In the Beginning…- Genesis 1:1-2


Dan Stockum - Feb 18, 2024

Sermon Notes     Sermon Slides

Genesis one, one through two. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

We\'re launching a new series today on the goodness of creation, which will take us all the way to Easter. Studying just the first two chapters of the first book of the Bible. In researching for this series, it became obvious quite quickly that every culture that has ever existed on the face of the earth has a story explaining the creation of the world. Often those stories are called mythologies. But every culture has asked, where are we from?

How did we get here? How did anything get here? Those questions have mattered to every civilization on record. The ancient Greeks believed at the beginning there was nothingness, just pure chaos, unformed cosmos. And from that chaos emerged the earth.

Earth was personified. She had a name, Gaia. Then the female Gaia. Earth gave birth to the sky named Uranus. And then Uranus and Gaia procreated with each other and gave birth to the Titans, who were later overthrown, banished to the underworld, and were placed by different gods who warred with one another.

And it was those kind of third generation gods who were responsible for the rest of creation. That\'s Greece. Ancient Egypt had varying accounts of creation. The earliest God, ra, similar to the greek understanding, emerged from a chaotic state of the world and gave rise to an air God and a moisture God, who again procreated in ward with each other. One of those progeny was murdered by another one, which created a power struggle, which was eventually won by a God named Horus.

And from that narrative, the egyptian kings linked their chain of command to the creator gods and believed that warring for power was not only good, but was divine. Remember all this from your ancient history class in college. There will be a quiz later. I hope you\'re taking notes. The mayan gods, two of them anyway, decided to preserve their legacy by creating an earthbound species looking like them.

That\'s us, but not quite us. Because their first attempt to make man was from mud, they found that mud crumbled. The two gods then enlisted help from other gods, and together they decided to make man from wood. But those guys had no souls and soon lost loyalty to the creators, and the gods destroyed them by rain. The final version of man was constructed from maize, which is, of course, corn.

In the Mayan, which the Mayans regarded as sacred. Chinese mythology has a number of stories about creation, but one is when heaven and earth were yet unformed. A series of events eventually produced the original qi. Qi was then separated from what was pure and bright, which formed heaven. While that was heavy and not as pure, presumably congealed to form earth.

Then conjoining these essences of heaven to earth produced yin and yang. From there, we get seasons, hot, fire, cold, wind, sun, moon, planet, stars, soil, et cetera. Ready for your test?

Every culture has a story about where we started, how the earth was started. Every culture believes a story. Many of those stories from different cultures, many of them have overlapping elements with each other. Like Egypt and Greece have similar elements. Many of them have unique elements that\'s only found in that one particular story.

Sometimes stories from the same culture have contradicting elements because they came from a combination of several myths that were blended together. It doesn\'t take much digging to see that. But here\'s what we might not think about. One implication of our beliefs about our origins, whether this is intentional or not, one implication is that our origin beliefs inform our beliefs about our purpose. In other words, what we believe about how we got here informs what we think about why we are here, what we are to do with ourselves, our worth, our value.

It\'s similar to what psychologists will tell you about children. What children believe about their origin can mark their lives. If a child is told, especially repeatedly, if a child is told, we didn\'t want you, you were a mistake, you are a burden. Or if a child goes from one bad experience, foster family to another, and in all of those places receives the same message, and of course, there\'s great foster families and not so great foster families. But if the kid gets the message, I\'m not wanted, that child\'s life is marked in a much different way than a child whose parents reinforce the message over and over and over.

We wanted children. We prayed for you before you arrived. We celebrated when you got here. The wanted kids and the unwanted kids lives will be marked in different ways. Not that their fates are bound, of course.

Their origin won\'t determine everything about them, but it matters. And similarly, our beliefs about our origin inform our beliefs about our purpose, our value, and everything else, both as individuals and as collective humanity. Christianity, contrary to many of the other origin stories, does not teach that creation arose out of nothing. Nor does Christianity teach that we\'re the product of less pure matter that didn\'t congeal to form heaven. Nor do Christians believe that we\'re the byproduct of divine wars.

Nor do we believe that we were made as playthings for the gods to mess with. Instead, christian beliefs about creation give us a footing for human worth and dignity. Give us reasons to care about our planet and our world. Give us a purpose for our work. Help us to know how to order our lives and how to relate to others.

