************ Sermon on Genesis 1:29-2:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 29, 2010
"God Cares for His Creation"
I was having stomach problems after my gall-bladder surgery two years ago. A quick search of the internet told me lots of people have this. Some here also have this problem. So, I was given lots of suggestions:
-digestive pills from GNC, the natural nutrition store
-stop using all dairy products
-keep away from beef
-drink more water
-drink warm milk just before bedtime
-drink chocolate milk (the last two came from dairymen)
-drinking a cold beer will numb the pain
-try the "Hallelujah Diet"
I googled the Hallelujah Diet. The Hallelujah Diet is based on Genesis 1:29 – seed-bearing plants and trees with seeded-fruit. It is a menu of 85% raw, uncooked, and unprocessed plant-based food, and 15% cooked, plant-based food. I suspect some of you would go very hungry on this diet!
I am not going to turn this into a sermon telling you how to eat or how not to eat. So, then, what is the point of our Bible reading this morning? If these verses do not lay out for us the diet for all people and all animals for all time, what do these verses teach us? Something deeper and bigger than diet is being taught. We are being told about God's care for His creation. God provides care for His creation by giving food. And, God provides care for His creation by giving rest.
I The Delicate Balance
Before we look at these two points, I want to take a look behind the scenes. Genesis 1 sticks with what is visible to the people of Moses' day, with what they understand and observe about the world. At the same time, we recognize that God was also doing some amazing things behind the scenes so neither creation nor earth nor life would fall apart.
A couple of our church members alerted me to a speech they heard at a Mount Hermon Conference about "The Delicate Balance." This speech maintains that without certain constants, neither the world nor life would be possible. For instance, what did God do in the beginning? God created the heavens and the earth; but, the earth was formless, empty, dark, and watery. What else did God do in the beginning? Thanks to modern physics we know things that Moses' audience could not possibly see or understand. For instance, in the beginning God established the strong nuclear force, the force that holds atoms together. If the force was slightly larger or smaller, life would be impossible.
What did God do on Day one? God made light. What else did God do? Behind the scenes, God set the speed of light at 186,000 miles per second. If the speed of light was larger or smaller, the sun would be either too luminous or insufficiently luminous for life support.
Christian scientists inform us that there are at least 34 such constants that God built into His universe. It includes things like the force of gravity, the ratio of protons to electrons, the expansion rate of the universe, the average distance between stars, and so on. Each one of the constants is an exact number; if any of the constants varies by even a little, neither life nor the universe as we know it would be possible.
How finely tuned is the universe made by God? Cover North America with dimes all the way to the moon. Find a billion other continents as big as North America and also pile them with dimes all the way up to the moon. That's a lot of dimes! Paint one dime red and mix it in with the billions upon billions of dimes. That red dime among the billions of dimes represents the amount of change to any of the constants that would make life impossible. God's universe is finely tuned, isn't it?!
God created the heavens and the earth. He formed and filled what He had made. If that is all He did, everything would have collapsed and all His work would have been for naught. Instead, out of His special care for His creation, God set certain forces into play so that life could continue.
This is what happened behind the scenes. Stuff that we know and Moses' audience could not possibly know. Stuff that shows the care God has for what He has made. Stuff that we know in Reformed theology as the providence of God. Listen to how the Heidelberg Catechism describes providence:
Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures ...God upholds heaven and earth with the constants He has set in place. The people at the time the Catechism was written, like the people at the time of Moses, knew nothing about these constants. Yet, they knew what we know – that without God neither the universe nor life is possible.
II God's Care: Food
A In days five and six, God created fish, birds, animals, and man. They are all living creatures. What do living creatures all have in common? They all need food in order to live. So what does God do? God provides food for these creatures of His hand.
Three things are noted by Scripture after God announces the provision of food. First, is the statement, "And it was so." This statement occurs 6 times in the Creation story (Gen1:7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30). Obviously, what God has determined comes to pass. His will cannot be thwarted. His Word cannot be broken. So from the moment God says it, God's living creatures have food.
Second, is the statement that God saw all that He had made – including the food He provided – and God pronounces the verdict that "it was very good" (vs 31). As in, perfect, nothing sinful.
Third, is a statement about completion. The forming of the earth, the filling of the earth, and then the provision of food means God's work is completed:
(Gen 2:1) Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.Completed – that is, whole, finished, complete, lacking nothing.
B Take note of the food that God provided for man in the beginning.
(Gen 1:29) 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."Take note, too, of the food that God provided for all His other creatures in the beginning.
(Gen 1:30) "And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground -- everything that has the breath of life in it -- I give every green plant for food."
The author of Psalm 104, like Moses in Genesis 1, takes us through the days of creation. Listen to what the psalmist says about the food God provides:
(Ps 104:14,21,27-29) He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth ... (21) The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God ... (27) These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. (28) When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (29) When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.The psalmist recognizes the same thing as Moses: God supplies the food needed by His creatures.
C Do you realize what the Genesis 1:29 diet means? It means man and animals were all originally vegetarian. Man ate seed-bearing plants and the fruit of trees with seed in it. The animals ate green plants. Many scientists believe that the violent and painful destruction of life is a primary law of nature. Quoting Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, they would have us believe that ours is a dog-eat-dog world with only the strongest and the fastest and the fittest surviving. Not so, says the Bible. Because in the beginning the animals did not eat one another and man did not eat the animals.
