Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First Thoughts on Genesis

(Edit: fix typos and other irritations)

Reading Genesis 1 has made quite an impression on me. I began blogging my thoughts on it and realized I was churning out a book from my keyboard. So I have resolved to state my thoughts on the subject as simply and concisely as I can (Edit: as it turns out, not very). I begin with a very powerful presupposition which I will not attempt to defend: that the Bible is perfectly true. Period. All of my commentary will assume that context, with the aim of discerning the truth taught in the Scriptures.

1. The first four words of verse 1 are the thesis statement for the entire chapter. "In the beginning" or "in beginning" (as a friend tells me the Hebrew says) shows the ultimate origin of the creation and even time itself. The very first "who" in Scripture is right here: God. And we see that God exists outside of the "beginning" and transcends it, and indeed, authors it into being. The first statement in Scripture is NOT a defense of God or proof of His existence. God Is. He has always been. He will always be. He has no beginning or ending, and depends on nothing for His existence (implied by the solitary, independent authorship spoken in the first verse). I am reminded here of Christ speaking in Revelation 1:8 (ASV): "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

2. In verse 2, we see the person of the Holy Spirit in operation in darkness and over the Earth which is then formless and void, all preceding the creation of light. The powerful truth taught here is that the profundity and magnitude of God's power, besides being self-authoritative and self-existing, is here unseen and invisible. Mortal eyes do not see this, appreciate it, or critique it. But God revealed it to Moses, to teach him and God's people truths about God.

3. Verses 3-4 show the creation of Light and its separation from Darkness, on the first day of Creation: Sunday. Notice it does not say, God created light and darkness. God created light, speaking it into existence. This teaches us another powerful truth. We define darkness as the absence of light. God is the only source of this light, and it exists by His pleasure. Just as light either is, or is not, and darkness is in relation to light as a secondary reference, I believe we too (and all Creation itself) has only one ultimate reference point: God Himself. Notice too, before the separation of light from darkness in verse 4, that God simply spoke light into being, and there was light. God's word cannot fail, and no explanation is given here. We naturally want to know the how, but this is not given to us here. We are told instead the Who, what, when, where, and why.

4. The second day, Monday, sees the division of waters above from the waters below by an expanse. I'm not sure what the theological significance here is, but I would hazard to say that the division by the expanse known as heaven is meant to be humbling to us: there is a division here we cannot easily cross, a threshhold that God has reserved for Himself. Even now, when God has granted such wonders as space travel and space stations, we are still reminded of our humble nature and humble dependence on the Earth which forces our return to being underneath the division God made. Though this is speculation, as dry Earth did not yet even exist. Incidentally, today is the only day in Creation about which nothing is said to be good. Make of that what you will.

5. On the third day, Tuesday, God creates dry land (Earth) and the herb and fruit of the field. It is very interesting to note that each contained seed after its kind. By this seed, these plants have sustained the existence of their species since the beginning of Creation, and will, barring extinction, continue it until the Lord's return. I believe here you can see the suggestion of the concept of eternal life and self-existence, ultimately found in God alone. God is the source of life and self-exists. But more importantly as a Christian, I see in the seed a teaching of death, burial and resurrection. The seed "dies" and is buried, and a resurrection of life comes forth (this is from the commentary of others but I do agree). The Lord Himself used this same concept to teach His resurrection, in John 12:24 (ASV), "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit."

6. On the fourth day, Wednesday, God created the sun, moon, stars, and other heavenly bodies from my understanding. God created day and night, signs, seasons, and days and years. I believe that in these verses, reminding us of the changing states of creation, that we are taught two things about God: that God's work is not static or limited, that it is ongoing, and that God is in complete control of it (though we don't fully understand the "how" we have some understanding of the who, what, when, where, and why). That many of the things mentioned here cycle (seasons, day/night. etc.) give witness to both the logical order of God's arrangement and His ceaseless existence and control of all things, even by His unseen hand. Only God could create the cycle itself, and only God can keep it continuing, even smoothly flowing from one to the other. God does not change, and He is not cycling through patterns of strength and weakness as the false gods the heathen worship (who worship nature and not its Creator). God's work is continuous, mostly unseen, and could not be predicted beforehand (who would have invented seasons, for example?). But its reliability itself points to the constant unseen hand of God. Incidentally, "He made the stars also" according to commentary I read is a well-earned swipe against pagans, the simple heathen who ignorantly worship nature and glorious celestial objects such as stars that merit merely a passing reference in a passage centered on the excellency and supremacy of God, who transcends the highest, most glorious objects of Creation with an infinite degree of superlative existence.

