I’ve been studying Genesis 1:1-2:3 for the last couple of days now and have gleaned lots of eye-opening stuff! It’s still a little odd to be spending so long on one passage without the end goal being a sermon produced. In the past that’s been the only reason I’ve studied the Bible before – to prepare talks for Church. And so it’s refreshing, studying without the emotional cocktail of adrenaline and anticipation lurking in the background.
I’m separating my findings across several posts because 1) you’re in a hurry and 2) I don’t want to rush through typing up my notes. I have a feeling they will be useful to me later down the line.
This chapter (and a bit) of Genesis is very familiar to most people, even people who’ve not read the Bible before. It’s the 7-day creation story, when God makes the universe, the earth along with it’s inhabitants – including humanity. We see God actively creating in this passage.
But God isn’t just creating.
When I was reading I took note of all the things (that I saw) God doing:
God sees, God determines goodness, God makes, God names, God positions, moves, gathers and separates. God blesses, He gives away responsibility and delegates. He provides. God finishes, rests and ‘makes holy’. Oh yes, He also speaks! …It seems that have an active God.
Of all these actions, I chose the three that were most important to me and brought them to God in reflective prayer and then praise.
1) God Positions, Moves, Gathers and Separates
In this story God does a lot of positioning, like an interior designer (of the cosmos!). He separates the waters (into sea and sky), he gathers the sea together and the land. He positions the sun, moon and stars, so that they can determine days, months and seasons. It is like God is orchestrating creation to work, positioning each component to play its part with maximum effectiveness.
The positioning of the cosmos, reminds me that God has deliberately positioned me in life for a purpose, it reminds me of the encouragement Mordecai gives Esther: ‘who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14).
This act of God also reminds me that God is able to put me in the path of other people, and other people in my path, for His purposes. (A thought particularly encouraging with the work I am doing writing a book at the moment!) A friend of mine once told me how God had used a chance encounter with one of his hero’s (Pete Grieg) to remind him that God is able bring these encounters into our life as easily as anything. God positions.
2) God Blesses
God does a fair amount of blessing in Genesis 1. From blessing plants, animals and humans to “be fruitful and multiply”. And blessing the Sabbath to “make it holy”. It is super interesting to me that God doesn’t do nothing on the Sabbath, on the day of rest, instead He ACTIVELY blesses. That is the kind of God we serve!
I consider the promise in Ephesians, that God ‘has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Eph 1:3). God delights to bless, and as people made in His likeness we are to bless and be a blessing to the world (Gen 12)! How can we bless our colleagues, local church, family & friends? How can we be a blessing to creation itself? Let us ask these questions.
3) God Finishes
In a world of distractions and novelty, it’s easy to start things without finishing them. Believe me I know this to be true, there are so many projects I’ve started in life that I’ve not finished, or had to restart from the beginning because I gave up halfway through.
Fortunately though, we have a God who finishes what He begins. May I seek to become more like that. May I be encouraged and comforted by the fact that:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus – (Philippians 1:6)
If we were heading out on a plane journey, we’d be accelerating up the runway and heading towards the skies. This is the last introduction the ESV study Bible has before Genesis 1:1. Such anticipation for the actual word of God, it’s a little weird… For years my morning routine has been mostly simply reading through words of Scripture (taking notes and prayer), so to have to read something else before I get there is really making me hungry for the actual word.
Before I delve into this introduction, I just wanted to acknowledge a feeling that I’ve had most days since beginning. Privilege. There’s a lot of talk about privilege these days, and I know for certain that I am fortunate. I have access to the Bible in several translations, with countless amounts of tools and resources with which to mine it’s contents. I have a beautiful room and flat to sit and study in. I can afford a fancy journal to record my prayers in, and numerous study tools. Even quality coffee to drink, keeping my body and mind alert so my battle against laziness is made that much easier! I am privileged to study God’s word in this way. Especially when I consider the state of many Christians around the world, who may only have scraps of His Words to treasure, and no place to read them accept in a dark room by candle for fear of being discovered and persecuted for their faith in Jesus.
