I remember the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains. I grew up in Texas, which is a relatively flat place. In the late 70s, my grandmother moved to Colorado, and we took a trip to visit her and to go skiing. I remember riding in our station wagon, huddled in the back seat gazing out the fogged-up windows in awe as I saw these 11,000-foot snow covered mountains. It’s hard to explain what I felt at that moment. Somewhere between overwhelmed at the beauty and feeling so small and insignificant in the backseat of a station wagon. But what I think I felt most of all, and still feel it every time I see mountains, is the not the grandeur of the creation but the glory of the One who created them. Whether I see mountains or stand on a beach gazing out across the Pacific Ocean or look up at the billions of stars on a clear, warm summer night or take a moment to look at the intricacy on an ant in my son’s ant farm, I simply marvel at the One who created all of this.
As we talk about Creation, there are so many ways that we could talk about it. Some of you likely want me to talk about the how of creation… creation vs. evolution, young earth vs. old earth creation… and so on. Those topics and discussions are helpful and valuable. (For more information on the specific “how” of creation, see the blog post “YouAskedForIt #2: What’s the Rub Between the Bible and Science?”) But as we deal with creation in the Story of God, I want to talk about what I think the story of creation predominantly speaks to–the Creator. As we read the creation account in Genesis 1-2, we find that the story doesn’t tell us all we want to know about creation, but it tells us everything that we need to know about God and His relationship with creation. The question we’ll answer as we dive into this first chapter of the story of God is this…
What does the story of creation teach us about the God who creates?
The big idea of the Story of God is this: The Story of God is the story of the God who creates and reCreates for His glory and for our good. We are in the first major “chapter” of the story of God: Creation. As you read Genesis 1:1-2:3, take notice of the name of “God” being repeated over and over. In that repetition and emphasis, you’ll see that the story of creation shines the spotlight on the God who creates.
What does the story of creation teach us about the God who creates? We first see that the God who creates is…
#1: The God Who Is
The very first words of not only the creation story but also the entire Story of God set the stage for what follows for the rest of the story: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” So the opening line of the story, as the curtain rises on the stage, reveals to us the God that existed before anything or anyone else. The story reveals to us the “God who IS.”
Israel’s perspective. When we read anything in the Old Testament, we need to see that there are three “horizons” of the text: (1) The history of when the actual story is happening – “in the beginning” when God created the heavens and the earth.” (2) The original audience who is hearing the story read, and in this case that is Israel. Even though the creation story has been passed down for generations, Moses, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, writes it down somewhere around 1400 BC. And it is for a reason in Israel’s history that the story is being told again. (3) How it relates, impacts, and shapes our lives today. But let’s go back to that second horizon for a moment–Israel’s perspective. For 400 years, Israel had been in captivity in Egypt, and even though they remained faithful to their God, they were bombarded with another worldview about other gods… the gods of Egypt… the divinity of the Pharaoh. In their history right now, they have experienced the grandest act of rescue and redemption through the parting of the Red Sea, and they are in the doorway of a new beginning journeying toward the Promised Land. And God wants to ground them in the reality that He is the Creator God… the God who IS. As they go into the Promised Land and into the rest of their history, they will continue to be bombarded with other gods… gods that fought, gods that deceived, and gods that engaged in licentious behavior. And people become like they gods they worship. So God centers them in Him, His character, His nature, His goodness, and His power.
“The God who IS” reveals something key for us: God is eternal. Draw a line back to eternity past and forward into eternity future, and the opening lines of the Story of God and the creation story tell us that there was, is, and never will be a time when God is not there. I sleep well at night because of the eternality of God. He has entered into the story and into our lives, but God is transcendentally above the big story and above my own story and your own story. In His eternality, He knows the beginning and the end. He knows our joy and our sorrow. He knows our victories and our struggles. He knows where we have been, where we are at, and where we are going. And in His knowing the entire story, He always does what is best for us. And we don’t always see that in the moment. Sometimes we recognize it immediately and sometimes it takes years. but He is good.