7. On the fifth day, Thursday, God created the sea creatures and the birds. I find it interesting that God speaks both blessing and command upon these creatures to fill and multiply on the planet. This divine command is built into their very nature: be fruitful and multiply. I suppose I can say here that God's blessing gives and intends life. And that life itself is a gift from God who authors it and sustains it. Though I confess, I forgot that Scripture even said that sea creatures and birds were blessed by God.

8. The sixth day, Friday, sees the creation of cattle and other creeping things on the Earth. Man is created last. Man is created in "Our likeness," a plural here referring to the God who we know is a unity. Is this simply a plurality of majesty? Or a reference to the Trinity? The Holy Spirit is seen in 1:2, as a separate person but of the same essence as God the Father in verse 1, perhaps. And we know from other Scriptures the eternal Son of God, who created all things (Colossians 1:12-16). Man is given authority over the other life of all creation, because he is made in the likeness of God. And male and female are both created in the image of God, showing a fundamental spiritual equality between the genders in our essential personhood and souls. However, the male is mentioned first, showing (I believe) an authoritative superiority in the created order, and a difference in role and function. God also gives as food to them and all other creatures on the earth the herb of the field and other plants (curiously enough, not mentioning the food of sea creatures). Man would sustain his life by food outside of himself (showing dependence and ultimately complete dependence on God the author) and that this food did not consist originally of animals, who according to the literal Hebrew (ASV footnote, as I know no Hebrew), are "living souls." I'm not sure how much to make of this, but I think it simply means they are alive and possess breath, at the very least. I think the choice of food, here, however, is to show man in his original holy state of perfection, before the Fall (and I'm *not* suggesting vegeterianism is a moral requirement; but I do feel it was God's original perfect plan for the pre-fallen creation, now stained by the Fall).

9. Last, I count seven times that "good" appears in the Scriptures, ending with a superlative "very good" that demands recognition of the Holiness and perfection of God, who creates out of His own goodness, by the only standard of goodness and righteousness that has ever existed or ever will exist, Himself. The seven "good" statements are found in 1:4, 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21, 1:25, 1:31 (with superlative prefix "very"). Seven is a number of perfection. How do I prove this? By proving it from Scripture, starting here. :) And I believe in this, that God was most pleased, and His goodness was best expressed, in the creation of Man (and to a lesser extent, of land animals which appear first on the sixth day before Man).

10. Lastly, I want to note the "evening and morning" as the separation of days, with a night inbetween two portions of days. This is deliberate, as God first created light, and day and night, which together formed the first day of 1:5. There is no other way it could be when you stop and think about it. Though I'm not sure how this worked before the creation of the Sun and Moon on Day 4. But the concept is simply this: that God created and is master over Day and Night together is inescapable, in my opinion. The totality of every thing is under God's control. And more importantly, God is sovereign over everything: Day and Night exist at His pleasure, not ours, and for His purpose, not ours. God's strength is not limited to Day, or Night, or creation itself, or to time in which creation operates. And also this points to God as the first and best recordkeeper, and knower and sustainer of all things, before Whom all are ultimately accountable.

I apologize for the book-length of this blog post, but I wanted to fully express my thoughts. I love the depth and richness of Scripture, and how God uses it to point to and teach about Himself. Yet, the feeling never leaves me that our understanding is like that of schoolchildren who learn only a little at a time and very gradually over a long period of time. We cannot comprehend God's infinitude of Being or Sovereignty. But it is God's good pleasure to condescend to us and teach us, focusing our eyes on Him, and granting us the deep desire and privilege to humbly approach Him and worship with reverential awe.

I feel led to close this post with Paul's wonderful doxology in Romans.

Romans 11:36 (ASV)
For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

5 comments:

H. C. said...

This is deliberate, as God first created light, and day and night, which together formed the first day of 1:5. There is no other way it could be when you stop and think about it. Though I'm not sure how this worked before the creation of the Sun and Moon on Day 4.

Aaahhh, laddie. How'd it work? Think like you did back in High School/College math courses...answer's in the back. :)

(hint...Rev. 21)

H. C. said...

btw, good notes :)

Byroniac said...

Thank you, H.C.

Doh! I should have thought of this, myself. Thanks mucho!

Rev 21:23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Chris said...

this is for using linux with e-sword

http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/QJn_RJnquBphBAbe6wu6ys-0Qzex81yHXxkikM_6EvJYlqjX8oSrEPbyVjyW7be9BnjXWBTayszUrYDNNwaXrIbAUwwQXSdChQ/E-Sword%20on%20Linux.pdf

Byroniac said...

Chris, thanks but that link didn't work. Is that for a Yahoo group? It would have been interesting (and by the way, you can embed some HTML tags, like the A HREF construct for links).

I found a page that tells me how to install e-Sword on Linux, but so far I cannot install any additional Bibles (so e-Sword on Linux is KJV-only! Which is not good).
http://frankscorner.org/index.php?p=e-sword