June 19, 2011
In the Beginning
Jerusalem had been conquered.
The people of God had been exiled, taken into captivity in the Babylonian Empire.
It was a time of exile, disorientation.
Israel’s God seemed to have been defeated.
Babylon was the dominant culture, military power/empire of its day.
In Babylonian religion, there had been a war between Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians and Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the sea, the goddess of chaos.
It was a violent confrontation between a male god of war and a female goddess of the sea – and Marduk won.
Will Israel abandon their God, Elohim, Yahweh, the LORD, for Marduk, the violent God of their oppressors?
Genesis 1 is Counter testimony, a great big NO to Marduk and Babylon’s story, and yes to God – an alternative vision
v. 1 – In the beginning…
The formless void, darkness covering the face of the deep – chaos, darkness, lifeless
(the word tehom – may be related to Tiamat)
A wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Wind in this verse is Ruach, the feminine word for wind, or breath, or spirit
God’s Ruach, wind breath or spirit, sweeps over the lifeless primordial waters.
Then God speaks: Let there be light! And there was light.
God creates light out of darkness
And God saw that the light was good!
There’s no battle here.
God speaks, and things happen.
Timeout: The Bible is not an astronomy, geology, physics, biology, or history textbook.
You won’t find quantum physics or Einstein’s theory of relativity or quasars or black holes in the Bible.
The Bible is not concerned with timelines or how creation happened.
Rather, the Bible is concerned with deeper truth, deeper meaning.
So, we’re not going to explain how a solid dome of sky separated water above from water below, to make space for land and life.
Or how the sun, moon, and stars are created and attached to this dome after the creation of light and plant life on earth.
We’re not going to explain how long the days of creation were.
24 earth hours?
A billion earth years?
That’s not the point.
God speaks through Scripture in the language and concepts of the people to whom it is written.
The point is: God is our Creator, and God creates good.
God’s creation is good because we have a good Creator.
In this first of several creation accounts in the Bible, light is created first.
Before the sun, moon, and stars, light was.
The light of God shone forth in the darkness.
The light shines upon the waters. And it is good.
At God’s command, the earth brings forth vegetation.
At God’s command, the waters and the earth bring forth swarms of living creatures.
And they are all good.
vv. 26-27- foundational verses.
God speaks in the divine, royal court with a royal we, a divine plural: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”
For the rest of creation, God speaks, and creation happens.
With other forms of life, God speaks, and the earth or the seas bring forth life.
God works with the earth and the waters to create life.
With humankind – the word in the original is Adam, <d*a, earthling or human being – God says, “Let us make humankind in our image.”
God works cooperatively to create humanity.
Even God’s name throughout Genesis 1, Elohim, is a plural word form.
In the ancient world, the king of a nation was often said to have been made in the image of the nation’s supreme god.
Thus, the Pharaoh of Egypt was worshiped as a god or son of a god, and wielded the authority of the god on earth.
Here, in Genesis 1, this notion is radically democratized.
All humankind, male and female, is created in God’s image.
You are created in God’s image – each one of you.
Everyone in this neighborhood is created in God’s image.
That’s a huge shift.
That’s not a message that the Babylonian kings would want to spread in their kingdom.
Like ancient kings, now all humankind has authority to rule over creation in God’s name.
Remember, though, that God has created a good creation.
When God gives dominion over creation to humankind, it is not a license to trash creation.
It is not a license to drive God’s good creatures to extinction.
In fact, when you read this passage, in the beginning God calls humankind to be vegetarians! – v. 29
Meat eating only comes later, after sin and death have entered the world.
In the beginning, God calls us to care for the earth and the waters and all the creatures in them.
In the beginning, God gives every green plant as food for the creatures of the earth.
Side note: Do you know what percentage of farmers in the world are women? 80%
Do you know what percentage of those farmers own the land they till? 2%
The rest are working on other people’s land, often for very little in return.
v. 31 – “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
God’s creation is very good, according to God.
And then, God rested.
On the seventh day, God rested.
God establishes a rhythm of work and rest, Sabbath rest.
In Babylon and other ancient nations, there were no weekends.
There was no Sabbath rest for workers.
The concept of a weekend, for which unions fought so hard a century ago, goes back to God’s hallowing, holy-ing, making holy, the day of rest for the people of Israel.
So, God’s speech, God’s word, is effective.
God speaks, and creation happens.
And God’s creation is good, very good.
Impervious to decay and death? No.
Free from the possibility of evil? No.
But good. Very good.
And, in Jesus, God’s Word becomes flesh and pitches his tent among us.
The Creator becomes a creature in Jesus, God’s Word of love to creation.
No one has seen God face to face, but Jesus makes God’s heart of love and justice, mercy and peace, known to us.
The God who worked with the earth and seas to bring forth life.
The God who worked with cooperatively to create humankind in their own image.
This God is made known to us in Jesus, through power of the Holy Spirit.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, [has come] into the world.”
Thanks be to God!