In other words, the goodness of creation in the christian account informs really just about everything that we find significant, and it sets up the world in a way that we would want to live in it. And that will be our series until Easter. The Bible tells a story of the beginning that even if you aren\'t a Christian, even if you\'re a skeptic, even if you believe the earth and humanity and everything else is just the result of mindless forces with no intentionality, that we won some kind of cosmic lottery, there is no purpose behind the universe whatsoever.

Even you. The more you hear the christian account of creation, you might find yourself wanting it to be true.

Just like kids want to believe they came from parents who desired them, who prepared for them, who cherished them. Every kid wants to believe that about his or her parents. Whether it\'s true or not, every kid wants to believe I came from a place of wholeness and planning and love. So just like kids want to believe that, maybe even need to believe that, you may end up wanting to believe that all of existence didn\'t come from mindless forces with no purpose, or that we\'re here by accident, or that we\'re the result of fallout from divine wars.

The christian story may play a tune that resonates with something deep within you.

So as we begin our series, we begin, of course, at the beginning. Genesis is the first book of the Bible, written down some long time after the events of creation took place, most likely. And as we dive into chapter one, we will see. We came from order, not chaos. We came from love, and we came with delight.

We came from order, not chaos. We came from love, and we came with delight. So first we came from order, not chaos. The first words of the Bible are in the beginning, God created meaning. At the beginning, God was already there.

So we\'re already different than creation narratives, where chaos was first and God arose out of the chaos. The christian story is that order and intentionality preceded chaos. There is chaos. In the christian creation narrative, the earth was formless and void, unorganized. That\'s verse two.

But that\'s not what was first. God, in all of his complexity, existed before unorganized matter and actually small timeout. For a second. We should pause and define what we mean by the term before, because before isn\'t technically the right word. Before implies some passing of time.

There cannot be a before unless there is an after, which can\'t happen unless a clock is ticking. And the problem with that language is that time itself is a created thing. Time began as part of God creating, so time didn\'t precede creation, but God did. God preceded creation. He was existing without time.

We can\'t say how long he existed before time started because that would require time, and there was none. God just was. The christian story is that God never wasn\'t. God never emerged. He\'s the uncaused cause.

He\'s the unmade maker. He is holy, and he is perfect in every way. He created on purpose, with intentionality, and believing that type of origin versus a chaotic, disordered origin actually has implications for how we live our lives. Now, I\'m not saying you need to sort out all of your existential questions in order to fix breakfast and go to work. Of course not, right?

Most of the time, we don\'t give much thought to where all of this came from and why. But with one creation narrative, the more you think about it, the more grounded you will be. The more purpose and significance you will likely feel versus other types of creation narratives. The more you think about them, the less grounded you will be, the harder it will be to find significant purpose or meaning for your life. Those other narratives will actually make you more unstable the more that you think about them.

Let\'s sort it through together. If you believe the world, every molecule, every atom, every electron that makes up all of existence, including yourself, if all of it was made on purpose by a designer who is himself, flawless, stable and eternal, if you believe that it will lead you to believe that you were made for a reason, regardless of what your parents told you, you were wanted, you have a purpose. If you really sort out all the implications of a designer who was complex enough to make the universe, whatever God could envision and construct the supposedly 13 billion light years of space down to the atomic level, who carved it all out on purpose, that designer must have had a reason to make you.

Like if you\'ve been to the Vatican in Rome and you\'ve seen the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, of course it\'s massive. You can\'t look at the whole ceiling at one time.

You have to look at it in little sections, and each little frame has so much detail that people have studied this tapestry for 500 years. But one thing you know, when you\'re looking at it, even if you\'re a novice, even if you\'ve never taken an art class, you know all of it was on purpose. Every person painted every animal, every color, every brushstroke, all on purpose, right? It\'s not like when Michelangelo finished, he looked up and said, why didn\'t that guy have hair? Where\'d that sword come from?

Who put that goat over there? Michelangelo knew every detail of what he was doing. It was all on purpose. And if you believe the universe is like that, created by a designer who knew what he was doing, it is much different than believing our origins are just chaos or meaninglessness. The christian belief is much different than the beliefs that we weren\'t really intentionally wanted, that we\'re just the byproduct, an accident of God\'s fighting, or that we came from somewhere without purpose, or all of existence is just kind of here without a reason for it being here.

