Lecture 01: Creation and God
Course: 52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lecture: Creation and God
'''How Big is Your God?'''
I want to say a few words of introduction to this sermon series. When I realized that I would be leaving teaching in seminary and wanted to get into the pulpit where I belonged, one of the series that I wanted to do was The Fifty-two Major Events of the Bible. This is something that I have been longing to do and now is the time to do it. So this morning we are going to start on the fifty-two major events, the fifty-two major stories of the Bible.
Probably since the time of the Reformation there has not been a time of Biblical illiteracy as there is in America today. Unfortunately in many places, not all, but in many places the church is a mile wide and an inch deep and that is not how God intended it to be. I heard about a pastor who was speaking at a conference and took a survey of the people, and one of the questions he asked was, "The Bible has a story about a person who was swallowed by a giant fish. Who would that be about?" Eighty percent of the people in that group with full confidence said, "Pinocchio!" The pastor went on to say that there used to be a sign at the end of a football stadium behind the goalpost that had John 3:16. And he asked the people, "What does that stand for?" They were a little more befuddled on this one, but the majority answer was that it was John Madden's weight. Second place was that they thought it was some odd directions to the bathroom. I am not joking! They had no comprehension it was a Bible verse.
We live in times of Biblical illiteracy and I do not know where we are. I want to make sure that we know the stories. The Bible does much of its teaching through stories and I want to make sure that we all know those stories in the Bible. I want to make sure that we all know the basic 52 stories of the Bible. But I also want to make sure that we know the theology. The stories are not just meant to convey the story, but to convey something of theological import, of theological significance. I want to make sure we know that. Do you know what, for example, the whole point of the book of Jonah is about? Did you know that the fish is absolutely incidental. It is of very little relevance to the story at all. Jonah was a Jew and the Jews of that time believed that God was only the God of Israel, geographically and ethnically. So when God tells Jonah to go to the Ninevites and preach, he goes, "No way, they are not Jews! God, you cannot be concerned with them, they are Gentiles. I know what I will do. I will run away from the physical borders of Israel because then God cannot get me." And the Book of Jonah is that God is bigger than Israel geographically and ethnically. That is what I mean when I say that theology is coming through the stories. And thirdly, I want to make sure that we are all aware of the overall structure of Scripture. Scripture is in a very real sense, one story. It starts in creation and ends in the new heaven and the new earth and living face to face with Jesus. This is one story, and I think very often we know bits and pieces but we do not know where they fit. I want to make sure that we understand the flow and where the pieces fit.
Let's pray: "God, you are the God of creation and as God of creation, You are sovereign and Lord over all, and You are worthy of our worship and worthy of our praise. And yet, Father, we confess that sometimes You get small in our eyes. Words fail to describe Your glory and Your grandeur, Your immensity and Your glory. Father, we pray that as we look at Genesis 1 that You will open our eyes. In Jesus' name, Amen."
We are going to look at Genesis, Chapter 1. It is always good to start at the beginning, so I want to start with Genesis 1 and the story of creation. Genesis 1 is one of the two or three most important chapters in the entire Bible, because it lays the foundation for almost everything that comes after it. As you read through the Old Testament and into the New, you can see the writers over and over again going back to creation and pulling out truths that were applicable in their time and in their situation. Genesis 1 does a marvelous job laying the foundation for most of Scripture. In fact, it does such a good job, it is so full of theology, that try as I might, I could not compress it into thirty minutes. I am hoping I do not have to do this with any other passage, but we are going to break Genesis 1 into two different sermons. There is simply too much there.
