God Created

Genesis: In the Beginning  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God transforms... and it is GOOD

Date: 2021-07-25
Audience: Grass Valley Corps
Title: God Created
Scripture: Genesis 1:2-2:3
Proposition: God transforms… And it is good.
Purpose: Give your life to God so he can transform it
Grace and peace to you all as we look into God’s Word today!
I love to bake, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like to. I love the end result, and I don’t usually mind the time it takes, because that’s not usually long. But no matter how carefully or efficiently I work, I always seem to leave behind a mess. I can’t get out the flour without managing, somehow, to get it spread out onto the floor, blown into the cracks in the counter, and all over whatever I’m wearing.
It seems that a natural by-product of creation done by human beings is a mess we need to work to clean up afterwards.
That’s the opposite of how things seem to work for God. He is able to start with nothing or with a mess and transform it into something good; something orderly and whole.
If God can transform a mess into something that is good, what can he do with me?
Today we’re going to pick up our story of the beginning at the beginning: Genesis, chapter 1.
Today’s story is one best told in seven parts. We spent last week discussing Genesis 1:1, so the first of those seven parts begins in Genesis, chapter one, verse 2.
Genesis 1:2-5
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.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. [1]
Among people who divide science and faith into separate camps, much is made of the creation story. Those on one side cannot fathom how those on the other can possibly believe that a big bang started everything and those on the other cannot understand the belief that God simply spoke and the cosmos began.
Those of us who take a somewhat broader view understand both sides to be true: God said, “Let there be light,” and - <LOUD CLAP!> BANG! – there was light.
What is most remarkable about the Biblical creation story isn’t the details of creation. The remarkable part is the Creator.
Before Genesis was written, the prevailing view in the world was that nature was divine. The universe had always existed, and it had, in one way or another, birthed the gods and humankind out of the same substance. Yet the creation story passed through the generations by the people of God spoke of a being who created the universe instead of a universe that created a pantheon of gods.
Instead of the universe generating a being of power who served the sun by placing it in a chariot and dragging it across the sky each day, the Creator spoke the very substance which is light into existence and then used it to serve his purposes. Hold onto that idea for right now because it will come up again!
Look again at verse 4. Once God created light, he saw that it was good – in Hebrew that comes from the phrase ki tov(key towb) meaning that it is correct, pleasing, beautiful and right. What he had created matched what he had intended and it was exactly what he had in mind. It was good.
So, beginning with darkness and chaos, God spoke and through his Word brought illumination to the darkness and order to the chaos and this was good.
And there was evening and there was morning – the first day.
In our culture we start a day in the morning. Or, if you are more clock-minded, the day begins at midnight. But for God’s people the day begins with evening because creation began in darkness and then God brought forth the light.
Even now people of Jewish faith begin each day at sunset and continue it until the following sunset. For Orthodox Jews, celebration of the Sabbath begins Friday night and ends at sundown on Saturday.
Names for the days, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and the like, are recent inventions. The ancients used the position of the day as a name instead. When we read scripture we hear about the First Day, the Second Day, and so on. Today isn’t Sunday, it’s the First Day of the Week.
Is the way we do it wrong? No, it’s just what we do. But when we read the Bible, we should be aware that what we do is different than what they did. The way we think about time is different than the way they thought about time.
The very American argument about whether the days referred to in Genesis are six twenty-four-hour periods of time or whether they could each be a cosmic era of time, possibly billions of years long, is an exercise in missing the point. The point is that God created, and that creation is what led to us here and now.
Which brings us to the Second Day.
Genesis 1:6-8
6 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”
And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.[2]
In some translations this vault is called a firmament or a dome. God chose to name it “sky”. This is the atmospheric layer we live in – the space between the water of earth and the vapor of the clouds. The evaporation and rain cycle which this created is essential to life, lifting and purifying water in a way which allows it to fall, fresh and living, providing nourishment.
Again, God transformed the mess that was into something good.
As the story goes on to day three, it continues to show God’s methodical, orderly approach to bringing order out of chaos.
Genesis 1:9-10
9 Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10 God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good.[3]
Land is uplifted to stable, separated islands and continents and other boundaries between wet and dry which divide the two into livable zones. Ki tov – It was good.
Genesis 1:11-13
11 Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12 The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
13 And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day. [4]
I’ve done this. What God just did in three days of creation? I’ve done it! On a smaller scale…
I once set up a terrarium.
I took a big glass bowl and fitted it with a light fixture. Then I added rocks, dirt, and a ldish which would hold water for the creature I was planning to home.
I put in plants. Tiny trees and grass sprouts provided food and shelter for the salamander I had caught in a marshy area near my house.
Before I moved the living creature in, I set up a place which would sustain its life comfortably.
