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Oct 8, 2017 Genesis 1:1-2:3 God's transcendence in Creation
Oct 15, 2017 Genesis 2:4-25 God's immanence in Creation
Oct 22, 2017 Genesis 3 Humanity's disordering of Creation
Oct 29, 2017 Genesis 4 Sin, defiance, and death
Nov 5, 2017 Genesis 6-7 God's heart is grieved over humanity
Nov 12, 2017 Genesis 8:1-9:17 God's renewal through Noah
Nov 19, 2017 Genesis 11:1-9 Humanity's defiance in the building of a tower
Nov 26, 2017 Genesis 12:1-3 God's commitment to bless through Abraham (and Jesus)
Act One, Scene One - The lights are down. The stage is in darkness. The audience waits, holding their breath, full of anticipation to see what will happen.
The elements of the story may be vaguely familiar to us, floating in the deep recesses of memory, but we are still unclear about how it all begins.
Then the Artist steps out onto the stage! There are no props, no sets, nothing for us to fix our eyes upon, only the Artist himself. He stops near a stirring, churning pot of something. It looks like oil, like a primordial soup of sorts. He stares into it, brooding. He turns his gaze upward into the audience. He parts his lips as if to speak. What will he say? Everyone leans forward in their seats, listening intently.
There is a mystery to this art, something very old and hidden from us. The Artist works slowly, methodically, patiently, lovingly, drawing colors out from the roiling waters, adding them with a brush to an empty canvas nearby, naming them and explaining to the audience what he is doing. And with each stroke, with each cycle, something beautiful and hopeful emerges from the canvas as if it were already there the entire time, hiding, waiting for someone to set it free through the truth of the art itself.
We know this story. We see it all around us. There is darkness, emptiness, and a fearful, unfathomable deep. It threatens to drown us at any moment. But somehow there is also splendor, form, fullness, and grace.
The difference lies in knowing the Artist who shapes it.
You may know and remember singing a song that goes, God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do, for you. These lyrics are all-together true! God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. He is beyond comprehension and no one can fathom his wisdom or his ways. He is the wonderful, majestic, infinite Creator, who holds the universe together. Yet, God is not to be completely described in these terms alone.
Starting in Genesis 1:26 we read about a Creator who made humanity in his own image, and as the pinnacle of all his works. Then in chapter 2 we have another account of creation, one in which God becomes very personal and gets his hands dirty. Verse 7 describes God forming man from the dust of the ground and then breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. In verse 18 he declares that it is not good for man to be alone, thus he causes him to fall into a deep sleep, so that he can create a woman from his own flesh. This is an intimate account of God's masterpiece in making humanity. He does not just speak the world into being, but He comes down and forms us with his own hands and then walks among us in the garden.
In these first two chapters of Genesis we see both a transcendent and immanent side of God. Together these two depictions form who he is and how he manifests himself to us and to the world. We read that he is the one who made the stars, the seas, and the mountains, but he is also the one who formed the heart and gave us the breath of life. He is the one who set everything in motion, but also the one who knows every hair on our heads. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, but he is also the one who loved us so much that he humbled himself and died on a cross for our sins.
Impressed? Amazed? This is the heart and character of our Creator! This week, take time to read through his Word and try to grasp his incredible power and wonderful deeds. Go outside and marvel at his beautiful creation. Remember how much he loves you, cares for you, and wants to be in relationship with you. What an awesome God!
When God created all things, giving them form and function, he made them good. He took the formless, shapeless chaos and brought it into harmony and balance, with order and symmetry. He endowed humanity male and female with his image and put them to work in his garden sanctuary. They were to be his representatives and co-rulers of all that he had made.
The role, or vocation, God gave the humans was spelled out explicitly: fill the earth, subdue the earth, and rule over the creatures at God's request (1:28).Â But there was also a single restriction given: do not eat from the tree of knowledge (2:17).