As well as being full, Genesis 1 is extremely controversial. It is controversial because some people think it conflicts with science. I was reading an otherwise marvelous commentary on Genesis, it is the best one I have ever seen in my life. It was highly theological and explained the text well. Then the writer got to the point where he was talking about the six days. Are they six twenty-four hour periods? Are they six epochs? Is it a literary structure to make theological truths? He was trying to work with those questions. And he said the most amazing thing. He said, "Almost all scientists agree that the world could not have been created in six literal days, so obviously that is not what Genesis is teaching." And I looked at it, and I thought, "Good grief! Here's a world class scholar who is quite evangelical but telling God that because of what the scientists think that God could not do it in six twenty-four hour periods." I was shocked when I read it. But there is controversy and we have to be aware of that, even in the church. Whatever position I hold on those issues, whatever position you hold on those issues, I believe that first and foremost Genesis 1 is theological.
When everything else is set aside, Genesis 1's primary purpose is to teach us theologically about who the Creator is and to teach us theologically about what creation is. And those points, those theological thrusts are much more important than secondary issues like science and history and chronology. I am not saying that those things are not important, but they are in second place compared to what Genesis 1 is most trying to get across. The problem is that we get into these debates and often lose sight of the primary questions. That we can get so caught up in young earth/old earth debate that we forget that Genesis 1 is there to teach up about the character of God and creation. And I do not want to make that mistake here. So what I want to do here is focus on the primary teachings of Genesis 1 and that it is theological in what it says about God and what it says about creation.
Having said that, let's look at the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." The first verse is most likely a title. It is a title that sits over the whole chapter, maybe the whole first several chapters. It affirms the central truth of Genesis.
God is the Sole Creator
The central truth of Genesis 1 is that God is the sole Creator of everything. That God is the sole creator of everything. That God and God alone has the power and the wisdom to create and God and God alone is sovereign over everything that He has made. Now, there are several things that Moses is not concerned to teach us. He is not concerned to prove to us the existence of God. He is not even really concerned that God made matter, although that is probably assumed in the title, heavens and earth are called a ''marazim'', where you state opposites to indicate everything. But those are not the things that are important to Moses. What is important to Moses is in verse 2; he wants to enter into the details of the creation story, having stated that God did it. And look at the world in verse 2. It is formless, it is void of structure and God in His Spirit is hovering over the earth and He is getting ready to act. That is verse 2.
And then we enter into the six days of Creation. While there are different specifics in each of these days, there is a theme that runs through the first three days of creation that ties it all together. And then there is a slightly different theme running through days four, five and six. These three days of creation show that God was in the process of taking what was uninhabitable and making it inhabitable. The first three days of creation are all about God moving into chaos, formlessness, and void and making it structured, ordered, and a place that He can later inhabit. Days one, two, and three are about making the earth inhabitable. I think that is the theme that ties these three together. So in day one, Moses starts in verse 3, "And God said let there be light. And there was light and God saw the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness and God called the light day and the darkness He called night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day." In day one God creates light and what does light do? It separates, it brings order, it separates the day from the night. And that is day one of creation. Notice the ultimate power over the universe and beyond, that God simply speaks and creation happens. He speaks and he bring order to chaos, that when God speaks, He brings things to pass.
I know this is a familiar story for most of us, and when things aget familiar we lose what its saying often. Think about this. God can simply speak, that God that we are worshipping right now, the God that we were singing about, the God that we serve, the God that we pray to can simply speak and the universe is created. how big is your God? I mean, that’s the question, isn’t it? How big is your God? We worship Him , we serve Him, He calls us to pursue Him, he calls us to love Him. How big is that God? Well, I’ll tell you how big that God is. That God is so big that He creates light without the sun.. Did you notice that? The sun and moon and stars don’t come up till day four. But God doesn’t need the sun to create light. He Doesn’t need stars to create light. I wish we had the time for me to read to you some of the pagan creation myths. They are absolutely amazing. One of the most famous is the Enuma Elish, it’s the Babylonian story and it’s typical of this kind of literature in that what you have is confusion and chaos and gods and stars and sea dragons and monsters all warring with each other and they’re cutting of heads and they’re disemboweling each other. And Tiamat gets stabbed in the eyes and out of her eyes flow the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. And that’s the kind of world that Genesis 1 is written into. A world in which the stars are power, authorities that control human lives and human destinies. And Moses writes, “Let there be light. I don’t even need the stars to create My light.” Day one. Day two picks up, verse 6, “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let ut separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse heaven, (or in the ESV footnote “sky”), and there was evening and there was morning, the second day. In the second day of creation, God creates the sky to separate, once again, to separate the waters above, clouds and other things from the waters below. He’s bringing structure to chaos, orderliness. He’s making the world inhabitable. Day three. And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear, and it was so.” See, when God speaks, it is so. “God called the dry land earth and the waters that were gathered together He called seas. And God saw that it was good. And then the pattern breaks and God does a second creative act on the third day. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation. plants, yeilding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind on the earth, and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds and trees bearing fuit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. On the theird day God separates tha water so that we have water and we have land.
