The Big Idea: Part One (Genesis 1)
Genesis is a book about beginnings (it is literally what the word means). So, the beginning of the book of beginnings is sure to play an important role. What we find when we crack open the book is that the creation of the heavens and the earth is considered the beginning of the story. We may speculate about what was happening before this event, but no information is given to us to answer those questions. We are left to trust that the real story starts here.
We read that the earth was formless and void (v. 2a), and that darkness hovered over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the darkness (v. 2b-c). It is a beautiful and mysterious picture. And it is a picture of both power and intimacy. It is a picture that begs many questions, and thinkers have stood in awe of it for thousands of years. Some modern readers have approached this chapter from a scientific perspective. Whether or not such an approach is advisable, the words clearly read more like poetry.
There is an intensity about the anticipation of what God might do next. We understand our position in the power equation. After all, he was there and we were not. We already know what his intentions are, and his ability to create the heavens and the earth inspires awe. Yet, there he broods over the deep in the dark. I picture him crouching, like a wild beast ready to explode onto its prey. But he does not endeavor to bring something down. His plan is to bring something up, to create it out of the emptiness.
Suddenly he speaks, “Let there be light.” The voice out of the darkness would certainly have been life shattering to hear. Ironically, it was life giving. I imagine a brilliant explosion of light. We are not told that it was so, only that when God spoke the light was immediately there. Whether or not there was a bursting flare of light or a simple appearance of light, the scene is stunning to envision.
Now that God has jumped into action from his hovering position we expect the frenetic pace of a paint slinging speed artist in his studio. But this cosmic artist has a more purposed rhythm, and as our heart begins to slow from the initial scare we see him working with deliberate intentionality.
On day one he separates the day and the night and creates the heavens. On day two he separates the waters and creates the sky. On day three he separates the seas and the land in order to create the surface of the earth. Separates and creates. More importantly, he forms what was formless. With that he pauses from his majestic handiwork in order to take note of its progress. What does he think? He declares that it is good.
God formed the formless on the first three days. Now he will fill the void on the next three days. He fills the emptiness with all kinds of good things. He fills the heavens with the sun and the moon, with stars and planets and various lights. He fills the skies with all types of flying creatures. He fills the seas with plants and animals until it is teeming with life. He fills the land with all kinds of animals. In all of this he blesses his creation, telling them to be fruitful and multiply.
Then God turns to speak, “Let us make mankind in our image.” To whom is he talking? We are not told, though we will have some ideas by the end of the story. And then God acts on his suggestion:
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed mankind and told them to be fruitful and multiply. He told them that he was giving them all of creation. They would rule over it. It was all for them. And he stepped back to look at all that he had made, and it was very good.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.