The Beginning

Genesis: In the Beginning  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

The Bible often tells us more than we realize.

Title: The Beginning
Text: Genesis 1:1-2
Proposition: The Bible often tells us more than we realize
Purpose: Recognize that God wants us to know him.
Congregation: Grass Valley Corps
Date: 2021-07-18
Grace and peace
If you check, you’ll find that Proverbs 31:7 says to always look up anything someone claims is in the Bible. Let me just quote it.
“Proverbs 31:7. Always look up anything someone claims is in the Bible.”
That is a powerful piece of wisdom. And if you haven’t grasped how important it is to keep a Bible handy so you can look things up for yourself, let me point out that the book of Proverbs has only 30 chapters. That line about looking things up comes from the Book of Roger.
Trust is a wonderful thing, and as a pastor and teacher I certainly hope to earn yours, but I still want you to check me. I have been known to say controversial things from time to time and sometimes – not often, but sometimes – I hold to less popular interpretations of some Biblical passages or ideas.
I am making three promises though!
First, I am a VERY careful researcher. I do not usually say anything without specific reasoning and scholarly backup for my position.
Second, when my position is a minority view or a popularly debated view, I will do my best to present and support other views along with my own so you can make up your own mind.
That brings us to the third promise: It’s okay to disagree with me. Reasonable people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. I won’t hate you, reject you, or even unfriend you on Facebook.
-Reference to text
With all that said, grab your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Genesis, where we’re going to start today.
I love teaching from Genesis! It’s the very first book in the Bible, so when I ask people to turn to it, almost everyone can find it right away. If I say to flip to the book of Nahum, half the people aren’t even sure that’s a real book in the Bible.
It is. It’s just a lot harder to find than Genesis.
Another reason I love Genesis is because everything is in there. Everything that comes after Genesis kind of leans back on it like supporting beams press back into their foundation. It is the platform for both the theology and the story of all the scripture that comes after it.
The stories in Genesis weren’t written down until at least the days of Moses. Church tradition says that God inspired Moses to collect them together in writing during the Exodus, which happened to coincide with the earliest days of the written word. Before then this history of God’s interaction with man and man’s interaction with God was part of a shared oral tradition where stories would be told the same way from generation to generation with special care being paid so that not even a single word would be changed.
It is these stories in particular, the stories of the creation and the relationship between humankind and their Creator, which contain the seeds of the larger story God tells with the scriptures as we have them today.
And just as seeds contain so much more than small, dried pebbles of plant matter, so the Bible often tells us more than we realize.
-Transition Sentence
Today we’re digging for some of that deeper meaning which will sprout into bushels of understanding for us as we go on into the rest of scripture.
Now, just to give you fair warning, I am the victim or the beneficiary of multiple seminary experiences and degrees! And sometimes, in spite of my best efforts to keep that in check, some of the hard edges of that training stick out. For example, I’ve written a full manuscript for today’s message. I usually do that, because when I don’t I am often overcome with the need to share all I know about whatever we’re talking about. Remember what I said about being a researcher? I usually know enough about anything I’m teaching to bore even myself. So if I get off my notes too much, I am guaranteed to overshare, for which I apologize in advance!
Additionally, today, I have written a traditional expository sermon, which means I have carefully alliterated three points for us out of the passage we are looking at today.
Being “alliterated” means that all three points have a similarity in sound, the intention being to create associations in your brain to help you remember what the message was about for longer than an hour. That’s the limit for most of us with sermons – by the time we’ve had lunch whatever the preacher had to say is gone. But maybe you’ll remember some piece of clever alliteration.
Sadly, my alliteration isn’t particularly clever. We’re going to learn about gods, gaps, and gunk.
-Main Point #1: Gods: Who Created the Universe?
-Reference to point
If I were to say to you that gods created the universe, you’d brand me as a heretic. Yet, if we literally translated the first verse of the Bible into exact word-for-word English, that’s what it would say. That would give you the wrong impression of what it means, but it certainly gives us something we need to look at right away if we are to understand just who created the universe.
-Reference to verse(s)
By now I’m sure you’ve all found your way to Genesis 1. Let’s read the first verse.
