1. The Creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3)
In a recent on-line article, Timothy George writes these words,
In her book Mystery on the Desert, Maria Reiche describes a series of strange lines made by the Nazea in the plains of Peru, some of them covering many square miles. For years people assumed that these lines were the remnants of ancient irrigation ditches. Then, in 1939, Dr. Paul Kosok of Long Island University discovered that their true meaning could only be seen from high in the air. When viewed from an airplane, these seemingly random lines form enormous drawings of birds, insects, and animals.
In a similar way, people often think of the Bible as a series of individual, unconnected stories. But if we survey the Scriptures as a whole, we discover that they form one great story of redemption—from the opening scenes of Genesis to the final chapter of Revelation. Weaving through all the diverse strands of the Bible is a divine storyline, the overarching story of what God has been up to in the rescue and restoration of fallen human beings, from the first nanosecond of creation through the final cry of victory at the end of time.2
These two paragraphs sum up what we are attempting to accomplish in this new series that we have entitled, “From Creation to the Cross.” Others have done some very fine work in this same venture. We find these words in the introduction of J. Sidlow Baxter’s fine work, Explore the Book:
The method which we adopt in this present series is that which we may call interpretive. We shall study the books of the Bible interpretatively; that is, we shall seek to get hold of the controlling thought, the outstanding meaning and message of each book, and then see it in relation to the other books of Scripture.3
W. Graham Scroggie says virtually the same thing in his introduction:
It is not enough that we be familiar with great texts, or great chapters; we should know the Bible as a whole; for here is a Divine progressive revelation, in which every part is organically related to every other part; and, consequently, only by knowing the whole Bible can we worthily appreciate its greatness and experience its power.4
Scroggie goes on to contrast synthetic Bible study (the kind we are attempting here, and which he facilitates in his book) with analytical Bible study:
By synthetic Bible study is meant, that method whereby the various parts are viewed together, are seen in their relation to one another, and are regarded as constituting a whole. It is, as we have said, the opposite of the analytic method.
In analysis details are separately regarded, but in synthesis these details melt into the picture of the whole… . The analytic is the microscopic method; the synthetic is the telescopic method. Analysis concentrates on the infinitesimal, but synthesis concentrates on the infinite.5
While our study seeks to be synthetic, and to achieve the results sought by Baxter and Scroggie, we will employ a slightly different method. These authors study the Bible by dealing with each book in the order in which it is found in our Bibles.6 The books of the Bible are not arranged in chronological order; if we would study it chronologically, we must deal with each book of the Bible as it fits into a chronological scheme. Excellent study Bibles such as The Narrated Bible7 have sought to facilitate a chronological study by arranging the Scriptures in their chronological order.
Also unlike Baxter and Scroggie, we will not attempt to study every book of the Bible. I am strongly committed to a thorough and systematic exposition of the Word of God. This has been the thrust of most of my teaching for the past 30 years. (My study in the Gospel of Luke, for example, was 77 lessons long!)8 In this series, however, in order to get the big picture, we dare not go into as much detail.
You will note by the title to this series that we have restricted our study to the time from creation to the cross. It is my intention to follow up with a second series that will deal with the period from the cross to the consummation of history (Acts through Revelation). This later series will not, as I currently envision it, be as chronologically oriented, which is why I have chosen to end the first series with the gospel writers’ accounts of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.
Let me point out one final distinction of this series. One must have certain criteria for determining what to include and what to exclude in a selective series. We will endeavor to focus our attention on what might be called the “turning points” in the “unfolding drama of redemption”9 – those great watershed events by which God moved from one phase of His eternal plan to the next. This may not always be evident, but it is one of my guiding principles. With these things having been said, let me attempt to sum up the goal of this study:
We purpose to gain an overall understanding of the “unfolding drama of redemption” by focusing on the major turning points in the history of redemption, beginning with creation and culminating at the cross of Christ.
A friend once told me the story of a fellow who was hiking in the mountains and came to the realization that he was lost. Fortunately, this man had a cell phone with him. He was able to call for help, and they were able to pinpoint his position and tell him how he could arrive at his destination. This series is intended to help you navigate your way through the books of the Bible. Our primary text is the Word of God itself. It is our hope that this series will encourage and equip you to read through the Bible in a little more than a year. Even though our teaching will not cover every book or chapter of the Bible, your reading of the Bible will be greatly enhanced by a sense of knowing where you are in the “unfolding drama of redemption.”
There are a number of excellent resources available that we would encourage you to use. Ligonier Ministries has an excellent tape series (both audio and video) by R. C. Sproul10 entitled, “From Dust to Glory.” There are also a number of expositional Bible studies available on the Internet. Ray Stedman and other teachers at Peninsula Bible Church have some excellent studies on-line that can be found at www.pbc.org. The Biblical Studies Foundation Website is an excellent source of Bible studies11 and helps, which can be found at www.bible.org.
One very excellent book, which we highly recommend to you for your preparation, is Explore the Book, by J. Sidlow Baxter (see footnote 2). This book contains six volumes in one, and it has a wealth of information, including a very insightful overview of each book. We encourage you to buy this excellent reference book. It is one of my “must have” books, which I have kept near at hand for many years.
