For those of you who missed last Sunday night and would like to catch up on what we covered, here’s the third post, which should bring you up to speed.
The Book of Genesis begins with two accounts of creation.
1) Genesis 1:1-2:3 is the story of the seven days of creation
2) Genesis 2:4-25 is the story of the Garden
We might see them as a story-within-a-story, but it’s pretty obvious that they each have a different focus. The first account is focused on the big picture: the all-powerful God calling things into existence with a mere word: “Let there be light,” “Let there be an expanse between the waters,” and so on. The second account, by contrast, shows us God getting his hands dirty, making people out of the dust of the earth, planting a garden. The first account is like a picture taken with a wide-angle lens, while the second is like a close-up.
What do we do with these two stories, sitting side-by-side? We learn from them: God our Creator cannot be contained in a single account of his work as creator. We need to think of him as all-powerful, and we need to think of him as intensely personal. The Bible never lets us separate these facets of God’s character. The first story alone might make us think God is only far away, and uninterested in our day-to-day lives. The second story alone might make us think God is only the ruler of one little garden. Together, we realize that the God who made everything is the God who cares for you and me.
Now let’s look at each of the stories briefly.
Genesis 1: Meet the Creator
I think we should learn a few things from this chapter:
1) God made everything you see. He made it out of nothing. Everything in this world belongs to God and came from God. Nothing in this world is “random.” God’s stamp is on his world, and it belongs to him. And as Christians, we have to say that the God who made it all is the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, who was there in the beginning, creating the world (see John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:1-2).
2) Genesis 1 is more a hymn of praise than a science textbook. This chapter is structured in some sense like a hymn of praise. Just as our hymns have verses that develop a theme, and a refrain or chorus that ties everything together, so does Genesis 1. Think of each verse as corresponding to a different day:
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate waters from water.”
And so on through the days. Meanwhile, we keep hearing the refrain over and over again: “And there was evening, and there was morning—the (first, second, third, etc.) day.”
If Genesis 1 is something like a hymn of praise, this should give us one big caution: we shouldn’t treat it like a science textbook, to be used for arguing. It’s intended to show us the greatness of our God, to help us recognize that everything comes from him, and to lead us to praise him and love him more.
3) The goodness of matter. God made all this “stuff,” things that you can touch, look at, etc., and said it was good. With the God of the Bible, we can’t think of the “soul” as being good, and the “body” as being bad, or lesser. God made us body-and-soul, and put us in a world. He intends for us to live in these bodies. One day, when he redeems us in the end, it will still be “in bodies.” But they will be made new, and restored to wholeness.
Genesis 2: The Garden
This chapter tells of the dignity of human life. God gave us special tasks to do. There is nothing shameful about being human. But we are always intended to depend on God. God’s one command — “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” – was intended to bring the first humans to trust God, to know that he knows our limits. If we cross over those limits and lines, we will take ourselves away from life and safety.
Genesis 2, together with Genesis 1:26-27, shows us God’s intention that his image is reflected in a humanity made up of both male and female. Only in this distinction between male and female can we see the richness of God’s character. This doesn’t only apply to marriage (Jesus and Paul, for example, were single) but to our wider relationships. To be in God’s image is to be relational, and to realize that our differences don’t have to keep us apart. God has welcomed us to know him, different as we are from him. We can’t let distinctions of male/female, rich/poor, or anything else, keep us from the relationships that God intends for us.
Genesis 3-11 – The spread of sin
Genesis 3 shows us a story of disobedience: people were basically dissatisfied with their place under God. “You shall be like God” (Genesis 3:5), was the serpent’s temptation. We want to be in charge. We put ourselves above God. That is our basic sin: the idolatry of Self.
As a result of this sin, this rebellion against trusting God for our well-being, the “curse” came: every relationship was broken. People hid from God (3:7-10), they blamed God (3:12), they blamed each other (3:12), they blamed outside forces, in the form of the serpent (3:13). Frustration and enmity came into people’s relationships with each other. The earth became harder to work, and work became more frustrating. And the people were removed from the garden, so they couldn’t eat of the Tree of Life: in other words, death became our ruler.
Considering our beginning as God’s image-bearers, this rebellion needs to be seen as it truly is: a tragedy. We were made for glory, but now are lost. We need someone to come and rescue us.