God Provides for His Creation
Some years ago a man used Genesis 1 as a defense for smoking pot. Heres the story as reported in Christianity Today.
Arrested in Olathe, Kansas, for possession of the drug, Herb Overton based his defense on Genesis l:29: and God said, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth
Judge Earl Jones doubted Overtons hermeneutics, however. According to a Chicago Tribune account, the judge told the Bible-quoting defendant: As a mere mortal, Im going to find you guilty of possession of marijuana. If you want to appeal to a higher authority, thats fine with me.
We may laugh at Mr. Overtons misuse of the Creation account, but Christians have sometimes been guilty of a less obvious error, and its no laughing matter.
In a conscientious effort to show the Bible to be scientifically accurate, we have looked at Genesis 1 through a scientific grid. The problem is that these verses were never meant to give an account which answers all the scientific questions.
Bible scholar Dr. B.B. Warfield has stated the problem well:
A glass window stands before us. We raise our eyes and see the glass; we note its quality, and observe its defects; we speculate on its composition. Or we look straight through it on the great prospect of land and sea and sky beyond. So, there are two ways of looking at the world. We may see the world and absorb ourselves in the wonders of nature. That is the scientific way. Or we may look right through the world and see God behind it. That is the religious way.
The scientific way of looking at the world is not wrong any more than the glass-manufacturers way of looking at the window. This way of looking at things has its very important uses. Nevertheless, the window was placed there not to be looked at but to be looked through; and the world has failed of its purpose unless it too is looked through and the eye rests not on it but on its God.
The author of Genesis has not written the creation account for the glass maker. Rather he urges us to look through the glass of his account to the Creator behind it all.
If we come to the Creation account merely to find ammunition to use against what we perceive as atheistic evolutionists, we run the risk of missing the point entirely. Genesis was written to the people of God, not unbelievers. Men who refuse to believe in creationism do not do so for lack of facts or proof, or due to their greater knowledge, but due to a lack of faith. Genesis is much more of a declaration than a defense.
Just as with the prophetic passages, Genesis 1 was not written to satisfy our curiosity, but to strengthen our souls.
The key to unlocking the meaning and message of the creation accounts (as it is with most Bible passages) is to see it in the historical context in which it was written. What did it mean to the people who first received it? Then, from there to tease out the applications of the message of the passage for us today.
But before we do lets address one issue arising out of our attempt to understand this passage.
Particularly problematic is the relationship between vss. 1 and 2In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty . . . How does the declaration of verse 1 God created square with the description of verse 2 formless and empty?
Formless and empty Heb.tohu wa bohu. Say it with meIts fun.
There are three that are widely held by evangelicals:
1) The Gap (Re-creation) Theory
Between Gen 1:1 and 1:2 is a gap perhaps of millions of years.
God creates the world in vs. 1, but in a cosmic cataclysm (occasioned by the rebellion and fall of Satan) the world is made formless and empty.
Genesis 1:2ff describes Gods recreation of the earth.
2) The Pre-creation Chaos Theory
Genesis 1:1 is a dependent clauseWhen God began to create the heavens and the earth
Postulates an existing state of chaos which God then ordered and shaped in.
Not creation out of nothing
Semantically possible but theologically impossible.
3) The Initial Chaos Theory
Vs. 1 is introductory statement vss. 2-31 merely expand on it
Like a piece of marble before the chisel or a lump of clay before touched by the potter.
The Six Days of Creation
It is important to recognize that verses 2-31 do little more than expand upon verse 1. They do not fully (certainly not in a scientific fashionwho would have cared over the centuries until now?) explain creation. Neither do they prove it, for this is ultimately a faith issue. The facts upon which this faith must be based are simply stated.
There does seem to be a pattern to these six creation days. It can best be illustrated graphically:
Seen in this way, the first three days remedy the situation of formlessness described in Genesis 1:2. The 4-6 days deal with the state of emptiness of verse 2. There also seems to be a correlation between days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, 3 and 6. For example, the air and water receive corresponding life forms of fish and birds.
Two other observations should be pointed out. First, there is a sequence to the six days. It is clear that this account is arranged chronologically, each day building upon the creative activity of previous days. Secondly, there is a process involved in the creation, a process involving the change from chaos to cosmos, disorder to order.