Genesis 1:1 (NLT)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[1]
I don’t think I’m going to shock anyone by telling you that the book of Genesis is written entirely in Hebrew, and not at all in English. Fortunately for most of us, there are a lot of hard-working men and women who know both languages and who have tried to make it possible for us to read God’s Word in our own. Sometimes, though, we may lose a little understanding because English doesn’t capture the full meaning of the original language.
One example I use to explain this is the word “love”.
I love ice cream. I also love my wife. Even though the word is the same, there is a whole different meaning between the ways I love my wife and how I love ice cream! Because we know English, we can make the distinction, but if you translate the word into another language, it has its own meaning there – which may not give the same picture.
-word study
So when we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” in Hebrew, the word that is being translated as “God” is the word elohim. It isn’t a name; it’s a description. It’s GOD. Except, it’s more than that. The word elohim by itself is a plural word. It means “gods” and suggests something more than two, but less than four. Does your head hurt yet?
Before I make anyone’s brain explode, let me assure you of something: It is still referring to the One True God.
Even though the word elohim is a plural word, it is used here, and in every place it refers to Our God, in a singular sense. I’d love to give you an example of how that works, but I have yet to find an English equivalent.
What this means, though, is that in Hebrew, when they say that God created, they are speaking of something more, something bigger, than is conveyed by the English word “God”. There is a sense of something that is a multiplicity, a community, more than two, less than four. I say that because there are other words and other senses to capture the idea of two or four or more, but the specific sense of this word elohim is that of a trio or a trinity, as it were.
To the ancient Jewish sages and rabbis, this meant that God, though he was One God, has three distinct aspects combined. They ascribed this to the male and female aspects of God and the Spirit of God.
In our Christian tradition, our understanding is that this is God whom we call the Father, God the Son incarnate as Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit – three distinct aspects or persons, but one God. As one of our Salvation Army doctrines puts it: There are three persons in the godhead, undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.
-Supporting Scripture
Or, as it is described in the passage that begins the Gospel of John:
John 1:1-2 (NLT)
1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God. [2]
-summary of point
So who created the universe? God did – the One God, the One True God, who is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, but who can be called God as long as we understand that it means so much more than a single word can ever hold.
-tie in to proposition
The Bible often tells us more than we realize. And in this single verse, in this single word, lay the seed for the whole concept of the trinity which has been an important and difficult to understand part our Christian faith for almost two thousand years.
-tie in to purpose
We need to recognize that God wants us to know him so much that he included this detailed description of who and what he is right in the very first sentence of his Word.
-Transition Sentence
In fact, that seems to have been so important that this first verse is a whole creation story on its own; the second verse starts a new account.
Main Point #2:
Gaps: We Don’t Know Everything
-Reference to point
Some people miss that the first two chapters of Genesis actually contain three creation accounts. They may be three separate stories of three different creation experiences or three points of view about one creation story or they may be three chapters describing three parts or perspectives on a single story which is greater than we understand. The one thing we can say for sure is that we don’t know everything there is to know about the beginning.
-Reference to verse(s)
Let’s go back to our scripture.
Genesis 1:1-2a (NLT)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty… [3]
Here again there is a deeper reading which we could use. Rather than saying the earth was formless and empty, we could translate this to read that the earth was wasted chaos and nothingness. There is a subtle suggestion of something having come before which had caused destruction. The ancient sages were divided on the fuller meaning of that, as are modern commentators.
-word study
Rather than deal with the obvious confusion, many people just read the first two verses together and treat the first verse as a kind of title which tells us what is going to happen.
For a number of reasons involving linguistics and sentence construction in ancient Hebrew, the kind of people who are geeky enough to spend time taking this sort of thing apart can say with some certainty that verse 2 is the beginning of its own story. This has led to what is called the “Gap Theory”.
The Gap Theory says this: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Time passed. Something happened to the earth, making it formless and void. Then a second creation began. I don’t know how much I buy into this theory, but it does provide food for thought. I might not buy into it at all if it weren’t for a couple of little things…
Or perhaps I should say “big things,” since dinosaurs are one of them. Examination of the planet we live on shows that dinosaurs roamed the earth for millions of years. But then, according to a current popular scientific theory, something big hit the earth – an asteroid or a piece of a comet or some other celestial body perhaps – causing massive destruction, plunging the earth into darkness and leaving it formless and empty.