And actually, if you believe the current scientific narrative without any kind of christian modification or addition onto it, any kind of christian overlay, the scientific narrative is not only did we come from somewhere without purposeful, intentional design, in addition to that, science would say, at the end of everything, we will return to nothingness. Science would tell us everything we ever do will eventually crumble because of entropy. The universe will run out of energy. And if you buy all of that without any kind of modification, it is more difficult to believe that you matter, because really, you don\'t.

Even if you try to construct your own purpose and meaning for your life, even if you say, well, the moments I have are all the moments that exist, and I\'ve just got to give it my best for while I\'m here.

Okay, give it a shot. But be honest with yourself. If everything you\'ve ever done with your life, even the stuff that you think really matters, if all of that will crumble and descend into chaos from whence it came, and none of it will be remembered, because there will be no one to remember it, everyone you\'ve ever loved or who has ever loved you, they will also crumble and return to insignificance if we came from meaninglessness and chaos, and we\'ll return to meaninglessness and chaos, if that\'s what you believe, sure, you can still get up and make breakfast and go to work.

You can. But in order to have the motivation to get up and make breakfast and go to work day after day after day, you kind of have to hide from what you believe.

You kind of have to keep your head in the sand a little in order to function in the world, because you\'re not part of a masterpiece. You\'re not part of an eternal plan. You\'re basically a, whoops, how\'d that get there? And maybe worse than coming to exist without any purpose or reason. Maybe worse is that everything you ever do is also ultimately meaningless.

If you really dug into that belief and forced yourself to face all the implications of it, how many days could you get up and make your coffee? On the other hand, if you believe you were made on purpose for a purpose by an unfathomably brilliant engineer, the more you believe that and think about it, the more centered, grounded, stable you will become. You don\'t have to ignore the christian belief in order to function. The christian belief helps you function. Our beliefs have implications if we dig into them.

They have implications for how we make coffee in the morning. So we came from order, not chaos, which implies we have a purpose. Second, we came from love. Christians believe uniquely, no one else believes this. Christians believe that God is trinity, that God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Each of the three persons is fully God, yet each of the three persons is distinct from the other two persons. Further, we believe Father, Son and Holy Spirit have dwelled together without beginning, in perfect love and harmony since before, if we can use that word, since before creation, since pre existent eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have loved one another. Which means, Christians believe, that love preceded just about everything else. That love is more primary than anything else. Love is what existence is really all about if it is what preceded existence, all of which comes from our doctrine of the Trinity.

Now, it is fair to say the concept of the Trinity is mostly from the New Testament. Jewish people don\'t believe God is trinity. However, there are hints and clues of God\'s triune nature throughout the Old Testament and even here in the creation narrative. Verse one, God created the heavens and the earth. Verse two, the spirit of God hovered over the waters.

Why say it that way? Why make a distinction between God and God\'s spirit unless there is a distinction which there is? Genesis one is very similar to what we find in the New Testament, John, chapter one, where John writes, in the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God. He was with God in the beginning. Later, John refers to Jesus as being the word.

The idea is Jesus the Son is both God because he says he was God, and he\'s distinct from God because he says he is with God. And it\'s what we see with the spirit of God. Here in Genesis, the spirit is God, yet the spirit is distinct from father and son. It\'s a clue that there is trinity from the very first verse of the Bible, another clue of God\'s triune nature, not in our text from today, but still within the creation narrative when God creates humans. Genesis 126 he says, let us plural make man in our plural image, after our plural likeness.

God refers to himself, who is a singular being. In the plural, God is both one and three. If you have questions, and you should. The early church had questions too. They wrestled with this concept a lot.

In fact, they had many conferences trying to sort out. Very technical language, which I can\'t detail all of that now, but if you want way too much information, I recommend this book, which we have an image of by Robert Latham entitled the Holy Trinity. It is the most comprehensive yet understandable, I would say, explanation of all the different arguments that were ever had about the Trinity up to modern day. And he shows why the orthodox understanding of the Trinity stuck, why it\'s important. His book\'s about this thick get the revised version.

