This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on June 11, 2017.
The Goodness of God’s Creation
Every good story begins somewhere, goes somewhere, and ends somewhere. Genesis is the story of stories. Not only is Genesis the first book of the Bible but in Genesis we see the beginnings of our lives, and our universe. And in Genesis 1 we see God’s intended trajectory, where He wants this story to go. To understand who we are and where we are headed, we need to understand Genesis.
So let’s get started by stepping into the story’s opening verse. “In the beginning God created…”. is among the most quoted literary lines in all the world. God is our Creator. From Genesis 1:2:4a we read the written revelation of God revealing Himself through creation. By paying attention to keywords and phrases in these 35 verses we: 1) can learn essential information, 2) be inspired to live at our best, 3) recognize the divine imperative.
A Divine Trail of Words and Praises
1) “God created… God said… God saw… God called… God made… God blessed… God rested.” These seven action verbs highlight that God acted intentionally to bring creation into being. (They are found in Genesis 1:1,3-12, 14, 16, 18, 20-22, 24-29, 31; 2.:2-3).
2) These active verbs are parallel to the use of “let” which indicates God’s permissive will to bring creation into being. Nine times “let” is used in telling about the initial six “days” of Creation. The word “let” has the sense of God’s graciousness. Creation came as an extension of His generosity.
3) “Yom,” the Hebrew word for “day,” can mean a 24 – hour period of time or a period of time longer than 24 hours. John Bisagno, the popular Texas revival preacher & pastor, taught me this during my college days at Baylor. (Later this translation was affirmed during my Hebrew studies with Hebrew scholars, e.g., J.J. Owens, Paige Kelly, and Jack Glaze.) This reminds us that humility is a healthy tone to use when teaching and/or preaching from Genesis 1:1-2:4a. Scripture is God’s inspired witness of His Story. In this case of His creation, we have to be careful to let the text tell us the story.
4) “God saw that it was good” is used 6 times as a summary statement. God’s goodness is built into His creation. The inferred conclusion is that God’s goodness becomes the standard by which we are held accountable as stewards of God’s creation. (Micah 6:8; Luke 18:18-19)
5) The Creation story crescendos in the eloquent description of God making humanity in His image. The imago Dei of Genesis 1:26-28 signified that we as people carry within us the gift of all gifts, the wonder of God’s divine touch upon our lives. Which is why Augustine, the early Christian leader of North Africa (354-430), famously wrote: “our hearts are restless until we find rest in Thee.” Being made in God’s image means we are connected to God and all of His creation. (Psalm 8:5; James 3:9; Acts 17:28-29) We are part of the whole, intimately related unto each other.
6) Martin Luther saw in the “Let us,” “our image,” “our likeness,” of Genesis 1:26 as early biblical references to the Trinity. God’s dynamic whole was fully invested in the Creation story.
7) The Creation was of “male and female he created them.” This followed by “God blessed them and said to them…” are statements of God’s blessing on the wonder of humanity. In this is the gift of love and empowerment given for people to realize their God-given potential. This potential is equally bestowed on men and women, “male and female” (“animus” and “anima”). Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:38 illustrated this potential. He said, “Be you therefore perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The Amplified Version provides assistance with the fuller translation, “that is to grow into complete maturity of godliness of mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity.” This is the personal responsibility that comes with being made in God’s image.
8) This “blessing” also comes with the calling to “be fruitful and multiply.” Humanity is commissioned to “produce and multiply.” This is the divine call to be a steward of God’s creation in every regard.
Myron Madden, in his classic The Power to Bless, stressed that the blessing from God is to be received and given. We are to be takers and givers. God’s blessing is to be passed on, such as by parents to children. Everyone is to be treated with respect and integrity.
The Creation motif of creatio ex nihlo: the theological expression indicating that God “created out of nothing;” meaning that from Himself God created everything that is good. God brought: order out of chaos, reason from confusion, form from void, light from darkness. God gave creation a “good” nature.
The Nature of God revealed: the Spirit of God is described as a creative wind (ruah), Genesis 1:2—God used in plural form (elohim) indicates the Lord’s majestic and dynamic nature, a reference to the Trinity, Genesis 1:26. God is active. When God speaks, things happen. God acts with the purpose to save His creation.
The Character of Creation: God shaped the created life and distinguished each creation one from another. For instance, each person has his or her own DNA code. God named the life forms so they could be in “good” relationship with one another. God gave life a productive character. Life creates life.
Human Beings are the glory of Creation: Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 21-25 are the apex of the creation story, because people are made in the image of God (imago Dei). People were created to relate with—God, nature, each other, and one’s self. People were given the responsibility to care for God’s creation, which is called stewardship. God gives people the power to join in creative acts and be accountable for their work.
Creation is God’s holy work, and after six days of His work, God rested. (Genesis 2:2-3) God blessed “the seventh day and made it holy.” Which is why it’s the basis of the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. (Exodus 20:10)
Our need for Holy rest means we need to rest in God’s holiness. There are 1,400 minutes in each day and 168 hours in each week. Keeping Sabbath enables us to keep balance in our lives, our lifestyle. In this is a rhythm of time with God’s creation. Keeping Sabbath serves to keep all of God’s creation in balance.
D. Leslie Hollon
Trinity Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas
Tags: beginning, action, genesis, stories, image of god, imago dei