In the last chapter we started this “Introduction to the Bible” series with the Gospel of John and how Jesus, the Word, was that the creative force that was around “in the beginning”. Those very words are a very deliberate repetition of the first words of Genesis. This pointer back to Genesis is where we shall now move. Get your Bible ready and get ready to read Genesis – the beginning.
The book of Genesis has two major themes:
- The primeval, or “prehistoric”, story of chaos, creation, human/divine relationships – (Genesis 1:1 – 8:20)
- The selection of God’s chosen people and new human/divine relationships and covenants with Noah and Abraham. (Genesis 8:21 – 50:26)
The two creation stories in the “prehistoric” section tell of two different understandings of God’s power, and of our human relationship with that creator. The first story (1:1 – 2:4a) shows God’s power to create with just a word, a command. “Let there be light” (v3) is God’s first majestic and powerful command to create something out of the formless void (v2). Then follows a beautiful ordering of the whole cosmos bringing order out of the chaos of nothingness. As you read chapter 1 look for the words and themes of separation and/or gathering as God creates order in each day.
|Day 1 – Light & Dark||Day 4 – Sun & moon, stars|
|Day 2 – Waters under & above the dome||Day 5 – Fish & birds|
|Day 3 – Earth & Seas||Day 6 – Animals & humans|
|Day 7 – God rests|
Notice the links between days 1&4, 2&5, 3&6. First God creates the foundational environment, then populates that environment with objects. I could say living objects and you could argue that the sun and stars are such – or maybe objects of organic energy is a better term. Either way, this is a beautifully orchestrated and structured creation of order over chaos. This is the predictable stuff of knowing that the sun will rise each morning, the relationship of the seasons and how the earth moves, and how we know exactly when and where these things will happen tomorrow and the days ahead.
|The chapters and verse numbers in the Bible are a much later addition starting around 900 CE and were added to assist quoting and referencing.|
God is pleased with his creation and at the end of each day – God saw that it was good, very good. God’s creation is beautiful, good and ordered. As you read did you notice what God blesses? We can stare at a sunset over Lake Huron, and see the wonder and beauty of God’s creation, then feel blessed that each of us is part of this very good creation.
But that beauty does not describe all of our understanding of our human relationships with each other and also with God. As we continue to read Genesis, the second creation story starts part way through V2:4 and continues to the end of chapter 2. This second story is different in several ways. This is the story of God’s close and personal relationship with creation and, in particular, with humanity. Compared to the first story where God creates with distant command, here God plants a beautiful and perfect garden then picks up dirt to form the first man out of clay, and breaths the spirit/breath of God into him. But the man is lonely and so God provides a partner (2:18 – 2:24). I often use this text in wedding sermons especially the poem found in v23 – “At last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” … here is one like me. But the story continues and these two people start to disobey God – (v2:17 and v3:1 – 3:7). Here our relationships with each other and then with God start to break down. The couple are kicked out of the garden and the humans are now under a curse. Things are not going to be the way they were anymore.
|In the original Hebrew language the name Adam is a word play on “adamah” which means ground or soil.|
We read in chapter 4 that the expelled couple have two boys and, in time, the older one murders the younger brother. The death that God foretold in the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (v2:17), and the death that the serpent said would not happen, (v3:4) has now come to the couple – their son is dead and all innocence is gone.
The first creation story is about the goodness and good order of God’s creation, whereas the second story delves into our reality especially when that ‘goodness’ is not so evident. The second story is about the human condition of birth, death, loneliness, disobedience, blame, jealousy, etc. Both stories are true. Both tell of who we are and what the cosmos is about – both good and bad.
Chapter 5 lists the long lived descendants of Adam through to Noah. This is the first of many family trees in our Holy Scriptures which give answers to the question, “To whom do you belong?”
Following on from the disobedience of the first couple, chapter 6 tells of the people sliding further into disobedience and wickedness. Then comes one of saddest verses in our bible, “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (v6). God’s desire is to undo what he has made, “for I am sorry that I have made them” (v7). But then … God finds a righteous man … Noah. Chapters 7 and 8 tell the familiar story of the ark, the gathering of the pairs of every kind of animal, the rains, the raven and dove being sent out to find dry land, the flood subsiding and life on earth starting over. As we reach chapter 8:21 we now start to read about the story of God’s actions of salvation towards the world and humanity. This is where we start to witness God’s grace to the people as he establishes a covenant with Noah. In April we will pick up this 2nd major theme in Genesis – the selection of God’s chosen people and God’s covenants with Noah and, later, Abraham.
Next Chapter: Ephesians / God’s Grace
Written by Pastor Steve Johnston