Thanks to the generosity of Irving Jensen’s family, our church has been granted permission to reprint 250 copies of Irving Jensen’s classic little book, Enjoy Your Bible. It is now out of print, but we are hoping that it will be soon be available on the Biblical Studies Foundation Website, along with some of Jensen’s other works (www.bible.org). It is an excellent book that gives you an orientation to the Bible as a whole.
We do not want this series to be one in which you approach this study unprepared, attend or listen to a sermon, and then go your way. We hope that you will use the preparatory study materials we have provided and the reference and resource materials we have recommended to facilitate your own study of the Bible. We hope that you will take the opportunity to discuss the biblical texts both before and after the teaching. We believe this will be of great benefit for family Bible study and personal devotions.
In our church, we have changed our curriculum and our schedule to facilitate this new series. I, along with others, teach the children and the adults for 45 minutes, and then we have our worship time, centered around the Lord’s Table. After a break, classes then assemble to further discuss the content of the study. Much of this teaching involves material that I have not attempted to cover in my instruction. These printed messages are an attempt to capture the essence of my teaching and the follow-up teaching.
A couple of days ago, a friend forwarded this e-mail request to me:
“Can you cite a biblical scripture that says that, to be a Christian, you have to believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God? I accept Jesus as my personal Savior, but I can’t accept things like the Genesis creation myth. Maybe if I had a quote from Jesus telling me to believe every word of the Bible (or even just Genesis), then I could bring myself to accept the events of Genesis.”
I sent this fellow an answer to his question and have already received an encouraging response. As I thought about this man’s question I realized that, once again, God had providentially orchestrated the events in my life to prepare me for this lesson. Is the biblical account of creation true? It most definitely is! Is the account of creation in the Bible important to us as Christians? It most certainly is! I would challenge you to sharpen your own thinking on this matter by attempting to formulate and articulate an answer to this fellow’s question. I think it would be a profitable exercise.
As we approach this text, we will work very hard to avoid being sidetracked by questions that were not the primary concern of the author. Much of current study in Genesis 1 and 2 seems to be dominated by the debate between creationists and evolutionists. One of the great dangers here is that Christians tend to view this text primarily in terms of what it says to others, rather than in terms of what it says to them. Let us remind ourselves that Moses is the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), and that this is the first written revelation regarding the origins of the world, of mankind, and of the nation Israel. Much of my emphasis will fall on what the creation account was intended to teach its first readers. After considering the meaning of this account for the ancient Israelites, we will seek to discover its meaning for us.
Two Creation Accounts
The reader can see that there are really two creation accounts, not exactly represented by the chapter divisions. The first creation account is found in our text, Genesis 1:1—2:3. The second is found in Genesis 2:4-25. The first account begins at the first day of creation and ends with the seventh day. The second account commences in about the middle of the creation week. While the first account describes how God turned chaos into creation (days 1-4, verses 1-20), making it possible to create life (days 5-6, verses 21-31), the second account takes up at the point of God creating life. The first account describes creation by a formula, which is repeated through the account. The second account takes a more problem-solving approach; something is missing or needed that God supplies.
As I have studied this text, I have become convinced that Genesis 2:4-25 is written as a preface to the account of the fall of man, and so in our next lesson we shall study the second creation account in relation to the fall.
A Bird’s Eye View of Creation
My intention is to gain an overview of the creation account by making a number of observations.
(1) The focus of Genesis 1:1—2:3 is not on the “ultimate beginning” of all things, but rather on the beginning of the world as we know it, and especially on man’s beginning – the origins of the human race. Scholars attempt to explain this in a variety of ways, but the end result is that Genesis doesn’t really start at the absolute beginning. For one thing, there is no absolute beginning for God, Who is eternal. For another, we know that certain beings were already in existence at the time God created the heavens and the earth. At the beginning of Genesis 3, Satan appears, and at the end, we find angels (3:24), yet Genesis 1 and 2 do not mention the creation of Satan, or of angels. I believe Genesis is the account of man’s beginnings, of Israel’s beginnings, and the beginning of God’s redemptive program for man. It would seem, then, that before the events of Genesis 1 and 2, the creation and the fall of Satan had already occurred, yet they are only alluded to later on in Scripture (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-15). God does not wish for us to be overly intrigued with Satan’s origins or his fall (see Romans 16:19).
(2) The creation account does not describe the creation of the world in terms of being made out of nothing, but in terms of beauty and order being created out of a chaotic mess. Many scholars stress the fact that the Hebrew word that is used in Genesis 1:1 is one that means to create ex nihilo, that is to create something out of nothing. Now I don’t doubt that the original creation was brought into existence out of nothing, because that is what the writer to the Hebrews tells us:
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. 2 For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible (Hebrews 11:1-3).12
Having said this, we must also take into account Peter’s words:
For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water (2 Peter 3:5, emphasis mine).
Genesis 1 begins with something already in existence, which is formless, dark, watery, and chaotic. To say this is nothing seems to defy the language of the text. I believe this is a chaotic mess that was the result of the earlier fall of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-15). The original creation was created out of nothing, but the creation of the world as we know it, and of life as we know it, came out of chaos.13
The best illustration I can think of is found a little too close to home – my garage. It is literally filled with automobile engines, transmissions, and parts (let’s not talk about my attic – I once had a car filed away up there). I have to confess that I have the essence of several cars tucked away in my garage. But wait, there’s more! In addition to automobile parts, there is an abundant supply of plumbing and electrical parts. And then there are the tools – lots of tools. In my garage (I have a shed also), you would find many mechanical tools (an engine hoist and stand, jacks, jack stands, compressor, welding equipment – both gas and electric, etc.), and also my table saw and woodworking tools.
