The Gresham Bible Church Women's Ministry is going through Nancy Guthrie's book The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis. This was my teaching on chapter 2, The Creation, which I delivered on April 27th.
I think we all love to see things created and recreated. Who doesn’t love a good before and after picture? It could be pictures of a makeover, a weight loss success story, refurbishing some furniture, or revamping a home. Whatever the subject, it’s interesting and gratifying to us to see how a little hard work and creativity can bring new life to something that’ was shapeless, bland, or dysfunctional. That’s why shows like Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper are so popular:
I think we are naturally drawn to creation because God designed us to be that way. He made us to crave creativity, not to give reality TV stars fame and fortune, but to facilitate our worship of our Creator. As we dive into studying the first chapter of Genesis tonight, we’ll see how God uses the story of creation to point us toward worship and to declare the transformative work he wants to do in our lives through Jesus.
The study we’re working through right now is called, The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis, by Nancy Guthrie. In her book, Guthrie divides the creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:3 into five sections: illuminating the darkness, ordering the chaos, filling the emptiness, revealing the image of God, and inviting us into rest. I found these “phases of creation” extremely helpful, not only for understanding God’s power and purpose in creation, but also for understanding Jesus’ earthly ministry and ongoing work in our lives. Let’s open our time together in prayer.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Since I’m an English teacher by day, I’m already seeing a really clear plot developing just in these first few lines. They’re the perfect example of an exposition, which is what we call the first part of a story where important details are established. Here, we learn about the setting, the major characters, and the problem that needs to be solved.
This text quickly establishes the time and place of our setting. It begins, appropriately, “In the beginning”, back before anything was created. At that time, there was only nothingness: a dark, unformed, empty void.
Right away, we see characters emerging. God is present in this void, and the Spirit of God is “hovering,” poised for the action of creation. Right there, we have two of the members of the Trinity very clearly present and active in the creation story. In a moment, we will clearly see that Jesus, the final member of the Trinity, was not left out. For the moment, however, let’s move on to the problem that’s being presented in this exposition.
The plot of every story is moved along by a problem that needs solving. It’s what motivates the characters to spring into action. So what motivated the God to initiate the act of creation? We already saw it back in the setting: it was that dark void. That formless expanse needed God to fill it with light and life, and so he did. The rest of the creation account tells us how he did that, and teaches us about His character and plan for all that he created.
Illuminating the Darkness
After some quick exposition in verses 1--2, the action begins to rise starting in verse 3: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God 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.
God’s powerful Word created light out of nothingness. He spoke, and it was accomplished! It’s here that we see the third member of the Trinity, Jesus, participating in the work of creation.”It’s no accident that the first words in the Gospel of John are exactly the same as the first words in the book of Genesis.” John didn’t begin with the birth of Jesus like Matthew and Luke did, because he “wanted his readers to understand that Jesus existed long before he was born as a human baby. Jesus existed as God and with God before the creation of the world (45): In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Guthrie sums it up this way: “The pre-incarnate Jesus was there at creation, not as a bystander but as the one through whom God made everything . . . It was the pre-incarnate Christ, the eternal Word of God, who went about accomplishing God’s creative plans and directions” (45).
Did you notice that, when God created light, he hadn’t created any material light sources yet? On the first day of creation, the sun and stars hadn’t been made yet, so they couldn’t be the source of this light.
This is where John 1 continues: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
So, on the first day of creation, the source of the light was Christ himself, the Word of God personified! This is not to say that when light was created, Christ was created. Remember, Christ was already The Word before light was created, and that is the means by which “the world was made through him” when God spoke it into existence. Colossians 1:16-17 says, “by [Christ[ all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” All of creation was made by and for Christ. He is eternally in relationship and present with the father, and by gloriously dwelling among us and enduring punishment on our behalf, he invites us to enjoy the same intimacy with God. The glory of his work on the cross sets us free from sinful darkness and illumines our lives with hope because of the truth of his grace. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I love Guthrie’s reflections on this: “Jesus penetrated the darkness of the world by his very presence, making it clear that he is the light that has illumined the darkness since creation, and that to be alienated from him is to be lost in darkness” (46).