Application #1: WORSHIP. Perhaps it’s part of my personality and my spiritual temperament, but marveling and reveling in the character and nature of God leads me to worship. That our God is eternal, above the story but at the same time has chosen to enter the story most specifically through the person and work of Jesus Christ, it triggers that same awe as seeing those grand mountains in Colorado. It causes me to look up. “In the beginning God” causes me to say “You and You alone are God and there is none like You. You and You alone are worthy of my praise. You and You alone are worthy of my full devotion and my full surrender to Your Lordship and Your Kingdom.” Let the Creator God center your life and bring you to worship Him. When we come to Northshore Sunday after Sunday to worship as the community of Christ, when you worship privately in your time of prayer and word, when you worship together as a family, you are grounding yourself and your life in the reality that our God is the God who IS.
#2: The God who Speaks
Did you notice the emphasis of Genesis 1… “And God said…” Eleven times in the story of creation, God spoke and it happened. I love one bumper sticker that I saw (and I’m not a big fan of most bumper sticker theology): “The Big Bang… God spoke and ‘bang’ it happened.” God’s word is powerful. His word brought creation into existence out of nothing. As God speaks in the Creation story in Genesis 1, there is a pattern: formless to form to filling. By His spoken, powerful word, He transforms formlessness to fullness.
- On Day 1, in the darkness and formlessness, God says “Let there be light.” And His word shines brilliant light… transforming formlessness to form. And then on Day 4, He speaks and creates the form of the lights… the sun, moon, and stars, and fills this universe with the light.
- On Day 2, God speaks and creates separates the waters from the sky… He takes formlessness and brings form… and then on Day 5, He speaks and brings fullness to those waters and skies… birds to fill the sky… aquatic life to fill the waters.
- On Day 3, God speaks and creates the land and vegetation… and then on Day 6, He speaks and creates animal life to fill it… and then the crown of creation… He creates humanity (much more on that in the next lesson “The Crown of Creation”).
There is a continual powerful, life-giving speaking from God… and in that speaking, in His word, we see progression… formlessness to form… and form to fullness.
We will see that as the story goes on, the most powerful expression of the God who speaks is the centerpiece of the story: very living Word of God, Jesus Christ. We must remember throughout this entire Story of God, that the spotlight is on the person and work of Jesus Christ… even in creation. Read John 1:1-3. The Word… the Living Word… Jesus Christ… God Himself… eternally pre-existent. He is creating… He is the God who brings fullness from formlessness. And as we’ll see in two weeks, as the story takes a drastic turn for the worse through sin and rebellion, it feels like the story goes back to chaos and formlessness. Jesus Christ is the One who re-creates and brings the story and our lives back to life from formless to fullness.
It’s really interesting to see the New Testament perspective on the ancient story of creation. One of the most interesting places where the theology creation and the God who speaks pops up almost unexpectedly is in Hebrews 11… the famous chapter on faith. READ Hebrews 11:3. All of the stories of people who come after this verse, their lives in the moment felt like they lacked form… Abraham packing up all of his family and belongings to go to a place he knew nothing about… the feeling of formlessness. God speaks… brings form… Abraham responds in faith… God brings fullness. Moses, exiled from Egypt… in the court of Pharaoh to the shepherd wilderness of Midian… his life feels a bit formless right now… what am I doing here… God speaks at the burning bush… brings form… Moses responds in faith… God brings fullness. There is a pattern here… formless to form to faith to fullness. The creation story shapes our story.
Horatio Spafford, the author of the famous hymn “It is Well With My Soul,” was a Chicago lawyer in the 1860s who had experienced much fullness in his life… but in a moment of unimaginable personal tragedy, his life was catapulted into formlessness. In 1870, he lost his son to scarlet fever. In 1871, he lost all of his real estate investments in the great Chicago Fire. So, reeling from these devastating loses, Horatio decided to take his family on a vacation to England. The Spaffords planed to leave in November of 1873 on their voyage. The day they were to sail for Europe, Spafford had a business emergency and could not leave. Not wanting to disappoint his wife Anna and their four daughters, he sent them on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days. On November 22, 1873, while at sea, their ship was struck by another ship and sank within twelve minutes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Horatio’s wife Anna survived… their four daughters did not. After she was rescued, she sent a telegraph to Horatio… brief and heartbreaking, “Saved alone. What shall I do?” Horatio left Chicago without delay to bring his wife home. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge. He told Horatio that they were now passing the place where the ship sank. The water was three miles deep. That night, alone in his cabin Horatio Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
Application #2: FAITH. There are so many times in our lives where “sorrows like sea billows roll”… those moments where we feel the formlessness… those moments when we acutely feel the chaos… those moments when despair has a tendency to rule our hearts. And in those moments, we are called to faith… faith in the God of creation… faith in the God who speaks into formlessness to bring form and fullness… faith in the God who speaks words of power and words of life. Horatio Spafford responded to tragedy with the faith that His God was with Him even as the sorrows like sea billows rolled over his heart.