The other day my granddaughter, Taylor, said it as nicely as I’ve ever heard. After having carefully negotiated her way through the chaos in the garage without getting greasy she said, “Grandpa, I think your garage needs a little tidying up.” It does. And so, the best illustration I can think of to compare with the “watery mess” that we read of in Genesis 1:2 is my garage, at night, with the lights out. And I must tell you that it would probably take more than six days to turn that chaos into cosmos (order).
Now someone might protest that if God created our world out of something that already existed (the leftovers of a previous creation that had fallen), this would have made creation a lesser miracle than one that creates something out of nothing. In the first place, there was an original creation, brought into existence out of nothing. But a creation out of a chaotic mess is not easy task, either. Think about it for a moment. Suppose that you wanted to prepare a gourmet dinner. You may choose between a refrigerator full of leftovers to work with, or the freedom to purchase whatever foods and spices you want. Which would you choose? Would you rather make a dress out of new material that you have selected especially for this dress, or from some old and tattered clothing left behind by someone in the closet? Creating order out of chaos is not as easy as it sounds.
(3) The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 is the description of a process that took place over a period of time. Now don’t get nervous. I did not say that creation took place over a period of millions of years (though there are surely those who believe this); I said that creation took place through a process that occurred over a period of time – six days, according to Moses. I fear that Christians are so defensive about the subject of evolution (which speaks in terms of a process over millions of years) that they fail to recognize what the Bible says. God did transform chaos into cosmos by means of a process that lasted six days.
I suspect that many of us have a picture of creation in our minds that is not quite accurate. We may tend to think of the act of creation more as magic than as the divine work of a skilled Creator. God did not wrinkle his nose or wave a wand to create an instant world. God worked in a progressive, sequential way to turn chaos to beauty and order.
Could God have instantly created a beautiful world in a moment? Of course He could. Then why didn’t He do so? Why did God employ a process that took a week to accomplish? The first answer is that God, unlike man, is eternal, and He is not in any hurry. He has “all the time in the world.” More accurately, He is not bound by time at all.
The second answer is that I believe God took great pleasure in the work of creation. In know that in our church there are many wonderful cooks, both women and men. I have never been to the home of any excellent cook who served a T.V. dinner. Now I have nothing against T.V. dinners, but they are not and will never be a gourmet meal, no matter what the television commercials tell us. A gourmet cook not only cooks slowly because the flavor is better, but because they enjoy the process of cooking. If I could take a little poetic license, I believe that if you and I were observers at the creation we would see a master craftsman at work, with a smile of satisfaction on His face. I think this is part of what we are to conclude from the repeated expression, “God saw that it was good.”
(4) The process of creation involved separation and joining. Repeatedly the term “separate” occurs in Genesis 1 (see verses 3, 6-7, 14, 17). The waters in the heavens above are separated from the waters beneath (verses 6-7), and then God separated day from night (verses 1-15). God also caused things to assemble or join together. The waters on earth were gathered to one place (verse 9). This is the way my garage would have to be “tidied up.” First, I would have to gather like things together, and then put them in a separate place of their own. I would have to put my table saw out of the way, rather than to use it as a workbench when doing automotive repairs. Order comes when we gather like things together and when we separate them from things that are unlike.
(5) The creation account describes a work of God that comes about at the command of God. Creation results from the mere speaking of a word by God. The formula here, with slight variations14 is, “God said… and it was so” (see verses 6-7, 9, 11, 14-15).
By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible (Hebrews 11:3, emphasis mine).
For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water (2 Peter 3:5, emphasis mine).
God is so powerful He need only speak a word, even to create a universe.
Notice this understated comment in verse 16:
He made the stars also.
In verses 14-16, we see the process by which God created the universe. God created the luminaries, the most prominent of which are the sun and the moon. After summarizing the creation of a mind-bending, seemingly infinite universe, Moses speaks of the creation of the stars as almost an afterthought. It is as though he said, “God created the entire expanse of the universe, along with the sun and moon; and, oh, by the way, He also created the stars.” What an amazing God He is!
(6) The creation account suggests to us that just as God was intimately involved in creating the world and mankind, He remains infinitely involved with them. I will admit that this is somewhat inferential, but I believe it is one that we are expected to see. Because God created the world through a process, He was much more involved with it. The Spirit of God hovered15 over the face of the waters, even before the first day of creation (verse 2). God did not create the world from a distance and then leave it to itself. God created man in His own image and then created a garden where He communed with the couple He created (Genesis 3:8). God is not distant from His creation but remains very much involved with it. He is both the Creator and the Sustainer of the world (see Colossians 1:15-17).
