for itself, but stays intimately involved in caring for it.  And we begin to get a sense of who this amazing God is when he says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”.  God is much more complex than we first imagine, and there is more to God than we can guess.  Us, our?  You’ve already jumped ahead, haven’t you.  Even in this opening chapter, we meet God in his threefold personhood of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

2)         God as sovereign Lord.  What he created he is also capable of ruling.  He rules with love and compassion.  He responds to the needs of his children by providing, not just adequately, but abundantly.

3)         Man as created being.  This is not to denigrate us, but to emphasize our uniqueness and specialness to God – he made us in his image, in his likeness.  That isn’t said of anything else in creation.  But as created beings we are also reminded of our limitations.  We are not God – our ways are not his ways, we do not think as he thinks.  And our greatest downfalls will be when we forget the difference between creator and creation.  God alone is God.

4)         Man will need and God will provide a Redeemer.  Even though we won’t see the implications of it until chapter 3, the tree that stands in the center of the garden looms large, and God’s warning of the danger and threat of punishment cast a shadow that will extend through the generations.  But God’s plan is already in place and his will will not be thwarted.  Even now, the cross looms off in the distance.

 

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