Wherever you are at… whatever chaos and feeling of formlessness you are going through, do you believe that God is the God who speaks and transforms formlessness to form and fullness? If you’ve lost your job or you’re in a tough financial predicament, do you trust that God can and will speak into that to take care of you? Some of you are overwhelmed at the feeling of formlessness… you’re not sure what’s next. Will you have faith in the God who speaks fullness into the formlessness? We all have places in our life where we feel the formlessness… and our response as we meditate on the God who speaks is faith… to trust Him to speak and transform that formlessness to fullness.
#3: The God who Reigns
The story of creation reveals that the God who creates is the God who reigns. The God that spoke the world into existence by His powerful word is the God who is the Creator King, ruling and reigning over all of creation. Go back to that second horizon of the text that I talked about earlier… Israel’s perspective. The opening pages of Genesis grounded Israel in the reality that this God who IS, this God who speaks, is the God who reigns. He is their King. He is their Lord. He is their Creator. He is their Provider. He is their Rescuer. He is their Salvation. He is the God who reigns… in power, glory, and wisdom.
He reigns and rules in power as evidenced by His ability to create and bring existence out of nothing.
He reigns and rules in glory as creation declares His glory… the splendor, the brilliance, the radiance of the Creator God.
He reigns and rules in wisdom as there is orderliness and completion to His creation. Creation is God’s certificate of competency. There are so many different areas we could refer to in the creative wisdom of God. From a scientific perspective, God’s wisdom is manifested in what is called “irreducible complexity.” Biochemical systems indicate irreducible complexity. This means that each small part of a biochemical process depends on each other part. If one part is removed, the system does not work. It is so complex that you can’t reduce the parts. That’s His wisdom as the Creator God.
Application #3: REST. It’s interesting how the creation account ends at the end of Genesis 1 and into the first three verses of Genesis 2. God who creates is the God who IS, the God who speaks, and the God who reigns… and then He rests. By the 7th day, God completed the work of creation. He was finished with all of His forming and filling. So after having completed and finished creation, God “rested.” The God who reigns becomes the God who rests. The word “rest” is shabot, and it is where we get the word Sabbath. It doesn’t mean inactivity or relaxation… it doesn’t mean that God needed to relax and take a break. God is “all-powerful,” so He really doesn’t need to prop weary feet up after a long day at the office. “Rest” in the Bible means that there is security, completion, and wholeness. So God finishes the divine work of creation, and it is complete… there is “equilibrium” and security and a sense of wholeness.
In His own resting, God sets up His rest as a pattern for the lives of His people because He knew that we would need to take time to rest in Him and the security, completion, wholeness, and equilibrium that only He can bring and provide in our chaotic lives.
Here are some thoughts about whenever and however you choose to rest in Him…
- Gather in Community – just as Israel and the early church set aside a day to worship together as a community, so do we. Sunday is to be a special day, a day set apart to worship together with other followers of Christ to honor and celebrate our Creator, our Redeemer, and our King.
- Time for personal prayer and reflection – it is also important that we set aside a time for personal prayer and reflection. Perhaps this is also on Sunday. Perhaps we take what we have sung together in worship, what we have heard together from the Word, and we pray through it and reflect upon it. This is how it becomes personal in our lives and helps us to rest for the week to come and regain God’s perspective of who He is and the world around us… the world that we’ll face Monday morning. So take intentional time each week to rest in Him.
So as we step back to see the big picture, we have discovered that the story of creation shines the spotlight on the God who creates. The God who creates is the God who IS and that leads us to worship Him in all of the wonder of who He fully is. The God who creates is the God who speaks and that leads us to faith… that He is the God who takes formlessness and chaos and brings form and fullness. And the God who creates is the God who reigns and that leads us to rest… to rest and reflect in His power, His glory, and His wisdom. As we’ve begun this epic journey in the Story of God in the first chapter of Creation, the curtains open and we see, hear, and experience God… the God who creates and recreates for His glory and our good. So may this vision of the God of the Story of God bring form and fullness to your life, so that you can worship Him, have faith in Him, and rest in Him.