(7) The creation account informs us that God designed man to have a relationship with Him. Closely related to the last observation is the inference that God created man to live in relationship with Him. We must be very careful, however, as to how we view this. God did not create man to meet His own unmet needs. God is totally sufficient within Himself. The Bible does not say, “And God said, ‘It is not good for us to be alone; we will create man to fill our need.’” God created man for His own glory, but the glory of God is also for our good and our pleasure. If we see man’s origins as being rooted in God’s need for us, then we are on a long and very slippery slope indeed. God does not exist to serve us and to satisfy our needs; God created man to worship Him, and to glorify Him in the world, as those created in His image. Having said this, we should see that in His grace, God created us to enjoy and to worship Him. Man was no more intended to live alone spiritually than Adam was intended to live out his life alone, without a mate.
(8) The Genesis account describes the creation of man as the crowning event of the creation process. Man is not only the last living thing to be created; his creation is presented as the climactic conclusion of the entire process. God not only creates man last, He creates him in a very special way – He breathes into his nostrils the breath of life (2:7). The woman, too, was created in a very unique way, distinct from all other living creatures (3:18-25). Man alone was uniquely created in God’s image and was given the command to rule over the creation (Genesis 1:26-28). Far more space is devoted to the creation of man than of any other creature.
The fact that man is created last should teach us at least two lessons. The first is that God has bestowed upon man a great and marvelous privilege, to be created in His image, the crown of His creative work. No wonder the psalmist writes,
3 When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place,
4 I think,
“Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them,
5 and make them almost like the heavenly beings?”
You grant mankind honor and majesty;
6 you allow them to rule over your creation;
you have placed everything under their authority,
7 including all the sheep and cattle,
as well as the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea
and everything that moves through the channels of the seas.
9 O LORD, our sovereign Master,
how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9)
There is a second, more humbling, lesson to be learned. The fact that man was created last of all should humble us. If man was created last, then he was not there at the beginning. Man had no part in the creation of the world. Creation was God’s work, without any help from man. I believe that this is the point God is driving home with Job in Job 38 and 39. Job never ceased to trust God, but he did begin to question God, as though He had some explaining to do regarding his suffering. God’s answer was very forceful. It can be roughly paraphrased in this way:
“Now let’s see, Job, as I hear what you are saying, you are questioning the way I am working in your life. That reminds me, where were you when I created the earth? Were you standing by, giving advice – “Why don’t you hang the sun just a little lower, and make it a little bigger…”? Creation shows that I am the Creator, and you are the creature. Creation shows My love, My wisdom, My power … so just why is it that you are now so bold to question Me?”
I might as well go ahead and paraphrase Job’s response: “Well, shut my mouth!” The world in which we live reveals His glory, His wisdom, His power. Let us never forget that. Being reminded of our role in creation (or rather the lack of it) should humble us before God.
(9) The creation account provides a pattern for man to imitate in the keeping of the Sabbath. In Genesis 2:1-3, we read that on the seventh day God rested and made it holy by doing so. Later on in the Pentateuch, keeping the Sabbath will become a sign of the Mosaic Covenant, which must be observed, under penalty of death.
(10) The creation account reveals God’s sovereignty over all creation. God named the things that He created. Later on, God gave Adam the task of naming the living creatures and his wife. The word “called” (see 1:5, 8, 10, 19) is the same word that is used for Adam’s naming of the creatures (2:19-20), and his wife (2:23; 3:20). It was (and still is) generally understood that the one who is named is subordinate to the one giving the names. By naming what He created, God declared His sovereignty. By having Adam name some of the creation, God declared Adam’s authority (not sovereignty) over nature. God delegated to man the responsibility of ruling over His creation.
(11) The creation account reveals the fact that God built morality into His creation. God’s creation was good because He made it, and because He pronounced it good. On the one hand, the declaration “good” may indicate God’s pleasure and satisfaction in creating the cosmos. On the other hand, I believe “good” is a moral assessment as well. Atheistic materialism does not see anything moral about material things; rather, it sees morality as external and imposed upon material things by men (particularly religion). It looks to me as though the creation account declares the material world God made to be morally good.
(12) There is a second moral element suggested in this account. When God created the living creatures, He blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and to multiply, filling the earth (1:22, 28). God, the Giver of life, commanded the living creatures to reproduce, and thus to value and promote life. I wonder, therefore, if the creation account should not make those who perform, or who undergo, abortions very uneasy. God, the life-giver, commands that we extend life, not extinguish it. Incidentally, it is quite evident that both man and beast lived on plants initially (1:29-30). It was not until after the flood that meat eating was allowed (Genesis 9:3).
God also created life as male and female. This is the way that reproduction was to occur. If man was commanded to be fruitful and to multiply, and if God gave Adam a woman to be his wife, how is it that our society is willing to accept “same sex” marriages? I believe that at creation and before the fall, what was natural was moral and good. No wonder Paul calls homosexuality unnatural (Romans 1:26-27). When men depart from the way it was “in the beginning,” they depart from what is natural and good (see Mark 10:2-9).
From Observations to Applications
Before we move on, let me suggest some implications and applications that flow from the observations above.
(1) We suggested that the “beginning” of Genesis 1 is not the ultimate beginning. Let’s think about the implications of this for a moment. Man would like to think that everything revolves around him, just as man once thought that the sun revolved about the earth. The point is that there is a much bigger picture, and man is but a small part of it, not the whole of it. Man was created by God, and for God’s glory. Man was not created before the angels. Man has a place of honor and responsibility in God’s creation, but man is still a creature.
