Genesis 1: Creation
The first words of the bible are so incredibly beautiful aren’t they? Poetic, rich, and dripping with God. In the first sentence; God. Throughout the text; God. God in his spirit, hovering over the waters, God in his trinity talking to His whole self – ‘Let us make them in our own image’. God the all-powerful creator bringing forth matter from nothing. God the creator forming and shaping the creation – separating the light and the darkness, the water from the land, taming chaos and bringing life. Not just life that God must create over and over again, but plants and trees which have the power to recreate. Creatures in all parts of the planet which, once created, continue to reproduce themselves, adapting and developing as they do so. And then, he creates humanity. People were created and they are in the image of God. Take time to recognise that people were made in the image of a relational, creative, loving God.
God made the world fully formed and alive, and then put the people in place to steward it – to sustain it and care for it, to use it and manage it. God looked at his creation and recognised that it was good. By the time he had finished creating all it’s elements he declared it ‘very good’. It is important to know that God had an opinion about creation. It wasn’t a dispassionate act to just make the universe and let it go. For God, creation was a positive, valuable, admirable thing. God created ‘good’. Having ‘good’ from the moment of creation means there is a standard, there is a recognition of good and bad. Things have value in God’s eyes, and therefore, in ours.
With creation set in motion and teeming with life, God makes the Holy day of rest. God took care of every detail of creation. He gave the work a life of it’s own and allowed it to breathe, and he demonstrated the need to take time to stop, and appreciate all that he had made; to be fully present within it, not just for creation to breathe, but for him to breathe and take stock. Everything God created was good, including rest.
I love this first chapter of the bible. I love it for it’s rhythm and rhyme. I love it for being able to pack in so much truth about science and the creative process in so few words. I love it for setting the scene about who God truly is in his power, his majesty, his love and his provision for each of us.
I also love the mystery around this writing. For a long time it was attributed to Moses, but these days it is more commonly attributed to a number of writers, who have written down the oral stories of the community, and which have then been collated and edited by someone. Either way, it doesn’t matter too much, but I enjoy thinking about the story being told in families, or in groups, and imagining the awe and wonder that it would have been received with by it’s early hearers.
The rhythm and rhyme of the writing reflects the reality of time; the very first sentence says ‘In the beginning God …’ Having a beginning infers that there is time, and throughout the creative process there are days, nights, and a forward motion. So although we understand God to be outside of time, he is most definitely within time too. God created time.
Other scientific facts are confirmed within this ancient writing too; God created the heavens – space, and created earth – matter. So within the first few verses of the bible are confirmed the creation by God of time, space and matter, which all scientists can now confirm are the foundational elements of the universe. Scientists only understood this n the last 100 years or so, and yet, all this was understood and written down long before the disciplines of physics and chemistry. I think that is amazing.
So The first chapter of Genesis teaches us about science, but we also learn about God. In this one poem we know that God is all powerful: He created something from nothing.
We know that God is an artist: He created the universe to be beautiful, functional and self sustaining.
We know that God is Father: He created life, and it all complements itself, providing all that is needed for life to be sustained. And he created humanity in his image; created to care for, to protect and to use the world; to recognise our creator and emulate him to the best of our ability.
Knowing something of God helps us to understand that every rock and plant, every sea creature, bird and animal is special to God. We are special to God. And that informs our relationship to him, and our relationship with each other. Each of us is special to God. None is greater than another. From the moment of creation it is made clear that no colour, gender, size or ability is greater than another.
So from the first chapter of the bible we have learned about scientific realities, we learn about God, and we can also learn something important about the law. The law is a major part of the Old Testament; it is developed and explained and used and abused throughout, but here we have it’s foundations. When God created, he separated light and dark, water and land. He gave them their places and their functions. He created plants and creatures and made them able to recreate themselves. But zebra’s cannot reproduce snakes. Oak trees cannot produce seeds for corn. They have been given reproductive abilities within limits. This is the law of creation. Law is about order and boundaries; The natural law is the foundation of all law. It is a good thing. This is important for us to understand because it means that law is not all about shame and condemnation. And when we read our bibles that can seem to be the case.
All this and more can be found in just the first chapter of Genesis. Now I am going to be bold and state that I believe this chapter to be a creation story beautifully written by people to try to explain what was beyond explanation. I don’t believe that this is how creation actually happened. I understand that there are those who believe in the literal truth of Genesis, but I’m not one of them. However I will stand here and tell you that I am happy to take the beauty of the writing, the insight and faith of those who told the story over generations, the faith of those who wrote it down, and the belief of those who chose to bring it into the canon of biblical scripture. And understand it in the way it was meant to be understood. As a way of seeing God in creation. As a way of understanding the nature of creation – the order, the structure, the pattern. I am staggered by the insight of those long ago people who could, in so few words, show such depth of understanding and perceive so beautifully ‘God’.
Using the vision and wisdom of those who wrote Genesis some 3500 years ago, we have time on this Sabbath day to stop, and to think about the value and importance of God our creator, and what he created. We often cram our lives with many things and forget to stop and notice what we are a part of. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only she who sees takes off her shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”
Let us take a moment this morning to take of our shoes. Let’s take the time to stop and think about where we see heaven present in our world.