June 2, 2010 David Balzer

Genesis 1:1-2:3 And God said…

In the beginning there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos. From these waters (slide 1) came Ra, the sun god, who gave birth to Shu (slide 2), the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture (slide 3) . Tefnut gave birth to Geb (slide 4), the earth god and Nut (slide 5), the sky goddess. And so the physical universe was created.

Against Ra’s orders, Geb and Nut married. Ra was incensed and decreed Nut could not give birth in any month of any year.

Thuth (slide 6), the god of learning, decided to help her and, gambling with the moon for extra light, was able to add five extra days to the 360-day calendar. On those five days Nut gave birth to Osiris (slide 7) the lord of the afterlife, Horus (slide 8), Set the god of chaos (slide 9), Isis (slide 10) the goddess of magic, and Nephthys (slide 11), who seduced who brother, Osiris to produce Anubis (slide 12), the jackal god of embalming.

Men were created from Ra’s tears. Different nations from different tears. When they rebelled and were ungrateful, Ra, and a council of gods, decided to destroy them. Ra created Sekhmet (slide 13), the lion-headed goddess of war, to do the job. She was very efficient and slaughtered all but a few humans, when Ra relented and tricked her into stopping.

So went the creation stories of the gods of Egypt.

It was pictures and myths like these that filled the heads of God’s people, Israel, as they lived and laboured in Egypt. That informed them about how the world was. And who they were as they played a part in it.

They were stories of chaos and rage and selfishness. Of tricks and war and anger. Of MANY gods, rather than ONE God. Gods that were born, and who represented the sun and moon and oceans and river and land, rather than a God who MADE the world. Gods who made mistakes. And who made decisions without purpose or wisdom or planning. Who were callous and brutal and vindictive.

And so life for humans was about trying to please all these gods. Of trying to trick them, or force them, into giving you a good harvest, or a safe birth, or success at war, or protection from drought or flood. Never sure whether you were sacrificing to the RIGHT god, or whether another more powerful god might come along and change the plan.

They were the creation myths that might have been influencing Israel way back then.

(slide 14) But we’ve got creation myths that are just as significant. Manipulating US to think and act in certain ways. Telling us what our purpose is, and the purpose of the world. Telling us what the world is like. And where it’s headed.

The universe began with a big bang. And it’ll end with a giant implosion out of which a new universe might form. There is no end and no beginning – just a continuous cycle. There is no progression. The world isn’t headed anywhere.

And it’s all just the result of chance, and physics. Matter – planets, stars – and Energy.

Even life itself (slide 15). Give it long enough, and atoms become molecules which become amino acids which become proteins which become DNA which become life. Unicellular organisms which become multicellular organisms which become self-aware, thinking life-forms.

There is no purpose. No design. No plan. There is no right and wrong.

The fittest survive. Humans are nothing more than smart monkeys with less hair and better manners.

Your goal in life is to survive, find the best genetic material in a partner, reproduce, and pass on your genes to the next generation.

The notion of a soul, of beauty and love, compassion and trust, loyalty and honesty are nothing more than chemical reactions in your brain. Right and wrong, good and evil all depend on your point of view.

When you die, there’s NOTHING. It’s all just part of the cycle. Your body is eaten by worms, and feeds the next generation. Your energy dissipates into the Universe, gradually increasing its entropy, as the Universe slowly runs down.

They’re the creation myths OUR godless society is arding you with. The media and our schools. Our universities. Science and TV and newspapers.

And so we need to hear some TRUTH. And ISRAEL needed to here some truth. Truth about God, and the Universe, and about us. What God is like. What his WORLD is like. And about what part we play in it.

Truth that answers the BIG QUESTIONS. Why am I here? What is ETERNITY about? Who is God? How can I know him?

And that’s exactly what we get when we turn to Gen 1. Answers to questions about The God who made the world. The WORLD God made. And the MAN God made.

The God Who Made the World

Firstly, the God who made the world (slide 16). It’s right there in the very first sentence of the Bible. The subject of this book. The subject of the whole Universe. GOD HIMSELF.

He’s a God who’s ETERNAL. Who always WAS. He had no beginning. Unlike all the false gods of the nations. God IS. The only being who exists OUTSIDE time and space.

(pause) But he didn’t STAY outside of time and space. He ENTERED it. He CREATED it. Time and matter and energy. All came into existence at the command of his word. He SPOKE the Universe into being. Out of nothing.

