One verse. One verse is what we had to study this week. No excuse for not reading our passage this week, right?
And yet, from that one verse we had a full lesson to complete. And from this one verse the author of this study delivered an almost hour-long teaching. And I am going to guess that somewhere out there, there may even be an entire book written from just this one verse. That’s how full this one verse is.
No, we’re not talking about a Paul verse, where he goes on and on without so much as a pause for breath, and one verse becomes a chapter. This is one short sentence.
From this one sentence, we can derive so much information.
I’m very familiar with the book of Genesis. I studied Bible and Theology in college and one semester I was assigned to read this book I can’t remember how many times for one class, plus read it another time for another class, plus translate part of it into Hebrew. What stood out to me that semester was how many layers there are to this book. You keep reading it and finding new themes and new things that stand out and surprise. But what surprised me as I did our study this week – the same is true of just the first verse!
Why should this surprise me? Would I expect God’s Word to begin with anything less?
So as I begin this morning, let’s approach this verse as readers who’ve never read this story before.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
God is so practical, right? Kelly sang us a little line last week: “Let’s start at the very beginning, the very best place to start.” (from the Sound of Music) She sang it as she explained why we are studying Genesis this year – we are starting at the very beginning. Apparently, she’s in good company. God thought the beginning was a very good place to start, too. So he led Moses to pen these words. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Let that sink in for a moment. These are the very first words God wants us to hear. This is the very first way he reveals himself through Scripture. We are maybe so used to jumping around throughout the Bible, from book to book, chapter to chapter, verse to verse. But the Bible is one book. One love story from the Almighty God to the people he has chosen as his very own. And this is how he starts. Really, its pretty gripping, isn’t it?
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
And now as readers, we get to find out what that means! Because in this one short sentence, it changes the way we see everything! Everything that we see and touch and know around us has a beginning. It hasn’t always been this way. And it didn’t just come out of nowhere, it was created. It was created by God. As you read this sentence and you think of its implications, how can you not want to know more about this God? He created EVERYTHING. He was there before the beginning. It’s astounding, right?
So, let’s do just that. Let’s unpack what this short little verse tells us about this amazing God, Creator of the universe. And let’s think about what it means to us, as God reveals himself to us.
- In the beginning – Our lesson asked the question, “the beginning of what?” The beginning of the story, the beginning of time as we know it, the beginning of creation, the beginning of God’s relationship with mankind. The beginning. But notice the next word. In the beginning, God… God was there before the beginning. Whoa. Ok, we’re getting our first look now at how this God is mysterious and beyond our understanding. Because, there was a beginning but there was a before the beginning and what?? Is your mind whirling with questions? Mine is. But let’s just take this at face value for now. There was a beginning. And at the beginning there was God.
- God created – our lesson had us define creation, and look at the two possible types of creating. Creating from nothing and creating from something. The Bible makes it clear that God created from nothing. Creation Ex Nihilo. This is a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing.” This term is what theologians and other “fancy” Christians often use when describing Creation. It contrasts with the term “creation ex material”, creation out of some pre-existent, eternal matter. This is hugely important for us to understand. If God did create ex material, then something else besides him existed in the beginning. But we understand this statement to be a creation out of nothing, therefore God is above everything.
- The heavens and the earth – everything. Everything above. Everything below. Everything in between. If it exists, God created it. Ok, many of you have believed this for a long time. Many of us recite it without even hesitating. But think for a moment of the significance of this statement. Really let it sink in. If you see it, if you experience it, if it exists, God made it. There is not a thing that he didn’t create. It seems to follow logically then that everything, EVERYTHING, belongs to him. He created it and he holds it in being and without his perfect intervention at every moment it would all fall apart. The world and everything in it belong to their Creator! How is it that we think we can make anything our own? Understanding God to be the creator of everything makes us questions how we treat his creation, doesn’t it? Do we take good care of it? Are we good stewards? Or are we using creation as though it belongs to us, as though it is simply here to serve our needs and wants or make our lives easier? Are we taking care of creation? Or are we using it, just trusting that it will just be ok?
Ok, but let’s get back on track here for a minute, and we’ll revisit this application to our study of this verse in a moment.
So, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Let’s look at two other points: 1. What does this verse not tell us? And 2. What does this verse tell us?
What does this verse not tell us?
