In The Beginning God
Genesis 1:1-5 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.“
The Bible begins with God and so we must begin with him always, when a child is born, or when someone we love is sick or dying, when prayers are answered or if there are mysterious delays; when the world rises up against us and when all our dreams are shattered; in the light of every providence let us stand back from them all and respond first of all by seeking God and his kingdom. Back of all, above all, before all is the God of Genesis. First in our thoughts; first in rank and station and power is the God of the Bible before whom we float like specks of dust on his eternal vision. He is the Almighty One, the self-existent One, the One who gives being to everything else, all things existing by him and through him and for him, the only one worthy to receive glory and power and honour. He has created all things and for his honour and delight they were created.
Every soul is God’s and exists by his pleasure, God being who and what he is, and we being who and what we are. The only thinkable relation between us is one of sovereign lordship on his part and total submission on ours. We owe God every honour that there is in our power to give him. Our everlasting grief will lie in giving him anything less. Throughout this brief lifetime of ours we Christians will make it our duty to bring every thought into captivity to him, and conform our whole being to his purity. We shall spend our moments and our days freely exalting this living God. We will give him his proper place over us.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” With these words the Scriptures begin. God is both the subject and the author of all that follows. He is responsible for everything, both seen and unseen. These ten words in verse one, translating just seven Hebrew words, are a kind of formal introduction to the work of creation. The sentence tells us four things
i] It was in the beginning that God created everything.
When everything else began God was already there. Time and space and dimensions and matter all commenced, but God did not commence. He was the unbegun one; the unoriginated one. Everything else of which we’ve had any experience had a beginning. There is nothing that exists that did not have an origin; all things can be traced back to Genesis chapter one and verse one. This is the ultimate explanation of the beginning of everything, of all creatures great and small. The Creator, however, is different from every other kind of being. He never began. We can compare him to nothing at all. He is sui generis, and in the beginning he gave to everything else form and substance, structure and life. So our world’s history had a starting point. In other words, its history is linear not cyclical. This first verse of the Bible is saying, “The beginning of time and space and matter came about in this way, God created the heavens and the earth.” And if it had a beginning will it not also have an ending?
We are told nothing about the origin of our God. The child asks, “If God made us who made God?” and he smiles at himself for being smart, but nothing at all created God. The living God is without beginning or end of days; he is from eternity to eternity. He himself had no cause; he has no birthday, and he has no external life-support system; he is self-sufficient. You notice that there is no family tree, no divine genealogies, spelled out in the first chapter of Genesis. “Of course not,” you mutter. That would be unthinkable to you because you either have a Christian biblical mind or because of an earlier grace in our nation, but that was not the case with the cultures and civilizations surrounding Israel. Their gods went back and back, not to a beginning but to perpetual relationships. There were lengthy family trees of gods and goddesses, with feuds and power struggles. Gods stole the wives and daughters of other gods, and begat yet other gods, but it was not like this with the God of the Bible. He is the eternal self-existent one, before everything else there was God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was the God who had made men in his image and likeness; he spoke to the patriarchs and redeemed the fathers from Egypt. He became their Father and Saviour; he would send them a Messiah. This was the God who in the beginning acted and made everything, the Lord of Israel who at a specific time was solely responsible for creating the whole universe.
ii] God was solely responsible for creating everything else.
God devised it and its entire engineering was his alone. Both the plan and the accomplishment of the universe was his. There was nothing and nobody else making any suggestions to him, let alone helping him. There was God alone purposing, designing and finally firing the starting pistol and the human race within God’s creation began. That was it. God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?” Job was absent as were we all. God did it because he chose to do it. The common name for God is elohim, and it is the masculine plural form of the Hebrew el, and it means ‘strength’, and ‘might.’ Although the noun ‘God’ is plural in the original language the verb ‘created’ is singular. So right from the beginning there is the suggestion that there is more than singularity in God. There is withness in the Godhead. We flood Genesis chapter one with the light of John chapter one, where the first three verses echo our text and amplify it in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” While here in Genesis 1:2 we are told, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Here is the God who speaks in verse 26 and says, “Let us make man in our image.” The Father, the Word, and the Spirit are solely responsible for creating all things. Here is a personal God; one who speaks, and loves, and is compassionate. He is the one who makes himself known like this, “I am the God of Abraham.”
God created the heavens and the earth. Whenever this word ‘created’ is found in the Bible, and I believe that it is found some fifty times, then God himself is the one creating; he is always the subject preceding the verb ‘create’, in every single case. The word is never used of an action of men. Man cannot create; this is an incommunicable attribute of God. The reason for that is that God alone can create out of nothing. Out of nothing comes nothing, but when God acts in the beginning, addressing this nothingness, the heavens and the earth are born. Someone has said that God stepped from behind the curtain of nowhere, and stood on the platform of nothing, and spoke a universe into existence.
iii] Everything else was created by him.