And then from the land God says, “Produce vegetation and produce fruit.” Please listen to Moses on this point, especially those of you in high school and in college. The land does not have the abillity to produce life. Period. the earth does not have the ability to produce life and there is no inherent ability to do that. The land produces vegetation becuase God told it to produce vegetation. God is in the business of creating all by Himself. He doesn’t want or need anyone’s help, certainly not the earth. There is no concept in the Bible of Mother Earth. The concept does not exist you all. and as often as you hear it, it is not true. In the beginning God created, God spoke it into the ground and the ground is producing Glenn Dobbin’s wheat because God told it to do it. So you have three days of creation, you have this chaotic formless world that is being shapened and moved, put into place. Notice how the vegetation reproduces according to its kind. See, God has set things in motion, and He has set life in motion in an orderly way. There is no chaos. Again, read the pagan myths, you’ll see it. Creation is almost a byproduct in many of these stories. but that’s not what’s going on in Genesis that God is doing it orderly and he is putting boundaries on things and He is saying, “You do it this way.” there is only one God. no one is helping Him. He alone is powerful and creation results from His speaking. He alone is all-wise. He doesn’t need to ask anyone’s opinion. he is not seeking anyone’s counsel. Job got this, didn’t he? “Where were you when I created all this, Job? Who are you to call me into qustion? I created it, I am all-powerful, I am all-wise, and I am all sovereign because what I make is mine, and what i make I control. And so we have the first three days of creation. We have the world now inhabitalbe and so in days four, five and six, we see God starting to inhabit this world. And He starts in day four, verse14, “And God said, ‘let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate day from night. And let them be fore signs and for seasons and for the days and years, and let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth. And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, the sun, and the lesser light to rule the night, the moon and stars.” It’s almost kind of a casual, “Oh, yeah, He made the stars. They don’t exert any influence, any power, any authority. Yeah, He made the stars.” And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.” In day four God creates the stars to inhabit the skies. Please note, God is in control. He creates, He paces the, , He determines their functions. The stars are not gods, they are not powers, they are not authorities, they are His creation that are put where He puts them and they do what He tells them to do. And you do not have to go to pagan mythology to see this illustrated, do you? All you have to do is pick up the morning newspaper, I’m assuming it’s still there and look at the horoscopes and you can see creation’s feeble worthless, despicable attempt to state that the stars have authority over God and stars have authority over you and me. Hogwash!! And shame on you if you read them. God alone created the stars and everthing else. God alone is sovereign over creation, not the nebuli, not the stars, not the galaxies, God. Day five, verse 20. “And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swars of living creatures and let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens,’ so God created the great seas creatures and every living creature that moves with which the waters swarm according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good, and God blessed tham saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters and the seas. And let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. In the fifth day, God created the fish to inhabit the waters and He created the birds to inhabit the sky. And there’s a new thing that happens in day five, isn’t there? God blesses His creation. He’s been saying all along that it’s good, and now He actually states His blessing on the birds and on the fish. And He says, “Multiply.” In other words, fully inhabit the skies, fully inhabit the waters. And let me say again, despite what some of you may have been or are being taught in your biology classes, and I pray that you have teachers that don’t each this jibberish, I don’t know what else to call it. And if your teacher is saying there’s something more than Godless evolution, then you pray for your teacher, you support your teacher because they are taking a risk. but despite what many of us were taught in high school, the sea and the land do not have the inherent ability to create life. And it doesn’t matter how many times I was told that when I was a junior in high school, it still wasn’t true. And it’s not true now. I am not some piece of primordial scum that washed up on some beach and through natural forces became a living soul. That cant happen, you know why? Because the land and the sea do not have the inherent ability to create life. Only God has the ability to speak life into existence. And don’t you dare let anyone tell you otherwise.