(2) We noted that God brought cosmos (order) out of chaos at the creation. What a wonderful truth that is. God is able to take confusion and chaos and make something beautiful and useful of it. God is not a God of disorder, but of order (see 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Thus, when a Christian acts in a disorderly way, or when the church is chaotic, that is not the result of God’s work, but of our sin.
Let me ask you as kindly as I can, my friend, “Is your life in chaos?” If it is, then there is really only one solution: God. Only God can make a new creation of your life, turning your chaos into order. He does this through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is He who came to the earth, adding perfect humanity to His undiminished deity, to live a perfect life, to expose man’s sin, and to provide the payment for our sins by dying on the cross of Calvary. You can become a new creation by trusting in Him:
17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
(3) We pointed out that God created this world through a process, which took place over time (six days). God works by means of processes, and He does not do His work instantly. Think about Abraham for a moment. God promised Abraham that he would be a father of a multitude, through a son He would give to him and to Sarah. But this son was not born for 25 years.16 Think about the salvation of men. How many years passed between God’s promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) and the coming of our Lord? God had a plan and a process, and He took His time bringing it to pass. Nicodemus came to our Lord in John 3, but it does not seem that he came to faith until some time later.17 It certainly took our Lord’s disciples some time to understand what the gospel was all about. They did not really grasp the gospel until after our Lord’s death and resurrection. How many times I have asked someone, “Tell me how you became a Christian.” Almost without exception, the response is something like this: “Well, its kind of a long story… .”
God also takes His time in accomplishing the process of sanctification. I think of Jacob and am amazed by the fact that it took this man almost his entire lifetime to forsake his scheming and simply trust God. And yet Christians today want to be instantly spiritual and mature. God even employs a time-consuming process in dealing with the wicked. Judgment is a process that often involves warnings, then attention-getting action, and then final judgment. We keep asking God, “How long?” because we don’t want to wait, but here, too, God works through a process which takes time
(4) We saw that the creation came into being by the Word of God. God merely spoke a word and whatever He commanded happened. We now have the written Word of God in our hands. I wonder how quick we are to respond to His commands. I wonder how much confidence we have in His Word.
7 The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle
and sinful people their plans.
They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them,
and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.
8 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans.
10 The rain and snow fall from the sky
and do not return,
but instead water the earth
and make it produce and yield crops,
and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat.
11 In the same way, the promise that I make
does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.
No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend” (Isaiah 55:7-11).
1 This is what the LORD says:
“The heavens are my throne
and the earth is my footstool.
Where then is the house you will build for me?
Where is the place where I will rest?
2 My hand made them;
that is how they came to be,” says the LORD.
I show special favor to the humble and contrite,
who respect what I have to say (Isaiah 66:1-2).
(5) We saw that the process of creation was one that involved both separation and joining together. My friend, Joe Baird, pointed out to me that in chapter 2, God joined Adam and Eve together in marriage. Jesus later said that whatever God had joined together, man should not separate (Matthew 19:4-6). Moses indicates that when a man and woman marry, they are to leave their parents (separate) and to be joined together (Genesis 2:24-25). In the creation of a people, God worked to join together or unify the sons of Jacob (Israel), because their unity was essential. At the same time, God was separating them from the world. This He did by taking them to Egypt, where the Egyptians would not intermarry with them. The Law of Moses (especially the laws regarding clean and unclean) separated God’s people from the pagan world. Today, God joins believers together in the body of Christ. Former distinctions are set aside (Ephesians 2:11-22). We are no longer to maintain distinctions where God has removed them (Acts 10-11; Galatians 2:11-21).
(6) We have observed that God created a world with which He is intimately involved. God is no distant “watcher,” who is either disinterested or powerless to intervene in the affairs of this world. Indeed, the Scriptures speak of God as constantly superintending and caring for His creation, supplying rain and harvests and food for all His creatures.
(7) We have seen that God desires for man to live in relationship with Him. Can you image going on daily walks with God in the Garden of Eden? That’s what Adam and Eve seemed to do (see Genesis 3:8-10). God provided the Garden, not only as a place of residence and of service, but as a place of communion with Him. Later on, God will provide other places where men may encounter Him: (1) the land of Israel (see Genesis 28:16-17); (2) the tabernacle; and, (3) the temple. Last of all, it is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the mediator between God and man, between heaven and earth (see John 1:49-51; 4:19-24; 1 Timothy 2:5). Man will never become who he was meant to be until he is rightly related to God, and has daily fellowship with Him.
(8) Finally, man was made in the image of God and commissioned by God to rule over all creation. Surely this has environmental implications. We are to care for the earth and not to abuse or pollute it. It is God’s creation, and we have been placed on earth as His stewards to care for it. The earth (nature) is not god, as some seem to think, but it is God’s creation. We dare not worship it, but we should take good care of it.
What the Creation Account Should Have Taught the Ancient Israelites
We look back, not only on creation, but also on the experiences of Israel during and after the exodus. Moses wrote the law before his death, so it had to be written before the second generation of Israelites had entered the Promised Land. I believe that the Pentateuch was initially written for the benefit of the second generation of Israelites who were about to enter and possess the land of Canaan. They needed to know who they were, where they came from, and what their destiny was. Most of all, they needed to know the God of Israel personally. The five books of the Pentateuch supply, in written form, Israel’s legacy, as well as her destiny.