There was nothing at all before Genesis chapter one verse one except God. There wasn’t even a single proton. A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom. A proton is so small that in the dot on top of the letter ‘i’ on your hymnbook could be gathered something like five hundred thousand million protons – just in that dot. Some men imagine a billionth of a proton and then call it a singularity. Now there are those who say that in the beginning that singularity was all there was. There was no space, no darkness, no dimensions. There was no time. There was just this speck in the beginning, and then one day it exploded, so some claim, in a big bang and that made the universe. In that speck was Mozart, and Einstein, and Hitler, and Leonardo da Vinci, and Shakespeare, and Jesus. In that speck was love and patience and forgiveness and hatred. In the beginning was the speck, and today Wales is worshipping that speck, but the Bible says that in the beginning there was nothing whatsoever. There was God alone, and everything that man has discovered, all that is known, and all that is yet unknown, was made by God. No speck is eternal; no speck was there in the beginning, and every speck there is was made by God. Today there is not a single proton in the entire universe that can pipe up and claim, “I at least was not made by God.” The Lord God made them all. The Bible has no word for ‘universe’ or ‘cosmos’ it simply talks of, “the heavens and the earth” and that embraces all there is everywhere whether you go out and out and out, or down and down and down, or in and in and in. Outer space as well as all that’s in this world, everything in heaven itself and everything on, under and above the earth was created by God.
iv] This world was the special focus of God’s creation.
That is what these opening words grammatically emphasize, that in the beginning God created the heavens and especially the earth. That is the meaning of the opening words of the Bible. We have all been made aware that our earth, considered in terms of size, is an average sized planet encircling the sun. The earth is dwarfed by the size of four other planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which are all gas giants. Neptune is in fact 318 times bigger than planet earth, and yet it is the earth that is the focus of God’s attention. Then consider our sun which belongs to one great galaxy of similar suns, and this galaxy is called, of course, the Milky Way. Nobody knows how many stars or suns there are in the Milky Way; estimates range from sixty billion to perhaps four hundred billion stars in the Milky Way. The Hubble telescope has so far detected 80 billion other galaxies in the universe. So it is not a hyperbole to compare the number of planets in the universe to the number of grains of sand on the seashore. Yet Genesis chapter one and verse one says that in the beginning God created the heavens and that especially he created the earth. God’s interest was focused on our world and its inhabitants, the men and women whom he made in his own image. The rest of Genesis chapter one and the remainder of the Bible concentrates on this unique planet of ours, the only living people in the whole universe, as far as we know, and Scripture looks at the rest of the cosmos as the back cloth to ourselves who inhabit a divinely created world which has been planned, and tested, and spoken to and visited by God’s angels and by God the Son.
Such an earth-centred view of reality is deplored by some intellectuals today. Carl Sagan, the American astronomer who steadily opposed the Christian view of creation, was interviewed a decade ago on the US TV programme Dateline by Ted Koppel. That interview was to be only a few days before Sagan’s death, though Sagan didn’t know that he had less than a week to live. Koppel asked him if he had any closing remarks, any words of wisdom he would like to share with the people of the earth and this is what he said; “We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies which make up the universe which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.” Those were his closing despairing words. They are saying, we and our earth are nothing much. However, if you say God designed and made us and especially the world amongst all the billions of stars in the cosmos, then you have a very different outlook on life. You say that your life matters in the sight of God the Creator and you had better know him and do his will.
There have been many amusing, mysterious and persuasive stories to the effect that aliens have come to this earth from other planets. “The Martians have landed!” is the cry of science fiction. Such aliens are alleged to have built the pyramids, made corn circles in Wiltshire, frightened sheep farmers in Snowdonia as they drive along on their quad bikes. These aliens from outer space travel in flying saucers, so it is alleged. Millions will take seriously and reverently fiction like that who will never consider the claims of Genesis chapter one or of Jesus of Nazareth. People without God feel terribly alone in this immense universe. They are afraid because they have no hope; rejecting our divine Saviour they search for companionship in mythical spacemen, but there is no evidence whatsoever that any other living creatures exist in the entire universe except ourselves on this planet. The nearest planet which has the conditions for possibly having life in it which is outside our solar system but is within the Milky Way is 200 light years away. You know that light travels at 186 thousand miles in a second; two seconds and you’ve reached the moon, and yet it would take two centuries traveling at that speed to reach the nearest planet outside the solar system which might have oxygen and water and ‘friendly’ gravity.
If you are searching for a reason for your existence – and you should – and the explanation for mankind’s incredible achievements, his spirit of self sacrifice and creativity, and also why the world is in the state in which it’s in, then you must read the opening chapters of Genesis. The New Testament is fascinated with the book of Genesis. It refers to it about 200 times and half of those references are to the first eleven chapters of Genesis. The Lord Jesus Christ quoted or referred to each of the first seven chapters of Genesis.
So those are the inexhaustible ten words with which the Bible begins, the most widely read words in all literature. If you really believe that they are truth then I think you will have little difficulty in believing the rest of God’s word. These words are the end of atheism; “God was in the beginning,” they affirm. They deny the polytheism of Hinduism and its many gods. They refute the pantheism of the new age movement which makes everything we see to be god. They blow to pieces the theory of dualism, that there are two gods, one good and one evil, at war with one another. These words challenge humanism because they enthrone God as King of the universe not man. This God of Genesis One is the living God, and so let us worship and adore him; let us make it our chief end to glorify him and enjoy him for ever.
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