In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the first day.
And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the second day.
And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the third day.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights-- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the fourth day.
And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning-- the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens--
5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground--
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Most of you probably don’t know this, but I am an avid amateur astronomer. I don’t just enjoy it. I’m really, really into it. I’m very serious about this hobby. I own a few telescopes. Each one has a different purpose. One is for looking at the sun safely. Another is for taking photographs of distant objects in space. I’m part of a group of other astronomers that own and operate a small observatory in Africa. That way I don’t have to wait until it gets dark here, as soon as the sun goes down in Africa, I can get on the Internet and move the telescope by remote control and take all sorts of pictures of all sorts of galaxies, and planets.
Ask my wife and she will tell you, I spend ALMOST too much time and money on astronomy.
But it so relaxing. I find it very therapeutic.
And I find that it is a very spiritual exercise.
One of the highlights of my life came about 15 years ago when I was able to work with NASA on a team of volunteer astronomers in a study that allowed us to use the Hubble Space Telescope. The study was all about observing OH emissions from 5 asteroids. I have no clue what that means – I just did what the project director told me to do and I enjoyed every minute of it.
We’ve all seen those wonderful images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Most of us don’t understand the science involved with Hubble. We probably couldn’t name a single scientific discovery or contribution made by this very expensive project – and yet so many people have demanded of congress that money be spent to keep Hubble operational.
In one simple word – beauty.
We love to look at those photographs and see the beauty of God’s creation.
I think that is why I enjoy astronomy. It keeps me in touch with the artistic flair that God has with the universe He has created.
We read in Psalm 19, verse 1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
I think that is one of the reasons why I love the opening passages of the book of Genesis. It is here that we find this wonderfully poetic description of God creating the universe.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“In the beginning…” What a great place to begin the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created.”
In fact, we come to not just one creation account, but two. And they are two very different accounts.
I have friends who are not Christian, and who do not believe in God. They like to point out that Genesis is proof that the Bible is full of errors and mistakes and contradictions, therefore, so they say, God does not exist.
Well, you can’t deny that there are two very different stories of how God made the universe in the first book of the Bible.
In chapter 1 you have this beautifully poetic account of God creating the universe.
God created light, and it was good.
God created plants, and it was good.
And then the last thing to be created is humanity, and it was good.
Then in chapter 2, verse 4, instead of moving to tell us what happened after creation, the writer starts all over again by telling us how God created the universe. This is what chapter 2 says, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens--and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up … the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Chapter 1 is poetic.
Chapter 2 is a narrative, and a bit bland when compared with chapter 1.
In chapter 1 God creates animals, and then people.
In chapter 2 God creates a single person, and then animals.
In chapter 1, humanity is the last thing God creates, as if to highlight the concept that humanity is the crowning glory of God’s creation.
In chapter 2, humanity is the first thing God creates after making the land of the earth, as if to highlight the concept that humanity is the priority of God’s creation.
Now, people who say the Bible is full of contradictions love to point to these two creation accounts and say, “Ah ha, you see, the Bible is full of mistakes.”
No. We are not talking about one creation account on page 1 and the other way over on page 859. These two accounts are jammed up together. Side by side. The writer put these two different accounts side by side on purpose. There is a reason.
I believe the purpose of putting these two different creation accounts side by side in such an obvious way is to demonstrate to us that the Book of Genesis is not a science text book. The purpose of these two creation accounts is not to give us a chronology or to tell us how God created the universe.
As Galileo liked to say, quoting his own pastor, “The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
One of the greatest scientists alive today is Stephen Hawking. You may not recognize the name, but you would recognize him if you saw him, and you probably have seen him many times on television. He suffers from what we commonly refer to as Lou Gerrig’s disease. He can not speak, unless he has the assistance of his computer devices.
Years ago he came out with a nice little book, “A Brief History of Time.” In it he spoke of an ultimate discovery of a theory that would explain the universe and creation, and said that when we have that sort of understanding it would be so wonderful, for we would be looking into the mind of God.
This past week, however, portions of his new book have been published. He is now saying that there is no reason to believe that God created the universe, because the laws of gravity and physics make it possible for the universe to create itself.
Additionally, as Professor John Lennox has responded: “But how did gravity exist in the first place? Who put it there? And what was the creative force behind its birth?”
The problem is that whenever we try to explain how God does anything, we get into trouble.
We run the risk of becoming very arrogant. Eventually we end up looking foolish.
In the book of Job, everyone is trying to put God in a box and everyone is trying to simplify God. When God speaks in Job, he says, “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off creation’s dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38:4-5). There is sarcasm in God’s voice as he addresses our arrogance at trying to fully comprehend God’s creative work.
In Isaiah, chapter 40 verse 13, the Old Testament prophet has been talking about God’s creative power, and after talking about the mysteries of the universe that God has made he ends with this wonderful line, “Who has understood the mind of the LORD?”
So let’s not get bogged down in trying to explain how God made the universe or try to put God in a simple box of understanding. Let’s look at Genesis and see what we can really learn and apply to lives.
Lesson number one – forgetting the HOW, let’s think of the WHO.
Who created the universe?