This is what God did in the first three days of creation. He took fearful darkness and chaos and from them formed an environment where life can thrive and grow.
Again, as this day came to an end, the Creator evaluated what had been created and it is good.
Was my terrarium? Perhaps. After a month, however, I had lost interest and my parents wisely had me return the salamander to the march. My effort to play God had failed.
Which brings us to the fourth part of the story.
Genesis 1:14-19
14 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day. [5]
The most dominant culture from ancient times was that of the Babylonians. Their sun god, Shamash, was one of the greatest powers in their mythology. The Babylonians stole and twisted many of their ideas from God’s people. The Hebrew word for the sun is shemesh. What the Babylonians may not have known is that the word comes from a root meaning “servant”, describing the relation of the sun to its Creator.
God created the sun to serve his purposes. It was to help people keep track of seasons and holidays. It helped establish a calendar. It makes it possible to refer to a day and mean something like the 24-hour day we mean now.
Sun, moon, and stars were created to serve and to separate units of time. They weren’t to be more. They weren’t created to be worshipped or served. They weren’t created to inform or describe the patterns of your life. And, frankly, if you look up other people who share your birthday, that’s enough to demonstrate that astrology is absolute nonsense.
Did you know that Hitler and George Takei share a birthday? That alone should put a nail in the coffin of horoscope reading.
Setting aside our human ability to detect patterns where there are none, the fourth day shows again how God transforms what IS into something else, something more… And it is good.
Our story is moving towards its conclusion now. The focus narrows a little as each period passes. We began day one with all of creation and by the end of day four have focused entirely on one smallish, blue and green planet in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy; one of over a hundred billion galaxies we have been able to observe in the universe.
Why doesn’t the Bible spend time telling us about all those other places? Because it’s not a travelogue. If you want that, pick up a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That’s not really a travelogue for the known universe either, but it will tell you why such a thing is impractical, at best.
The Bible, whatever else we’ve tried to make it, is about one thing. It’s about the relationship of the Creator of all that is to a particular portion of his creation, namely you and I and the rest of humankind. As the story zooms in on us, the focus becomes more intense as God tries to let us know that – even being such a small part of such a big universe – we matter to him.
Genesis 1:20-23
20 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
23 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day. [6]
God talked to the fish and the birds. He didn’t speak to the plants or the land or sea or stars. He spoke and, by his word, they were, but we aren’t told he spoke TO them. And rightly so! Plants don’t have ears, but animals do. Each piece of the creation story describes something more complex, more aware; more able to hear, see, and know God. So now he speaks, giving instructions. Be fruitful. Increase. Become more than you are.
With each step of creation, God transforms it further from darkness, further from chaos, more complex, more interesting, more alive. And it ki tov – was good.
Day six begins as the sun sets on skies filled with birdsong and oceans teeming with schools of fish and pods of whales and all of the other great creatures of the sea, both known and unknown to us. Then this:
Genesis 1:24-25
24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.[7]
And even though it isn’t specifically stated here, I suspect he spoke to the land animals as well. But here the story doesn’t wish to pause, because the peak of the creation story is in view at last, and the author wants to get to it quickly.
Genesis 1:26
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” [8]
And two of the great mysteries of creation are unveiled in this single passage. To whom is God speaking and what does it mean for us to be made in the image of God?
The wisest answer to these kinds of questions is the one suggested by an early church father named Augustine. He said, “I do not know what I do not know.”
In spite of that, I am going to offer two answers taught by church tradition.
God is speaking to himself here, but we must remember that the LORD is not a single person as we think of it, but a trinity. Last week we spent a long time on the meaning of the title elohim, a plural word used in a singular sense which we use to refer to God. There are three persons in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.
God is three and yet they are one, and to speak with himself when making a being which share a likeness with the divine seems only appropriate.
What does it mean that we are made in the image of an invisible God? The rabbis teach that humans are made of two components: The physical, which is brought forth from the elements of the earth, and the spiritual, which is supplied by God.
Only humankind is created with morality, reason and free will, all of which are aspects of the nature of God. And one more. While all creation is built to serve God’s command, he builds the ability and intent for mankind to rule over the rest of creation as well.
We should remember that being given dominion over something is not an invitation to become tyrants. Instead, it is a call to responsibly do the best we can to care for what has been given to us.
Genesis 1:27-31
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day. [9]
Did you see that we were created originally to be vegans? There’s something to chew on. In that initial creation, man was to eat seed bearing vegetables and fruit. The animals got to eat any green plants. The lion would certainly have been able to lie down with the lamb at that point. They could even share a salad.
And there is a change to a pattern at the end of day six. For five days we have seen that as God finished each piece of creation, he has looked over the work done and said that it was good. But at the end of day six, after creating mankind and issuing his instructions for ruling over the other living creatures and eating an herbivorous diet, God stops, looks at what he had done and declared it ki meod tov (key meh-ode towb) – it was VERY good.
