“On Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white Earth garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Those sophisticated men, trained in science and technology, did not utter Einstein's name. They did not even go to the poets, the lyricists, or the dramatists. Only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent observation. Billions heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it: ‘In the beginning God’ – the only concept worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe, unutterable in any other way. ‘In the beginning God created’ – the invasive, the inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal.
Ravi Zacharias, "If the Foundations Be Destroyed," Preaching Today, Tape No. 142.
Year I was born
I was born in 1969
So, I tell people I’m a flower child, a 60’s kid
I obviously didn’t participate in any of the things that were taking place in 1969, because I was an infant
Fun Facts from 1969
President – Richard M. Nixon
Famous people born in 1969 (Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Perry, Matthew Mcconaughey, Mariah Carey, Jack Black, Jennifer Anniston, Jason Priestly, Gwen Stefani, Christian Slater, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Peter Dinklage, Sean Combs, Jay-Z, Anne Heche, Ice Cube, Renee Zellweger, Dave Grohl)
Average cost of living
Annual income - $8,550
Minimum wage - $1.30
New car costs - $2,822
Movie ticket - $1.40
Gallon of gas - $0.35
Gallon of milk - $1.10
Postage stamp - $0.06
Candy bar - $0.10
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the first humans to set foot on the moon
Woodstock Music Festival takes place in upstate New York
Last Beatles public performance on roof of Apple Records in London
Laser printer invented at Xerox by Gary Starkweather
Sesame Street introduced by Children’s Television Workshop
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is introduced
ARPA (precursor of Internet) goes online in December connects 4 major US universities
The $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills are officially removed from circulation
MLB World Series – New York Mets
Super Bowl – New York Jets
NBA Champions – Boston Celtics
Stanley Cup Champs – Montreal Canadiens
Kenneth Mathews says, “We locate ourselves in time in terms of our beginnings and endings.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Genesis 1-11:26, 126]
I would agree with him
Births and deaths
It’s fascinating to look back at the year we were born to see what was happening and what was popular
Many of us can remember what was happening in the world when our own children were born
It’s also true that we tend to remember significant events that happened during the year when a loved one passed away
Mathews goes on to say that, “Thus as we see and identify ourselves by our finitude, so the Infinite One condescends by announcing his presence in the same terms – time and space.” [Mathews, 126]
We’re beginning our study of the book of Genesis. It’s where it all begins for us as humanity, but it’s not the beginning of an Infinite God. We tend to talk about creation as a finished work in the past, but God wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – He continues to create today.
GOD (Genesis 1:1-2)
Background (theme, structure, and foundation)
As we begin Genesis there are some preliminary things we have to talk about to set the stage for the entire book
The first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are called the Pentateuch
Originally, the names of the first five books of the Bible come from the first word or two in each book
This was also a common practice in the Ancient Near East for other books also
“For Genesis the first Hebrew word is beresit, translated ‘in the beginning.’ The English title Genesis is a transliteration of a Greek word (geneseos) used in the Septuagint translation for the key Hebrew term (toledot) which means ‘the generations of/the histories of/the account of.’” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 3]
The term toledot will be key as we look at the structure of the entire book of Genesis, but it’s also important to the theme of the entire book
The word toledot can also be translated, “origin,” which is why the theme, I’ve given for the entire book, is “Origins”
As we study the book of Genesis we’ll see the origins of several things as Victor Hamilton points out [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 2]
Institutions by which civilization is perpetuated
One special family chosen by God as his own and designated as the medium of world blessing
The Hebrew word toledot is repeated ten times throughout the entire book, but I’ll explain that in the section on structure
Each one of us has an origin
We come from generations of . . . (Religious – Christians, Catholics, Mennonites, Baptists, United Brethren In Christ, etc.; Work – carpenters, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, doctors, pastors, etc.)
We have a history of . . . (doing certain things, saying certain things, etc.)
We can give an account of . . . (who our ancestors were and where they came from)
The Bible explains the origins of God’s Story within humanity
Genesis outlines the “beginning of the Story of the Creator” [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 105]
So, let’s look at the structure from two angles
Two main parts of Genesis
The Primeval History (Chapters 1-11)
It focuses on four main events [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy, 13]
The Fall of humanity and the consequences associated with that (3-5)
The Flood (6-9)
The rebellion at Babel (10-11)
That leads us to the second half of the book
The Patriarchal History (Chapters 12-50)
Those chapters recount the lives of four men
These four men were the foundation of the Israelite nation
Repetition of toledot
As I mentioned earlier, the Hebrew word toledot appears ten times throughout Genesis and can be translated “the history of/the generations of/the account of/the origins of . . .”
Ten instances of this Hebrew term [Waltke, Genesis A Commentary, 18; Hamilton, 2]
The account of the line of the heavens and the earth (2:4-4:26) – transition (4:25-26)
The account of Adam’s line (5:1-6:8) – transition (6:1-8)
The account of Noah’s line (6:9-9:29) – transition (9:18-29)
The account of the line of Noah’s sons (10:1-11:9) – transition (11:1-9)
The account of Shem’s line (11:10-26) – transition (11:26)
The account of Terah’s line (11:27-25:11) – transition (23:1-25:11)
The account of Ishmael’s line (25:12-18) – transition (25:1-11)
The account of Isaac’s line (25:19-35:29) – transition (35:23-29)
The account of Esau’s line (36:1-37:1) – transition (37:1)
The account of Jacob’s line (37:2-50:26) – transition to the book of Exodus (46:2-50:26)
Through this structure we see the origins of each family unit
As we focus on smaller portions of Scripture, we will see additional structures (chiastic) that will make the passage come alive and help us understand the main point of what God is trying to communicate to us
Author – Moses
Understanding Genesis is the foundation to understanding the rest of Scripture
This book is the beginning of God’s Story for humanity and we see God accomplishing and completing His story throughout the Old and New Testaments
“If we possessed a Bible without Genesis, we would have a ‘house of cards’ without foundation or mortar. We cannot insure the continuing fruit of our spiritual heritage if we do not give place to its roots.” [Mathews, 22]
This book has 50 chapters, so we will be studying it for quite some time
I’ve only mapped out the Sunday’s in 2021 where we will be jumping out of Genesis for special services
With that said, we will end this year with Genesis 22:20-24
Without mapping out the Sunday’s in 2022, we would end Genesis on January 29, 2023
While it will be long study, it promises to be a foundational study
I want to encourage you to prayerfully listen, learn, and perhaps challenge your own beliefs about what you were taught growing up
I know that as I’ve studied Scripture for myself, there have been times where I’ve realized that what I was taught as a child was not Biblically accurate
So, in the great words of Maria from the Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”
General Statement (vv. 1-2)
In the beginning
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is infinite and eternal!