-Supporting Scripture
And while it may be completely unconnected, a traditional interpretation of scripture describes the fall of a celestial being to earth when it tells us about the rebellion of an angel, Lucifer, against God.
Isaiah 14:12
12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O shining star, son of the morning!
You have been thrown down to the earth,
you who destroyed the nations of the world. [4]
In Revelation 12 the angel is described as a dragon who is hurled to earth, breathing hate and destruction. While I cannot say for certain that this is an event which took place between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, if it did, that would answer some of the other questions surrounding the creation stories, even while it opened up new ones of its own.
-Summary of point
The point is that we don’t know everything about creation or God’s story. Some things are a mystery to us, and probably always will be.
-tie in to proposition
That’s important to remember, because even though the Bible often tells us more than we realize, it doesn’t tell us everything.
-tie in to purpose
God wants us to know him, but that doesn’t mean he tells us everything we might want to know.
-Transition Sentence
All that and we’re not even done with the second verse.
Main Point #3: Gunk: When the knowable and unknowable mix, things get sticky
-Reference to point
What you’re probably starting to see is that when the knowable and unknowable mix, things get sticky. That’s the third point, by the way. After gods and gaps, we get the gunk of a sticky mix of knowable and unknowable. But that’s also where the Spirit of God comes in.
-Reference to verse(s)
Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. [5]
Whether the deep is the unformed clay of a newly formed universe waiting for the Creator to shape it or the destroyed void left behind by Satan’s fall; whether it is the gunk that we know or the gunk which clogs our lives with uncertainty, it is the Holy Spirit who comes to the rescue.
-word study
Here the deep is waiting, dark and unknowable, formless and chaotic, but the Spirit is hovering over it. God’s Spirit contains the potential for making and remaking and that potential brings hope into the darkest of places.
-Supporting Scripture
Isaiah talked about the power of God’s Spirit to restore what has been lost or broken or gunked up.
Isaiah 32:14-15
14 The palace and the city will be deserted,
and busy towns will be empty.
Wild donkeys will frolic and flocks will graze
in the empty forts and watchtowers
15 until at last the Spirit is poured out
on us from heaven.
Then the wilderness will become a fertile field,
and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops. [6]
-summary of point
No matter the gunk you feel you have built up in your life, no matter how stuck or broken any of us are, God’s Spirit can recreate us. Where we think our lives have become deserts, the Spirit can turn them into green fields of new growth.
-tie in to proposition
The Bible often tells us more than we realize, and by describing the Spirit of God hovering over the deep of an unformed void, waiting to bring forth an explosion of light and new life it tells us that we can experience that same kind of new creation in our own lives.
-tie in to purpose
This isn’t in here by accident! It’s another reminder that God wants us to know him and through that knowledge he wants to give us renewed hope and new life.
-Transition Sentence
Take that thought into a moment of reflection today.
-Summary of points
Through gods, gaps, and gunk we have seen that there is One God who created the universe, and he is even more than we had imagined him to be. We have seen that we don’t know everything and we probably understand even less than we think we do. And we have seen that no matter how deep the darkness which we feel lying on us, the Spirit of God is there, hovering, acting to bring us new life and new creation in our lives.
-Reference to proposition
And we got all that from two verses. The Bible often tells us more than we realize.
-Reference to original illustration (if possible)
-Purpose (Application)
It’s all part of God trying to encourage us to know him as best we can.
-Altar Call
So, what do we do with this? This isn’t a great “Come to Jesus” message, I know. But perhaps it is an opportunity to consider whether you are focusing on what it means to know God. Have you given his Spirit the chance to turn your deserts into blooming fields or have you simply tried to ignore the dark void that grows by gnawing at the corners of your soul?
If you do want change, these prayer rails are a great place to start. Come and kneel and pray to God and ask for his Spirit to direct your path and for you to have ears to listen.
[1]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:1). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [2]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Jn 1:1–2). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [3]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:1–2). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [4]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Is 14:12). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [5]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:1–2). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [6]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Is 32:14–15). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more