READ: Genesis 1-2
BACKGROUND: With some of the Old Testament readings that are a bit longer – there may be questions you have that don’t get covered in the “Background” section. Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section and I’ll get back to you.
Genesis begins with the very beginning: the creation of the world. And you probably noticed that Genesis 2 isn’t a continuation of the creation story but rather a deeper look. Genesis 1 is written as a poem and Genesis 2 goes back and fills in some more intricate details, particularly as it relates to the creation of mankind.
Some thoughts on Genesis 1-2 (by verse):
1:1 – God obviously existed before the beginning of the heavens and the earth. He created them ex nihilo – out of nothing.
8 – Many translations, because it makes sense when we are reading it phrase the end of this verse “on the second day.” More literal translations say “on a second day.” This is because there in no definite article here – the “definite article” is the word “the.” And the Hebrew word “day” here – just as in Genesis 2:4 when it refers to the day that God made everything right after saying it took him 7 days to make everything – doesn’t indicate a 24-hour day. It means “time period.” Like when you say, “I remember back in the day…” 🙂 So, God could have created the earth in 7 consecutive days. Or, he could have created it in 7 different eras or epochs that stretched hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years. The Bible doesn’t say specifically – though interestingly enough even modern non-Christian biologists have come around to admitting that the earth was almost certainly developed in the exact order of the creation poem of Genesis 1.
26 – Being created in the image of God is a HUGE topic that you could write volumes about. In short: it doesn’t mean that we share God’s essence of being, but it means that we share his moral character and that we are created with will.
28 – Creation isn’t finished. It wasn’t finished even when God sat back and called it “very good.” He created a creation with the ability to create. He gave plants and animals and humans all the ability to create more of themselves. Creation was built to be ongoing. And even though sin messed it all up, God is still inviting us in to the ongoing creation – and re-creation – of the world.
2:24 – Something profound happens in marriage where 2 souls become 1 flesh. It is a glimpse of the unity and closeness of relationship God wants with all of us.
THINK: I thought that the portrayal of “God” in the movie Bruce Almighty was fascinating. Morgan Freeman as God was, at first, slightly shocking. But then I realized that the character he was playing, sadly, wasn’t that far off from the way many people in our culture perceive God. Our culture paints God as just some nice old man who dresses all in white and isn’t that involved in our daily lives – and certainly doesn’t require anything of us – who shows up occasionally when we need help. God just gets painted as this genie-in-a-bottle sort of being that stays out of our way and then shows up in tough times when we need him to help us as long as we act like pretty good people. And I think it’s really easy for us to get sucked into that cultural mindset. It’s really easy for us to be influenced by our surroundings and get a really wrong, messed up picture of God in our heads.
This is what happened to the Hebrews. They knew the truth about who God was, but then they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. And over time they were influenced by cultural ideas about who God was. And some of those ideas in the culture surrounding them came from stories called The Atrahasis and The Enuma Elish. And these stories basically said that humanity was a giant accident – that the pantheon of gods didn’t really intend to make humans and that they disliked humans or, at the very least, acted in an impulsive, arbitrary, temperamental way towards humans. And so people lived their lives in fear of the gods, just trying to please or placate them so they wouldn’t bring harm. And this mindset began to rub off on the Hebrews. Culture began to blur their understanding of who God really was.
So, God called Moses to write the book of Genesis. And he inspired Moses to write the first 2 chapters to help the Hebrew people understand him properly. He gave us Genesis 1 & 2 so that we would very clearly understand that creation is not an accident and that humanity is not an accident, and so that we would understand that we are created in his image and he loves us and desires relationship with us. God is not violent and arbitrary and we don’t have to live in constant fear of him. God is the Creator and creation is his beautiful gift to us, his people, whom he created from the very start to be in an intimate relationship with him. This is the big idea of the creation story in Genesis! How awesome is that? Seriously, it’s awesome!!!
ASK: How has my culture influenced and impacted my understanding of God? If I am created – designed, built, and wired – by a God who loves me and desires relationship with me then how should I respond to him? How should I respond to the rest of this world he created for me?