Let’s pause for a moment, then, to see how the creation event shaped the thinking and the conduct of some of the saints of old. The first incident that relates to the creation account is the flood. God had created the world and all that was in it, and yet very quickly after the fall it became corrupt and God destroyed it. As the Creator, God owned all creation and could do with it as He pleased. As the one who transformed a formless watery mass into a beautiful cosmos, God was certainly able to “turn on the water” and bring about a worldwide flood. The flood testifies to the fact that God was the creator, who was both able and free to deal with His creation as He pleased.
The second informative incident is found in Genesis 14, where Abraham (Abram at this early point – see Genesis 17:5) encounters that very fascinating fellow Melchizedek, the king of Salem. Five kings in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against Chedorlaomer and those with him. When Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked these five kings, they prevailed over them, taking much plunder and many people, among whom was Abram’s nephew Lot. Abram took his armed men and went in hot pursuit, defeating Chedorlaomer and his allies and retrieving Lot and all the other people and possessions. When Abram returned, the king of Sodom and his allies were overjoyed to get their families back. It would seem that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah had planned a “welcome home” celebration, the ancient counterpart of a ticker tape parade. But before these kings could greet Abram, another king greeted him on the way – Melchizedek, the king of Salem. He brought bread and wine because he was a priest of God, and he blessed Abram with these words,
“Blessed be Abram by the Most High God,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 Worthy of praise is the Most High God,
who delivered your enemies into your hand”(Genesis 14:19b-20a, emphasis mine).
Shortly after this, the king of Sodom greets Abram and offers to give him all the spoils he had won in battle withholding only his own people who had been kidnapped from Sodom. Abram’s response is most interesting:
22 But Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I raise my hand to the LORD, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and vow 23 that I will take nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal. That way you can never say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except compensation for what the young men have eaten. As for the share of the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—let them take their share” (Genesis 14:22-24, emphasis mine).
What a difference we see between Melchizedek, king of Salem, and the king of Sodom. Melchizedek reminds Abram of Whom it is he serves, the “Creator of heaven and earth.” In effect, the king of Sodom tells Abram that he’s the greatest and offers to give him all the spoils of war. Abram declines the king of Sodom’s offer, using the same words that Melchizedek had just spoken to him. He will honor God, “Creator of heaven and earth,” for it is He who gave Abram the victory. Abram will not take credit for God’s work, and Abram will not be enriched by a pagan king. God had promised to bless Abram, and Abram doesn’t believe that it will be through the gifts of a heathen king, the king of Sodom. If Abram’s God is the Creator, then God will give him victory in battle and material blessings as well.
It was not just Abram who understood that his God was the Creator of heaven and earth. Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, understood this as well. Listen to her words, spoken to the Israelite spies:
8 Now before the spies went to sleep, Rahab went up to the roof. 9 She said to the men, “I know the LORD is handing this land over to you. We are absolutely terrified of you, and all who live in the land are cringing before you. 10 For we heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt and how you annihilated the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, on the other side of the Jordan. 11 When we heard the news we lost our strength and no one could even breathe for fear of you. For the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below! 12 So now, promise me this with an oath sworn in the LORD’s name. Because I have shown allegiance to you, show allegiance to my family. Give me a solemn pledge 13 that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belong to them, and rescue us from death” (Joshua 2:8-13, emphasis mine).
Rahab knew that the God of Israel was God alone, and that her gods were no-gods. She understood that as the Creator God was Lord over heaven and earth. Her faith in God included her firm belief that God had created the heavens and the earth.
The exodus of Israel from Egypt provided an excellent opportunity to dramatically demonstrate that God was the Creator of heaven and earth. When God commanded Moses to return to Egypt and to demand that Pharaoh let His people go, Moses protested in various ways. Finally, Moses sought to convince God that he was not qualified to go before Pharaoh because he was not a good speaker:
10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not an eloquent man, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of mouth and slow of tongue.” 11 And the LORD said to him, “ Who gave a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 So now, go, and I will be with your mouth, and will teach you what you must say” (Exodus 4:10-12, emphasis mine).
Moses sought to excuse himself from his God-given duty by claiming to be unskilled in speaking. God reminded Moses that He had created his mouth. In a similar way, in Psalm 139, David spoke of God as his Creator in the womb:
13 Certainly you made my mind and heart;
you wove me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give you thanks, because your deeds are awesome and amazing.
You knew me thoroughly;
15 my bones were not hidden from you,
when I was made in secret
and sewed together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was an unborn fetus.
All the days ordained for me
were recorded in your scroll
before one of them came into existence (Psalm 139:13-16).
The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their imminent possession of Canaan brought the fact that God created the heavens and the earth into the spotlight. When Moses demanded that Pharaoh release the Israelites, it must have sounded almost comical to Pharaoh. The Israelites were a relatively insignificant people; they were enslaved in Egypt, the most powerful nation on the face of the earth at the time. Moses was a mere nomadic shepherd. How dare he demand anything? And who was his God, for whom he spoke so boldly? Pharaoh made his contempt for Israel’s God very clear:
1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Release my people so that they may hold a pilgrim feast to me in the desert.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey him by releasing Israel? I do not know the LORD, and I will not release Israel” (Exodus 5:1-2).
