Creation’s crown – mankind

Christian psychologist James Michaelson once counseled a woman who felt lonely and abandoned. As she explained how she felt, he couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, because a Scripture kept running through his mind: “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3). This verse had no apparent connection with her problem, but he couldn’t quit thinking about it. After she finished talking, she sat in silence waiting for a response. Dr. Michaelson didn’t know what to say other than quote the verse, although he realized it might sound foolish since it seemed unrelated to her dilemma. “I think God wants you to know something,” Dr. Michaelson said. “‘It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.’ Does that mean anything to you?” The woman immediately broke down and cried.
After composing herself, she explained what it meant. “I didn’t tell you this, but my mother got pregnant with me before she was married. All my life I believed that I was a mistake—an unplanned accident—and that God didn’t create me. When you quoted that verse, I pictured in my mind God forming me in my mother’s womb. Now I know that God created me and that I’m not a mistake. I’ll never be the same again! Thank you, Dr. Michaelson. I’ll never forget this day as long as I live!” God knew this woman needed to know she was His marvelous creation and not an accident. Her perspective changed dramatically once she understood that God had crafted her in the womb (see Ps 139:13-16).

Many of us haven’t fully grasped the significance of God’s creative work. We may understand certain truths at an intellectual level, but they have not been fully assimilated into our hearts and lives. That’s why, throughout the Bible, God deliberately answers the questions of life like, “Where did we come from?” “Where are we going?” “How will we get there?” God wants us to know who we are and who He wants us to become. If we heed the wisdom and example found in Genesis 1:26-2:3 we will be confronted with two challenges that will enable us to rediscover these truths.

1. Keep up the image (1:26-31). In 1:1, Moses recorded the creation of the universe. In 1:2-25, he made quick work of 5½ days of God’s preparation of the land. But now on the sixth day the narrative slows down and the story becomes unhurried and gives greater detail. In 1:26, Moses writes, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” After creating the universe and putting everything in its proper place, God deliberates with the Godhead. The plural pronouns “Us” and “Our” are a reference to a plurality of God, hence a hint of the Trinity. God’s deliberation shows that He has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in His image and likeness. This phrase means several things; I will just share three.

First, to be created in God’s image means that a relationship of close fellowship can exist between God and man that is unlike the relationship of God with the rest of His creation. Our greatest claim to nobility is our created capacity to know God, to be in personal relationship with Him, to love Him, and to worship Him. Indeed, we are most truly human when we are in fellowship with our Creator. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, it could be that your relationship with God is unhealthy. Wholeness comes when we are in a love relationship with God.

Second, to be created in God’s image means that we reflect God in our personality and communication. This is why we have value, dignity, and worth. I will venture to say that we who name the name of Christ are going to have to stand up and be counted in the days to come. Abortion, euthanasia, and bioethics, to name just a few, are going to demand ethical and moral standards. The bedrock principle upon which such decisions must be made is the fact that all men are created in God’s image. In this light, I can now see why our Lord could sum up the whole of the Old Testament in two commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40).

The attitude of the future seems to be to love only those “neighbors” who are the contributors to society, only those who may be considered assets. How different is the value system of our Lord, who said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt 25:40). In my estimation, here is where we Christians are going to be put to the test. Some are strongly suggesting that those who our Lord called “the least” are precisely those who should be eliminated from society. May God help us to see that man’s dignity is that which is divinely determined.

Third, to be created in God’s image and likeness means we need to be in community with others. The Bible is all about community: from the Garden of Eden to the City at the end. One of the greatest fallacies of individualistic Western Christianity is that a person can be just as faithful to God by himself as he can in connection with a body of believers. Phooey! Jesus did not say, by this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you pray and read your Bible every day by yourself. While these are disciplines not to be neglected, He said, “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Verse 26 further explains because human beings are created in God’s image they are His representatives on earth and should “rule” over all the earth” (cf. Ps 8:4-8). Rule implies lordship but not exploitation. Man, as God’s representative, must rule His subjects, as God does, for their own good. While legitimizing human use of the world’s resources, God gives no license for our abuse of His creation. As the divine image bearer, man is to subdue and rule over the remainder of God’s created order. This is not a license to rape and destroy everything in the environment. Even here he who would be lord of all must be servant of all.

As God prepares to make mankind, he declares he will make creatures like himself and give them rule over his creation (v. 26). He then executes his plan: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (v. 27). The text does not define the image of God in mankind, but it does offer several hints.
Adam and Eve are God’s image. God created them holy (Eph. 4:24) and with the ability to obey him in knowledge (Col. 3:9–10), to use language, and to be creative. Bearing God’s image means possessing personhood, which involves unique souls and relationships with God and others. Moses hints at this by showing that two genders were a part of God’s plan from the beginning (Gen. 1:27). God gives significance to both men and women by creating them in his image, and both image him in his world.
Image-bearing also includes fulfilling the roles God assigns. Adam and Eve are to represent God by exercising dominion over his creation (vv. 26, 28). In addition, because Adam and Eve are the first parents of all humans, only one race of image-bearers exists, as Paul underscores: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Consequently, mankind’s various ethnic groups come from one family, ruling out any racism.
Theology for Life—May God help us to treat people of both genders and all races with the respect and dignity that accords with their creation in God’s image.