Two Trees, Two Choices
While this seems like a simple request on the surface, what we find is something much more significant underneath. There are actually two trees singled out in chapter two (2:9) one unrestricted, full of blessing, leading to life; the other forbidden, tainted with a curse, leading to death. Things become even more complicated when we find a new creature introduced to the garden: a serpent, more cunning than any of the wild animals YHWH God had made (3:1).Â It is this creature whom humanity was commanded to rule over who instead offers the first temptation, an alternative voice to the Creator's, sowing seeds of doubt and discontent amongst God's image-bearers.
Whatever else is going on in this story, we know for sure it is about more than just two trees. There is a fundamental course for humanity laid out in this decision, one we still see the ramifications of today. Will we listen to voices which tempt us, which undermine God's word, which attempt to rule over us and take away our God-given responsibility? Or will we trust in our Creator, who knows us, loves us, and wants the best for us?
The answer to that question will mean the difference between life and death.
Sometimes it doesn't take very long for things to go from bad to worse. This is especially true when you are dealing with sinners like us, who sometimes make one poor decision after another, leading us into dire straits. "There is nothing new under the sun", the old saying goes. This is quite true in regards to where we came from, and where we are today.Â Let's go back to the beginning.
God made the universe in all its vast array and beauty, brought order out of chaos, and gave everything a function and purpose.Â He created us in his image, made us to be in relationship with him, and set us to rule over his creation with justice, mercy and wisdom. Then came our fall into sin, and our expulsion from the garden. What had been God's perfectly good creation, was now, in an instant, broken and filled with evil. Yet, not every consequence of sin had manifested itself, and Adam and Eve still did not realize the full cost of their mistake. Enter Genesis chapter four.
Murder. The first recorded sin after the Fall is also the most evil. Adam and Eve's sons, Cain and Abel, both bring offerings to the Lord, but Abel's offering is looked on with God's favor, while Cain's is not. Cain's attitude changes and he starts becoming jealous and angry. God sees what is going on in his heart, and warns him not to let these emotions take control. God tells Cain that he must master this lurking sin, but Cain is overcome by these temptations, and he kills his brother. When questioned by God on the whereabouts of his brother, Cain lies and shrinks back from his responsibility to care for his family.
This is indeed a terrible story, yet it is not surprising. And this is also only the beginning. Sin gives way to more sin, and things go from bad to worse, both in the stories of Genesis, and in our own lives. When we are not able to master temptations and listen to God's commands, we open the door to chaos. Yet, there is always a choice. Scripture reminds us that God gives us the power to overcome sin. So, with God's help, choose life. Choose to master the sin that so easily entangles, and rest upon the strong arms of our Savior.
After the beginning: we did not expect to find chaos again. After all, the Creator God reached into the formless and void primeval waters and brought order to the cosmos. However, humanity allowed disorder to creep in by failing to rule over the creatures (specifically the serpent) and by selfishly choosing a divine knowledge which was forbidden to them. Then things continued to escalate. The human family became torn, jealousy began to surface, sin was given reign, murder was committed, marriage was undermined, and people began to set themselves apart by their violence to one another.
Things reached a fever-pitch when God saw that every inclination of the human heart became only evil all the time. The Scripture tells us that God was grieved he ever made humanity in the first place. So he made up his mind: he was going to unleash the waters of chaos, those waters he had once tamed and separated and kept at bay. They poured down from the heavens above and flooded up from the subterranean depths below. They completely destroyed all the vegetation, all the animals, all the humans on the face of the earth. All except Noah and his family.
The story of the flood is a story of God's wrath, humanity's bent toward evil, and the rescuing of a remnant of creation. It continues to ask of us questions that are still relevant in our own day. How can we walk faithfully with God if the vast majority around us do not How do we warn people of the wrath to come? How do we trust in the mercy of God alongside his justice?
There is a dramatic scene in a famous Disney movie where a deceased father appears to his son in a vision. His son is struggling to find his place in life and is told in the vision that he has forgotten who he is and where he has come from. When the son tries to defend himself and deny the charges, the father reminds him of his status as his son and calls him to "remember!" This scene from the movie "The Lion King" is the turning point in young Simba's life, and it leads him back to re-establish his rule and bring hope to his tribe.
