In the Beginning
Christmas Eve, 1968. The spacecraft Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon for the very first time. No humans had ever ventured so far from our planet; no mortal eyes had ever before seen the earth rising in the distance, a beautiful cloud-swathed ball of blue above the grey lunar horizon.
As the world watched and listened, the crew broadcast a live Christmas message. After commenting on the awe-inspiring view from the capsule window, they read out the first ten verses of Genesis, in the King James translation. ‘In the beginning’, we heard William Anders say against the hiss and crackle, ‘God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void…and God said, let there be light…’ The words had an astonishing, unforgettable resonance. Here was humanity experiencing the grandeur of the universe in a completely new way, and we were hearing from the book which introduces its Maker. (You can listen to the broadcast here; story adapted from Alisdair Paine in The First Chapters of Everything.)
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are among the most important in Scripture. They are among the best known. And they are frequently the most misunderstood. A faithful understanding of these materials requires that interpreters be clear about the nature of the material presented and the relationship it has to the remainder of Scripture.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” So the book of Genesis itself begins – a beginning about a beginning in which a Person (God) sets the cosmos in motion. This is where the story starts, by addressing three fundamental human questions: Was there a beginning? Are we living in a creation? Who created? The scale of this story, we understand immediately, will be grand; the questions that it seeks to answer will be huge. Why do we encounter the world as an ordered place in which life flourishes? Where do human beings fit into the scheme of things? How are they supposed to live, and what are they supposed to do? Why is there evil in the world, and why is there suffering? What is God doing in the cosmos to rescue it from evil and suffering? How do Abraham and his descendants fit into that plan? The storyteller – traditionally Moses – is nothing if not ambitious.
I cannot overstate the importance of these opening chapters to the Bible. Won’t you come take the journey with us as we consider questions of life? Richard Belcher, in his commentary on Genesis sums it well as he writes:
“These chapters are vital because if people do not understand the basic truths laid out here then they will operate from a world view that is distorted. Without understanding the goodness of God’s creation, people will either conclude that material things are bad, or they will pursue material things as the highest good without recognizing the boundaries God the Creator has established for his creation. Without recognizing the nature of sin, people will not be effective in living with other human beings, in establishing policies to deal with human behavior, and in understanding God’s solution to the problem. And finally, without understanding the character of God, people will conclude that God is unjust in His judgment and they will not see His gracious pursuit to establish His people through the fulfillment of His promises. If people do not understand Genesis 1-11, they will be operating with a distorted view of their own life and the world in which they live” (from Genesis: The Beginning of God’s Plan of Salvation).
Invite others to come along with you as we study Genesis 1-11. I urge you to pray for us as we wrestle with tough issues such as the relation between Christianity and science, and even more importantly, as we discover that the opening chapters of Genesis are ‘a message preached to the reader about a broken relationship, between God and humanity, setting the scene for how that may be restored, and showing us where to look.’
Grace upon Grace,
- Sunday March 10 – Time Change: Spring Forward!
- Sunday March 10 – Sunday Mornings
New sermon series: Genesis: First Things
- Saturday March 16 – 9:00 am-12:00pm
New Members/Inquirers class
- Sunday March 17 – 5:00pm-6:00pm
Men’s Study ‘Knowing God’
- Monday March 18 – 7:00 pm
Calvin & Hops Returns!