This week, the first Sunday at the beginning of a New Year, we are starting a new series, Genesis: The
Beginning. For the first four weeks we will be looking at stories in the first eleven chapters of the Book of
Genesis. These are arguably some of the most important texts in the Bible. If we say the most important
texts are about Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we can have new life, these passages from Genesis tell us
why it is necessary for us, as humans to need new life.
So today, we go back to the beginning, the very beginning, the origin, to Genesis, this word that actually
means beginning, origin, source, root, or start. Now, we are finishing up the Christmas season, which for
the church begins on December 25th and ends today at Epiphany.
If we think of the Christmas season as a movie, the credits are rolling. It’s completely over until next winter.
Today, we begin the prequel, what came before. We start to learn about the lead up to what caused the
circumstances of the Christmas story in the first place. We go to Genesis: The Beginning.
This is not just a run of the mill action-adventure movie. It is an epic that is bigger and more spectacular than
that. We meet the main character of the Bible, and of our lives, whether we realize that or not. We meet God.
The opening chapters of Genesis are some of the most familiar in the Bible because it is the place where many
people begin when they are trying to read the Bible, as we are with our Bible Project this year. It is a great place
to start, but don’t let the familiarity of the narrative allow your mind to wander. Listen to it afresh like the opening
scenes of an Epic Adventure movie … that you are a part of.
As you read this, consider that this is NOT intended to answer the question of “how” but “who.”
Genesis 1:1-2:2 (NIV)
1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 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.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he
separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God
made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.
8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.
” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And
God saw that it was good.
11 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. 12 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. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them
serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to
give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 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. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light
on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it
was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of
the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems
and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God
saw that it was good. 22 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.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures
that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 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.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in
the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that
move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that
has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds
in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I
give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested
from all his work.
So, we have experienced a poetic narrative that is intended to be used for worship. When we have our offering
during worship, we sing a doxology. I usually say, “Our doxology is number 94” in our hymnal. A doxology is
something used in worship to give praise to God. We sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise God,
all creatures here below …” The opening of the Bible is like that. It gives praise to God. It is the overture to our
Epic Adventure. It displays a God that takes disorder and chaos and turns it into something magnificent and
beautiful. He takes a void and creates something where life can thrive. It is all done in an orderly way. Step by
step it builds and builds becoming more wondrous and diverse each day.
What is God’s method? He speaks. God expresses God’s will through his Word.
Now, anyone who has ever participated in children’s Sunday School or Vacation Bible School as a child or an
adult will be familiar with a particular phenomenon. One day, the Sunday School teacher is talking about rainbows.
They are spectacular. They are a sign of God’s promise to us that God will not destroy the world by flooding
(cf. Gen 9:12-16) The teacher asks, “Do you know how a rainbow is made?”
One of the children raises his hand, and says, “I don’t know why, but I’m sure that the answer has to be Jesus.”
God’s method of creation? God speaks and expresses his will through his Word. The question is, “Who is God’s
Word?” Now, class, the answer is … Jesus! When we are talking about all of this, keep in the back of your mind
that Jesus is a pre-existing part of all of it. Remember from the beginning John’s Gospel that we read a few weeks
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with
God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has
been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)
So, God speaks, and day by day, creation is becoming more wonderful and diverse.
This whole scenario is a unique perspective for the time. You may be familiar with the idea that the religions all
around the Near East have creation stories and narratives about a flood. However, there is a big difference between
them and the Bible. In the other stories, there are multiple gods who were all important. Creation and humanity
were insignificant. In fact, the gods weren’t that happy about them at all.
With this narrative in the Bible, we see creation pronounced continually as “good” as each step progresses. Here,
humanity is not an after-thought, but the goal of creation, made in God’s image. Far from insignificant, humanity
is to be God’s representative in the world to continue God’s creative purposes, caring, looking after the world,
continuing to bring order and reflecting God’s character into the world. Our purpose as humanity is to do this for God.
In the ancient world, most people lived under the authority of a king. These kings often claimed that they were gods.
At the very least they would claim to be the image of God. These kings were absolute rulers with the power to tell the
people what to do. They could order things to be made.