Day six. We’re heading towards the culmination of creation. And in day six just as in day three, we have two creative acts. We have the creation of animals and then we have the creation of people, and then we get to the true climax of creation on day seven when God rests. And I simply am going to have to deal with day six and day seven next week. I just cannot fit it in this morning, and I don’t want to fit it in. So next Sunday, wer’e going to look at day six and day seven and we’re going to ask, “What does the Bible teach us, what does creation teach us about ourselves?” But the question I want to ask you this morning is, “What does creation teach us about God? What does the first five days of creation teach us about God?” As I said earlier, there are many, many, many things it is teaching, but there is one thing that is at the head, there’s one thing that it is teaching us above all else. And that is simpluy that there is only one God, that’s Genesis 1. There’s only one God and He created all things. Monotheism. The belief in one God was unique to Judaism, it made absolutely no sense to the ancient peoples because everyone has pantheons and whatnot and different levels of God, and in Judaism, in Genesis 1, there is only one God. And there is no one else who participates in creation with Him, not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, not Tiamaude, and Mardeth, not Mother Nature, not the earth, not the waters, not the land, sorry Darwin (not really). No other God, no human being, participates in Creation with God. There is only one. And that’s why the first of the ten commandments is, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.” In Isaiah 42:8, “I am the Lord, that is My name. My glory I give to no other. Nor my praise to carved idols.” God will not share His glory, God will not share the praise that is due to the Creator with any one or anything else. That God, as the all-powerful, all-wise, all-sovereign Creator of all things, demands and has the right to demand preeminence in absolutely everything in His creation, does He not? And that includes my mind, and my heart, and my soul. Well. if that is the central affirmation of Genesis 1, it should come as no surprise that it is the central truth that is attacked by the sinful world. The world is trying desperately to believe that it created itself. Please, students, especially, do not be tricked at school. You will be taught, most likely, the same mumbo-jumbo that I was taught. “Well. we follow the scientific method here...” As if the scientific method is God. And what they’re saying is that for every effect, there’s a cause within the material world. That everything that is is caused by something that we can see, something that is material. And “if you want to be religious, if you want to have faith, well, that’s nice, but we’re scientists, we relegate that to the superstitious past.” That’s what I was taught. Not in those words, but that clearly. The world does not want to be answerable to anyone or anything. And so the world turns creation into its own god, and it calls us to worship itself. And the world is relentless, is it not, it is relentless at attacking us and trying to pull us down.