While God could have instantaneously created the earth as it is, He did not choose to do so. The eternal God is not nearly so concerned about doing things instantaneously as we are. The process of sanctification is only one of many examples of Gods progressive activity in the world.
The Meaning of Creation for the Israelites
Before we approach the question of what the creation should mean to us, we must deal with its meaning for those who first read these inspired words from the pen of Moses. The initial purpose of this account was for the Israelites of Moses day. What should they have learned? How should they have responded?
(1) The creation account of Genesis was a corrective to the corrupted cosmogonies of their day. Egypt, for example, believed in a multiplicity of nature-deities. We need to recognize that Israel, due to her close and prolonged contact with the Egyptians, was not unaffected by their religious views.
Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD (Joshua 24:14).
It was not enough to regard Yahweh merely as a god, one among many. Neither should He be conceived of as just the God of Israel. Yahweh is God alone. There is no other god. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is not merely superior to the gods of the surrounding nations; He alone is God.
The tendency to begin to confuse God with His creation was a part of the thinking of the ancient world. He must be regarded as the God of creation, not just God in creation. Every attempt to visualize or humanize God in the form of any created thing was a tendency to equate God with His creation.
(2) The creation account describes the character and attributes of God. Negatively, Genesis one corrects many popular misconceptions concerning God. Positively, it portrays His character and attributes.
The Meaning of Creation for Us
The truth that God is the Creator of heaven and earth is not merely something to believe, but something to which we must respond. Let me mention just a few implications and applications of the teaching of Genesis 1.
1. We should submit to the God of creation in fear and obedience. The heavens proclaim the glory of God:
The greatness of God is evident in the work of His handsthe creation which is all about us. Men should fear and reverence Him for Who He is.
1Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 6You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 8they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. 9You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. (Psalm 104:1-9).
2. We should trust in the God of creation, to provide their every need.
We sing, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills I know that He will care for me. That is good theology. The God Who is our Creator, is also our Sustainer. You see God did not wind up the universe and then leave it to itself, as some seem to say. God maintains a continual care over His creation.
14He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: 15wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. 16The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. 18The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax. 19He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. 20You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. 21The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. 22The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. 23Then people go out to their work, to their labor until evening (Psalm 104:14-23).
The New Testament goes an additional step by informing us that the Son of God was the Creator, and continues to serve as the Sustainer of the creation, holding all things together:
16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).
3. We should be humbled by the wisdom of God as evidenced in creation.
Job had endured much affliction. But finally, enough was enough. He began to question the wisdom of God in his adversity. To his questioning God responded,
1Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2"Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone- 7while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7).
Job was challenged to fathom the wisdom of God in creation. He could not explain or comprehend it, let alone challenge it. How, then, could Job possibly question the wisdom of Gods working in his life? True, he could not see the purpose in it all, but his perspective was not Gods. Let any who would question Gods dealing in our lives contemplate Gods infinite wisdom as seen in creation, and then be silent and wait upon Him to do what is right.
If man should choose to ponder any question, let him attempt to fathom why an infinite God would so concern Himself with mere man:
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-5).
An old rabbi once said that every man should have two pockets in his coat. In one pocket, he should carry a slip of papers with the words, The world was created for me. Whenever he is discouraged, depressed or despairing he should take this out and read it and be encouraged.
In the other pocket, he should carry a slip of paper on which is written, Remember you are but dust. Whenever he is tempted to think too much of himself, he should take this out and read it and be reminded of his proper place.
This is the right attitude that we ought to have toward the Creation account.
4. We should respond to the God of creation with the praise that is due Him
31May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works- 32he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. 33I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. 35But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD (Psalm 104:31-35).
1Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. 2Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. 4Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. 5Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created, 6and he established them for ever and ever- he issued a decree that will never pass away (Psalm 148:1-6).
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6).
1LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens (Psalm 8:1).
The teaching of Genesis one is a great and mighty truth. It is one that demands more than assent; it necessitates action. And yet, great as it is, it has been paled by the coming of Jesus Christ. We will see it later in this year, when we come to the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).
9The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (John 1:9-13).
God is revealed faintly in creation, but he is revealed fully in his Son:
18No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (John 1:18).
Genesis one reveals how God has taken chaos and fashioned it into cosmosorder and beauty. Without Christ, life is formless and empty; it is chaotic and lifeless. The same One Who turned chaos into cosmos can make our live anew.
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17).