This week's issue of TIME magazine (August 30, 2010) has a health article on organic food. Organic food is a lot like the Hallelujah Diet of Genesis 1:29; it sticks with what is natural. Organic food sounds good if you are a producer – you can make lots of money growing organic oranges, raising grass-fed cattle, and producing milk that is free of hormones and antibiotics; but from a consumer point-of-view it is very expensive: a jug of milk, for instance, is $6 per gallon.
As created, then, Adam and Eve were vegetarians. It was not till after the flood that man received permission from God to also use the flesh of animals as food:
(Gen 9:1-4) Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. (2) The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. (3) Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (4) But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it."
As far as the children of Israel were concerned, this diet was further refined by the strict dietary rules of Leviticus 11 with its categories of clean and unclean food. In Christ, there are no such restrictions today (cf Mk 7:17-23; Acts 10:9-16; 1 Tim 4:1-5).
As created, the animal kingdom was also vegetarian. We see this not only in our text, but we also infer it from Isaiah 11 where the cessation of sin and the complete transformation of the world into the kingdom of God is described:
(Is 11:6-9) 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. (7) The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (8) The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. (9) They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Our second point, then, is that God cares for His creation: God provides food for the creatures He has made. That is the message of Genesis 1:29-31.
III God's Care: Rest
A In Genesis 2:1-3, we come to the final part of the creation story. In these verses we see God's care in God's rest.
What, exactly, did God do on the seventh day? Listen to what Scripture says:
(Gen 2:2-3) By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (3) And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.We need to take note of three things.
First, God "finished" the work He had been doing. It was complete, at an end, finished, accomplished. What God set out to do in the beginning, He finished doing by the seventh day. Remember what President Bush said after Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein overthrown? He said, "Mission Accomplished!" Well, we now know that was not the case. But God could say that on the seventh day: "Mission Accomplished!"
Second, we note that God "rested" from all His work. God "rested." Take a guess what the Hebrew word for "rest" is: shabath or, in English, Sabbath. On the seventh day, God took a Sabbath. On the seventh day, God ceased from His labors.
Third, we note God's blessing. Throughout Genesis 1 & 2, three blessings are given. God blesses the fish and birds so they can be fruitful and multiply. God blesses man so he can fill the earth, subdue the earth, and rule the earth. And, now God blesses the seventh day and makes it holy. Three blessings: one for life, one for rule, and one for holiness. Or, to put it another way, three blessings: for the natural, for the political, for the sacred.
B God supplies food. Then God takes a Sabbath. God supplies food. Then God takes a Sabbath. God supplies food. Then God takes a Sabbath. Does this sound at all familiar? Doesn't this remind you of the fourth commandment? In the fourth commandment God commands His people to follow His example: to work six days for food and then take a day of rest.
God supplies food. Then God takes a Sabbath. In mind here is an important principle that lies behind or underneath the fourth commandment. A teaching mentioned by Moses and quoted by Jesus:
(Deut 8:3) He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Cf Mt 4:4)Do you hear the message of the seventh day? God supplies food and then God supplies something more important than food. God supplies what we need for our physical life – food. Then God supplies what we need for our spiritual life – a Sabbath day, a holy day, a day of rest, a day set apart. Ultimately, this looks forward to Jesus Christ. Remember what Jesus said?
(Mt 11:28) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."In other words, our rest is not in a day but in a person. Our rest is in Jesus Who died and rose again.
It is so easy to get all wrapped up in food and the things of life. The seventh day is a reminder there is more to life. As Jesus put it,
(Lk 12:23) Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.The seventh day, the holy day, the day of rest, becomes a call to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness. The seventh day becomes a call to turn our focus from creation to the God of creation. The seventh day becomes a call to focus on Jesus.
(Mt 6:33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Yes, we need the food God supplies. But do you know what we need more than food? What we need more than food is God Himself. God is our biggest need. God is our most important need. Which is why, week in and week out, God reminds us of our need for Him. Which is why, week in and week out, God gives us a Sabbath.
C I've been saying all along that the creation story is a critique of idolatry and a warning against idolatry. So far, what idols have we been warned against? Day three – do not worship "mother earth" or Baal or your hard work because fertility is a created capacity. Day four – do not worship the sun, moon, or stars that God has set into place for the sake of the earth and man. Day five – do not worship the sea creatures God has made. Day six – do not worship animals, fellow man, or yourself.
What does idolatry have to do with the seventh day, the Sabbath day, the holy day? Obviously, we are being told not to worship food and, by extension, the things of this earth. Remember, seek ye first the kingdom and its righteousness?
But there is more. At the time of Moses, the people of Mesopotamia had seven-day cycles connected with the phases of the moon. They set aside the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eight days of the lunar months as fast days, days of ill luck, days on which one avoided pleasure and important projects. In this cycle, the day of the full moon was considered especially important. By way of contrast, the Jewish calendar had nothing to do with the cycles of heavenly bodies. Among the Jews, both the Sabbath and the calendar commemorates the works of God and not the works of the sun, moon, or stars. Seen this way, the Jewish Sabbath becomes another critique of celestial divinities; it becomes another attack against the worship of the sun, moon, and stars.
As I already said, we've been looking at the provision of God. Remember what God provides? God provides the constant forces necessary so that creation and life can continue. God provides food. God provides rest.
But, in telling us this, God directs our attention beyond this life and this earth with its food and its clothing.
So, let me ask, where is your attention? On this earth and the things of this earth? Or, on something higher: on God Himself, on Jesus, on the Kingdom, and on righteousness?
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