Several ancient peoples had accounts of the beginning of the world. However, these ancient accounts (like the Babylonian record) pale in comparison with the scope and beauty of the creation account recorded in Genesis. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis points this out in his opening lines, “No work that is known to us from the Ancient Near East is remotely comparable in scope, to say nothing of less measurable qualities, with the book of Genesis” (Genesis: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, IVP, 1967, p. 13).
God is the Creator – the God of the Bible both “creates” and “makes.” The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and these are two different words in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “create” is bara (בָּרָא,) the Hebrew word for “made” is asah (עָשָׂה). In the Old Testament, God does both of these. However, God is the only subject for this specific word, create. He is the only being who can create something from nothing.
By divine order, God created the universe from nothing. It represents His specific design. It is an expression of His divine will. His creative power is unleashed through His Word – “Let there be . . .” Therefore, all that exists has meaning and purpose because the Creator willed it to be so. The entire universe—from the tiniest atom to the greatest expanse of space—represents God’s intended will and purpose. It is His grand design and reflects His glory.
Literary Genre – Genesis 1 and 2 are referred to by scholars as “semi-poetic narrative.” This means it is primarily a story. However, it is written with a certain poetic rhythm. For example, “And God said . . .” – “Let there be . . .” – “And God saw that it was good . . .” – “And there was evening, and there was morning.”
This device allowed Moses to share an expansive story with an economy of language. He is describing a cosmic narrative and he is searching for a way to tell it economically and meaningfully. This particular literary genre allowed Moses to be specific and general simultaneously. There is room for both the strictest view on interpreting this account (a literal 6-days) or a more expansive view (ages, years, etc.) without violating the text. It is truly a magnificent piece of literature.
The Self-Existence of God – the Bible opens with the presence of God simply being a given. He just is! This is referred to by biblical scholars and theologians as God’s Self-Existence. God has no beginning. He simply is. He is transcendent above His creation. He is not dependent on His creation for anything. He chose to bring it all into existence by His own will. He exists independently of it all. He alone is the true and eternal God.
The Nature of God – this text also reveals the nature of God. The wording of the text is very specific in how it communicates the plurality of God. For example, the plural Elohim is used in Genesis 1:1 – however, the singular bara (create) is the verb used in the opening sentence of the Bible. Also, in Genesis 1:26-27, the plural is used in God’s reference to His desire to create human beings (let Us . . .). This kind of language offers a glimpse into the complexity of God’s nature. Human language has its limitations. One of the difficulties we face in talking about God is the limitation of language. How do you describe the God of the universe?
Also – the plural language offers a glimpse into the Doctrine of the Trinity which is more fully expressed in the New Testament. The Old Testament does not “teach” the Trinity – but it is consistent with what is revealed later in the New Testament. Consequently, the Bible opens with God being revealed in plurality and unity. Amazing!
God at Work – germane to our topic for the day is this truth – God works! The Bible opens with God at work! The very opening sentence reveals that God Himself works! Pastor Tim Keller notes this truth in his book on work, Every Good Endeavor:
“The Bible begins talking about work as soon as it begins talking about anything—that is how important and basic it is. The author of the book of Genesis describes God’s creation of the world as work. In fact, he depicts the magnificent project of cosmos invention within a regular workweek of seven days.
-Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, (Dutton – Penguin Group, 2012), p. 33
The first glimpse we have of God is that of a craftsman at work. He is busily creating the universe. He is not some apathetic, lazy deity (like the Greek and Roman pantheon of disconnected, self-indulgent gods and goddesses), but He is an engaged and active God. He is the first worker! He is a role model for all workers.
In fact, as the story unfolds, the Bible will reveal a God who is busy, actively engaged in working. He will be depicted in the Bible as a shepherd, gardener, potter, law-giver, physician, etc.
Our theology of work begins with our God. Our understanding of work is connected to the fact that God works. Work must have intrinsic value and meaning. No higher compliment can be given to the enterprise of work than the fact that God is the original worker!
Human Beings – Genesis 1:26-27 reveals that humans were created in God’s image. We will explore this truth even more fully next week – as we study the topic Called to Work.
We have read Genesis 1 and acknowledged it is “semi-poetic narrative.” Psalm 8 is an actual poem set to music. It was intended to be sung by God’s people in an act of worship to express praise and thanksgiving to God.
This psalm can augment the truths expressed in Genesis 1. This is the first psalm of joy and praise in the entire collection of psalms. The psalmist declares that creation is an expression of the glory and majesty of God. The beauty and dignity of God’s design is unimaginable to human beings and is too glorious for words.
And – yet, God has allowed humans to both experience the beauty of God’s creation and meaningfully participate in it! In fact, creation is an expression of God’s handiwork and now he allows us to work alongside him. Again, the dignity and purposefulness of work is upheld in the beauty of this poem.
This is a rich and meaningful psalm that supports the truths of Genesis 1: God is the creator, creation is an expression of God’s intention, creation reveals God’s glory and human beings have been created in His image.