Verse 27 is the first poem in the Bible. The shift to poetry highlights God’s creation of humanity as God’s image bearers. Moses writes, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Lest we should miss the point, the word “created” is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman. God wants us to understand He created us; we were not the result of random chance.

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson marvels at what makes up human life: No one really knows, but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids…in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. [For example, to make collagen,] you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. The chances of a 1,055-sequence molecule like collagen spontaneously self-assembling are, frankly, nil. It just isn’t going to happen. To grasp what a long shot its existence is, visualize a standard Las Vegas slot machine but broadened greatly—to about ninety feet, to be precise—to accommodate 1,055 spinning wheels instead of the usual three or four, and with twenty symbols on each wheel (one for each common amino acid). How long would you have to pull the handle before all 1,055 symbols came up in the right order? Effectively forever. Even if you reduced the number of spinning wheels to two hundred, which is actually a more typical number of amino acids for a protein, the odds against all two hundred coming up in a prescribed sequence are 1 in 10260 (that is 1 followed by 260 zeros). That in itself is a larger number than all the atoms in the universe, yet we are talking about several hundred thousand types of protein, perhaps a million, each unique and each, as far as we know, vital to the maintenance of a sound and happy you. God has created you creatively and perfectly.

Have you ever noticed the pockmarks, or dimples, covering the surface of a golf ball? They make the ball look imperfect. So, what’s their purpose? An aeronautical engineer who designs golf balls says that a perfectly smooth ball would travel only 130 yards off the tee. But the same ball with the right kind of dimples will fly twice that far. These apparent “flaws” minimize the ball’s air resistance and allow it to travel much further.
Most of us can quickly name the physical characteristics we wish we had been born without. It’s difficult to imagine that these “imperfections” are there for a purpose and are part of God’s master design. Yet, when the psalmist wrote of God’s creative marvel in the womb, he said to the Lord, “You formed my inward parts (Ps 139:13) and “Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (139:16, ESV). Then he said, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14, ESV). If we could accept our bodily “imperfections” as part of God’s master plan for us, what a difference it would make in our outlook on life. The “dimples” we dislike may enable us to bring the greatest glory to our wise and loving Creator, who knows how to get the best out of our lives.

Carre Otis was among the world’s top super models for 17 years, beginning her career at the age of 14. To prepare for each photo shoot, she routinely binged and purged, took laxatives and diet pills, and exercised intensely. Being extremely thin made possible a modeling career that earned her $20,000 a day. Cocaine helped her to diet, and she used heroine later on in her career. She married actor Mickey Rourke, but they soon divorced. This destructive lifestyle led to a mental and emotional breakdown.
After treatment at a mental institution, she emerged committed to changing her life. She began eating normally and abstaining from all drugs and alcohol. She gained 30 pounds, went from a size 2 to a size 12, and is now successful as a “plus size” model. Several years ago, on her 32ndbirthday, a friend invited her on a humanitarian mission to distribute clothes and toys to kids living in orphanages in Nepal. For the first time she saw what starvation really was. Looking back on her experience, she explained to reporter Cynthia McFadden: “It wasn’t about somebody being concerned that they were going to fit into a size, and that’s why they weren’t eating. It was because there wasn’t food to be had. There was no money to get food…I thought, you know what? This is how the rest of the world lives. If somebody asked me, ‘When did you feel the most beautiful?’ I would say when I was traveling through the Himalayas in dirty clothes, dirty hair, hadn’t had a shower in a week, and was giving kids clothes. That’s when I felt like the most beautiful woman, and the woman I’ve always aspired to be.”

God has a great love for us. He wants us to know and experience this. The primary reason we don’t is we are unsatisfied with who we are and as a result we attempt to earn other people’s approval for how we look, what we do, or what we will become. Yet, the Lord wants you and me to know that He loves us and He has created us special.
After creating man, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (1:28). The importance of this blessing cannot be overlooked. Throughout the remainder of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch, the “blessing” remains a central theme. According to the creation account, the chief purpose of God in creating man is to bless him.

“Blessing” denotes all that fosters human fertility and assists in achieving dominion. Interpreters have generally recognized the commands to “be fruitful and multiply” as commands to Adam and Eve (and later to Noah, 9:1) as the heads of the human race, not simply as individuals. That is, God has not charged every human being with begetting children. This seems clear from the fact that God has made many men and women incapable of reproducing. Consequently, one should not appeal to this command as a support for the theory that God wants all people to bear as many children as they possibly can. This verse is a “cultural mandate,” not an individual mandate.

I would also add that the blessing here must be understood as a privilege rather than an obligation. This means that those countries that regulate the number of children a couple may have cannot be accused of countermanding biblical dictates. Likewise, those couples who choose not to have children are not in violation of this Scripture.

With that said, it is important for us to recognize that children are a blessing not a burden. The psalmist says it well, “Children are a gift of the Lord” (Ps 127:3). So, being parents of children (even many children) is a joy that one will not regret.

Moses states that Adam is supposed to subdue the earth. The word translated “subdue”(kabash) means “bring under bondage.” The word doesn’t mean “destroy” or “ruin.” It means “act as managers who have the authority to run everything as God planned.” The concepts of “subdue” and “rule” remind us that we are responsible to care for creation.

