The Bible is a big book.
In fact to call the Bible a “book” is a little misleading, because it is actually a collection of books; an omnibus of spiritual writings collected over thousands of years.
It is a library of works.
With different authors, different genres, written at different times.
Because of the number and size and complexity of all these various books it can bee a little hard to put it all together.
After all, If you walk into a library and you look at a shelf of books, you wouldn’t expect them to all fit together.
Sure some of the books might be in a series together, but most of them written by different people at different times.
Each is an isolated work.
Yet for the Bible, even though there are many authors and different genres and different times, all of these works are tied together.
They are so connected it is as if they are one big book.
Some people have commented that the Bible is like the first hyperlinked book.
Long before the dawn of the internet where there was an interconnected web of individual websites, the Bible was an interconnected series of individual books that create a network of stories and themes and prophesies that refer back and forth across it’s pages.
It is a beautiful complex tapestry of individual threads, yet when you take a step back you start to see that the complexity is no mere accident; there are patterns that emerge out of the apparent chaos.
It is our habit here to walk through the scriptures week by week, looking at one piece of the Bible, and then the next week we look at the next bit.
Chapter by chapter, verse by verse.
We spent half of last year walking through Johns’s Gospel and we only got halfway.
We’ll finish it off this year!
We need to do this so that we can see the richness of each section, understating something of what each little bit means.
But for the next 6 weeks we are zooming out to take in the bigger picture.
Sometimes with the depth and richness of each little piece of the Bible we miss how the whole Bible fits together.
Some of us may have never truly appreciated the scope of the Bible; perhaps you just think of it as a series of moralistic stories and ancient poetry.
Perhaps you have a fairly good grasp on the content of the Bible, but you just need some help to see how the parts contribute to the whole.
I’m hoping that these few weeks looking at The Big Picture will leave you with the confidence to open up the Bible to hear God speak while being equipped to understand how what you’re reading fits into the overarching narrative of the Scriptures.
So where do we start?
In the Beginning, with the creation of the world.
We should start where the pages of the Bible start, in Genesis 1.
The first chapter.
But, because we’re looking at the Big Picture, before the morning is out we will have moved from the first chapter of the Bible, right through to the last two chapters of the Bible.
Come with me on this journey!
Where did everything come from?
This is a question that humanity has always asked.
How did everything get here?
How did the universe come to exist?
Many people have different ideas about how the world came to exist, and people have come up with many theories.
Old religions often had some story about primordial chaos or substance being ordered by proto-gods, and the new religion of Scientism has a theory about the world bursting into existence in a moment, bringing chaos that is eventually ordered by the passage of time.
As is often the case, there is a grain of truth in all the theories.
But here’s the thing - you weren’t there.
I wasn’t there at the beginning.
It is all speculation unless there was a witness to the creation of the world.
The Bible purports to give us the witness account of not only the observer of creation, but the creator himself!
He was there before the beginning, and he was the one who began everything.
This is the start.
God was there beforehand.
The question that comes up as we read is, is v1 a title or the first creative act?
Is v1 where God creates the world without form, and then the reminder where he orders it?
Or is v1 the summary or title of what takes place in Ch 1?
If so, where did the formless earth come from?
Most naturally it seems to be the first option - God created a formless world that he refined into the creation that we know - something that humanity itself would do - take raw materials and refine them into more and more complex and wonderful things.
The Spirit of God was there over the primordial chaos, ready to create, and then he began, but how?
That is how His creative acts are described.
As you move through the chapter you see it as a resounding refrain.
Created and ordered the world.
Everything that exists in all it’s wonder!
God also created a fruitful, growing world.
It was Good, good, very Good!
Created in the Image of God, dwelling with God.
Creation vs. Theories based on scientific inquiry
Shifting sand - science isn’t a belief system, it probes God’s creation to try and understand it and manipulate it, it is not lord over creation.
Theories are just that, theories.
Speculation based on the patterns observed.
One thing that has never been observed is evolution (despite it being nearly universally accepted).
God’s creatures are adaptable, and genetic traits can be reproduced (like in dog breeding), but there has never been a an organism that has changed species.
Everything produces after its own kind.
But notably, the current scientific theories about the cosmos springing into existence in a moment, a big bang, sounds remarkably like a God who called everything into being.
Ours is not the God of the gaps, he is the God of natural processes and supernatural.
Some non-negotiables for Christians when considering how scientific discoveries help us understand God’s creation
God made the World himself
There were real Adam & Eve
The effects of the curse including human death & suffering cannot come before the fall.
Also - Cosmology vs Creation (heart vs. heart, heavens vs. heavens)
So God was there, from before time.
And he made everything that exists.
And he made it very good.
Creation was Corrupted
Why is there evil and suffering in the world?
God made agents in His own image, he gave them a mission, he gave them freedom and he gave them laws.
They were the crowning jewel of creation - Adam & Eve were the regents of creation.
God was still in charge, but he delegated authority.
They rebelled against God, and plunged creation into corruption.
Sin was introduced, death was the result.
God cursed creation, a judgment on humanity.
A portion of which is:
Creation would be cursed and corrupted from this time on.
We experience this now!
Another fall - Sons of God rebel
It seems that God “has a go” at wiping the slate clean with the great flood, but we see straight afterward the rebellion continues, first with family dysfunction and then the Babel incident.
Each time God acts to break up their rebellion, but each of these falls has a reciprocating effect across the creation.
It seemed that the healing and restoration of creation was a lost cause - so God focused on restoring one nation, trying to dwell with them and cleanse them.
Yet they continually failed, and their Utopian country - free from sin and rebellion and corruption never materialized.
Yet, across the pages of the prophets there was hope and promises that God could and would bring restoration to His creation, with humanity restored as it’s crowning jewel.
God Entered Creation
Why did God need to enter His own Creation?
God did this by entering his own creation.
The corruption had spread so far and wide that he needed to step in.
This is what we find explained in John 1.
The word of God, the one through whom God created the world, God himself, had to come into creation to set things right.