Foundations - Who Is God?Series: Foundations
Does God exist? Where did our universe come from? Where did the earth come from? These questions and more have been asked by humanity over and over again. We have within ourselves a curiosity about how we arrived here and why. What we believe, is our origin story.
This account in Genesis 1:1-2:3 is put forward by Moses as the true account of what happened. Moses is writing down revelation from God for Israel to understand who God is, who they are as human beings, and their history and purpose in the world.
Everyone has an origin story
This morning, let’s consider one modern explanation and one ancient explanation.
The big bang theory.
The process begins about 13.7 billions years ago with a “very hot, very dense, single spot in space”. Eventually there is a series of processes that lead to our universe. “Our solar system is estimated to be born a little after 9 billion years after the Big Bang, making it about 4.6 billion years old.” And, our universe continues to expand. This is where all of the process of evolution comes about in our world.
According to Britannica “The evidence is overwhelming that all life on Earth has evolved from common ancestors in an unbroken chain since its origin.” This then begins the process of slowly, over a tremendous amount of time, the life we see and experience to come about through natural selection - a theory popularized by Darwin. Now, none of these account for how non-life became life, they have theories but it is not confirmed. The procession of life is like a tree with a single cell ancestor that becomes more complicated over time.
Now, one thing I want to mention is this: None of this is observed science. This is not something they tested and replicated in a lab. They are looking at what they see around them and then trying to explain that evidence. So, when they use the word “science” they are not talking about science in the sense of something that has been tested and replicated over time. There are two kinds of science - historical and operational, this is in the historical side.
However, there are some leaps of faith in this concept. You have to believe matter is eternal, life comes from non-life, order came from chaos, and intelligence came from non intelligence.
The story of Mardu
However, before we dig into the account, I want us to realize that the significance of Genesis is not only in what it says, but what it does not say. Let me illustrate with this summary provided by Don Stewart in “Is the Genesis Creation Account Similar to Other Ancient Accounts?”
The story is found upon seven clay tablets. The only thing that existed was uncreated world matter. The matter was personified by a male and female being - Apsu and Tiamat. They represented fresh and salt water oceans and their union produced other gods. Apsu eventually became upset with his offspring and decided to kill them. The great god Ea discovered these plans and killed Apsu. Ea then had a son, Marduk who became the main hero.
Marduk rose to supremacy over the other gods of Babylon. Tiamat was planning to avenge her husband’s death by naming another god Kingu as new commander. But Marduk kills Tiamat and divides her body in half. One is used to create the sky while the other is used for the earth.
The fifth tablet shows how Marduk appointed days and months of the Babylonian calendar. The sixth shows how Kingu was executed for Tiamat’s rebellion. It was from Kingu’s blood that the god Ea created man. Man’s purpose was to serve the gods. The last tablet tells how Marduk became the chief god of Babylon.
Now, this is just one example and there are lots of different origin stories. But I want you to notice the enormous differences between what a culture like Babylon would say, or our present culture, and what Moses by inspiration is writing for the Israelites. According to Genesis, at the center of the universe is not matter, a singularity, or a violent culture, it is God.
Who is God?
What do we learn about God from a simple reading of this text? Notice that God is the main actor. God created, spoke, called, made man in his image, blessed, finished, and rested. In fact, God is the only one who acts in the chapter. What is this chapter about? It is about God. (Romans 1:20) says that what we can see in the creation is his eternal power and divine nature. Let’s break down the creation account into these two categories.
God’s eternal power
First, notice that it is not matter that has existed forever, God exists before the beginning. God is the one who made the heavens and earth. Logically then, we might ask “where did God come from?” Hebrews 3:3-4 records an important statement for us - everything is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. If you ask “who made God?”, you have to have a bigger god who made him. If you follow that out you have to keep adding bigger and bigger gods. You eventually end with either matter being eternal or God being eternal. The biblical idea is not that something is eternal, but that someone is eternal.
God is the one that defines and shapes time. God is eternal and outside of time, and he creates time in these verses. The day is defined by God as “evening” and “morning”. Later, when God makes the lights, they are “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” God is the one who sets, orders our world, and who upholds it (Hebrews 1:3). This is important because many want to bring the religion of our day into this text. They will try to say there is a gap between verses 1-2, the days are millions of years, that there were gaps within the days. However, a day is defined by this text. The Hebrew word for day can be used to describe long periods of time, but any time it is attached to a number, or with morning or evening it is always a literal day, this text does all three together. Also, Exodus 20:11 shows that the week is based on this 7 day cycle in creation. Further, the world is mature at creation - so that changes dating. We cannot bring in the naturalism to make it harmonize with what we read here.
Additionally, we learn God has the ability to make ALL things and it is done with simply a word from His mouth. Again, this is so radical. It’s not through random chance processes or an explosion. It is not through some violent conflict. It’s not even through a shaping of material without hands. There is evidence of design, just like how we understand a house must be made by someone, and that this someone is greater than the house (Hebrews 3:3). This God is so powerful that he brings light and life from the word he speaks. How? Because he is the source of all things: Life, light, goodness, rule, etc.
