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Apr 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 7, 2013 – Genesis 1:1-2:3

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

INTRO: I hope you know, our concern here at Reflexion is your spiritual development

That is how Reflexion started
– a handful of us wanted a more authentic experience of God
• something deeper, stronger, more spiritually satisfying
• we found that traveling together, sharing our progress, helped to move each of us forward

Christian spirituality has a definite shape and it is formed by scripture
– not being familiar with the Bible or not knowing how to read is a disadvantage
• it can impede our growth or, in some instances, twist it

Genesis is the entrance to the Scriptures
– it lays a foundation for everything that follows
• so I want to spend a few weeks giving you the opportunity to get acquainted with it

Vv. 1-2, A God’s-eye view of the birth of the universe

Genesis 1 is not an attempt to do science
– it might be entertaining or fascinating to match this with science,
• but it’s not helpful for getting at the intended message
– the Bible talks a lot about the heart,
• but nothing in it explains how to repair a leaky ventricular valve
– our first concern it to hear what the Bible has to say
• to listen carefully and let it speak for itself

“Heaven and earth” sums up the whole creation,
– but gives special emphasis to the boundaries of our existence

At first, the earth looks like a confusing, chaotic mess
– formless, void, and covered in darkness
• something was teeming deep in the sea, but hidden by darkness

Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its home? (Job 38:16-20)

But something was also moving over the surface, “Spirit of God”
ruach could be translated “wind” or breath
○ no explanation is given regarding what the Spirit is doing
• what we encounter here is a central theme of the Bible:
○ God works invisibly in the natural world by his Spirit
○ the Spirit is his agent for working invisibly in our circumstances

God works in mysterious ways in grace as well as in nature, concealing his operations under an unseen succession of events. Francois Fenelon

○ eventually we learn this is the same way he works in us!

Vv. 3-10, God begins giving shape to the raw materials

It’s important to see how God imposes order on the chaos
– suppose you filled a five gallon water bottle with spare change
• you want to count it yourself, so you pour it out on floor
• what’s the first thing you would do?
○ most of us would separate the coins into their various denominations
○ pennies here, nickels there, dimes over there, etc.

God started separating and dividing things
– the heavens and earth, light and dark, land and seas
• everything has its proper place
○ that’s how chaos is made intelligible and manageable
– this will be very big in Israel’s law – strict divisions will be made
• between clean and unclean, holy and unholy, two kinds of fabric, etc. (e.g., Lev. 19:19)
• but how sharp are the divisions we see here?
○ some are a little blurred – day transitions into night
○ “evening and morning”

This theme of separating and organizing is reflected in the layout of chapter 1
– the six days all begin with the words, “God said, ‘Let …’” and end, “And there was . . .”
– in first three days, God is setting the stage – preparing “spaces”
• light, sky and space (expanse), land and seas
• these first three days, God is also labeling these spaces (5, 8, 10)
○ “God called . . .” – can mean, “to give a name”

He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them (Ps. 147:4)

○ I’ll have more to say about this next week
– each of these three sections is fairly short

Vv. 11-31, God revisits each staging area and puts something on it

Something that either moves or lives
– each section here is at least twice the size of the previous three
– in a sense, God builds to the final phase – the crescendo
• he’s been getting the earth ready to support human life

Previously, he created light – now a light source
– sun, moon, and stars – “for signs and for seasons . . .”
• “signs,” like the north star
• “seasons” are governed by the earth’s movement through space
– God arranged objects in the sky so that we can use them orient ourselves in space and time

God added a word to his creation of animal life: “blessed”

I have a friend who, when her son was about four, asked her the dreaded question, “Where do babies come from?” She thought about it, said a quick prayer, and answered, “Well, “God had so much pleasure in creating humans that he decided to share that pleasure with mommies and daddies. So now they get to help God make babies.”

– “bless” – God imparted a special energy of fertility (De. 7:13-14) – productivity
– “image” – the text specifically refers this to both the man and woman

Ch. 2:1-3, God’s grand finale

Until now, our attention has been mostly on the three-dimensional universe
– but here is a shift and the emphasis is strongly focused on a fourth dimension: time
• we glance backward and see it was there all along
○ in the first sentence, “beginning” is a time reference
○ when dividing light and dark, God renamed with time words, day and night
○ and as we just saw, “seasons, days, and years”
– God does something very special to time

What is the first chapter of Genesis telling us?

First, a lesson in “cosmology”
– when science does cosmology, the goal is to answer questions like:
• What is here? (what is it made of?)
• Where did it come from?
• How did it acquire its present form?
– but science can’t answer any of the personal questions
• and, for us, these are the questions that matter most
○ Who am I?
○Why am I here?
○ Am I worth anything?
– so we learn from chapter 1 that our universe and ourselves came from God’s hand
• neither we nor the universe are an accident
• the universe was made for us, and we were made to live in it
○ this is where we meet and experience God
– also, Genesis is world-affirming – that is, the world of nature
○ God repeatedly steps back, surveys, and sees that it is good!

O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! (Ps. 8:1)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Ps. 19:1)

The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
(Ps. 24:1)

• some believers make Christianity seem dreary, unpleasant, and negative
○ but it’s as if God says, “Come here and take a walk with Me and I’ll show you what you’ve been missing”
○ on a trail, by the ocean, God is sharing his genius, creativity, and beauty with us
(yesterday Barb and I were blessed to see up close a sparrow hawk and a rattle snake)
• but we’re too busy to take these walks with God

Secondly, Genesis chapter 1 shows us the uniqueness of being human
– by the time God gets to the man and woman, his method of creation changes
• he begins with a conversation, “Let Us . . .” – this is his most deliberate move
• also, he created us in his image and likeness

God kept creating thing after thing until he made something in which he could see his own reflection

– God’s image defines the human person
false self – when we live as if animals, we betray God’s image (1 Cor. 2:14)
true self – we surrender to God’s image (1 Cor. 2:15)
• there’s also a pseudo-self: the attempt to fake a true self (1 Cor. 3:3)
○ what we want to be, but feel we are not (or cannot be)
○ so we fake what we think it looks like – and usually produce something that is  pious and legalistic
○ or we fake being what we think others expect a true self to be

Third, what God after he “completed” the heavens and earth
– he made all these “things,” but what did he sanctify? (make holy)
Time – specifically, a time of rest
– during this Sabbath rest, all activity is suspended – why?
• because nothing needs to be added to this moment
○ everything is here
○ our activity would only stir up dust and make unnecessary noise — like a leaf blower
• artists have to know when to stop – so do we

CONC: There is a tension that runs through this chapter

Between chaos and order
– for the man and woman, the tension is between being animal and human

Our tension is resolved when we learn to rest in God
– then, from rest we return to our active lives in creation with God

This is the true face of humankind
– it is sacred,
it is our destiny,
it is the image of God working itself out in out lives

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