God creates everything over the course of six days, exercising perfect sovereignty and making everything perfectly, while also giving hints in what is said of what will be seen in the rest of Scripture.
Right from the start of creation, our triune God lays the foundation for the gospel as He shows His sovereignty, His manner and His purposes through His work of creation.
Starting something new can sometimes be a scary, threatening experience. More often though, I hope, it’s a cause for excitement. Starting a new job, moving into a new home, beginning a new project – even coming back to church – will generally mean we look forward to the possibilities, the opportunities that come with the change.
On a smaller scale, we can experience the same thing when starting a new book. What will first lines, even the first paragraphs say? Will they grab you, compelling you to carry on reading? Will they be lack-lustre, requiring sheer willpower if you’re going to go further in.
Genesis 1 is a book of beginnings in more than one way, for this is not just the first book in the Bible, but also takes us back to the beginning of recorded history.
We have to acknowledge that Genesis 1 doesn’t grab you by the throat – there is no epic conflict of Titans, as in so many other stories of how the world came to be. In the Maori creation story, for example, Rangnui, the male god of the sky and Papatuanuku, the female god of the earth appeared in an initially empty creation, making children who then rebelled against them, separating them.
In the Bible, though, there are not multiple Gods, conflicting with one another. Neither is there a pre-existing creation. Instead Genesis presents us with a single, triune God in perfect peace and perfect control. The Creation of the world in Genesis is a deliberate, planned, relaxed act by a triune sovereign God.
Why do I say deliberate? Well, God speaks to make creation happen. He expressly and repeatedly says “Let there be”, and in some inscrutable way, His speech makes His will come to pass. Psalm 33 says “By the Word of the Lord, the heavens were made and by the breath of His mouth, all their host”. And although Jesus isn’t explicitly mentioned here, John 1 clearly relates Him to the Word and Colossians 1:16 and its context tell us that by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him”. Hebrews 1 reaffirms this and adds that He also upholds the universe by the word of His power.
Your existence and mine, then, is no accident. We are, in a very real sense, His children simply by the fact that He made us.
Why planned? There are clear, distinct stages to God’s work of creation. There is no “On the sixth day God created the moon because He realised something was missing.” There is no experimenting and trying things out. God knows what He is going to do and He does it. And the fact that God had planned and thought through not just the process of Genesis 1 but the whole of history is seen in passages like Ephesians 1, where we read that He chose you and me, in Christ, before the creation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. The gospel starts here.
Why relaxed? We are told there is neither a single act of calling everything into existence at once, nor a long term iterative process or a struggle. God does exactly what He wants, when He wants. He isn’t in a rush. He isn’t fighting the laws of physics. He is in perfect control. Creation is made in six days because that’s how long He wants to take, because he is setting up for us a pattern of working for six days and resting on the seventh day.
What hints of the trinity? We read in the first verse that God created the heavens and the earth, and in verse 2 we see mention of the Spirit of God but it really becomes clear in the passage we will consider next time, Lord willing: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And of course there are the later passages previously mentioned that explicitly describe the role of the Son especially in creation.
And all of this is perfectly consistent with what we read as we continue through the Bible. Even through the brokenness and the pain that is coming, even through the times when it will look like God’s plans and purposes are failures, God is in control. Just as the events of Genesis 1 are deliberate, planned and executed in a relaxed fashion by the three members of the trinity, working together, so it will be with the rest of history, all the way through the Bible. “At just the right time, while we were still powerless...”. “God is patient with you, not wanting any of you to perish, but all of you to come to salvation.”
Imagine if it were not this way. Imagine a Genesis 1 in which the members of the trinity are in conflict, or in which there is some other ‘god’ who exits the story early on. Imagine a God who just starts building the world without a plan, who is taken by surprise by the rebellion in Genesis 3? Imagine a God who struggles to create and takes eons and iterations? How much confidence could we have in Him?
But Genesis 1 shows us that God is perfectly sovereign, deliberately creating the world in accord with His perfect plans, and doing so in a relaxed fashion – not a big bang, not a long struggle but one or two aspects per day, over six days.
There is no reason for us to take these six days as anything but literal 24 hour periods. It doesn’t matter than the sun and the moon don’t exist to begin with – a day is still a day if you go down into a mine and can’t see the sun anymore and a day would still be the same length of time if the earth were to cease to turn. Of course it might not have been exactly 86400 seconds as we measure the length of a day today – but it was evening and it was morning. It was substantially the same.
