************ Sermon on Genesis 1:1-2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 18, 2010
"In the Beginning God"
Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is our purpose?
Since the beginning of time, mankind has asked these questions. The answers have varied widely from person to person and from culture to culture. Some believed that the universe was created from a war between gods who are as flawed as human beings. Others insist that life as we know it is just the result of a cosmic accident and has no ultimate purpose or significance.
Thousands of years ago, the children of Israel asked these same questions as they suffered under the hand of Pharaoh. And in His providence, the One Who created all things and Who alone gives life meaning answered these questions through His servant Moses.
To all men – ancient and modern – who think they know how the universe was formed the Creator asks this question: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4). You weren't there. I wasn't there. Charles Darwin with his theory of evolution wasn't there. Hermann Gunkel with his study of comparative religions was not there. Julius Wellhausen with his literary criticism was not there. Only God was there. And, He alone knows and reveals the history of our origins. He does so in the first book of the Bible.
We start a series of sermons on Moses' first book today. I am not sure how many messages this may take – maybe 40, maybe 80.
The book is called "Genesis." This name comes from the Greek translation of the opening phrase, "In the beginning ..." (Gen 1:1). "Genesis" is the Greek word for "beginning, origin, birth, or generation." The name is most appropriate because Genesis records the beginning of life, history, redemption, and the people of God. The only other book of the Bible that starts with the same words, the Gospel of John, traces the beginning of Jesus' ministry and the new people of God.
As you know, Genesis is no ordinary piece of literature; it is the very Word of God. This Word was originally given to the ancient Israelites in order to reveal their origins and to show how God ordained their leaving Egypt to possess the land of Canaan. Yet, the focus is much broader than Israel. Ultimately, it includes Jesus Christ in Whom all the families of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3).
Genesis is the watershed of revelation. The ever deepening rivers of revelation which surge through the Bible spring from this book. Genesis introduces all the questions and problems which are addressed in the rest of the Bible. The roots of redemption are planted deep in Genesis, and he who would understand God's great plan for the ages must spend much time exploring the contents of this book. So, let us turn to the opening verses.
I In the Beginning God
A "In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). The Bible starts with God. The Bible assumes God.
"In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). This simple statement refutes the atheist, who says there is no God. It mocks the agnostic, who claims we cannot know God. It shames the polytheist, who worships many gods. It silences the pantheist, who states nature is God. It discredits the materialist, who believes matter is eternal and not created. It denies the claims of the fatalist, who teaches everything is by luck or chance and there is no divine plan behind creation and history.
B "In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). These opening words of Genesis give us profound insight into the nature of God.
First, God is the ultimate Being. Before there was time, there was God. Before there was nature, there was God. Before there was history, there was God. Before there was life, there was God. Before there was the universe, there was God. There are some who say there was "nothing" before the universe existed. This is not strictly accurate, because there was God.
"In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). In the final analysis, this is not a subject of debate but a call to faith – faith in God Who is mighty, majestic, immense, infinite, transcendent.
Second, the Hebrew name for God that we find in verse 1 is "Elohim." This name links God with creation and emphasizes that He is strong and mighty and transcendent.
Third, "Elohim" is plural. This tells us there is more to the one God than first meets the eye. I want you to consider verse 26 where God says, "Let us make man in our image ..." Did you catch the "divine conference"? God says, "Let us ..." Us. We. Plural.
What or Who is God talking about? We have here the first glimpse or hint of the Trinity. This becomes clear when we also consider Genesis 1:2 and John 1:1-3.
(Gen 1:2) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Notice, involved in the act of Creation is God, the Spirit, and the Word or the Son.
(Jn 1:1-3) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
The opening book of the Bible, then, introduces to us the God Who made us, the Son Who saves us, and the Spirit Who sanctifies us. As I already said, Genesis introduces all the questions and problems which are addressed in the rest of the Bible.
II In the Beginning God Created
A "In the beginning God created ..." (Gen 1:1). Genesis uses a special Hebrew verb for "create." The subject of this word is always God. God, and only God, is the One who creates. Not angels. Not demons. Not Satan. But only God. As for man, we can fashion things, we can build things, we can design things, but only God can create. "To create" is exclusively an act of God.