In 1:29-30, Moses records, “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so.” God provided food for mankind in the form of seed-bearing plants and fruit trees (1:29). According to 1:29-30, both people and animals were apparently vegetarian before the flood. It was not until after the fall, and perhaps after the flood, that meat was given as food for man (cf. 9:3-4). Genesis, however, is not primarily interested in whether people were originally vegetarian but in the fact that God provided them with food.

Chapter 1 closes with these words: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (1:31). The definite article (“the”) is used only with the sixth and seventh day, perhaps to signify the climax of the narrative on these two important days. God evaluates only this day’s work as “very good.” These two facts indicate the climactic nature of the sixth day.
[We are responsible to God to keep up the image but we are also responsible to…]
2. Take a break (2:1-3). Moses writes, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” It is likely that the author intended the reader to understand the account of the seventh day in light of the “image of God” theme of the sixth day. If the purpose of pointing to the “likeness” between man and his Creator was to call on the reader to be more like God (e.g., Lev 11:45), then it is significant that the account of the seventh day stresses the very thing that the writer elsewhere so ardently calls on the reader to do: “rest” on the seventh day (cf. Exod 20:8-11).

The author sets the seventh day apart from the first six not only by stating specifically that God “sanctified” it. We’ve all heard the song “Oh Holy Night.” Well, this is “Oh holy, day”! On this day God did not “speak” nor did He “work,” as He had on the previous days. God “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day, but He did not “work” on that day. This theme is repeated three times in these three verses. The author is making the emphatic point that since we have been made in the “image of God,” we must also prioritize the rest of God. We are expected to copy our Creator. Indeed, the context implies that a weekly day of rest is as necessary for human survival as sex (1:27-28) or food (1:29). This is an emphasis that seems to have been forgotten today, even amongst Christians.

We function at peak performance when we take one day off a week to rest and replenish. If we violate this design, we are abusing our bodies and soul, and little by little we diminish our effectiveness. So important was this principle for living that God modeled it Himself by taking the seventh day for rest. Did God do this because He was tired? Does divinity perspire? I don’t think so. God did not come to nightfall on the sixth day and say, “Thank Me it’s Friday.”

God is reinforcing a pattern that is essential for healthy, productive living. He is suggesting that it’s an act of God to take a day off. We must not attempt to be more spiritual than God. If He chose to take a day off, so should we.
But if you’re like me, this will be very difficult for you. As I was wrestling with this concept this week, I began to think about my financial giving. Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve sought to honor the Lord with whatever money He has blessed me. I’ve never thought about holding back a portion of my income from the Lord. One of the reasons being, I am absolutely convinced that I can’t out give God. I believe that He will supply all of my needs as I honor Him in my giving. What quickly dawned on me is, I don’t really believe that if I take a day off a week that God will meet all of my needs (Phil 4:19). It seems to me that there is just too much to accomplish. If I take a day off for the purpose of rest and worship, I will never catch up. Things won’t get done. I won’t be as productive as I could be. This kind of thinking lacks faith and dishonors God. I must come to the place where I become convinced that God will multiply my time as He does my finances.

So when should we take our day of rest? For years folks have quibbled over what day we should take off. In America, we have a two-day weekend because we couldn’t agree on the Jewish or Christian Sabbath. Yet, the biblical model is to work six days a week and take one day off. What day should you take off? In Romans 14:5-6a, Paul makes it clear that your day off can be any day that works for you. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” So take whatever day you want to take off and do whatever is restful or worshipful for you. If you enjoy gardening, celebrate your Creator God. If you like to exercise, work out to the glory of God. Just ensure you take some time off during the hectic workweek. The truth is: You and I will remember the sacred moments over the productive. Activities like playing with your kids, reading as a family, watching a family movie, talking with your spouse, and taking a drive will stand the test of time.

I know this admonition is especially difficult for the self-employed or stay-at-home moms. You are always burning the candle at both ends. There are always things to do that are often out of your control. You may not always be able to carve out an entire day of rest. That is why you must recognize that rest is not just in a day; rest is in a Person. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).

A minister was concerned when two of his three sons began to stutter. He made an appointment for them to see a speech therapist (who was also a psychologist), and later had an appointment himself. “That psychologist literally cursed me,” the minister said. “He told me I was responsible for that speech defect, and that I was ruining my boys’ lives. ‘When did you last take your family on a vacation?’ he asked me. “Well, it had been a long, long time. I was too busy to take time with my family. I remember I used to say that the Devil never takes a vacation, so why should I? And I never stopped to think that the Devil wasn’t to be my example.”

Advertisements

The “glory days”

3. “The Glory Days” (Genesis 1:1-25)
Do you remember the movie Back to the Future? In the movie an old professor designed a car that could be set for a certain date. By driving at a certain speed the professor could break the time barrier and arrive at that date. Although the driver of the car could be living in 1997, he could set the date for 1950 or 2020, drive the right speed, and arrive at that date. The idea was that 1950 or 2020 or 1997 or any date all occurred simultaneously if the time barrier were broken. But God has not just broken the time barrier; He lives without one because He is eternal. He is also outside of space and time. Admittedly, it is mind-bogglingly difficult to understand a God like this.