The Bible says, Romans 1, that because we are sinful people we worship the creation rather than God. The Bible says it’s because of sin, not the scientific method, it is because of sin that we say there is no God. It is because of sin that we try to convince ourselves that “I am God, I have a spark of the divine”, as Henry Higgins says in My Fair Lady. And the world is relentless in trying to convince us that we are our own gods. And it takes many forms. It takes the forms of Mormonism, it takes the form of Animism, of New Age, of Hinduism, of Humanism, and of many other isms, but it’s the same lie. It’s the same sin. It’s the lie that creation holds the key to its own existence. And Genesis 1, and Romans 1 say “No you don’t!” Genesis 1 is here to enlarge our vision of God. It is here to help us see the immensity of who God is. And these kind of sermons are always the hardest because whenever you delve this deeply into theology, the deeper you go, words continue to fail and words continue to fail, and it’s like you cannot describe something that is indescribable. You cannot describe with human words the immensity of the God that we worship, the immensity of a God that we serve. You and I serve a God who speaks things into existence. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s overwhelming to me. I can’t even finish my daughter’s bunkbed. I mean I go out and have to buy wood, I still have some screws to put in, some nails to put in. She fell out of the bed; if that’s not a motivation to make something, I don’t know what is. I can’t get to the stupid bed! God speaks and it exists. Now if I went home tonight and I found the railings on Kiersten's bed I would fall down in fear and in praise and in worship of the God who put the railings on my daughter’s bed. But that ain’t nothin compared to the creation of everything.
One of my favorite websites is one of the NASA sites. And I went to it, I usually go to it every day. The descriptions of it are pretty pagan, but the the pictures often from the Hubbell telescope are amazing. You all, this is a nebula, NGC60. See there are so many of them that they can’t name them, they have to number them. That nebula has 200 newly formed stars. It is 1500 light years across. That is an unfathomable number! Even the starship Enterprise can’t get across the nebula. Even Rodenberry with his extremem humanism and belief in human potential that you can reach the stars if you just want it badly enough, even he can’t conceive of a nebula that’s 1500 light years across. I mean if you’re going warp ten, that’s 150 years to get across a nebula! And they’ve only gotten to warp seven last time I checked. And I love Star Trek, by the way, I’m a trekkie. That’s 1500 light years, 150 years in the triple Next Generation Enterprise! But guess what? That’s not even the biggest number. That nebula is 300 million light years. We can’t even understand these numbers. I know scientists use these numbers, but they can’t possibly understand what they mean. They are too huge, too gargantuan. Guess what? This nebula is that. It’s just a little part in Spiral Galaxy M33. They can’t even end the galaxies. I often wondered when I was a kid why God made space so big. It hasn’t been until recent years that we’ve come to realize that space is so big. I mean, God, why did you make it so big? Like someone was commenting this morning that what they are finding with the Hubbell telescope is that no matter how far they look, they keep finding more. I know that some physicists think that if they look long enough, they will see the back of their head because it’s going to be circular. Figure that one out. But, space keeps expanding. Why God? Because the heavens declare the glory of God. And because the skies proclaim the work of His hands. And it doesn’t matter whether you live in 10,000 B.C. if there was a 10,000 B.C. , or whether you live in 2002, the heavens are still declaring the glory of God. And when you look at that the only thing that should be in your mind is, “WOW, God! Unbelievable!!” Now the pagans see interstellar dust, and that’s too bad, because that’s the handwriting of God across the face of the universe. But you know what’s really amazing? That the God who created Nebula 604 in Galaxy 33 is the God that we worship, it’s the God that we serve, it’s the God that we call “Our Father who art in heaven”. It’s the God that we cry out to in our pain. It’s the God who we hang onto in times of trouble. Those people in Sudan think that they have a leg up on Christians. They have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen because the God that created that nebula will destroy wickedness in His time, He will reward righteousness in His time. And I think that they are going to see power unlike anything that a bomb or a Mig jet could possibly muster. God is in control even when we don’t understand why. This is the God that we serve. This is the God that we glorify when we are obedient children in His family. That the God who creates nebuli is the God in whom lies our hope for salvation and sanctification and eternity. It’s the God of the stars, understood in light of Genesis 1, who is offering us the free offer of salvation that if you admit you’re a sinner, that Christ’s death paid the penalty for your sin on the cross, and if you’ll commit your life to the God who makes galaxies beyond