Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that God is in control, that God has a plan for us. Letâ€™s open Godâ€™s User Manual, Chapter 1, and start at the beginning. Genesis, verse 1:1 begins –
In the beginning, God createdâ€¦
Letâ€™s stop right there and discuss just those 5 words. Lately on the New York Times Best Seller List, books by atheists have been topping the list. â€œGod: The Failed Hypothesis, How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist,â€ â€œThe God Delusion,â€ â€œLetter to a Christian Nation,â€ â€œGod is Not Great.â€ In response, prominent Christian apologetic authors have come out with books like â€œThe Case for Christâ€ and seminars like the one we recently had from Reasons to Believe.
Usually, an atheist begins his argument with, â€œprove to me that God existsâ€ as if somehow youâ€™re going to be able to argue him into heaven. How does God answer this question? â€œIn the beginning, God created.â€ The bible wastes no time trying to explain the existence of God. God is. Remember when Moses asked God what His name was? Exodus 3:14, â€œGod said to Moses, â€˜I am who I am.â€™â€ God is. Psalm 19:1 says, â€œThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.â€ Psalm 14:1 says, â€œThe fool says in his heart, â€˜There is no God.â€™â€ Genesis 1 begins with the understanding that God exists and has always existed and doesnâ€™t spend any time giving evidence to fools who demand to see evidence that already surrounds us.
In verse 2, the second part of the Trinity is introduced, the Holy Spirit which hovers over the formless void. To me, this shows an anticipation of greater things to come; the Hebrew word rachaph is also used in Dueteronomy 32:11, describing how a mother eagle flutters her wings over her young to protect them. The Lord God did not create the world impersonally; creation is very personal to God and he protects us under His wing. If the Spirit of God is hovering, what is He about to do? He is taking a formless void and giving it purpose.
Diane challenged me to read each word carefully, and sheâ€™s right, there is so much more to Genesis than a simple story of creation. Itâ€™s a story of Godâ€™s relationship with His creation and His purpose for His creation.
In verse 3, it says, â€œAnd God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.â€ God spoke the light into existence. I think of this as an introduction to the third person of the Trinity, the Son of God. John 1:9 introduces Jesus as â€œthe true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.â€ Our Savior is the source of all light; our human perspective tells us that light comes from the sun, but if youâ€™ll look down to verse 16, weâ€™ll see that God created the light on the first day, but didnâ€™t create the sun until the fourth day.
Jesus as the source of all light is also revealed in the book of Revelation at the end of time. Revelation 22:5 says, â€œThere will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.â€
As science progresses and helps explain the origins of the universe, itâ€™s interesting to see how, thousands of years before science, Godâ€™s Word tells us how the world was created. First the universe, then the earth, then the plants and then the animals. Throughout this creation, God declares His creation to be good. Verse 4, Day 1, the light was good. Verse 10, Day 2, God declares the earth and sky and water and land to be good. Verse 12, Day 3, the vegetation with plants and trees and fruit, God declares to be good. Verse 18, Day 4, God creates the sun and the moon and the stars and declares them good. Verse 21, Day 5, God creates the great creatures of the sea and every winged bird and declares them good. Verse 25, Day 6, God creates livestock and land animals and declares them good.
On the 6th day, God creates man, and verse 31, God declares it to be very good. Not just good, very good. Nothing further needed to be made; His creation was exactly what God had planned. Godâ€™s creation reflects Godâ€™s glory, and Godâ€™s creation continues to reflect Godâ€™s glory, even if manâ€™s ability to reflect Godâ€™s glory is imperfect. Man is different from the rest of creation. On the first 5 days, look at how God spoke creation into existence. God said, â€œLet there be light.â€ God said, â€œLet there be sky, let there be land, let there be seas.â€ But when God created man in verse 26 it says, â€œLet us make man in our image.â€ This phrase is far more personal than the previous 6 days where God effortlessly spoke creation into existence with â€œLet there be.â€ The phrase, â€œlet us makeâ€ is quite unlike the others. First of all, itâ€™s plural. Let â€œusâ€ make man. Who is this â€œusâ€ God speaks of, and why is there no â€œusâ€ in the rest of Godâ€™s creative activity?
The presence of the Holy Spirit and verse 2 and the hint of the Christ to come in verse 3 form the plurality of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is omniscient and knows this creation of man will be disobedient to Him and He knows how much this disobedience will cost Him. The bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:20 that Christ was chosen before the creation of the world to be our redeemer; God knows that the Son will one day be sacrificed to pay for our sins. He planned it during creation.
