In the Beginning, Part 1
WELCOME Well, if you're visiting River City this morning, we want to extend a warm welcome to you, thank you for joining us today, whether you're just visiting with family or a friend, or you're considering making River City your home church, or maybe you're just wanting to give church another try. Regardless why you're here, we're glad you are and we hope you not only hear a message of hope, but that you experience the grace of God through our interactions with you today. SERIES GOAL/PURPOSE Today we continue our look into the Story of God, where we are taking a large flyover of all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, with the intention of seeing the Bible not as a collection of stories, poems, songs, and genealogies, that we must somehow figure out how to fit into our own personal story, but as One unified story that all of our stories are absorbed into, with one singular purpose; one finish line, if you will. FINISH LINE And the finish line of the Story of God is that the whole earth, every tribe, nation, language, race will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as waters cover the sea. That one day, every single person alive will be fully immersed in understanding the glory of the Lord, because he himself will be living with us, present with us. That's the end of the story, that's where all of this is headed, and so this morning we open the book to the first page to peek at the beginning. So, if you have a Bible with you this morning, or you read through an app on your phone, I invite you to turn to Genesis 1, the very first page, and follow along with me. ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM Now, while you're turning there, any of you who have been a Christian for a while may inwardly be saying to yourself, this is old hat. I know this chapter. I don't need another sermon on it. I know -- God created sky, land, light, he created birds, fish, animals, I could rehearse for you the days of creation, I know the part about the image of God, what could you possibly uncover for me today that I don't already know? Or there's a good chance if you're here this morning and NOT a believer, you might be thinking this is where the preacher tries to say the Bible knows more than science and that evolution isn't true. Or maybe you're somewhere in the middle, where you see the evidence that science presents, and you believe the Bible to be true and it's hard for you to make sense of how the two work together. I believe there is something so foundational, so fundamental about Genesis 1-3, that if we can wrap our heads and our hearts around the beginning of the Story of God, we will have a much clearer understanding of the story of our own lives. QUESTION AT STAKE The question at stake here is not simply how life began nor how the natural processes of life work. The ultimate question is the place and significance of life, especially human life, in our universe. And right now, in the middle of National Suicide Awareness month, and the end of Suicide Prevention Week, I don't know if there is a more pertinent topic we could be discussing than the place and significance of human life.
Author/Setup: First on the list is who wrote Genesis and when. This is one of the most helpful pieces of understanding Genesis. The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah, or the Law of Moses, so Christian tradition points to Moses as the author, and he's probably writing this sometime after the Exodus. That's really important, and here's why it mattered to them and to you and I. So picture this, Israel has been in slavery for 400+ years, Moses is called by God to be the deliverer, God leads them out, they cross the Red Sea, and now there are 40 years before they will cross into the Promised Land. Moses is faced with leading a nation of around 2 million people who have a propensity to do their own thing and rebel against the Lord. As they cross the desert, they are leaving Egypt which has a plethora of god and idols they worship as well as their own stories of how the world came to be, and they are headed to the land God had promised them which is occupied by other nations who also have a plethora of gods and idols and some really jacked up ways to worship, as well as their own stories of how the world came to be.
So if God is speaking through Moses, his spokesperson, and if you're Moses, and you are their shepherd leader, their pastor, what do you want them to know about the God who has rescued them? What would you want them to know is different about the God of Israel verses the other gods of the nations that surround them? That's why, when we come to Genesis Genesis 1 and 2, we again have to start with the question we talked about last week. WHO IS GOD? What is he doing, what is he saying, what is he like?
When we do that, we see that the first chapters of the Bible are not primarily about HOW the world came to be, but why.
So lets dive in:
Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
"In the initiation of the process, Elohim (the mighty one) made/brought about what did not exist before, the realm where God abides above all and the realm where humankind lives."
When you see that word, that name, GOD, what comes to mind? Author and pastor AW Tozer said, what comes to mind when you hear the word God is the most important thing about you.
For some of you maybe you think of the perfect Father, full of love, yet also disciplinary, wise and caring. Both creator and judge, but loving and full of grace.
Or, others of you picture a judge - waiting for you to slip up, ready to crash the gavel down on you and condemn you for the slightest mistake
Maybe you think he's a big ol' grandfather in the sky - all love and candy, no spankings.
Maybe he's a cosmic vending machine that if you just do or say or pray the right things, he gives you whatever you want.
Maybe he's some distant politician on a throne in the sky who controls everything and your vote really doesn't count.
The people this is written to are coming out of Egypt, enslaved to a King named Pharaoh, who believed that he was God in the flesh. What he commanded, he got. An ancient pharaoh was an absolute monarch, supreme commander of the armies, chief justice of the royal court, and high priest of all religion. His absolute power may be seen in that justice was defined as “what Pharaoh loves”; wrongdoing as “what Pharaoh hates.”
In using the name Elohim for God, Moses is saying that God is the mighty one, thetrue absolute monarch, the true supreme commander, and he commands things to exist that didn't previously exist, the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 - Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness cover the surface of the watery depths (the deep), and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
"The realm of humans was a barren, empty state of disorder and total chaos. Confusion, terror, and deep inaccessible mysteries were the only things present, yet the divine Power of God was keeping watch over it all."
Most creation stories in ancient times have the world beginning with a state of chaos. Often times battles between the gods, and the world being fashioned out of the body of the loser. Or even in modern day creation accounts like evolution, the world again is born out of chaos.