number, then you can live with Him forever. This is the God that had the power to change a corrupt human heart. And I suspect the power to change a corrupt human heart is more work than the creation of the galaxies and the stars, just a guess. How big is your God? I mean, that’s the question of Genesis 1, it has to be. How big is your God? Has your God become so small that He can’t care for you? Are the worries and frustrations and anxieties of this age overwhelming you and God is so small that He can’t take care of your problems? Have the gods of this world become so big that we worship them instead of the God of Genesis 1; the gods of pleasure, the gods of achievement, the gods of money, the gods of time, the god of “I’m gonna do what I want to do my own way and no one can tell me what to do.” Has the God of Genesis 1 become so small that He has to compete with the gods in this world? Has the God of Genesis 1 become so unsatisfying that the gods of this world seem more satisfying and we force God to compete for our affection? Or has your God become huge and awesome and immense. Has your God become the God of Genesis 1? Is your God so big that He speaks things into existence? Is your God so big that He is sovereign over absolutely everything that He has made? Is your God so big that He possesses all authority and when He tells you to go and make disciples you say, “Yes, sir”. Is your God so big that He is wise beyond anything we can possibly understand even in Sudan? If your God so big that He is worthy of being pursued with every ounce of passion that He has placed and enabled in our lives? Is God so big that He is worthy of not sharing His glory with anyone or anything? Is your God so big that He’s worthy of the place of absolute preeminence in all things? God will brook no rivals. There’s only one God in Genesis 1, He made everything, and He demands sovereignty over everything He made. How big is our God?
Let’s pray: Father, we have to confess that at different times in our lives that you have become very small. You have become very powerless, You have become very unsatisfying. And yet You have not changed, we have changed. Oh, Father, may You show Yourself by faith to be immense, gargantuan, beyond what words can describe. Father, may You who creates and clusters galaxies, who forms nebuli in sizes that are beyond human understanding and comprehension, may, Father through the work of Your Spirit this morning, perhaps afresh, perhaps for the first time and understanding, that You are a God of power and yet You are a God of love and You call us to Yourself.
- In talking about the days of creation, please stay away from the discussion of literal 6 days. Focus on things that we can agree on.
- Share your experiences in the debate of science and religion over creation. What have been some of the common arguments? Which ones are stronger? Weaker? Have these discussions enlarged your faith? Made you disgusted?
- Have you thought much about the relationship between your view of creation and your view of God? What were some of your ideas before listening to this talk?
- Does the world feel to you like it is orderly, created with purpose? If not, how would it affect you if it were orderly and purposeful? What would it look like? (We’ll be getting more into this topic in two talks.)
- Does your view of God mesh with the first three days of creation? Is he this big, or is he smaller? If so, what has happened in life to him in your thinking diminish? (It is really important to be honest with this question. Hiding behind a religious mask wouldn’t help.)
- How different would your life be if in fact you were not the rest of God’s direct creative work? What if the fish crawled up on the land all by itself?
- Saying that Gods is the “Creator of heaven and earth” is such a common phrase. How can we help one another to see the immensity of the statement? God speaks, and time begins.
- Have you ever talked with someone who truly believes in their horoscope? What was it like to talk with them about it? Why do they think that the stars control their lives?
- One of the byproducts of a godless form of evolution is that people feel lost, empty, without meaning, an accident of nature. How could you tell them the biblical story of creation in such a way that it would help them. Perhaps you should do a little role playing in your group.
- Many people believe that they are inherently good. In other words, they don’t see that their goodness is derived from God’s creative activity and proclamation that he makes them good. Have you ever asked them why? It might be a helpful discussion. Why do they think they are good, especially in light of history that chronicles one devastating war after another.
- Share some stories about how the world around you, whether it be school or the media, attacks the idea that our God alone created all things. How could you move the conversation to the point that you could tell them they are responding to sin in their hearts (other than very carefully)?
- Share times in your life when God has become so small that the gods of this world seem stronger and more inviting. Please be honest. What were the effects on you and perhaps on your family? Were you happy?
- Now share times when God became so great in your eyes that he was your greatest joy and powerful enough to destroy all your enemies. Were you happy?