God’s divine nature
Next, we should appreciate the title here - Elohim is a plural word. As the text goes on to say in 1:26 “let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, at the very core of the universe is not a single power or a single being, it is a plurality within the one God. Elohim is used in this text, and Yahweh is first used in 2:4 when the text zeroes in on humanity. That means that right here we have the foundation of the Trinity later revealed in scripture. Colossians 1:15-17 and John 1:1-5 both reveal that Jesus was there (along with the Spirit) and they participated in the creation work together. That means, at the core of the universe is not lifeless, unintelligent matter, or a group of terrible and violent gods. It is a completely unified and beautiful relationship from eternity - love and goodness are the center of our universe.
We continue to learn about his nature in the text. Notice that all of this is tightly ordered. God is bringing about all space, time, and matter. All the visible things that we experience are made by the invisible (Hebrews 11:3). He is creating a world of boundaries, order, and function.
As you walk through this section notice that God is bringing order out of chaos. Separated is a big word - light from darkness (Genesis 1:4), waters and expanse (1:7), water and land (gathered v 9), day and night (v 14). In each section, God creates a space and the subsequently fills that area. You have the skies above (or heavens) that are filled with the sun, moon, and stars. The sun and moon are given rule over the day and night. The waters and lower skies are filled with flying and swimming creatures. The land is filled with animals and mankind. Each being has its home in an ordered way.
Additionally, notice the seeds and animals. Some 10 times the text says “each according to their kind” or something similar. This means that there is order and distinction. Each group is separated. That means it is not an evolutionary tree that arises from one single cell. In contrast, it is more like an orchard of many different trees that can only produce according to their kind. This is exactly what we see in our world with plants, animals, and humans. We all have tremendous information right at the beginning of our inception, not added over time and we can only reproduce within our family. This means that the theory of evolution put forth by Darwin is incompatible with the Bible and doesn’t accurately explain what we see in the world.
Finally, notice the position of humanity. Humanity is put forth as a crown jewel of the creation. The description itself is longer than anything else and they are placed last. They are specified as being made male and female, made in the image of God, and after his likeness. God has made beings that are like him and will have a unique relationship Him. Their job is to be a part of the creation, but to exercise rule and dominion over the creation. We’ll explore this more in our next lesson Lord willing. However, notice that it is not an evolutionary process that made man and woman. It is not one of the ape family that is made to be a human being. They are their own unique “tree” in the “orchard” that God has made. They are of the creation, but they are called to be more. Their rulership is also defined within the context of how God has ruled so far in the text. God is exercising his authority and rule for bringing order, beauty, and flourishing to all that he has made. That’s humanity’s role as well.
Then, seven different times we see a description of the creation - it was good, and the seventh adds that it was “very good.” To this point in the story, God has absolute rule and defines what is good. That rule is exercised for the beauty and order of his world in order for each part of it to flourish. Then this loving God passes blessings to the animals (1:22) and humanity (1:28) and charges them with responsibilities that pertain to their role in his creation, and provides every possible need that they may have (1:29-31). And notice, the diet of each group does not include violence or eating one another, they were all vegetarian.
However, I want us to just sit with this concept for a minute. Can you imagine what this would have been like to watch? To see all of this come into being by simply speaking. I imagine this much like a time lapse where the plants, animals, and humanity come into existence they seem to burst forth into existence and are all full maturity. This should cause is to fall down in absolute awe of our God. We cannot make anything without using things that have been made. Our words in of themselves accomplish nothing. But here we have a God that is so transcendent that we can only say that he is Holy, Holy, Holy and the earth is full of His glory.
Our biggest takeaway this morning should be to behold the glory of our God. This is put forward as a true historical record by the eyewitness that was there - God himself. He is revealing himself to us in his majesty and glory. The beginning was a world without death, suffering, pain, and sickness. A world teeming with life, potential, order, and beauty.
So the question for each of us is this: “Who are we going to believe?” Are we going to listen to biased and fallible man that gives stories like those of modern “science” and historical myths? Men that were not there and cannot know the truth in of themselves? Or are we going to listen to the one who was the true eye witness that has declared himself to all of us? Brethren, let me be clear: The world and man’s myths have nothing to offer to you. The solution of naturalism is purposeless nothingness. The solution of idolatry is slavery and violence. This is the beauty and goodness that each of us should want and know is true in our hearts.
The world will not stay like this for long in the Genesis account. However, even in a world filled with the remnant of beauty that the original creation had, our logical response is wonder and praise. The world declares his glory! Psalm 8 gives us the words of wonder and awe that you and I are placed as partners with God in such an amazing world. And the conclusion should be so clear for us: “O Yahweh, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”
Further, God has a rest for you. The last day is set apart - no evening or morning. God entered into his rest. That is prepared for us - (Hebrews 4:9-11), will you accept the invitation?