It doesn’t reveal the science of creation to us. How frustrating is that? Question 12 in our lesson asked us to name some possible reasons for why this might be. Obviously any answer is speculation, and there could be many answers. The author of the study, Jen Wilkin, gave us a brief overview of three possible theories for how the earth was created. Obviously science textbooks would provide other theories of how the earth came into being. This has been a major source of contention among Christians. This has been something that has dramatically separated the Church from the world, sometimes rightly so and sometimes, I believe, sinfully so. I have been praying this week that discussions of science would not distract us from our study this morning. Certainly such discussions have their place and time. But for the purposes of our study, we want to look at what the text says, not what the text doesn’t say. So please, let’s steer clear of controversy, and let’s not get lost in debate. What Moses, and God, wants us to know is that God created everything in the beginning. Why wouldn’t or why couldn’t Moses have included a little description of God’s process of creation? Like a little statement of the science behind it?
Well, Jen Wilkin taught on this passage as her church was using this study, and she provided some insight by asking the question “Whose science?”
Just think of how science has changed throughout time! Remember when people thought the earth was flat? Science is always changing. What we know now is not what we knew a hundred years ago, much less a thousand years ago. And in a 100 more years, science will have changed that much more. Let’s just be honest here, no matter how long time goes on and how much science develops, we could never understand God’s science, I think.
And so the questions will remain until the Lord’s return. How did God create the earth? Was it 7 literal days? Was it not literal days? And all the questions that go along with these. Jen Wilkin referred to a quote by RC Sproul,
“It is probably best not to shout where God only whispers.”
On that note, let’s look at what this verse does tell us. In particular, let’s look at what this verse teaches us about God. In these 10 words, we have foundational characteristics of God revealed to us.
- God is all-knowing. How do we see this attribute of God in this verse? If God created all things, God knows all things. And he knows them intimately. Who is the best expert on a work of art? The artist. The work came from the artist’s mind, hands, and heart. The same is true of God. He is the expert. He knows it all. He is not able to learn anything. He already has perfect knowledge. You name it, he knows it. Sometimes we think we are in private, right? Or that we are being so sneaky? How easily we forget that God knows and God sees. It reminds me of a young child at that age where they think that if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. So if they cover up their eyes, they are now hidden. Let’s not be so naïve, ladies. God knows. Let’s strive to live as though we know that he knows.
- God is self-sufficient. He does not rely on anything in creation to meet his needs. He does not hunger or thirst. We know this because food and water were created by him. He existed before these things, thus he doesn’t require them for survival. Every need that we can possibly imagine having, God meets in and through himself. When we think of self-sufficiency, it is sometimes seen as being a negative quality. It can mean that we are not willing to receive help from others, or to admit our needs. Not so with God. Self-sufficiency can also be a great source of pride for us. It can feel quite good to feel like we can take care of ourselves without having to rely on others. Again, not so with God.
- God is eternal. He is not bound by time. He is never in a hurry. He is never late. He is never early. He never has the stress that goes along with having deadlines or timelines. Time belongs to him. He created time.
- God is self-existent. God does not need me or you, or anyone else in creation for anything. Rather, all of creation, including you and me, exists to glorify him and bring him joy. Did you catch that? You Bring God Joy. He delights in you.
- God is all-powerful. I mean, this kind of goes without saying. He created the world. Everything in it. We’ll see as we study the rest of this chapter that God just spoke, and things were created. Yes, I think that falls into the category of all-powerful.
All of these things about God are found here in this verse, and all of these things about God are true. And you know what else is true about God? The God who created the heavens and the earth created you. He knows you. And he loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He knows everything about you, all of the good (he made all of the good) and all of the bad (the stain of sin), and he LOVES you.
He loves you so much in spite of the sin, in spite of the ugly and the mistakes and the failure and the shortcoming you’ve faced, he made a way for you to be with him forever. Sin, the bad stuff, separates us from God. God is only good and he can’t look upon bad. But he made a way for us to be made clean, to be made well again. He sent his Son Jesus to live on the earth as a man, but without sinning. And according to God’s plan, Jesus died upon a cross to take the punishment for my sins and for your sins. Jesus died and then he rose again, and defeated sin and death once and for all. Jesus is in heaven right now preparing a place for all of those who love him and follow him. To be part of God’s family, we need only to turn to Jesus, admitting that we are sinful and that we aren’t God. Admitting that we need God, and we need help. And Jesus longs to forgive our sins and set us free and love us for eternity.
If this is new for you, if you’d like to know more or if you have any questions, please talk to anyone of us who’s experienced this grace. Me, Mary-Alice, any of our table leaders or teachers. We would be so happy to share more about the love and goodness of God.
To close us this morning, let me ask you a couple of questions that you can discuss more in your groups:
How do you acknowledge with your life that God is all-powerful? What things need to change in light of God being all-powerful?
How are you treating God’s creation? Are you a caregiver or a consumer?
How can you practically apply what you’ve learned this morning to the week ahead?