God has transformed darkness and chaos into an orderly universe, populating our amazingly designed planet with plant life, fish, birds, animals of all kinds, and humankind, who are to be caretakers. And it was VERY good.
The chapter end may lead you to the false impression that the story is done. But the truth is that chapter and verse designations were done a long, long time after God inspired the words of scripture, and the men who divided the Word didn’t always get it right. Like here, though to be fair this is more about whether the seventh day is a part of the creation story or not. I, like most commentators throughout time, believe that it is. We’ll finish our story with it.
Genesis 2:1-3
So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. [10]
This is another place where the English misses the proper meaning of the Hebrew. There is nothing wrong with saying that God rested, but in English that tends to bring about an idea of stopping to catch your breath or recover your strength, which isn’t at all what this says.
It’s more like saying God ceased or stopped creation. But that seems to suggest that there is no more creation after that point, which isn’t right either.
In the Talmud, which is a collection of the sayings of the ancient rabbis about the scriptures, it is said that creation is unfinished. The sages said that God rested to inspire humankind to partner with him in finishing creation and perfecting the world.
God wasn’t done, he wasn’t even really taking a day off, but he was setting a Sabbath tradition because humans need rest to be truly whole.
Professor John Goldingay pointed out that workaholism is a modern Western disease and the Sabbath is an antidote. He described how many of his students work much too hard, undertaking a degree program and working one or two jobs in order to pay for their schooling. They never have a day off; they get more tired as weeks and months pass; and then they get sick, get depressed, and lose touch with God.
Intentionally stepping away from the busyness makes a difference. Disregarding the example God set takes a toll which isn’t easy to recover from.
Unfortunately, in my life, I have allowed this truth to slip away from me. I don’t take days off. Haven’t had a vacation for years. It’s beaten me down. I’m exhausted and depressed. It can cloud my judgment. I came to this appointment hoping that things would be different here but found that, even though the work is different, there’s just as much to do. More in some ways. I set myself a day off, but already have decided there is too much to do and spent it working.
In our culture, though, this is considered commendable. No one has ever told me to work less, not seriously. There are dozens of voices waiting to tell me that I need to do more, though.
But look who set the example we are supposed to be following.
When God took a day off at the end of the week of creation, it wasn’t because he was weary – it was part of his establishing a pattern for us to follow so that WE won’t get weary. Tiredness dehumanizes us. We become more human when we follow God’s plan.
I need to follow God’s plan, because mine isn’t working.
Even on this final day, God transformed what was into something good. He transformed a day of the week into something special – a break to refresh and restore the body and spirit of each person who accepts it.
That’s the point of the whole of the creation story. God took darkness and chaos and transformed them into light and order. And it was – it IS – good.
Does that matter to us today? Yes! It matters because of the amazingly good news that this story presents to each of us.
I don’t care who you are, I can guarantee that your life has some degree of darkness and chaos. Mine certainly does.
The closer we walk with God and follow the patterns he established for us, the less those things will hold sway in our lives. Is that because of something we have to do? No, it’s because of what God can do in us.
Your step is to let God enter your life so that he can transform it.
From darkness and waste, God created light, life, and beauty beyond imagining. You are not darkness and waste. You are something greater than that. You are a beloved child of the Creator, someone who bears his image. You were created for a purpose, whether you realize it or not.
But when we cling to our darkness or refuse to allow God to transform our brokenness into wholeness, we frustrate that purpose and keep it from being reached.
God’s intent for each of us is that we live abundant, fulfilled, and productive lives. But we need to heed his call, or we can’t receive his transformation.
And while you can certainly meet with God wherever you are, we have set apart these places of prayer for those who would like to come. There’s something about meeting with God at his altar which helps you recognize that the transformation has begun.
Everything probably won’t change all at once. For most of us, that would be too much to handle, and God works with us at the best pace for us. Did he NEED to stretch creation out over a period of time, or could he have spoken all the cosmos into existence at once? He could have done it the quick way, but chose instead to savor each act of creation and transformation and then paused for a time to take in all that had been done before working with us to continue working on perfecting it all.
God wants to work with us to transform each one of us into what we were created to become. One day at a time, one step at a time. I believe he takes great pleasure in seeing our lives turn from darkness to light and from chaos into order. I believe we can as well.
Let’s close our study this morning with a word of prayer.
[1]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:2–5). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [2]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:6–8). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [3]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:9–10). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [4]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:11–13). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [5]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:14–19). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [6]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:20–23). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [7]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:24–25). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [8]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:26). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [9]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 1:27–31). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. [10]Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ge 2:1–3). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
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