The plagues were God’s answer to Pharaoh’s question. The plagues had to do with nature (the Nile turned to blood, the frogs, the gnats, the flies, the death of the Egyptians’ livestock, boils, the storm, the locusts, the darkness, and the death of their firstborn sons). The Egyptian magicians were able to replicate the first plagues, but soon they had to admit that they were way over their heads, and that the plagues were the “finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). God demonstrated His control over nature by means of the plagues. And the Egyptian gods were mocked by the plagues, for they were thought to have control over certain aspects of nature, and some of the creatures involved in the plagues were symbols of their gods.18
Who is the God of Israel, that Pharaoh should obey His commands? He is the Creator of heaven and earth; He is the one who speaks and the forces of nature obey. The parting of the Red Sea is the icing on the cake. Who but God could have parted the sea, so that the Israelites could pass through on dry ground, only to have the sea come rushing down upon the Egyptian army?
This was a very important series of miracles because it was verification of the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. The first generation of Israelites to leave Egypt saw God’s hand in the plagues. They saw the sea parted and the Egyptians drowned. They saw God provide food, water, and clothing19 for this great multitude and their cattle, enabling them to survive in the wilderness. The Israelites needed to learn to trust God to provide for their needs. He would provide the rain for their crops, and He would give them prosperity, if they obeyed His commands and trusted in Him (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14). The Canaanites were a very corrupt and idolatrous people. They had their own nature gods, and the Israelites would be tempted to worship them. It was vital for the Israelites to know and to believe that God created the heavens and the earth, and that because of this, He could be trusted to provide for their every need.
God As Creator in the Bible
There are many, many texts of Scripture that refer to God as the Creator. Let me list some of the significant texts I found:
Genesis 1-2; 14:19-22; 15:4-6; 24:2-4
Exodus 4:10-12; 20:8-11; 31:12-17
Deuteronomy 10:12-18; 11:11-17; 28:12, 23-24
2 Samuel 22:6-18
2 Kings 19:14-19
1 Chronicles 16:26
Psalm 8; 19:1-6; 33:6-9; 89:11-12; 96:5; 102:23-28; 104:1-3520
107:23-31 (compare verse 29 with Matthew 8:26)
Psalm 121; 124:8; 134:3; 135:5-7; 136:1-9; 146:1-7; 147:7-9
Proverbs 3:19-20; 8:22-31; 30:1-4
Isaiah 37:14-20; 40:12-31; 42:5-9; 44:24-28; 45:8-12, 18; 48:12-16; 51:12-16; 54:5; 65:17-25
Jeremiah 4:23-28;21 10:6-16; 32:16-19; 51:14-17
Acts 4:24; 14:14-18; 17:24
Romans 1:18-25; 9:20-21
1 Corinthians 8:4-6
Hebrews 1:10; 11:3
Revelation 4:11; 10:6; 14:7
I have summarized the lessons emphasized in these texts by means of the following categories. This is far from complete, but it does demonstrate how important the truth that God created the heavens and the earth is in the entire Bible:
(1) The God of the Bible, the God of Israel, is the Creator who made the heavens and the earth.
Abraham confessed this: Genesis 14:19, 22; 24:2-4
Rahab confessed it as well: Joshua 2:9-13
Jonah confessed it also: Jonah 1:9
See Romans 1:18-25
(2) God is the center of all creation. As such, He alone is to be worshipped as the Creator. Because the God of Israel is the Creator, and He has created everything that has been created, there can be no other gods (for if there were, God would have created them, and God says there is no other God beside Him – Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:14, 21). Idols, then, are merely the creation of man’s hands. How tragic; God creates man, but heathen men think they can create their own gods.
1 Chronicles 16:26
Jeremiah 23:6-16; 51:14-17
Acts 14:14-18; 17:24
1 Corinthians 8:4-6
(3) God, the Creator of heaven and earth, owns what He has created (Deuteronomy 10:14), and is therefore free to do with His creation as He pleases, which includes showing mercy or executing judgment (election).
The heavens and earth belong to God (Psalm 89:11-12).
He owns mankind and all living creatures – and thus the flood (Genesis 6-9).
He owns the land, Israel does not nor does anyone else (Leviticus 25:23; contrast Ezekiel 29:3, 9).
He is the Potter, and we are the clay (Isaiah 29:15-16; 64:8).
As the Potter, He can do as He wishes with the clay – specifically, show mercy or condemn (Jeremiah 18:1-12; Romans 9:18-26).
(4) Because God has revealed His infinite wisdom and power in His creation (Proverbs 3:19-20; Proverbs 8:22-31), and man is a mere creature, man should not question the wisdom of God in what He is doing.
(5) Creation displays the attributes of God – He is powerful, all wise, eternal, glorious and majestic. Men should therefore fear and worship God.
Psalm 8; 19:1-6
Revelation 4:11; 14:7
(6) As the Creator, God is in full and complete control over His creation.
He sends and withholds the rains (Deuteronomy 11:11-17; 28:12, 24; 1 Kings 17-18; James 5:17-18).