Have you ever forgotten where you have come from? Have you ever forgotten the wise advice of your parents? Have you ever forgotten God and his Word? From the beginning of time, humanity has always seemed to struggle with remembering the lessons they have learned and the promises God has made. On the other hand, God has never forgotten what has happened or what he has promised. This is clearly seen in the story of Noah and the flood.
When all hope seemed lost, God "remembered" Noah and his family on the ark. They had been floating on the chaotic flood water for months after their homes and livelihoods were washed away, but God hadn't left the picture. He had been there all along, and his great mercy and compassion were about to be manifested as he stopped the torrents of rain, and caused a wind to blow to dry up the face of the earth. God brought the ark to rest on a mountain and he called Noah and his family out of it. He told them to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth", the same command he gave at Creation. Humanity, through God's grace, and the righteousness of one man, had another chance.
God made a covenant with Noah that he would never again destroy the earth with flood waters. The rainbow was to be a constant reminder of who God was, what he had done, and what he had promised. This still stands today. When we forget or when we doubt, we remind ourselves of God's great love and mercy seen through his rainbows, his Word, the cross, and the empty tomb!
There is new hope: interjected into the primeval history of the world. Even though humanity had incurred God's wrath (Gen 6:5-7), he chose not to completely destroy everything. Instead, he created the heavens and the earth and spared a remnant from all creation. Noah and the surviving creatures were then given the same mandate as at the beginning: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth. Since all the wicked were purged from the world and only the righteous remained, surely this new creation would not go astray.
But there is an old flaw: in the human heart, going back to when the first humans succumbed to temptation. Thus, within a few verses of God's first covenantal promise (9:8-17), we find drunkenness (9:21), insidious behavior (9:22), and another curse (9:24-25).Â This overshadows the development of humanity until they settle in the plain of Shinar and decide to build a city, with an unprecedented tower, in order to make a name for themselves (11:4).Â While the hope was probably to please God and give him a way to visit from heaven, their project has the opposite response. When Yahweh comes down and looks on the city and tower, he is dismayed at humanity's ability to do whatever they want, so he confuses their language and scatters them over the face of the earth, thus creating the various nations and people groups.
Like so many of the stories in Genesis 1-11, this story of the tower shows how humanity, despite all their efforts to exercise dominion in their own way, keeps getting further and further from God's creational purpose. This prologue answers the questions in the ancient world about where did we come from and how did we get here? It also sets the stage for all that comes after it, both through the history of the Patriarchs and the history of national Israel itself. For us, it still stands as a reminder that humanity, despite all our ingenuity, can go in directions completely contrary to God's will, and we still need God to act on our behalf to bring us back to himself.
Many studies have shown that moving is one of the more stressful events in life. It is not easy to pack up everything you own and relocate to a new place, especially when this involves long distances, different jobs, and changes in culture. Moving also usually means that relationships with family and friends are severely hindered, and that all new relationships and connections need to be established. Fortunately, we live in a day and age where tremendous advances have been made in communication and travel, making it much easier to transition and stay connected. This was not always the case.
Around 4,000 years ago, a man named Abram was living in ancient Mesopotamia with his wife Sarai. One day, YHWH appeared to him and called him to "go" and leave his country, his kindred, and everything he knew for the land of Canaan. In the ancient world, to leave your country and your father's household meant cutting every tie you had to their protection and support, abandoning the gods that watched over you, and putting your own future and family at risk. Yet, this was God's call to Abram, and he obeyed. Thus God made a covenant with Abram and promised that he would make him into a great nation, bless him, and make his name great, even before he had any children of his own. Abram believed God by faith and it was credited to him as righteousness.
God's plan was that through Abraham and his descendants, all peoples would be blessed by God and would come to know him and his goodness. We as Abraham's children, partake in God's blessings through Abraham's faith, and we share in the call to live out that faith in the world. We are to be advocates of God's love, expressed most powerfully in Jesus Christ. The question is, do we do this? Do we live as though our Savior is indeed reigning supreme over all? Do we risk the safety and comfort of our day-to-day lives to do into the world as bold witnesses if the truth? Do we stand united as the church, for he purpose of blessing and loving all peoples, tribes, and nations?