But what's unique about the Genesis creation account is that it doesn't begin with war, it begins with a royal command. Verse 3 of chapter 1 through verse 4 of chapter 2 is the language of a king. God speaks, creation obeys. It happens.
"Let there be" -- in other words, "this is what I want." And every time this King says let there be, it happens, and he names it, which indicates his authority. And this King is bringing order to the chaos.
Brings light where there was once darkness. Brings insight and knowledge where there once was chaos and mystery. He is moving the chaos away from fluidity and into solids. Separating water from Sky. Separating water from Dry land. Then he begins filling. He fills the land with vegetation. He fills the sky with lights.
1. Made a greater light to rule the day - DOESN'T EVEN CALL IT THE SUN!
2. Made a lesser light to rule the night - DOESN'T EVEN CALL IT THE MOON!
3. And the stars (the pinwheel galaxy is almost an after thought)
4. Moses is being very clear, these are not deities worthy of worship. Nothing and no one but God himself is worthy of worship. So much beyond the sun and moon is he, that with a simple word he commanded their existence and they obeyed. They are simply lights for the practical purpose of giving light.
He fills the water with sea creatures, he fills the air with birds. He fills the land with livestock and insects and animals.
This is event planning at it's finest, where someone takes an empty space and turns it into something useful and strategic. Commentators will say this is a coronation ceremony, preparing a place for the king. Bringing order to a space, then filling it with decorations and details, all in preparation for one monumental moment when the king arrives and takes his place on the throne.
And all of this is pointing to Elohim, the mighty Creator God, creating a space for himself to inhabit. A place where he would establish his throne and live, and instead, in verse 26, the Israelites are read this: "Then Elohim said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish, the birds, the livestock, the whole earth!'"
What!? Shocker! This is a coronation ceremony after all, but not just for one king, the mighty one Elohim is creating man in his image and giving HIM the rule over the earth. Made mankind in his own image (statue, representation)
When a King conquered a territory, or took one where he himself would not live, he set up a statue, an image, a representation of himself in that area so people would know who this place belonged to.
1. Babylonian creation account said humans are made from clay to be slaves of the gods, to wait on them and make them happy.
2. In Egypt, the Israelites were slaves to make Pharaoh, the self-proclaimed god, happy to bring about his bidding.
3. But in Genesis, humans aren't slaves, but are the crowing touch on what he has made, his own images, living statues, representatives participating with him in the rule and dominion over everything that has been made. The rest of creation is not the throne room for only Elohim, the King, but the marvelous (very good) home for humanity where they enjoy creation and fellowship with God himself
1. Verse 28 - God blessed them with responsibility:
1. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth
1. In many ways, God has filled the earth. He created sky and filled it. He created land and filled it. But Humans are now given the authority over dirt and creatures to do carry on what God has been doing -- making a good world by filling it in a controlled, orderly, and visionary way.
2. Subdue it. Subdue = impose your vision on it. (Subdue your garden. what happens if you never impose your will on a garden? Or on your farm? Or on your lawn? Or on your living room? To be passive is to release wildness and disorder.
1. Setting up for church - every morning we meet, we are re-enacting the story of creation
3. Job as Image bearers is to do that in such a way that it is as if the King himself were doing it; to continue his work.
2. Have dominion, rule over creatures of the sea, heavens, earth. Language of kings. Instead of building this world for one king and ruler, God is spreading his authority to humanity. For a nation of people who had once been slaves to a god, this is absolutely unheard of!
1:31 - God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good (completely and perfectly performing it's expected function), this is very Good, this is the peak of what the king approves of.
2:1-3 - Heavens and earth and universe is finished. God rested (ceased) from all his work.
1. Blessed the seventh day, made it holy.
2. Rested from all his work of creating
TAKEAWAY THIS MORNING
1. God is distinct from creation, and he is all-powerful. Creation depends on him for it's existence, and he is powerful enough to speak, to call for it, and the cosmos obey.
2. Humanity is created under this power God, but with dignity and purpose and value
1. Babylonian story of creation has humans created to perform work for the gods.
2. Evolution has humans as the outcome of a mindless biological processes
3. Biblical story is that humans are valuable in themselves, not just valuable in what they can contribute. Have dignity, value, purpose, created with authority and permission to act in creation continuing what God has begun. All of the gifts and abilities that God has given you, the opp;ortunities, are not just mindless chemical processes that make you prefer one thing over another, they are gifts that God has equipped you with so that you can impose your vision on the earth to continue the work that God has started!
4. that means every single one of us have incredible significance in the world! We all have a place! We belong here, with the responsibility to do something with the time, the abilities, and the opportunities that we've been given.
1. A step further, again mind-blowing for slaves; To prove they have value and they are not cogs in a machine, God institutes Sabbath rest - set aside for worship God as the author, not themselves as the author.
2. Your work has significance. What you do is participating with the Creator in building his creation! Furthering his work. Carrying on what he has begun!
3. Are we going to choose God's wisdom for living, or will we create our own? That's the question for The man and woman that God creates, and it's the question for you and I today. I'm not going to answer that question, or even give any "maybe you are" this or that by way of application. I want you to think through this today, and think about what it means for life if all of this is true.
Next week, we'll pick up at Chapter 2 to see even more about who this Elohim, the mighty one, is and learn that there's more to God than creating universes.