A little aside if I may: As far as I know at the moment - the Bible doesn’t say God created time, or that He is outside of time. People often say that today, but I am yet to see proof of such assertions in the Scriptures. It is true that the Bible says a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day to God, but that seems to me just to mean that God doesn’t watch the clock like we often do. Indeed, if we’re not watching the clock, can’t an hour seem like a minute, and a minute like an hour?But that’s not the same thing as being “outside of time”. We might well also ask, how can God be patient, how can He be slow to anger or even how can He be eternal if time is an irrelevant concept to Him, part of His creation?
So, to get back to the first point, Genesis 1 shows us clearly that God begins as He continues – the three members of the trinity, working in perfect unity to sovereignly put into action their plan of creation.
Our second point focuses on the manner in which this creation occurs. We’ve already dealt with this to some extent in highlighting God’s sovereignty, but there are some additional aspects we can consider that further set up gospel concepts.
The first of these is the fact that God’s work in creation fundamentally about creating differences and distinctions.
God doesn’t just create light. He also separates it from darkness in verse 4. We might ask how light and darkness might need separating, but even if we can’t understand exactly what is meant, we are clearly told that the separation occurred.
God goes on to separate water from water – putting the sky in between. Once again, we might wonder exactly what is meant, questioning whether the water above is clouds or something else, but even if we can’t answer that question, we can still acknowledge that a separation occurs.
The word separate isn’t used as much in the following verses but the concept is still there. The sea is separated from the land. Plants and trees are created that are differentiated from one another, reproducing according to their kind.
Lights in the sky separate day from night, season from season, day from day, year from year and again separate light from darkness.
The creatures created in the sea and the sky continue the refrain of reproducing according to their kind, as do those created the next day on the land.
All the way though God creates diversity. He makes different things that exist in different parts of the creation and fulfill different purposes. His creation is not bland and boring. The fun and interesting things don’t come later, or enter creation against His will. God makes rain forests and grassy plains, ants and elephants, waterfalls and glassy lakes.
And this love of diversity continues through the Scriptures. Yes, God chooses one nation out of all the nations on earth to be His special people. But right from the start of that – in Genesis 12, we’re told they will be a blessing to all nations! Christ has other sheep. Revelation tells us that people from every tribe and tongue and language and nation will live with God and love Him forever and ever.
But this diversity isn’t only about having variety in the creation. It is also setting up fundamental patterns to the whole of Scripture. Right from the get-go, we’re also being set up to learn that God is separate from His creation. He isn’t part of it. He doesn’t need it. He is different. In coming chapters, we’re going to gain additional distinctions – will we obey God, or not? Will we live in fellowship with Him, or not? This too sets the scene for the gospel. The distinctions in Genesis 1 lay the foundation for our understanding of God’s holiness, His character, even the concept of the Trinity.
Lastly this morning, notice that God does all of this for His glory and our good.
It is true that we’re not explicitly told all of this in chapter 1 itself, but it is a good an necessary consequence. After all, even if this chapter was all we had out of the Bible, we would surely learn that if this is how the world came to be, then this God deserves to be held in high esteem. He did a great job. Even after the fall, we live in a beautiful, glorious world. We ought to appreciate it and give thanks to the God who made it.
We might also ask “Why does God want these things recorded?” Surely it must be so that we might know Him, love Him and find in Him our peace, our comfort in times of strife and above all else our security. And this is just what we see later in the Scriptures. We mentioned earlier that Colossians says all things were made “for Him”.
Which brings us to the last point that needs to be made this morning. Genesis 1 teaches us that God’s purpose in creation was not just His glory but our good. Time and again, we read the assessment that what God made was good. Even before mankind is created, we read of God blessing his creation. He seeks not just His glory, but the good of his creation.
And isn’t that the whole point to Jesus coming too? Just as with Genesis 1, God didn’t need to do anything. He was perfectly self sufficient without us. But for His glory and our good, He redeemed us from sin and death so that we might know the joy and privilege of belonging to our only wise God; so that we might find in Him true peace, true joy, true purpose and meaning to our lives; so that we might love and live with Him and serve Him with gladness for all eternity.
Genesis 1, brothers and sisters, lays the foundation for the whole rest of the Scriptures, our entire understanding of who God is and what He has done, is doing and will do. Our sovereign, triune God made all things, deliberately, in accordance with His plans, without rushing or fighting the creation He was making. He created diversity but also unit in the diversity, for all was made for His glory and our good.
To Him alone be the praise and glory and honour, forever and ever!