Why is there no â€œusâ€ listed in the first 6 days? Perhaps because the first 6 days show Godâ€™s creative ability and his omnipotence, but nothing in the first 5 days shows Godâ€™s love like the day He created man. God is going to demonstrate and prove His love by creating the one creature to whom God will make Himself vulnerable. For God so loved the world that He gave us His son and planned this love from the very beginning of creation. God created man already knowing the cost to Himself, a love that humans can barely comprehend.
God created both men and women in His likeness, in His image. His image has nothing to do with gender or our skin color or our height or weight or any other differentiation between humans. By creating us in His image, we are to reveal something about God, but we are not gods ourselves.
I think the importance of the phrase â€œin His imageâ€ should not be taken lightly; it underscores the importance of human life to our Lord. In our society, we see many, many debates that degrade the importance of human life. When it comes to the life of the unborn, God values the life long before birth. Pslam 139:13-16 says,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
In debates about euthanasia, we hear about the quality of life as though we have set ourselves up to be the gods who determined what sufficient quality of life is. Who are we to determine Godâ€™s plan for anotherâ€™s life? Who are we to determine whether somebody elseâ€™s life no longer has meaning? For that matter, who are we to determine whether our own lives have meaning? Godâ€™s voice is clear â€“ human life is sacred, human life is holy, human life is made in His image.
Genesis 1:29-30 emphasizes the sanctity of life of creation. It says,
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the groundâ€”everything that has the breath of life in itâ€”I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
We see the so-called â€œnatural orderâ€ today and canâ€™t imagine the world any other way, but God gave man every seed-bearing plant and ever tree with fruit for us to eat. The next line implies that all the other animals, too, were herbivores. The importance of life is subtly confirmed here. The bible also predicts a future day when respect for all life will yet again be the order of things; Isaiah 11:6-7 says
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
We know that coming up in a future lesson in Genesis will be about the Fall, when man chooses to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. After sin is introduced into the world, animals are first slaughtered for human benefit in Genesis 3:21, and were probably used for food for the first time after the flood in Genesis 9:3. The sanctity of animal life will not be fully restored until the future reign of Christ on earth when sin is conquered forever.
The first book of Genesis describes humans as the completion of Godâ€™s creation where God demonstrates His love for us. The second book of Genesis describes Godâ€™s plan for men and women. In Genesis 2:2, after creating man and woman, God rested on the seventh day, and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. Was God tired?
God did not rest because God needed rest. God rested, I think, to show us the importance of rest. One day a week devoted to simply enjoying what God has created. We tend to put work first in our lives as though our work was our god, and we work all seven days of the week. The seventh day is holy, set apart, for our benefit, not Godâ€™s. God has no need of rest, but he knows that this rest is so important he made one of the Ten Commandments.
Thatâ€™s not to say, though, that work isnâ€™t important. Itâ€™s says in Genesis 2:15 that God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden and told him that his job was to work the garden and take care of it. The Hebrew word for â€œworkâ€ used here means to labor, to work for another, and the serve God. Godâ€™s plan is for us to work, not an idle life of recreation and laziness.
Letâ€™s back up to Genesis 2:4 and see the relationship God wants to have with His special, very good creation. Throughout Genesis 1, God is called in Hebrew by the ancient name for deity, Elohim. In Genesis 2:4, Godâ€™s is called by His intimate name, Yahweh, or â€œI amâ€. Itâ€™s appropriate that Godâ€™s intimate name is introduced here because God begins to act in very personal ways with His creation. In verse 7, God â€œformed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.â€ The beasts of the earth received life by means of the spoken Word of God, but man gets a personal CPR, a mouth-to-mouth infusion of life that clearly lifts man above the animals. Clearly, God has affection for His creation. Will His creation also have affection for God? It is a test that continues to this day. Will we choose to love God as He loves us?
Just like creation without man is incomplete, the creation *of* man is also incomplete. In verse 18, The Lord God, Yahweh, says that it is not good for man to be alone, and He will make a helper suitable for him. If youâ€™ve ever taken a good look at a giraffe, you know that God must have a sense of humor, and I think God shows his humor here. Verse 18-20,
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
Itâ€™s like God is saying, Adam, dude. Pick an animal, any animal, to be your helper. You know, when I go shopping, Iâ€™m like most men. We decide we need it, we go out and buy it and bring it home. Iâ€™m just glad Adam didnâ€™t go shopping for a helper like I go shopping. All the animals are paraded before him, and Adam says, â€œAre these my only choices? Well, I guess Iâ€™ll take the platypus.â€
No, it says no suitable helper was found. Whew. Verse 21-22,
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
As God created woman, man was deep asleep and observed nothing, preserving the mystery of Godâ€™s work. To this day, men donâ€™t seem to understand where women are coming from.