Ordering the Chaos
After dispelling the darkness, God gets to work bringing order to chaos throughout the first three days of creation. In verses 3-5 God created light and then brought order by separating the light from the dark, and giving them each names. That was day 1. In verses 6-8, God separates waters from waters, and waters from “expanse.” The idea here is that God is creating the divisions among the terrestrial world, the earth’s atmosphere, and the expanse of space, which he calls the “heavens.” That was the second day. In verses 9 and 10, God separates the land from the water, calling the land “Earth” and the water “Seas.” That was the third day, and at the end of this day, God celebrates the framework of creation, calling it “good.” During the first three days of creation, God sets up an appropriate environment for life. Light, water, air, and earth all had to be in place before plants, animals, and human beings could thrive here.
Filling the Emptiness
After bringing order to chaos, God fills the emptiness on days four, five and six. He creates the sun, moon, and stars to fill the heavens. He brings life to the earth with all types of vegetation, and creates animals to live in the sea and sky, and on land. Again, God celebrates what he has created, calling it “good.”
Revealing the Image of God
The plot of our story has progressed quite a lot now. Tension has been building, excitement has been growing, and we’re ready for the climax, where God reveals his image in creation. It begins in verse 26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Notice how, while the animals were created “according to their kind,” humans were made according to God’s “kind.” “This is the highest honor God could bestow upon this creature, the greatest destiny to which he could call him--to reflect his own image” (42).
If we flip forward to Genesis 2:7 we also see that “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Notice that although he created the other living creatures out of nothing, to form human beings, “God chose the most lowly and humble matter possible--dust from the ground--and infused it with the most significant and glorious of all substances--the breath of God” (43).
Then God blesses humankind and gives them purpose: to be like him. As God’s image-bearers, “we were made in God’s image so that we might be God’s representatives in his creation to do what he had done: the creative work of forming and filling and the administrative [“ordering”] work of naming and subduing” (43). This is not a call to power and domination to serve our own ends, but to serve God by tending to his creation in a way that allows his image-bearers to be at home here (43). After creating humanity and blessing them with the task of bearing his image, God reflected on everything he made and declared that it was very good.
Inviting Us into Rest
After completing the work of creation, God finally reveals his plan for how it is to be enjoyed. Beginning in chapter 2 verse 1: “the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” God’s final act, the resolution to the creation story, is rest. This was not because God was tired and needed a break from creating. “He rested so that he could turn Adam and Eve’s attention from the creation to the Creator. In a sense God was saying to Adam and Eve and all humanity, ‘Come and rest in who I am and what I have accomplished. Enjoy with me the goodness of all I have made.’ This was to establish a rhythm of engagement with the world through work and then thankful enjoyment of the world through worship” (44-45) The glory of God is at the heart of the creation story. “We were created for the sole purpose of glorifying our creator and enjoying him forever” (44).
The purpose of this study is to reveal Jesus in the entirety of the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis. Although John 1 powerfully illustrates for us Jesus’ participation in the creation, you may be wondering if that’s all there is to it. This fact is awesome and inspires us to worship the Triune God, but are there other connections to Jesus in the Creation story, and what are the practical implications for our daily lives? For this, I want to return to those five phases of creation so that we can see how they are reflected in the ministry of Jesus, and how God desires to use their transformative power to reshape our very lives and to make us instruments of his power in the world.
Illuminating the Darkness
The first thing we learn about God’s character is that he replaces darkness with light. He desires to eradicate bitter darkness and replace it with glorious light. We see this trait reflected in the person of Jesus. Speaking in the Temple, Jesus declared: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)
Because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we have “the light of life”’ and are able to enter into relationship with God. His grace and mercy dispels darkness from our very souls. We received the light when we were justified through his work of salvation, it continues to grow as we are made more like Christ through sanctification, and will be perfectly completed when we go to dwell with him forever in glorification.