As we continue our study through the creation account, it is important to recognize the truth of God’s words expressed in Isaiah 55:8-9: ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” Unless we can first agree with the above assessment, we will struggle through the first two chapters of Genesis. Yet, this is not God’s intent. Rather, we are to pursue the God of creation as He reveals Himself in Genesis.

As we enter back into the fray of Genesis 1, we need to remember a few important truths. (1) Genesis doesn’t tell us everything we want to know; it tells us everything we need to know. Moses, the author of Genesis, selectively chooses what we need to know about who God is and what He has done. We will try to answer questions that are of particular interest to the author. (2) The book of Genesis is a part of the Pentateuch, which means one book in five parts. The Pentateuch encompasses Genesis-Deuteronomy. All five books nicely fit together as a single book. The wise reader will look for similar and dissimilar threads woven throughout the book. (3) The book of Genesis is 3,500 years old. This means it has been working effectively to change people’s lives for a long time. It continues to change lives today.

Before we look at 1:3-25, it is worth summarizing 1:1-2. I understand Genesis 1:1 to teach that God created the entire universe during a period of time referred to as “in the beginning.” Genesis 1:1 tells us, in very clear and straightforward terms, that time and history had a beginning. At some point in the past, God created creation. God made creation for our good and for His glory. This creation reaches its conclusion in Revelation 21:1, with a new earth (cf. Isa 65:17). Genesis 1:2 then narrows the scope from the universe to the earth or more specifically the land of Eden. Verse 2 tells us that the land was uninhabitable for mankind. While God could have instantaneously created the land as it is, for whatever reason, He did not choose to do so. Now in 1:3-25, we will discover how God prepared the land for the first man and woman (see Isaiah 45:18).

If you’re wondering how I made the jump from the “earth” to the “land,” let me explain. We must be careful not to fill up ancient words with modern meanings. When we hear the word “earth” in our scientific age, we generally think of the big jewel we are on which orbits around the sun. But the term did not generally suggest such a meaning to those in the pre-space-age time when Genesis was written, for they did not generally know of the “global” dimensions of the planet. Thus, the term “earth,” (eretz) in Genesis, does not usually refer to the entire planet, but to a specific section of land.

It is also worth noting that Genesis 2 shows that the focus of Genesis 1 is “the land.” It was a common literary strategy of the Hebrews to give a general description of an event followed by a more specific account of that same event. In this case, Genesis 1 gives a general overview of God’s work, and Genesis 2 gives a more specific look at that same work. This seems evident even from a quick reading of the chapters. So it seems that both chapters are about the same events viewed from different perspectives. Since the setting of chapter two is clearly a localized section of land, and not the entire planet, it follows that the six days of chapter one concern a localized segment of land and not the entire planet or universe.

Before closely examining this passage, it is worth seeing the forest from the trees. Therefore, let me suggest three elements that stand out. First, the single most obvious point of Genesis 1is that God is the subject of all these verses. Everything else is an object. Objects are acted upon. Light, air, water, dry land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, and land animals—all are objects in a creative process where God alone is subject. In these verses we are told that God “saw” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), “separated” (1:4, 7), “called” (1:5, 8, 10), “made” (1:7, 16, 25), “placed” (1:17), “created” (1:21, 27), and explained to the man and woman what He had done (1:28-30). Moreover, before that, God spoke (1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20), as a result of which everything else unfolded.

Second, note the two adjectives in 1:2, “formless” and “void.” The six days are divided into two triads, one referring to the first adjective, how the earth received its form, and the other to the second, how the fullness came to be. So days 1-3 remedy the situation of “formlessness,” and days 4-6 deal with the state of “void.”

Mark the symmetry here with each part commencing with light.
Summary: In three days God made the uninhabitable land productive, and in three more days He filled the uninhabited land with life.
Third, Moses’ description of the six creative days follows a particular pattern as this chart indicates.
Now that we have set the overarching context and clues, we are ready to contemplate the six days of preparation. First, “God said, ‘Let there be…and it was so.’” God does not “make” on every day, but He does “speak” on every day. Ten times God speaks! When I speak it is not nearly as effective. When I say it’s time for bed that is not always translated into my children all tucked in quietly. When I’m driving a bucket of golf balls and say this drive is going 200 yards, it doesn’t always wind up there. But when God spoke, things happened. This has always been the case down throughout history, which is really His-story. This is a powerful reminder that everything that God says can be trusted, including John 6:47.
Second, “God saw that it was good.” Everything that God made that was beneficial for humans, He called “good.” God loved His work.
Third, “God called.” God named the things He created. The act of giving a name meant the exercise of a sovereign right (cf. 41:45; 2 Kgs 24:17; Dan 1:17).
Lastly, “There was evening and there was morning, ___ day.” It is possible that the order of evening-morning in “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day” (cf. Gen 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31) reflects the Hebrew concept of the day beginning with sunset and ending with the following sunset. Regardless, this informs us that He prepared and ordered the land of Eden over a six-day period.
Day 1 (1:3-5): “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

Since the sun, moon, and stars were included in the phrase “heavens and the earth” (1:1), 1:3 describes the appearance of the sun through the darkness. The division between “the day” and “the night” leaves little room for an interpretation of the “light” in 1:3 as other than that of the sun. God brought forth the sun, moon, and stars on the first day and assigned them their specific functions on the fourth day (cf. 1:14-18). God began His work on Sunday with a sunrise, the same day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. God loved you so much that He prepared a place for you.