Here are three things that stood out to me from the introduction to Genesis:
1) Invitation to be agents of reconciliation. One of the themes of Genesis, is family brokenness and restoration. We find siblings killing each other (Cain and Abel), rivalling and tricking each other (Jacob & Esau), competing against each other in unhealthy ways (Rachel and Leah), selling siblings into slavery (Joseph). But, in the midst of this, we also find the invitation for family members to be part of the repairing and healing of that same brokenness.
I love how Esau was able to forgive his brother Jacob, and how that this was probably the example Joseph treasured and enabled him to do the same for his brothers. It makes me think of my own family and close relationships, may I seek to be a ‘peacemaker’.
2) Invitation to read according to the purpose of the author. There was quite a bit of attention given on how to understand Genesis in light of scientific discoveries and theories in the world today. One point it made was that too often we expect Genesis to give answers to questions that it is not trying to answer. It said that the book of Genesis, unlike God, is not omniscient and it only tells us certain things (and what it tells us about those things are true).
One of the purposes of the book of Genesis, was to allow a community of nomadic shepherds to celebrate the creative goodness of God. In this way (when the focus of science is to understand and describe the world that God created,) there is no need for conflict between the Bible and scientific work! Only, all the more cause for worship!
This is a humbling thing to say, it means I need to come to Genesis not with the purposes and lessons I want to learn. But with a heart that is open to receiving the lessons God wants to give me. I may come to my Bible reading saying, “right then God, today I want wisdom for this specific situation at work”…(I may in fact get it!), but instead I need to come ready to receive what God has in store for me. It makes “quiet times” more about His agenda than mine. I like that as a foundational attitude moving forward!
3) Invitation to consider the contingencies. There was a small little sentence tucked away, which stood out to me. An approach that asks the question: “what might have happened in this story if x had done differently, what should/could have happened?” I think this question will help me apply the text to my own life and attempts to walk in obedience and become more Christ-like.
To God be the Glory!
[After note – Guys I am coming to the end of Genesis 1 today, and the posts we have in store I am really excited to be sharing next week. On Monday we’ll be delving deep into the actual words of God. Hang tight!]
Part of my preparation for my new job working with the Navigators this year has been to complete a lengthy study on what it means to be “Laborers” for God’s Kingdom. Through this study and a few other things in my life that God is seeming to be working all together (the books I’m reading, discussions I’m having etc) one thing keeps coming up over and over again.
In Genesis 12:1-3 God calls Abraham (Abram at the time) and blesses him. Furthermore God says to Abram that the whole world, loads of different nations, are going to be blessed through him.
Now I already knew that because of Jesus we get Abraham’s blessing, we get a great relationship with God and receive every Spiritual blessing etc…But what I’m learning is that we also receive his commission! We are called to bless the world and all the nations within it.
Now I know the term “bless” is a bit vague, and “all the world” is quite a vast term. But I think that this is what God wants me thinking about is how am I to be a blessing to the world around me.
Because I like bullet points here are a few of my thoughts on it all so far
- I want to be asking “how have/am/will I serve people”?
- Playing an active role in looking after the planet (even though I’m not naturally inclined towards this, I reckon because I’m selfish and don’t see how it will affect me), I believe that this is a way that I can be a blessing to God’s creation.
- God blesses the world through me, I need to remember that it’s God’s blessing, brought and wrought for by Him, and I am a channel. This stops pride, and weakens my legalistic tendency to do it all in my strength.
- Realizing that the biggest blessing I can give the world is to introduce them to eternal life. Jesus said “this is eternal life, that they know You [Adonai] and the One You sent”. – John 17.3
God please show me what it means even more to be a blessing to the whole world, please help me to actually act on this commission and not just excited by another really cool Bible link that you’re teaching me about. I pray that the people who interact with me, or even just who sit next to me on the bus would be blessed by You, simply because I am carrying Abraham’s commission. Amen