The creation account begins with "create" and, when we look at Genesis 2:4, we see the creation account ends with "create." They are bookends. Bookends that hold up the central idea that God is at work, that God is creating, that God brings everything into existence.
B "In the beginning God created ..." (Gen 1:1). Contrary to popular science, the Bible does not say, "In the beginning primordial ooze." Nor does it say, "In the beginning amino acids." Nor does it say, "In the beginning organic materials." Nor does it say, "In the beginning lightning triggered." Rather, the Bible says, "In the beginning God created ..." Matter did NOT come into being on its own, life did NOT just happen, and complex forms of life did NOT simply evolve from lower forms of life. They all were created by God.
"In the beginning God created ..." (Gen 1:1). Sad to say, this is contrary not only to popular science but it is also contrary to what most of the church says today. Most evangelical churches in America today view Genesis 1-11 as myth, as stories, as fables, as fabricated tales. Genesis is not myth but history. I cannot stress this strongly enough. With this in mind, listen to what the Bible itself says about those who turn to myths:
(1 Tim 1:3-4) command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer (4) nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith.In denying Genesis, the church today is guilty of teaching myth.
(2 Tim 4:3-4) For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (4) They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
There is way more at stake here than just mankind's origins. If Genesis is myth, than Christ is myth too. Out of a mythical Genesis comes a mythical Christ. The thinking that sets Genesis aside must also set the Gospels aside. No Adam, no Christ! No Fall, no need for Christ. Listen to how Peter puts this:
(2 Pet 1:16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.A mythical Christ did not die for our sins. A mythical Christ cannot forgive us our sins. A mythical Christ does not go with us through the valley of the shadow of death. A mythical Christ will not raise our body from the grave. Only a real, actual Jesus does these things.
C "In the beginning God created ..." (Gen 1:1). What did He create? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1). "The heavens and the earth" is just another way of saying "everything." In other words, the entire universe comes from God's hand. Now, consider this newspaper clipping I saved years ago:
Topic: CreatorWhat does the Bible say? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1).
Title: There is no God
There is no God. All of the wonders around us are accidental. No almighty hand made a thousand billion stars. They made themselves. No power keeps them on their steady course. The earth spins itself to keep the oceans from falling off toward the sun. Infants teach themselves to cry when they are hungry or hurt. A small flower invented itself so that we could extract digitalis for sick hearts.
The earth gave itself day and night, tilted itself so that we get seasons. Without the magnetic poles man would be unable to navigate the trackless oceans of water and air, but they just grew there.
How about the sugar thermostat in the pancreas? It maintains a level of sugar in the blood sufficient for energy. Without it, all of us would fall into a coma and die. It simply happened.
Why does snow sit on mountain-tops waiting for the warm spring sun to melt it at just the right time for the young crops in farms below to drink? A very lovely accident.
The human heart will beat for 70 or 80 years without faltering. How does it get sufficient rest between beats? A kidney will filter poison from the blood, and leave good things alone. How does it know one from the other?
Who gave the human tongue flexibility to form words, and a brain to understand them, but denied it to all animals?
Who showed a womb how to take the love of two persons and keep splitting a tiny ovum until, in time, a baby would have the proper number of fingers, eyes and ears and hair in the right places, and come into the world when it is strong enough to sustain life?
-- 1966 by Jim Bishop, Miami Herald, July 27, 1987.
III Formless and Empty
A Verse 1 informs us that God created everything. Verse 2 then focuses on planet earth:
(Gen 1:2) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.If I was the one writing Genesis, I think my verse 2 would focus on heaven, the abode of God. Or, perhaps, I would focus on something bigger and more impressive than earth: like Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun, or one of the stars.
Genesis, however, focuses immediately upon the earth. Why? Because when it comes to Creation, the Bible is geocentric and man-centered. Don't forget the questions answered by Genesis: "Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is our purpose?" So, of course, the focus is on earth and not another part of the creation.
B A simple rule of Bible interpretation is that we interpret the Bible in the light of the Bible. Therefore, when we look at Genesis 1, we also need to look at Hebrews 11:3 and Romans 4:17.
(Heb 11:3) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.These two verses tell us that God the Creator formed the Creation out of nothing.