Look and see what chapters one and two in Genesis have in common – that is more important than to see what differences they have with one another.
And the most obvious commonality relates to who created the universe – and the answer is God.
In chapter 1 verse 1, we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
In chapter 2 verse 4, we read, “God made the heavens and the earth.”
But we need to hear that truth today. We need to hear and believe that God made the universe –because we live in a time when some believe that the universe was an accident. And if the universe was made by accident, that means there is no purpose.
There no hope.
There is no God.
But Genesis, in both chapters one and two, and throughout the rest of Scripture, there is this lesson to be learned – God created the universe.
And that brings us to lesson number two – and that is WHY. Why did God create the universe?
Think about that.
Why did God bother?
It must have been a lot of trouble to go to for God to create the universe.
God knows, we have caused Him a lot of trouble since he created us.
So why bother?
God created – for His own pleasure.
Like an artist standing before a blank canvas - Or holding a lump of clay before shaping and molding it. God created the universe as art, for his own good pleasure.
In Genesis 1, verse 25, it says, “God made the wild animals … all the creatures that move along the ground … And God saw that it was good.”
If you have ever been to the zoo, you can see the wide variety of creatures God has created. Some of these creatures look downright – well, they look like mistakes.
Have you ever really paid attention to a hippo? Those things just don’t look right.
Or sloths? They don’t do anything. You walk up to the sloth exhibit and the sloth just lays there. Why would God create a creature so lazy?
God did it because it was fun.
And it made him happy.
In the book of Job, God talks about his creation, and he is reminding Job that people don’t understand God or how created the universe. And in one place God talks about the ostrich.
If you stop and think about the ostrich you have to admit, this is not a pretty bird. It’s a bit ugly. It looks awkward. It looks silly. And it is not very bright. It’s a bird, but it can’t fly.
And in Job, chapter 39, God admits he created an ugly and stupid bird, pointing out that the ostrich “lays her eggs on the ground … where people can step on the eggs and crush them.”
But then God says, “but when the ostrich spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at the horse.”
An ostrich runs 40 miles per hour – which is fast enough to get a speeding ticket in some places.
God created the universe out of pure joy and pleasure.
Lesson number three to be learned from Genesis is that humanity has an important place in creation.
Now that is an important fact to understand – we have a place in creation.
When I look through my telescope and I look at galaxies and planets and things like that. It is easy to understand this universe is huge. We are pretty insignificant.
Even David in the Old Testament when he would be taking care of his sheep at night and he would look at the night sky, he was amazed at what he saw without a telescope. Back in the Old Testament times, before street lights and night lights, you could actually see stars in the sky without a telescope.
And David wrote in Psalm 8, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humanity that you are mindful of us?”
Now in the Psalms, David comes to the conclusion that humanity is an important part of creation. And we see this reflected in Genesis.
In chapter 1, God says, "Let us make humanity in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth."
Now, what does that mean “rule over all the earth?”
Well, for many people, it means we can do whatever want to do.
We pollute the air, the sea, the water, the land.
We use the resources of the world without thinking of the impact.
The political leaders of Haiti allowed, and even directed irresponsible tree farming for many years. Hills and mountains were laid bare. The result is that much of the good soil has eroded. The farming is hard. When it rains, there are mudslides that kill entire families.
Ruling over the earth doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want to do and not think about the ramifications of it.
When I was a teenager, my parents had to go out of town for a night. One night. I convinced Mom and Dad that they could trust me and that they could leave me alone.
I don’t know what my Dad was thinking, but he agreed.
And the last thing he said as he drove off was, “You are in charge of the house.”
He came back to find the house a mess.
You don’t really need to know all the details of all he found in the house.
When the professional cleaners came to the house the next day, my Mom finally asked me, “why did you do this to the house?”
And all I could come up with in reply was to say, “Because Dad said I was in charge of the house.”
God put us in charge of the earth. But that doesn’t mean we are not accountable to God for how we treat this earth.
In chapter 2 of Genesis, we get a feeling of what that really means. In verse 15 when God is talking about us ruling over the planet, he uses this phrase “to take care of it.”
Many times in the Bible we see that God expected us to rule his world by taking care of it.
In Psalm 65, we read, “Care for the land and water it; enrich it abundantly.”
But in Jeremiah, people don’t take care of the land. In Jeremiah 2:7 it says, “I brought you to a garden land where you could eat lush fruit. But you barged in and polluted my land, trashed and defiled my dear land.” (version: The Message)
Later in Jeremiah’s Old Testament book in chapter 12, the prophet is complaining to God and asking why the condition of the land does not improve so that a famine stops. Jeremiah prays, “How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered?”
And God answers and talks about how people have abused and polluted the land. God talks about how there has been too much competition between the shepherds and the owners of vineyards and they’ve abused the land and not taken care of it and now the land is a wasteland, and then God says this: “the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares (for the land).”
It is so easy not to care.
We use chemicals and don’t think about the consequences.
We over use cars and complain there is too much pollution and smog, but we don’t do anything.
We don’t even recycle that much.
We really just don’t care that much.
God put us in charge of this world. But we forget that being in charge means we also take care of it.