Day 2 (1:6-8): “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” God’s work involves making divisions and distinctions. God showed His power again by putting limits on the waters of the earth (cf. Job 38:8-11). The “expanse” is a reference to the sky (cf. 1:8; 7:11-12; 2 Kgs 7:2; Ps 104:3; 148:4-6; Prov 8:28). The water above is a reference to clouds; the water below is a reference to the water of the earth. Moses states that God “made this.” The word “make” (asa, 1:7) is not the same word as “create” (bara). Two examples should suffice. Last week, Lori made whole wheat muffins. She created (bara) these muffins. But they were not suitable for her family. So she prepared (asa) the muffins by spreading butter and strawberry jam on them. Another example: Lori and I had the house we live in built (bara). But before we moved in, we furnished it (asa) so that it would be habitable. On a humorous note, it is worth noting that nothing is called “good” on Monday. Nothing was made for human life on that day.

Day 3 (1:9-13): “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” On the third day we see God carrying out two distinct acts: He prepares “the land and the seas,” and He furnishes the land with fruit trees. Unlike the work of the second day, both acts are called “good.” They are “good” because both were accomplished for mankind’s benefit. Both acts were related to the preparation of the Promised Land. In a second work of separation, land is separated from seas, just as in 1:6 waters were separated from waters. Vegetation is created immediately—“Let the land produce vegetation.” The productive power of the earth is a God-given gift. God controls the boundaries of the seas. Even more important for mankind was the provision, on the third day, of dry land, on which he could live, and plants to sustain life (cf. 1:29–30). The distinct varieties of plants (1:11–12) bear witness to God’s organizing power.

Day 4 (1:14-19): “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” On the fourth day the lights that God had created were given a purpose, namely, “to separate the day from the night” and “to mark seasons and days and years.” These heavenly bodies were to serve as signs for seasons and days and years (1:14). How did we have days without the sun? How do you have animals and plants living without sunlight? God is explaining His creation in these verses. Don’t worship these things; I’ve made them! Worship Me!
Pagan contemporaries of Genesis regarded these bodies as gods in their own right. To avoid any suspicion that the sun and moon were anything but created by God, Genesis calls them just lights. They were appointed to regulate the fundamental rhythms of human life by defining day and night and the seasons of the year. In astrology people use stars and planets for guidance, but the Bible says they merely display the handiwork of God (Ps 19:1). What folly to follow astrological charts of the Babylonians or worship the sun god in Egypt; rather, one should trust the One who made these objects in the heavens. However, many humans repeatedly reject the Creator to worship the creation (Rom 1:25). G.K. Chesterton said, “It is most often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything.”

The Bible also indicates several symbolic purposes for the creation of the celestial bodies.
(1) To demonstrate God’s faithfulness. God’s promises for the survival and future glory of the nation of Israel are based upon the faithful witness in the sky (Ps 89:33-37; Jer 31:35-36).

(2) To demonstrate God’s power. God sustains the stars, calls them all by name, and has created them all (Ps 8:3-4; 147:4-5; Isa 40:25-26).

(3) To demonstrate God’s coming judgment. The prophet Joel spoke of a day when there would be signs in the heavens (Joel 2:30-31). The sun would be turned into darkness and the moon into blood “before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” The Gospels also speak of a coming day of judgment when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt 24:29; cf. Luke 21:25-28). These unusual events in the sun, moon, and stars point to God’s coming judgment.

(4) To demonstrate God’s purpose. Verse 14 speaks of the sun, moon, and stars being designed by God “for seasons.” The Hebrew word is used over 200 times in the Bible, and over half of these usages occur in the context of a gathering for worship. The word “seasons” points to celebration, feasts, and worship. In fact, the religious calendar of the Jewish people is based upon the visual changes of the moon. The seasons in 1:14 are designed to fulfill God’s purpose for His people; He wants us to worship Him.
Day 5 (1:20-23): “Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’ God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” On the fifth day God populated the land with many kinds of living creatures (birds and fish). The word “created” (bara) is used to draw our attention back to 1:1. This serves to remind us that “in the beginning” God had created these creatures with which He is now populating the land.

Each new step in the account is marked by the use of bara: the universe (1:1), the living creatures (1:21), and man (1:26). The primary interest of the author is to show the creation of all living creatures in three distinct groups: on the fifth day, sea creatures and sky creatures, and on the sixth day, land creatures. This is the first time God “blesses” in the Bible. The word is used over 80 times in Genesis where it usually speaks of fertility. The earth is alive. He is a great God that blesses. God brought up out of the water the Promised Land (the Middle East). God is preparing the land as a gift for people.

Day 6 (1:24-25): “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” The “living creatures” are divided into three groups: “cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth.” God brings forth these creatures for man’s benefit.

First, we should be thankful for God’s creation. Most Christians express gratitude for God’s gift of salvation—and rightly so. But throughout the Scriptures there is a greater emphasis on expressing gratitude and worship for God’s creation. A great example of this is found in Revelation 4: God is to be praised just for being (4:8). Then He is to be praised for being the Creator (4:11). Before we can praise God for being our Savior, we must recognize that He is, first and foremost, our great Creator God. This causes us to see how big God really is.