(pause) Now, at this point, I want us to stop and have a think about THE STYLE OF LITERATURE we’ve got in Gen 1. I don’t want to get too technical. But you don’t have to look too deeply to realize that there’s something unusual about it. The main thing we notice is its STRUCTURE. If it’s not poetry, it’s pretty close. Perhaps it’s like song lyrics.

There are regular sections, each one begins the same – And God said. Each one ENDS the same “And there was evening and there was morning, the …first day”. There’s a RHYTHM to the whole chapter.

It’s one thing to NOTICE it, it’s ANOTHER to work out its PURPOSE. What’s the POINT of the PATTERN?

Here’s what I think. The rhythm and pattern in THE STORY reflect THE RHYTHM AND PATTERN in God’s world. The design and order.

And the rhythm and pattern of the story/ reflect something of GOD HIMSELF. When God creates, there’s nothing random or confused or half-baked about it. It’s considered, and intricately-planned. He brings wisdom and detail and harmony to his work of creating.

(pause) What’s more, God ENJOYS what he made. From day three onward, he looks at all he’s made, and declares it GOOD!

(pause) This is a picture of God that’s FAR REMOVED from the pagan gods of the nations. Or even from what the world today says about God. He’s ONE God. Not many. There’s no confusion about WHICH god.

And he’s ETERNAL. And infinitely powerful. He’s wise and ordered. He isn’t fickle, or changing. Who’s always faithful to what he says and to who he is.

And since he ENJOYS what he’s made, it seems there’s the possibility for mankind to actually PLEASE him. Rather than constantly living in fear of wrath, of being nothing more than a splinter in God’s finger, or a grain of dust in his eye. It seems God might actually be able to be KNOWN. But more on that in weeks to come.

That’s the God who made the world. What about the next point – the world God made? (slide 17)

The World God Made

The big picture is that the world BEGAN in DISORDER. And FINISHED in ORDER. V2 tells us that the earth was FORMLESS AND EMPTY. Shapeless and bare. Imagine it as the blank canvas. (slide 18)

And then God begins to work on the SHAPE. (slide 19) Day 1. He speaks and light and dark come into being. One is called day and the other night. Day 1 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 2. (slide 20) God speaks again. And sky and water are separated. The waters above from the waters below. And day 2 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 3. (slide 21) More work on tracing out the FORM. Adding SHAPE. He speaks and the land separates from the water. Mountains rise out of the oceans.

And God declares it GOOD. But he’s far from finished.

He speaks/ and plants rise out of the soil. Great forests, and fields of grass. Bushes and shrubs and fruit-trees. And finally, the formless has form. The shapeless has taken shape. The canvas has been covered – a wash of colour and outline, silhouette and shadow.

And God declares it GOOD. Day 3 ends. Evening and morning.

He’s halfway there. Next, God comes back to each aspect of his creation to fill in the details. There’s form and shape. But it’s still empty. Now it’s time to fill up the barrenness. Time to get out the fine brushes.

Day 4. (slide 22) He speaks/ and the sun, moon and stars blaze across the sky filling the day and night. And God declares it good. Day 4 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 5. (slide 23) He speaks and the oceans and skies teem with life. What was empty’s now full. Fresh water and salt water. Mammals and fish. Squids and crabs. Seed-eating birds and birds of prey. Huge whales, and tiny honey-eaters. Vacant becomes full to overflowing. And God declares it good. Day 5 ends. Evening and morning.

Day 6. (slide 24) The painting’s nearly finished. God moves onto the land. There’s soil and trees, mountains and valleys, deserts and forests. But they’re BLANK.

So God speaks and the land produces animals. Running and jumping and waddling and crawling animals. Digging and climbing and wriggling animals. Animals that hunt and chase and animals that hide, and are chased. Animals that wander, and animals that set up homes. Animals that live in herds or communities, others who live alone.

And God saw that it was good.

From THE GOD of order and design has come A WORLD of order and design. A world of variety and colour and complexity. But a world where each part fits together perfectly – just the way it was designed. Everything in perfect balance and harmony.

From the enormous patterns of the milky way – the swirls and splashes of stars and constellations across millions of light years. To the tiny, unique designs of a snowflake.

From the balance of mass and gravitational attraction that keeps the earth orbiting just the right distance from the sun/ so that water stays liquid, and makes life possible.

To the balance of mass and energy and charge that keeps atoms stable. That keeps negative electrons orbiting a positive nucleus without ever collapsing into it, making matter possible.