Psalm 96:5, 10
(7) As the Creator, God employs nature to do His will, which includes delivering His people from their enemies.
In battle – 2 Samuel 22:6-18
At the exodus – Exodus 6-15
Hezekiah’s prayer to God for protection from Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:14-19)
Psalm 121; 124:8; 146:1-7
(8) As the Creator, God has revealed His infinite power, which serves as assurance that He will fulfill His future promises (some of which are described as a “new creation”).
(9) God’s method of Creation was intended as a pattern for man’s actions. Just as God rested on the seventh day, after creating the world, so man should rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:15-17). Observing the Sabbath is one of the ways Israel could identify with God as their Creator.
We have only begun to scratch the surface, but I believe we have shown that throughout the Bible it is demonstrated that God created the heavens and the earth. The Creator of this earth is God, and He alone is God. Those who reject nature’s testimony are guilty before God (Romans 1:18-27). If God is the Creator, then His claims must be true.
The New Testament makes a very amazing claim — that Jesus Christ was God, and that He existed in eternity past, and was the Creator of this world:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it (John 1:1-5).
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him (Colossians 1:15-17).
This is a remarkable claim, which Jesus demonstrated to be true in His earthly life and ministry, especially by His miracles. In John’s Gospel, the very first miracle that Jesus performed is recorded in chapter 2. Attending a wedding with his family and disciples, Jesus created wine from ceremonial cleansing water. Jesus did not even touch the water; He simply spoke a command to the servants (which His mother strongly urged them to obey), and the transformation took place as they obeyed. In Mark 4:35-41, we see the stilling of the storm, once again by His command. (Notice that in stilling the storm, our Lord seems to fulfill the words of Psalm 89:9. ) In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, proving He was the Giver of life.
It is Jesus alone who can bring those who are dead in their trespasses and sins to life (Ephesians 2:1-10). It is He alone who can make of us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is He alone who can take this sin-torn world and replace it with an eternal kingdom, where sin and death are no more. It is in Him that you must place your trust for the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal life. There will come a day when this heaven and this earth will pass away, and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. If you think that the first creation was great, you haven’t seen anything yet. The new creation is far superior (Revelation 21:1ff.). Are you ready for that day?
For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, not only as their Creator, but also as their Savior, the fact that He is the Creator answers many questions and solves many problems. It should encourage us to be patient when we fear that God is not acting quickly enough. After all, He is eternal and is not in a hurry, and He works through time-consuming processes. When we face obstacles or opposition that cause us to fear, we need to remember that our Lord is both the Creator and the Sustainer of His universe. He can employ any and every part of His creation to come to our aid.22 When we are suffering in one form or another and we begin to doubt God’s wisdom, let us remember that our God is the all-wise Creator of heaven and earth. And when we wish to challenge God for His sovereign work of election, let us remember that He is the Potter, and we are the clay; He is the Creator, and we are the work of His hands. God can do as He wills with that which He has made (see Romans 9:19-22).
Is it any wonder that the creation account of Genesis is under attack? The implications of the fact that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth are astounding. For the Christian, they are a source of comfort and joy. For the unbeliever, they are terrifying. What a wonderful truth it is that God is the Creator. And to think that we have been invited to enter into intimate fellowship with Him through His Son.
1 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on October 29, 2000. Anyone is at liberty to use this edited manuscript for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel. Copyright 2000 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081.
2 Timothy George, “Big-Picture Faith,” ChristianityToday On Line. Posted October 19, 2000. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/current/press.html.
3 J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), Six volumes in one, vol. 1, pp. 10-11.
4 W. Graham Scroggie, The Unfolding Drama of Redemption: The Bible as a Whole (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), Three volumes in one, vol. 1, p. 17.
5 W. Graham Scroggie, vol. 1, p. 21
6 We would be wrong if we assumed that the current order of the books of the Bible was precisely that of the early manuscripts, or even of later translations.
7 The Narrated Bible, Narration by F. LaGard Smith (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1984).
9 To borrow the wording from the title of Scroggie’s excellent book.
11 A number of the studies on books of the Bible are manuscripts of my sermons.
12 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
13 There are various attempts to explain this. Some hold to the so-called “gap theory,” which holds that verse 1 describes the original creation, and then in verses 2 and following we see the recreation of the world. In this gap between verse one and verse two, we are told, there may be a great period of time, that could explain certain geological phenomenon.
14 In verse 3 we read, “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” The sense of these words is the same as, “God said… and it was so.”
15 This word is used only three times in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 32:11, it is employed to describe an eagle, hovering over its young.
16 See Genesis 12:4; 16:16; 17:24; 21:5.
17 See John 3:1ff.; 7:45-52; 19:39-40.
18 For more details, you may wish to see my message on the plagues at: http://www.bible.org/docs/ot/books/exo/deffin/exo-05.htm.
19 Their clothing, you will recall, did not wear out (see Deuteronomy 8:4).
20 This psalm is a poetic description of the creation, and of God’s ongoing care for His creatures.
21 Here, the same Hebrew words found in Genesis 1:2 are employed in Jeremiah 4:23, a very clear allusion to the chaos which existed prior to the commencement of creation.
22 See Acts 4:23-31, noting especially verse 24.
Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word)