Go for it. But what is critical to know for today is that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have loved one another in perfect, unbroken, ceaseless adoration, exaltation, glorification of one another since forever. Father glorifies the Son and the spirit. Son glorifies the father and the spirit. Spirit glorifies the father and the Son.

In other words, God is not self promoting even within himself, he\'s always giving, promoting another. The father is focused outward, the Son is focused outward. The spirit is focused outward to the other two. It\'s love. Since forever without beginning, love has always been christians don\'t believe love as a created thing.

We believe love as an eternal thing, which importantly means we don\'t believe God created something in order to get love. He already had his love tank full. So he didn\'t create in order to get love. He created in order to share the love he already had in himself. God wasn\'t lonely before he created.

He wasn\'t needy. He didn\'t say, there is something lacking in me. Maybe if I make something else, it will give me what I need. He didn\'t say that. Like some grownups say, right?

Husband and wife can say things if they\'re having relationship trouble, they may say something like, maybe having kids will answer our problems. Side note, kids won\'t solve your problems. And if you are a kid who was brought into that kind of home, you know how unstable of a place it is. That\'s not why God created us. He was already whole within his triune, selfless love before we ever came into the picture.

Now, if God were not triune, if there were a God, but he was only singular, then love did not precede creation. Love is not eternal. Love could not have existed until God created something else to love or related. If there is no God and we just came out of chaos, then obviously love didn\'t have anything to do with creation. And in fact, love isn\'t even real, right?

It\'s just biochemical responses to whatever is firing in your head at that moment. And either of those beliefs, either a belief in a singular God who created but not out of love he created for some other reason, or if there\'s no God at all and therefore no love at all, either of those are much different origin narratives with different implications. If God created us to share the perfect love he already had within himself and he was already whole and complete, and if he thought this love was so wonderful that he wanted others to experience his wholeness and perfect love, that\'s a much different reason for existence than, say, a God who created to rule, a God who created only out of a display of power.

If a display of power is what drove the weaving of the fabric of the universe, that\'s a much different story than if an overflow of love wove the fabric of the universe. And it\'s a much different story than our existence just being the result of a long process of mindless forces that had no purpose behind it whatsoever.

Right? Those stories have different implications for how we live our lives. They have different implications about what is most important in the world. And you should ask yourself, what story helps you face your day? What story will create the version of the world that you want to live in?

Your options are love is most central to the order of the universe, power is most central, or the universe has no meaning whatsoever. Which one do you want to be true? Which one is going to lead you to treat people in the way that you should treat them? If you believe power is what\'s most foundational to how the universe works, that belief will create different types of civilizations than if you believe love is most central to how the universe works. Those beliefs will play out in our lives, in how we treat each other, what we prioritize, what we celebrate.

Right? So even if you\'re a skeptic, you might want to believe the christian origin story.

So we were made from order, not chaos. We were made from love. And now, finally, we were made with delight. In full disclosure, we don\'t get a sense of God\'s delight explicitly from verses one and two, so don\'t look for it there. But numerous commentators note elements of poetry throughout the rest of chapter one.

Most of chapter one is prose not poetry. So you can\'t define the whole chapter as a poem. Genesis one does not have the structure of a typical hebrew poem. However, Genesis one also does not match typical hebrew prose. It\'s kind of a blend.

The creation account doesn\'t totally match with other biblical genres, but it\'s almost as if the author burst into poetry at different moments. Because there\'s repetition, there\'s parallelism, there is a non prose structure. Each day there is a refrain. God said, let there be light. And God said, let there be an expanse.

And God said, let the waters gather. And each day the author writes, there was evening and there is morning. There is evening and there is morning. There is evening, and there was morning. And each day God called it good.

And God called it good. And God called it good. It\'s almost like the chorus of a song. In a song, you may have different verses, but then you come back and repeat the chorus. There are elements of that in Genesis one.

There are markers of poetry, or even a song, which, for those of you who might be worried if it is poetry, even if it was totally poetry, that doesn\'t make it less literal, but it does add nuances of delight and joy. It\'s similar. It\'s not the same, but it\'s similar to what we see in other places of scripture. A song accompanies a literal event, right? The angel tells Mary she will be with child and give birth to Jesus.