Second, we should delight in God’s creation. God calls His creation good. There is beauty in creation. God is a great artist. God Himself enjoys the goodness of His creation (Ps 104; Prov 3:19; 8:22). If pagans worship nature in idolatry, we should worship God for it. God’s creation is amazingly diverse and is completely overwhelming to man. Why? Only a tiny fraction of all the species on earth (animals, plants, insects) have been discovered and named. Biologists have cataloged a total of between 1.5 million and 1.8 million species. Estimates of the true number of living species range, according to the method employed, from 3.6 million to more than 100 million. What is more astonishing is that scientists estimate that more than 95 percent of all the species that have ever existed are extinct! Two amazing examples of God’s infinite creativity: In one 2.5-acre area of Brazil’s rain forest, there are 425 kinds of trees. In one small corner of Peru’s Manu National Park, there are 1,300 butterfly species. We should delight in this. We should be awed by God’s beauty as revealed in creation.

Finally, we should demonstrate a responsibility toward creation. The world is becoming dirty and ugly. The air is being turned into smog. The rivers are polluted. Toxic chemicals fill the soil. The oceans have become garbage dumps, trash is piling up on the edges of our cities, and oil spills pollute our beaches. All the while many Christians laugh at environmentalists. We must change our actions and attitudes. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the time to spend upholding the environment. Can you encourage someone who is involved? Are there little things you can do like be informed? Can you do your part?

How can we boil down this beautiful section of Scripture? By worshipping the God of creation and preparation.

In the beginning – God, the creative genius

The purpose of our journey through Genesis is to acquaint ourselves with the roots of our faith, giving us a solid base on which interact with God. Perhaps it has been awhile since you frequented the pages of the first book of the Bible. Here is a simple test to see if you need to familiarize yourself with the truths of Genesis. I want to share with you the “Top Ten Ways to Know You Need to Study Genesis”:
1. Your pastor announces a new sermon series from Genesis and you check the Table of Contents to see if it’s in your Bible.
2. You think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a few hits during the sixties.
3. You open to Genesis and a WWII War Bond falls out.
4. Your favorite Old Testament patriarch is Hercules.
5. A small family of woodchucks has taken up residence in the Book.
6. You become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn’t listed in your Bible’s concordance.
7. You catch your kids looking at pictures in their Bibles of the garden of Eden and you demand, “Who gave you this trash?”
8. You think the Tower of Babel is in Paris, France.
9. You keep falling for it every time your pastor says, “Please turn to the book of Melchizedek, ch. 14.”
10. The kids are asking you too many questions about your unusual bedtime Bible story: “Noah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors.”
I want to begin our much-needed study of the book of Genesis by summarizing the book and noting some unique and interesting facts about the book itself. Moses wrote the book of Genesis. Chronologically speaking, it is interesting to note that the first three chapters of Genesis cover over a third of the Bible’s history! God has packed a lot of time into three chapters of the Bible. Genesis can be easily divided into two main sections. The first section, chapters 1-11, has to do with the physical universe and with creation, but in the last part, chapters 12-50, God begins to personally deal with man and with His chosen people. God was more interested in Abraham than He was in the entire created universe. What that tells me is that God is more interested in you and attaches more value to you than He does to the entire physical universe. God emphasizes the value of His human creation over the physical universe throughout the book of Genesis.
Let me illustrate this further by way of the four Gospels in the New Testament. Of the 89 chapters that are in the four Gospel accounts, only four chapters cover the first 30 years of Jesus’ life while 85 chapters cover the last three years of His life. (Twenty-seven of those chapters cover the final eight days of His life.) Where does that indicate that the Spirit of God is placing the emphasis? I am sure you will agree that the emphasis is on the last part, the last eight days covered by the 27 chapters. And what is that last part all about? It’s about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:1-19). That is the most important part of the Gospel record. God has given the Gospels that you might believe that Christ died for your sins and that He was raised from the dead to give you eternal life (John 20:30-31). That is essential. That is the all-important truth that God wants to emphasize. In the same way, the all-important truth of Genesis is that the God of the universe loves and values you more than anything else.

On Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white earth, garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Those sophisticated men, trained in science and technology, did not utter Einstein’s name. They did not even go to the poets, the lyricists, or the dramatists. Only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent observation. Billions heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it: “In the beginning God”—the only concept worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe, unutterable in any other way. “In the beginning God created”—the invasive, the inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal.

There is no other way to approach the book of Genesis but to recognize that our God is awesome. Carefully read these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). There are two purposes in this opening statement: (1) to identify God as the Creator and (2) to explain the origin of the world. The origin does not imply that absolutely nothing existed or had happened before this. The separate creation of angels and other heavenly beings is already assumed (see 1:26).