(Rom 4:17) ... God ... gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
This means that the earth mentioned in verse 2 has already been the subject of God's creating activity. This further means that all that exists was not brought into being in one millisecond by one command of the Lord God Almighty. It did not happen with just a simple snap of His fingers. God could have done it this way, but He chose not to. Instead, God chose to use a process. With this in mind, listen again to verses 1 & 2:
(Gen 1:1-2) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.God created, but the earth was formless and empty. God created, but what He initially created was not in its final form. To use the language of Job, what God did in verse 1 was lay the "earth's foundation" (Job 38:4).
C Did you notice the four things we are told about the earth in verse 2? First, it was "formless" or unformed. It did not yet have the physical features which would make it livable or recognizable. Have you ever seen a picture of earth taken from space? If a picture was taken of the earth "in the beginning" none of us would recognize it. Second, it was "empty" or unfilled – no plants, no animals, no bugs, no oxygen, no atmosphere, no nothing. Third, it was enveloped in "darkness" – no light, always night. Fourth, the earth was covered with "waters" – deep waters, still waters, water and only water. All of this would change with the commands we see in the rest of Genesis 1. All of this would change with the process we see in the rest of Genesis 1.
IV Christ and Creation
Maybe you think I overlooked the last part of verse 2. We are told that the Spirit of God was hovering over the formless, empty, dark, watery earth: "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Gen 1:2). An image is in mind here: the image of a mother eagle hovering over her nest. Something is about to hatch. Something needs the protecting care of God's Spirit. That's the image here.
Why do I emphasize this? Because I want to say something about the work of Christ and His Spirit. In Christ, God has made a new creation (2 Cor 4:3-6; 5:17). Paul uses imagery from the Genesis account to illustrate this new creation. Man is born a sinner; like the first creation, he is formless and empty and dark. The Spirit of God convicts and moves in men's hearts even as He hovered over the first creation. The light of Christ fills us and shines in us even as the light began to shine in the first creation.
But there is more. Just as Adam was the head of the old creation, so Christ is the Head of the new creation; He is the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45-49). The Old Testament is the "written account of Adam's line" (Gen 5:1) and ends with a curse (Mal 4:6). The New Testament is a "record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ" (Matt 1:1) and ends with no curse (Rev 22:3).
Do you see how the language and imagery of Genesis is repeated elsewhere in the Bible?
(Gen 1:1-2) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.What are we to make of this? How are we to respond to this?
We discover next time that God uses speech as part of the creation process. Speech permits an answer. In fact, I would go so far as to say, speech requires an answer. It is rude not to reply when someone speaks to you.
How are we to reply to God's creation activity? We are to sing the kind of songs we sing this morning: "This Is My Father's World", "I sing the Mighty Power of God", "Let All Things Now Living". Do you hear what we are supposed to do? God is to be worshiped and praised as the Creator. The psalm writers had it right:
(Ps 8:1) For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.Did you catch the heading to both psalms? "For the director of music." We are talking about worship, public worship, tabernacle and temple worship. When we think of Creation we are to praise the Lord.
(Ps 19:1) For the director of music. A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Let all things their Creator bless
Good Morning Boys and
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One,
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Based on Genesis 1:1-2
I would like to ask you boys and girls to do something for me this morning.
I would like to ask you to build me some sand castles.
I will say "One, Two, Three, Go" and let's see who can build me the nicest sand castle.
Are you ready? "One, Two, Three, Go."
What's wrong? How come you aren't doing anything?
Why aren't you building me a sand castle?
GET CHILDREN TO ANSWER THERE IS NO SAND, PAILS, SHOVELS, OR BEACH.
So let me get this right: you can build me a sand castle only if there is a beach full of sand?
Only God can build sand castles out of nothing. You can't. I can't.
I have a picture to show you. SHOW PICTURE OF EARTH FROM SPACE.
WHAT IS THIS? WHO MADE IT? HOW DID HE MAKE IT.
God made it out of nothing.
I want you to listen to this story:
One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.
The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you; We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things. We just don't need you."
After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest." To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!"
But, God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."
The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You can't use my dirt. Go get your own dirt."
Only God can create out of nothing.
Pray with Children.
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