Because of Christ, we have access to this light through God’s Word, through prayer, and through fellowship with God’s people. Are we pursuing that? We are also commanded to be that light to unbelievers. Are we obeying? How is God’s light dispelling darkness in you and through you? It might be in how you teach your children songs and verses to remember that God is with them when they’re worried or scared. It might be in how you send a friend a little message during the day to encourage her with Scripture. Or maybe it’s in how you pray for your husband’s Christlike leadership in his workplace and in your home.
Ordering the Chaos
Next, we see that God desires to bring order to chaos. Jesus did the same in his earthly ministry, dispelling the riff-raff from God’s holy temple and commanding the violent seas to be still.
Often, our lives feel chaotic. We may be thrust in the middle of a situation that turns our lives upside down, or feel trapped in a mess of our own creation. Either way, often our desperate plea is for God to change our circumstances in order to restore peace to our lives. God does answer these types of prayers, but he also, perhaps primarily, seeks to calm the chaos of our hearts and minds. In your prayers, are you boldly asking God to bring peace to your heart, mind, and circumstances? We also need to be agents of peace to others through our words and actions. When faced with chaos in your work, your home, or your other relationships, do you bring peace with words of encouragement, hope, and gratitude, or do you add to the chaos with grumbling, anger, and resentment? I think I struggle in this area the most. More often than not, I allow anxiety and fear to rob my life of joy, and the chaos of my heart spills out onto the people around me. I can become impatient with my students, despondent to my husband, and distant from my friends, all because of my failure to trust God with my future.
Filling the Emptiness
God also desires to fill emptiness and meet our needs. Jesus filled the empty, turning water into wine and feeding thousands using only enough provisions for one person’s meal.
God wants to fill our empty hearts with himself, because our needs can only be truly met in him. Are we finding contentment in God’s provision, or seeking fulfillment elsewhere? God also commands us to fill emptiness in others by pointing them back to Him, and sometimes by assisting them with their material needs through generosity. Are we so focused on our own needs and desires that we fail to see emptiness around us that God could be using us to fill? How can we serve our families, friends, coworkers, and communities by tending to their material needs, while also pointing them back to God as the ultimate source of all fulfillment?
Revealing the Image of God
God wants to be known and reflected in his creation. Jesus reveals to us the image of God, making Him known (John 1:18). “[He] shows us the glory of what it means to be in the image of God” (48). He also re-creates believers in God’s image, allowing them to be re-born through justification and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Because of the work of Christ, we have security in our identity as God’s children created in his image How are we allowing that identity to shape how we see ourselves before God? God also designed us to reflect his image in a fallen world. We each were specifically created to reflect him as women, who are created and called to reflect God in ways men do not. We also reflect Him as unique individuals empowered by the Holy Spirit with our different spiritual gifts. Are we seeking God’s unique purpose in our lives and pursuing that purpose?
Inviting Us into Rest
Finally, God provides for our rest, and invites us to it through Jesus, declaring, “ Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
God commands us to set aside time to rest in Him and enjoy Him and all that He has made. This is not merely a command for regular Bible study and church attendance, but an invitation to adoration. Are our lives so busy and filled with fleeting, finite activity that we are missing out on opportunities to worship our Creator? We can also be agents of rest in the lives of others by joyfully taking on extra work to relieve others’ burdens. We can do this by making them a meal, picking up their dirty socks, covering their shift in children’s ministries, or watching their kids for the afternoon so they can run errands or just take a nap. Are we seeking out occasions to joyfully provide others with rest? Do we overlook those opportunities? Or do we serve others, but begrudgingly? I don’t know about you, but I don’t always relish opportunities to do necessary, but thankless tasks, or to go out of my way to make things easier for other people.
When God created us to love creation and recreation, he had more in mind than our enjoyment of HGTV. We were made to worship him and to be transformed more and more into his image through the work of sanctification. As we move into our small groups, let’s remember to worship our Creator and thank him for his transformative work in our lives. Let’s ask him to reveal to us how he is seeking to illuminate darkness, order chaos, fill emptiness, reveal His image, and invite rest in and through the work of Jesus Christ in our hearts.