The first three words in our English Bible (“In the beginning”) translate a single Hebrew word bereshit. This word does not necessarily connote a brief period of time. This means the Bible never intended for us to pinpoint the age of the universe. We cannot say for certain when God created the universe or how long He took to create it. He may have taken billions of years or He may have taken six 24-hour days. The biblical text does not satisfy our raging curiosity. It simply says, “In the beginning God…”

This is an important acknowledgement. The debate of the age of the earth has brought disunity into the Christian community. Those that hold to a young earth criticize old earth Christians. Those that hold to an old earth criticize young earth Christians as having little upstairs. Yet, when all of the crossfire concludes, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge that this is a non-essential issue. When we state or imply otherwise, we are grieving the Lord.
My friend believed that God created the universe but he believed the scientific evidence clearly points to an old earth. I agree with this assessment. So I began to explain to him that there are several views proposed by conservative, biblical scholars. Unfortunately, in his college and graduate training, he had been told that to be a Christian you had to subscribe to a literal 24-hour view of creation. I told him that nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that this is what typically happens. It is not. My point is this: The Christian community has been guilty of making the age of the universe a stickler issue. As a result, we turn many people off and we turn many people with a scientific background away from faith in Christ. We really have to pick and choose our battles as Christians. To be fair to the Bible, we have a responsibility to teach the clear tenets of Scripture (e.g., sin, hell, Christ as the only way to God). These are difficult enough; let’s not further complicate matters. The issue is not when the universe was created; the issue is who created the universe.
Fortunately, the Bible tells us. The next keyword is the word “God,” a rendering from the Hebrew word Elohim, which shows that the Creator is the beginning of all things. The word Elohim occurs 32 times in Genesis 1. The point that is being made is that God existed before all things. There is no attempt in Genesis to prove His existence, because His existence is assumed to be true. From a biblical perspective, only a fool says that there is no God (Ps 14:1). So, the Bible just begins talking about God.

It is worth noting that the word Elohim is a plural word. Even in the first sentence of the Bible, God lets us know that He is plural even as He is singular. Later, in 1:26, He shows this in the creation of man because He says, “Let us make man in Our own image” (emphasis added). But then in the very next verse He says, “God created man in His own image” (emphasis added). The text moves freely from singular to plural. Why? Because our God is made up of three Persons.

The Bible says that God “created.” The Bible only uses the word “create” with God as the subject. It never has any man or woman as a subject. It never says any person “created” anything. Nowadays we often speak of people being “creative.” It is all right to speak that way but we ought to notice that the Bible specially reserves the word “create” for things only God can do. This verse and many others clearly teach that God made all things out of nothing. An artist creates a picture, but he uses acrylics or oils. An engineer constructs a building, but it is made of glass, steel, or concrete. Just think of what that tells us about the power, wisdom, and glory of God. What an awesome creator God!

One day a scientist approached God and said, “God, we don’t need You anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. We can now do what You did in the beginning.” “Oh, is that so?” replies God. “Yes,” says the scientist, “We can take dirt and form it into a human likeness, and breathe life into it, thus, creating man.” “Well, that’s very interesting,” God said. “Show Me.” So the scientist reaches down, grabs a handful of dirt, and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man. “No, no,” interrupts God, “get your own dirt!”
God created the earth, the universe, and everything that exists. This fact is certain. Several years ago a scientist wrote an article entitled, Seven Reasons Why I Believe in God. He argued his case as follows:
1. Consider the rotation of the earth. Our globe spins on its axis at the rate of one thousand miles an hour. If it were just a hundred miles an hour, our days and nights would be ten times as long. The vegetation would freeze in the long night or it would burn in the long day; and there could be no life.
2. Consider the heat of the sun. Twelve thousand degrees at surface temperature, and we’re just far enough away to be blessed by that terrific heat. If the sun gave off half its radiation, we would freeze to death. If it gave off one half more, we would all be crispy critters.
3. Consider the twenty-three degree slant of the earth. If it were different than that, the vapors from the oceans would ice over the continents. There could be no life.
4. Consider the moon. If the moon were fifty thousand miles away rather than its present distance, twice each day giant tides would inundate every bit of land mass on this earth.
5. Consider the crust of the earth. Just a little bit thicker and there could be no life because there would be no oxygen.
6. Consider the thinness of the atmosphere. If our atmosphere was just a little thinner, the millions of meteors now burning themselves out in space would plummet this earth into oblivion.
7. Finally, the fact that man is capable of grasping the idea of the existence of God is in itself sufficient evidence.
He concluded by saying, “These are reasons why I believe in God.”

The last four words in this verse, “the heavens and the earth” describe the entire universe. The Hebrew language has no word for “universe,” so instead the author used the phrase “heavens and earth.” This figure of speech, called a merism, refers to EVERYTHING (the sun, moon, stars, plants, rocks, rivers, mountains, and everything else). God created absolutely everything!

Genesis 1:1 offers several repudiations of views opposing biblical faith. For example, it repudiates atheism, because Genesis assumes the existence of God. Furthermore, Genesis sets forth a personal God, as well as a universe that was created by God.
Second, Genesis repudiates agnosticism, because in reality God does reveal Himself, as well as what He has done.
Third, Genesis refutes pantheism, because God is transcendent to what He creates.
Fourth, Genesis repudiates polytheism, as the Scriptures make clear that only one God created all things.
Fifth, Genesis repudiates materialism, because there was a clear distinction between God and His material creation. Matter did have a beginning; matter is not eternal.
Sixth, Genesis repudiates naturalism. We know that nature, itself, has its own origins.
Seventh, Genesis repudiates dualism, as God was certainly alone when He created. Eighth, Genesis rejects humanism. It is God, and not man, who is the ultimate reality.
Ninth, Genesis repudiates evolutionism, because God did create all things.