And after Mary visits her cousins, she sings about it. Luke one or Exodus 15, parting of the Red Sea, Israelites escaping from egyptian slavery, Moses and Miriam stop and sing a song about it. Those songs don\'t mean Mary wasn\'t literally pregnant or the partying of the Red Sea didn\'t happen. Right. A song about event doesn\'t make the event less literal, but it does give you an indication that there\'s joy and delight about the event.

And that\'s how we should see God creating. We know God had delight in creation not only because of these poetic elements, but also because God called everything good. After each day, over and over and over, he was very pleased with what he made. Or psalm 104, verse 31 says, may God rejoice in his works. Or like we studied when we were looking at Zechariah, God sings over us in delight.

Zechariah 317. God loves creating. He has so much joy over his creation that he burst into a song. That\'s how the world was made. That\'s how you were made by a God who made you on purpose out of an overflow of love within himself.

And he was delighted while he did it. That\'s how creation happened in one of the Narnia books. And if you\'re not familiar with the Narnia books, it is a children\'s fictional series written by C. S. Lewis, and it is an allegory of many things in christian theology.

And in one of the books, the magician\'s nephew, two children are transported back to the beginning of the creation of Narnia. They get to see nothing, become something. And what they see is Aslan, who? He\'s the Christ character. Throughout the books, Aslan is always depicted as a lion.

So they see Aslan the lion singing creation into existence. I cut out various paragraphs, so go read it yourself, because it\'s beautiful and too long to read the whole thing. But C. S. Lewis writes, in the darkness, something was happening at last.

A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away, and diggory. As one of the children, Diggory found it hard to decide what direction it was coming from. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once, but it was beyond comparison. It was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.

It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was the first voice was suddenly joined by other voices, more voices than he could possibly count. They were in harmony with the first voice, but higher up the scale and cold, tingly, silvery voices. The second wonder was the blackness overhead all at once was ablaze with stars.

They didn\'t come out gently, one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness. The next moment, thousand points of lights had leaped out. If you had seen it and heard it, you would have felt quite certain it was the stars themselves which were singing. And it was the first voice which had made them appear and made them the stars, sing at the same time, all the time.

The first voice went on singing. The voice rose and rose till the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose, and the earth was of many colors. They were fresh, hot, vivid. They made you feel excited until you saw the singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.

It was the lion, huge, shaggy and bright. He stood facing the risen sun. His mouth was wide open and song. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the lion like a pool.

Then the song changed once more. It was far wilder. It made you want to run and jump and climb. And with the change of the tune showers of birds came out of the trees. Butterflies fluttered.

Bees got to work on the flowers as if they didn\'t have a second to lose. Then there came a swift flash, like fire, either from the sky or from the lion himself. And every drop of blood tingled in the children\'s bodies. And the deepest, wildest voice they had ever heard was saying, Narnia, Narnia, Narnia. Awake, love.

Think, speak.

That\'s probably not exactly what it was like when jesus did it, but it does give a picture of his joy. When he created. We were made with delight. We were made from love. We were made on purpose, for a purpose.

Now, if you know all of that, if you know the beginning of the story, then you would be able to correctly anticipate what a God like that would do. If and when we turned on him, when we betrayed him, when we ran away from him, if he made us on purpose, out of an overflow of his love with delight, as he did then, of course he\'s going to win us back when we run away from him. Of course he\'s not going to abandon us. Of course, if he put that much intentionality in us and has that much joy in us, of course he\'ll come run after us when we get ourselves in trouble.

Of course he would, which is exactly what he did on the cross.

Jesus took the mess that we\'ve made of his world, the mess we\'ve made of ourselves, the penalty we deserve for all of it. He took it onto himself to restore us to him. Of course he would want to restore us to him. If you know the beginning of the story and now you do, then you could predict the end.

If you have never trusted in his work to bring you back to him who delights in you, tell him today. Tell him. Jesus, I\'m sorry I\'ve run from you. Thank you for doing on the cross what was necessary to reunite me to you. All I want to do is be with the one who sang creation into existence.

Let\'s pray. Jesus, thank you for such a firm foundation to the origin of all that there is. Thank you that you are eternal and good and created within a purpose that is eternal and good. And you created us out of the love that you already had within yourself, and you created us with such delight. Lord, let us dwell on those beliefs.

Let us dig further into them and let us feel your love, desire for us as you cherish us and have a plan for our lives. We pray those things in Jesus name. Amen.

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