Back in Genesis 1, we read that male and female were created on the same day, but this passage makes it clear that man was formed first out of the dust, then the woman is formed from the man. Manâ€™s need for a helper does not come from man; God says in verse 18 that it is not good for the man to be alone, and that He will make a helper for him.
While the woman would be like him, she would also be different. Man didnâ€™t need another person exactly like himself. God created man with certain strengths and God-given abilities. Then God created woman with different strengths and abilities that complimented man. The verbs used for Godâ€™s creation are different; God â€œformedâ€ man out of dust, just like a potter forms a vessel out of clay. But God â€œmadeâ€ woman, built for a specific role. Though man and woman are different, man and woman are made from the same substance and share a tie that can never be broken.
Adam was obviously overjoyed he didnâ€™t settle for a platypus. When he awoke, he said, â€œWo, man!â€ Verse 24,
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Two separate people become a single unit with shared dreams, hopes, and tasks. Though different, as married couples we are united. Though separate, we function as one. We learn to love the other and treat them as more precious than ourselves, and so get a glimpse of the love our Creator has for us. Like most people, we want others to see us as better than we really are. When we are physically naked, nothingâ€™s hidden. Yet, the man and woman felt no need to hide who they were, even though they were naked. They celebrated their similarities and worked together to accomplish their God-given responsibilities. A man and a womanâ€™s commitment to God and to each other form the basis of a Godly marriage. In marriage, we accept our spouse just like God accepts us, for who he or she is.
Itâ€™s far too easy in our society today to abandon Godâ€™s plan for our marriage, to bail when things get tough or uncomfortable. Godâ€™s plan is obvious; marriage should be a lifelong commitment to help one another as one flesh in a covenant relationship.
Why would God ordain such a relationship? In all of Godâ€™s creation, God first expressed a relationship with man. It was on the 6th day that God used the plural to make man in our image, and it was with man that God first intimately breathed life into his nostrils. God loves us, and wants us to love him. True love is a choice, and we can choose not to love him.
Marriage is an interim step toward knowing the love of the Lord. With a partner, we are naked, we hide nothing. Our spouse knows us and should know us better than any person on this earth, better than anybody but God. We are to be one flesh. With our spouse, we are able to give forgiveness, just like Christ forgave us. With our spouse, we are able to receive forgiveness and recognize in ourselves just how much we fall short of perfection. With our spouse, we can practice loving unconditionally. The tears and the joy of sharing one anotherâ€™s life, helping each other as one flesh, is Godâ€™s plan for our lives.
Ephesians 5:25 tells each husband to love his wife sacrificially, just as Christ gave Himself up for us. Men, do we do that? Or do we place things above our wives? Ephesians 5:25-31,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the churchâ€” for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
And the two will become one flesh. Where have I heard that before? Husbands, let me tell you â€“ whatever sacrifice you think youâ€™ve made on behalf of your wives, itâ€™s not yet enough. Unless you think youâ€™ve sacrificed more for your wife than Christ sacrificed for you.
Wives, you were made for a purpose, to be a helper for your husband, to provide for him things he cannot do for himself. What would you do for Christ if He was in your presence today? If Jesus wanted something from you, would you tell him â€œno?â€ Ephesians 5:22-24,
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Your husband is your ministry; you demonstrate your love for Christ by the way you demonstrate your love for your husband. While your husband is called to live sacrificially for you, wives are called to remember that they were made to be their husbandâ€™s helper in everything.
They way we serve our husbands needs and the way we sacrifice ourselves for our wives gives glory to our Father in heaven who has a purpose for creation. He has a purpose for us in creation, and we are his most precious creation. Will we remember when we leave this room today that every word, every action, should be pleasing to God, and that our marriage is Godâ€™s plan to demonstrate His love for us? Listen to the words of Psalm 8:1-4 as we close today:
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
God loves us and desires most of all for us to love him in return, and to demonstrate that love to one another beginning with our marriage. All of creation declares His love for us.