Now back to our text. In 1:2, Moses writes, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” First, we must note that the word “earth” (eretz) can be translated either “earth” or “land.” In this context, the translation “land” is preferred. When we hear the word “earth” in our scientific age, we generally think of the big jewel we are on which orbits around the sun. But the term did not generally suggest such a meaning to those in the pre-space-age time when Genesis was written, for they did not generally know of the “global” dimensions of the planet. Thus, the term “earth,” (eretz) in Genesis, does not usually refer to the entire planet, but to a specific section of land.

Second, the phrase “formless and void” is a Hebrew figure of speech that uses two independent words connected by “and” to express a single concept. For example, “nice and warm” means “nicely warm.” The word “formless” means undeveloped, like a blank chalkboard. The word “void” means that the land had no people on it (cf. Isa 45:18). Thus, the phrase means the land was yet unfashioned and uninhabited. To summarize: 1:1 explains the origin of the universe and 1:2 pictures the land before God prepared it for human beings. Light is needful for man. Ground is needed instead of seas. There has to be a provision of rain. The sky has to come into being. Vegetation has to be created for people. The sun and the moon are for people to tell time. The animals are for humankind.

How did this shaping of creation for the human race take place? “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” God used the Holy Spirit to prepare the world for the human race. Since this is the first reference to the Holy Spirit in the Bible, it gives us an idea what He will always do. The Holy Spirit is the One that gives life, the One who gives form and direction to our lives.
It is interesting that salvation also follows a similar pattern to what we find here. When God first comes to us He finds our lives empty and without shape or purpose. Then He speaks into our lives. His Spirit moves upon us. This is what Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” God’s ways of working in creation and salvation are similar. Salvation is His restoration of creation, using a similar pattern. God comes to us in our emptiness. He finds our darkness, emptiness, and hopelessness. His creative Word brings life to us. Again, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17, ESV).

The implications of this are great. First, if God is the Creator of all things out of nothing, then He owns all things and all people absolutely (Ps 24:1; 89:11; 95:5). God owns all things absolutely. We may think of ourselves as owners only in relation to other people. That is, they have no right to take certain things from us without compensation. But in relation to God we own nothing, absolutely nothing, and He has every right to dispose of all our so-called possessions and us exactly as He pleases. This means that with regard to our possessions we are stewards or trustees of God’s estate, and with regard to ourselves we are slaves of the Almighty. It is very wrong to think that a tithe of our income belongs to God and 90% belongs to us. It is all God’s, absolutely, and we have no right to dispense it in any way but what pleases its Owner. The doctrine of creation implies that we should ask of every expenditure: Am I, by this purchase, achieving the purposes of my Creator?

Not only does God own our possessions, He also owns us absolutely. We are the clay and He is the potter, and He may do with us exactly as He pleases (Ps 29:16; 45:9). As Paul states in Romans 9:20-21: “The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay…?” The answer is, yes, the potter has absolute right over the clay. Take your spiritual temperature here. If this is sweet to you and you readily submit to God’s ownership, it is the mark of grace and maturity in your life. But if this is offensive to you and you resent the thought of God having an absolute right to do with you as He pleases, it is a mark of the flesh and of need for repentance.

A second implication of the doctrine of creation is that everything that exists has a purpose, a goal, and a reason for being. If God did not create the world then any man’s goal is as good as another. There are no absolutes and everything is aimless and absurd. The only meaning in life is what you arbitrarily create by doing your own thing. But if God did create the world then it has an absolute purpose and goal, for God is not whimsical or frivolous. Nor is His purpose ever in jeopardy for He says in Isaiah 46:10, “My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

The ultimate purpose of God in creation was and is to display His glory in all its fullness. According to Numbers 14:21, God’s intention to fill the earth with the glory of the Lord is as certain as His very existence. He says in Isaiah 43:7, “I created Israel for my glory.” And, in Ephesians 1:12, rebellious creatures are brought back to God for this purpose: “to live for the praise of His glory.” Since God created everything, He owns everything; everything we have and are belongs to God. Therefore we must ask of every expenditure and every act, “Does this achieve the purpose of my Owner?” And now we know what this purpose is and so we must ask, “Does this purchase or this act or this attitude display God’s glory?” Thus, the second implication of the doctrine of creation is that God has a purpose in creation, to display His glory, and therefore the purpose of all His creatures is to join Him in that aim. That’s why we exist.

A third implication of this doctrine that I want to mention is simply this: If we are creatures, we are totally and utterly dependent on our Creator for everything. We are weaker than the weakest baby apart from Him, because apart from Him we fly into nothingness. Every breath we take, every calorie of energy we expend, and every good intention we fulfill is a gift from our merciful Creator who owes us nothing. So the lesson is clear: You can’t glorify God as the all-sufficient Creator and Sustainer unless you turn and become like little children who gladly depend upon their Father for everything.

The final implication is that everything that exists must be under God’s control. The creation must be in subjection to the Creator. Forces of nature, enemies, creatures, and objects that became pagan deities—none of these would pose a threat to the servants of the living God. So what are you currently worried about? Are you worried you will become a financial burden to your children? Are you worried about pending surgery or poor health? Are you worried about the future of your children—their physical safety, financial security, and spiritual wellbeing? Are you worried about your career and if it will take you where you want to go? Are you worried that you may not be able to adapt to all the technological changes in our world today and thus be unable to cope in your business?