We find ourselves today in the first chapter of Genesis. It is one of the most familiar chapters in the Bible. We have been teaching it to children for generations. There is no background to offer because nothing happened prior to this chapter. In the beginning, there was nothing, yet God has always existed. However, do not worry because God had a plan. This is God’s plan:
According to the Bible, on the first day of the week God created light. You should not be surprised because light is a major theme in the Bible. Jesus called himself the light of the world (John 8:12) and Jesus tells us to let our light shine (Matthew 5:15-16). Without light, there is only darkness.
On the second day, God created the atmosphere and the firmament. In Biblical cosmology, the firmament was a solid dome that surrounded the earth, causing the dry ground to appear. Without the creations of the second day, life of any kind could not have existed. From the very beginning our world was designed to be full of life.
On the third day, the dry ground appeared along with plants. Each plant was suited to its climate. Caucus exist in the desert regions. Palm trees in the tropical regions. Pine tree in the northern regions.
On the fourth day, God put objects in the sky. There was suddenly the sun, the moon, and the stars. Each one of those objects plays a major role in the world we know today. The tide would not exist without the moon. Life, itself, would not last long without the sun.
On the fifth day, God created sea creatures to live in the water and birds to fly in the sky. We call them fish and birds. Whales are impressive. Parrots are beautiful.
On the sixth day, God created animals to walk on the dry ground. We seem to like the fuzzy cute ones and we have trouble with the dry scaley ones. Later that day, God created the crown jewel of his creation, humans. They are to rule over the rest of creation. According to Genesis 1:26, God created mankind in his own image or likeness. That means there is a part of God resting inside of you. That means everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, even the preachers. If you struggle with self-doubt, then read Genesis 1 every day. It was quite a week, but God was not done. God “separated” and “gathered” on the first three days. God “created” and “filled” on the next three days.
On the seventh day, God rested and created the Sabbath. It was not created to have a day to play football. It was created to help us rest physically and be recharged spiritually. Never forget, God longs to spend time us. God expects us to worship him. Worship is not an option to your spiritual development. It really is an amazing piece of scripture. God created this entire world out of nothing. I find that fact to be humbling. Did you know, according to the Pew Research Group, 40% of Americans believe God created the world 10,000 years ago? I will confess. I am part of the 40%.
While the entire creation story is impressive. It is the very first verse of the Bible that grabs our attention. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.” That one short verse summarizes the entire story. That one short verse tells us three divine truths about God. Each one is significant and should never be forgotten. I do not want to plagiarize. These thoughts are not original. These thoughts came from Shawn Thomas, who has been the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Angelton, Texas for 35 years. Here are the three.
First, Genesis 1:1 tells us of the centrality of God. “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.”The Bible teaches us from the very first verse; it is all about God. It is not about us. Our universe is what scientists call a “helio-centric” universe. Helio means sun. That means the sun is at the very center. That means everything revolves around the sun. The sun gives us light and without the sun nothing would be able to live. Many in our world believe we live in a “ego-centric” universe. Ego means self. That means many believe everything revolves around them. The very first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.” reminds us that it is not all about us. It is all about God.
Second, Genesis 1:1 tells us God is a triune God. “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.” That verse tells us there is one God and He is the one true God. However, there is a plurality in God. The Hebrew word for God in that verse is plural. That is interesting but Genesis 1:26 states it clearly, “Let us make mankind in our image.” God is triune, three in one. The traditional benediction reminds us of our triune God. Now may God the father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever more. God the father is the creator. God the son is the redeemer. God the Holy Spirit is the life giver. Experience has taught me it is impossible to understand the trinity completely. It has been said, if you understood God completely then you would not have much of a God. The trinity is one of those things you must accept with faith. “In the beginning,God (plural) created the heavens and the earth.”
Third, Genesis 1:1 tells us God is a creator God. “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.” John 1:3 says, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being.” God created everything. The Hebrew word for created in Genesis 1:1 is bara, to initiate something new. It is interesting to note, bara is only used when God is the topic. It is never used when mankind is the topic. “In the beginning,God created the heavens and the earth.”
One of my favorite places in the world is Aa, Estonia. You may know where Estonia is located. It is in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Russia. The history of Estonia can be traced back to the year 9,000 BC, but her national identity did not develop until the twentieth century. When I arrived in Estonia, I expected to find a Slavic influence, but I found a Nordic influence. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn.
Located on the northern border of Estonia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, is the town of Aa. According to the 2000 census, the population of Aa was 190. Most of those residents live in a state-run home for the elderly. However, Aa is also the home of Christian Camp Gideon. One of the disappointments of the last 18 months for Kathryn and I was not being about to return to Christian Camp Gideon. It is part of our travel itinerary for next year. The camp has an interesting history. During Soviet times it was a Pioneer Camp, where children learned about communism and atheism. When the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, the camp was purchased by a United Methodist congregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma and given to the church in Estonia. Today, that camp teaches children about Jesus. Kathryn and I spent a few sacred days at Christian Camp Gideon two years ago. The children and the staff were wonderful.
Every day, Kathryn and I would go for a walk. Completely safe, we exited the campgrounds and headed south. As we walked the dirt road and absorbed the beautiful countryside. Our walk ended when we came to the end of the dirt road, where the dirt road ran into a blacktopped road, maintained by the government. At that intersection were a herd of sheep behind a wire fence. Near the goat pen were the remains of an old manor house. It was not just a single building. There was the main house and several outbuildings. At the heart of that property was a small pond with ducks. We sat on a bench overlooking the pond and watched ducks’ takeoff and land. It was just beautiful and relaxing. We were a million miles from our responsibilities. We just sat there and talked. We talked about how we met. We talked about how our lives had changed. We talked about what brought us the greatest joy and our greatest disappointments. We talked about where we had been and where we still wanted to go. We talked about our children and how the world had changed. We talked but most of the time we sat in silence. It happens every time.
Whenever, I sit in natural beauty, I think about creation and how God created it out of nothing. I thought about how God created the world out of nothing when I saw the Grand Canyon. I thought about how God created the world out of nothing when I saw the hot springs in Yellowstone. Something big is going on beneath the surface. I think about how God created the world out of absolutely nothing every time I look out the window of an airplane. I think about how God created the world out of nothing when I walk outside of clear cold winter’s night and look at the stars. I think how God created the world when it snows the first time every year. I think about how God created the world out of nothing every time I walk on a beach and listen to the surf. This is the best! I think about how God created the world out of nothing when the fall leaves are at their peak of color in the fall. I thought about how God created the world out of nothing as I sat next to the love of my life on an old bench looking a beautiful Estonian pond.
Do not just memorize the verse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Think about it. Meditate on it and be prepared to be amazed. It is not all about us. It is all about God. When was the last time you thought about the greatness of God?