From the macro to the micro, there’s precision and detail and careful planning.

The Man God Made

But God isn’t finished yet. (slide 25) He’s got one last piece of creating to do. The pinnacle of his creation. A creature like himself. Bearing his likeness. Who can care and cultivate and rule his creation UNDER him. Who can enjoy his creation WITH him.

And so he makes MAN. V26.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Mankind – the only creature with a touch of divinity. Made in God’s likeness. Made to recognize him, to comprehend eternity. To appreciate and enjoy his creation like God himself.

But also, with a TASK like God’s. Made for a purpose. To look after the creation. To care for it. To rule. To USE it. More on THAT next time.

(pause) And now, the last piece of the picture’s in place. God stands back from his painting, holds up his thumb. Sizes it all up. And declares “VERY good!” (slide 26)

It’s a picture of PERFECTION. Of God and his people and his world in complete harmony and unity and relationship. A picture that’s summed up in the first box in the TWO WAYS to LIVE presentation. (slide 27)

1. God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him.

(pause) In that one paragraph/ is the answer to the BIG questions of life. Who is God? Who am I? And why am I here?

And so, we realize we have purpose. The world was designed and created for a reason. We are significant and precious in God’s sight. There’s an explanation for why we feel love and justice and loyalty and loneliness and beauty. Because we are made in God’s image – like no other creature. Made for RELATIONSHIPS. Made for GOD.

And we have a job to be getting on with. We were made for DOMINION. To care and nurture and rule and use and enjoy God’s world.

How well are we doing at that?

And then…

And yet for all its beauty and perfection, that’s not all there is to God’s world. (slide 28) For all man’s purpose and identity and significance, he’s made for SOMETHING MORE. For all creation’s completeness and complexity, it’s not THE GOAL.

Because there’s still ONE MORE DAY. Creation’s finished, but that’s not the end. Look at Ch 2 v1.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he … RESTED from all his work. 3 And God BLESSED the seventh day and MADE IT HOLY, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

The pattern doesn’t finish at SIX. But SEVEN. (slide 29) The culmination of creation is not man. Or even the complete creation-package, with man as God’s second-in-command. Even though it’s all VERY good.

The finale of God’s work is REST. That’s the target. Holy rest. Rest that’s set apart from the rest of the active work of creating.

It’s rest that shows creation’s COMPLETE. Nothing more to add. Nothing half-baked, or half-finished.

And it’s rest that is more than just STOPPING. But an active REJOICING in the creation. For God to step back, hold up his thumb to the finished painting, and just ENJOY it all.

And, as we read through Scripture, we see that God’s rest is a PATTERN for OUR resting. One day in seven to PAUSE. To REST. And to enjoy the creation, and to enjoy the One who created it. To participate in the God’s rest.

Did you notice there’s something MISSING from the Day 7? It’s there for every other day. There’s no final close of Day 7. No “Evening and morning – the seventh day”. DAY 7 CONTINUES.

We’re living in day 7. And God calls us to participate in his rest. By enjoying him, and enjoying his creation.

But I think there’s at least one other thing we can say about God’s rest. It’s also rest that points to SOMETHING ELSE. Creation is there in the first six days. But God’s goal is something BEYOND the six days. Something BEYOND creation.

Because as Scripture unfolds, we learn something else about this REST. God’s got in mind more than just rest WITHIN his good creation. But rest BEYOND his creation.

Hebrews 4 promises God’s ETERNAL rest – something in front of all God’s people. Something that none of us have yet entered. Something to look forward to. Something to persevere for.

4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

And down to v9

9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest,

It’s a rest that begins now. As we grow in our relationship with our Creator. As we learn to trust him. And enjoy him. And obey him. And rely on him.

But it’s a rest we’ll only FULLY realize in eternity. When God’s NEW creation will begin. A PERFECT, COMPLETE, ULTIMATE, INTIMATE, ETERNAL, UNCORRUPTIBLE creation.

And that’s comfort for the frustration we feel when we recognize that OUR world bears little resemblance to God’s PERFECT world.

When we see the pain and suffering and and frustration. And wonder where God is in all of that. Because, as perfect as it was in the beginning. This world is not all there is. And so we hope for ANOTHER world.

But as we wait. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the KEY to real rest. The one who leads us into God’s true rest.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Let’s make every effort to be entering that rest. To be rejoicing in our Saviour, in our Creator, and in his creation. To be living as people with purpose and joy and love. People who know who we are. And where we’re headed.

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