Think of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. Almost as soon as a new one would come to power, they had people begin
the plans and construction of their burial chamber. They would be magnificently decorated, often encased in gold.
That is part of what made these places so popular with tomb robbers.
They had temples made for themselves where the people could worship them after they died. Think about the cost
in money and human energy and lives to make the pyramids. These rulers were not to be questioned. They were to
be obeyed because they were gods. They were the ones that defined what was good and evil. They had statues made
of themselves. The Hebrew version of that word is usually translated in English as “idol” or “image.”
So the idea that God would command that people were not to make idols or images of gods was quite radical. One
reason was that no one thing in the creation could represent the entirety of the Creator. The other reason is quite
simple if we think about it. There is no reason to make an image of God because God has already made images of
himself … humanity.
“So God made human kind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created
them.” (Gen 1:27)
It is not merely one royal person who is to be God’s representative in the world. All of humanity is called to this, just as
God called the whole earth into being.
As we continue, we do not get an alternative creation story, but we get more into specifics about what humanity did as
God gave them (us) the mantle of being his representatives in the world.
7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living being.
Already we see that this narrative is more personal and specific. God forms this person from the dust of the earth. Those
of you who are in the physical creative arts, be it clay sculpture, with fabric, paints, cooking, what have you. Think of
being in physical contact with your medium. You hold that clay in your hands or your pie crust. You feel the texture of
the fabric. Think of what it’s like. If you are creative in other ways, like on the computer or with photography, writing,
or something else, your physical experience might be different, but if you think of working with an image from your
camera for a long time. It’s personal. It’s connected.
Think of God forming you in this way. Psalm 139 talks about it a little bit.
13 For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in
the depths of the earth.
16a Your eyes saw my unformed body.
The idea that God has that kind of personal knowledge about each us, about you, before any of us were even
born. Then, God does more. God gives the breath of life. Not just humans, but all creatures can breathe as a
result of God’s respiration. Everything that breathes shares the Creator’s breath (both plants and animals). All
live because the Creator’s Spirit penetrates all flesh.
Think about it as you breathe. It is involuntary on your part. You need it to live, before, food, water, shelter, or
clothes. We need to breathe. In that way, before anything else, God gives life.
Continuing in Genesis …
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and
good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden [ also translated as the Garden of Delight]
to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree
in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from
it you will certainly die.”
So we have humanity who has been made in God’s image. They have been given responsibility to care for and rule over
the earth. It’s not just for royalty. It is for everyone. We can have this picture of these absolute rulers who could command
their subjects to fulfill their every whim. Building extravagant palaces. Preparing feasts of choice delicacies. Building
monuments and tombs, fighting in battles and wars for their legacy. We could think that God is saying that all humanity
has the right to rule the earth in the same way.
But, I want you to think about where God puts the first humans. God puts them in a garden, and the task is to work the
garden and take care of it. Yes, Adam was allowed to use the resources of the garden for his needs. He needed to eat. He
was allowed to eat from the garden, but his mandate was to work it and care for it. Made in the image of God, humans
could use their creativity to grow more things. They were to be “fruitful and multiply” in the language of the KJV. In other
words, they were to do more than simply exist. They were supposed to make things grow. Grow plants. Grow families.
Grow communities. They were to do it in the way that God defines as good that which produces life and abundance. God
sets the rule, and humanity is set on the path of success. Will they do it? Will they trust God?
It is an opportunity that we are all given. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. No matter what happened
after, that is where we all start. The role that was created for us, to which we are all called is to reflect that image into the
world. We are called to share God’s love. We are called to steward (take care of, nurture, and guard) God’s good world on
God’s behalf. As humans, we were fashioned to reflect the creativity, goodness, and character of God in the world. This
unique privilege of fellowship, friendship, partnership (an unequal partnership to be sure) between God and humankind
differentiates us from other created beings.
As we go about our week, look at the world around you, and try to see it from that perspective. We are a vital part of God’s
Epic Adventure Story. Everyone has an important part to play whether it looks like it, from our perspective or not.
Next week, the adventure continues as we see what happens when we stop trusting God and try to go our own way…