These are two of His many attributes
It means that He has always been and will always be
That’s why He can say, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13)
Ephesians 1:4, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Colossians 1:15-17, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
God exists outside of our time and space
My Next Step Today Is To: Rejoice in the fact that God is infinite and eternal.
So, the beginning that God is talking about here is not His beginning, but rather the beginning of our cosmos/universe as we know it
The Hebrew word for created, bara’, has some pretty amazing features associated with it
Its subject is always God
It’s used in the Old Testament consistently referring to a new activity [Mathews, 128]
It never occurs in a context where materials are mentioned [Walton, 71]
So, we realize that creation is a divine activity of God, and He is able to create something from nothing
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)!
This is a third attribute of God that is key for us to understand and embrace
In our finite minds we want to understand creation
We strive to use scientific methods to prove God’s creation, but that only leads to arguments and disunity, even within the Christian community
We are afraid to stand solely on the truth of creation as presented in the Bible
“We too easily accept the dictum that the only absolute is science. This presupposition causes us to think that the Bible’s authority would be jeopardized if its revelation fails to address origins in terms that reflect our worldview. This modern arrogance that insists that revelation must be packaged in our terms to be true betrays us, because even scientific thinking is in constant flux.” [Walton, 89]
“We should not be asking (1) how the text validates my scientific understanding or (2) how the text describes the scientific system we know to be true; rather, we must ask (3) on what level the text is communicating its message.” [Walton, 94]
We marginalize the supernatural, because it cannot be explained by the scientific/natural
This way of thinking is backwards
God is all-powerful and He able to do things that cannot be explained by science or nature
“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything.”
G. K. Chesterton in The Quotable Chesterton. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 13.
My Next Step Today Is To: Confess that I have doubted the Biblical account of creation, because it doesn’t make scientific or natural sense.
My Next Step Today Is To: Trust in the Biblical account of creation, even if I don’t understand it completely.
The original audience/readers did not have the scientific advancements that we have today, so we have to strive to understand what the original author was saying to the original hearers
“The New Testament makes clear that all things created came from God. This is a theological affirmation that all believers can agree on.” [Gangel & Bramer]
John 1:3, Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Romans 4:17, As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
Hebrews 11:3, By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
We often refer to God’s creation of the world as a singular event in the past, yet God is continually creating all the time
Psalm 104:30, When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
We’ve had some new babies born in 2020
There are animal breeders who are providing new animals all the time
“. . . Van Till presses the point that a biblical theology of God as Creator identifies him as Originator, Preserver, Governor, and Provider of the Creation.” [Walton, 103]
God didn’t just create the universe and then step away and take His hands off
He is continually involved in every aspect of our lives as preserver, governor, and provider
God continues to create today.
What did He create as we see in verse 1?
The heavens and the earth
The statement in verse 1 is a general statement encompassing all six days of creation
We’ll see the specifics of that creative work, outlined next week
“. . . the author declares that both space (the heavens) and matter (the earth) were created by him.” [Gangel & Bramer, 10]
The earth was formless and empty
This was part of God’s creation of the universe – it wasn’t something He did before creation, but when He created the earth [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 29]
In Hebrew, “formless and empty,” is a rhyming couplet – tōhû wābōhû [Mathews, 130]
It has the idea of being uninhabitable and inhospitable to humans [Mathews, 131]
“In the Academy in Florence stands Michelangelo’s sculpture of St. Matthew. It is unfinished. The inscription points out how the sculptor is about to cut away the stone from around the figure that he has perceived inside the marble block. So here creation, shapeless and formless, awaits the artistic creativity and ordering of the Creator’s hand.” [Atkinson, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 1-11, 24]
Darkness was over the surface of the deep
This is just another way of expressing that the earth was formless and empty
Darkness, here, does not mean evil
The reference to the surface of the deep is probably referring to water
Spirit of God was hovering over the waters
The Hebrew word for “Spirit” can mean “spirit or wind”
Within the context, it’s best to translate it as spirit
So, the Spirit of God is poised, waiting for God to speak the universe into existence
Are you rejoicing today that God is infinite and eternal?
Do you need to confess your doubts about the Biblical account of creation?
Will you take the step of faith today to trust in God’s account of creation, even if you don’t completely understand it?
As followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible is our handbook for life
If we discount or marginalize the creation story, we will not be able to share God’s story found in the rest of the Bible
We have to make sure that our foundation is sure
God is about to speak, and change the formless, empty space into something incredible
“God was sovereignly superintending the condition of the earth and preparing the way for his creative word.” [Mathews, 135-36]
Isaiah 45:18, For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
God continues to create new inhabitants for the earth. He is a continuous Creator!