Reading of Genesis 1:1–2.
Sometimes as a parent you walk in on a chaotic situation—and maybe a kid crying in the corner—there’s a lot of people talking or yelling, and you can’t tell what’s going on. So you say, “Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Slow down. Okay, start at the beginning and tell me what happened.”
That’s what we’re doing in this series in Genesis. Right now our world is that chaotic situation with a lot of yelling back and forth—and many people crying over many sorrows.
It’s a good time to slow down and think about what happened. And start at the beginning.
In fact, it’s the beginning of all beginnings—except for the beginning of God, who has no beginning.
Going back to the beginning helps us understand so many things. And ignoring what God says at the beginning leads to confusion in so many things.
The series is “Right at the Start.” What we’ll find is that “Right at the Start” we learn things essential for us. Essential to make sense of everything else God says. Essential for us as we live life as creatures in this creation we find ourselves in.
But also we’ll see that things were RIGHT at the start. They were RIGHT, and then they went horribly WRONG. We need to understand what was RIGHT and also what is WRONG.
This morning, RIGHT AT THE START we’re introduced to God the Creator. This is one of the most distinctive truths of Christianity, the reality of God as the Creator of all things. It’s a truth that affects us in so many ways. Over the next several months we’ll think a lot about different aspects of how God created the world and how he created us to be. These truths become like the directions on a compass. They help us get oriented. They help us make sense of what we’re seeing and experiencing.
Sermon – (1) Introducing Genesis; (2) What Happened in the Beginning (Gen 1:1); (3) What it Was Like in the Beginning (Gen 1:2)
Genesis is the first book in our Bible and always has been. The word “genesis” means “origins” in English. We get that word from the title of Genesis in the Greek OT, genesis. In the Hebrew Bible they used the first word for the title, “In the beginning.” Both are appropriate. Genesis tells of the “beginning” and “origin” of all things—all things except for God who has no beginning and no end.
Moses is the Author, something clear as you read the other books he wrote. He wrote the first five books of the Bible, called the “Pentateuch.” Or “The Torah,” for “law,” “instruction.”
We know he wrote these books because of the testimony of two key witnesses, though there are others. The two are Jesus and the apostle Paul:
For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:46)
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. (Rom 10:5)
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” (Rom 10:19)
Genesis comes to us in a tightly organized form. It contains a preamble (Gen 1:1–2:3) and then ten books, each introduced with a phrase, “These are the generations of...” (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). The first three:
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. (Gen 2:4)
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. (Gen 5:1)
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Gen 6:9)
There’s a larger division between chapters 1–11 and then 12–50. Chapters 1–11 give the beginning of the cosmos (1:1–2:3) and then all the nations (2:4–11:26). Chapters 12–50 then give the beginning of the nation of Israel. The whole nations starts with one man, Abraham. We meet him in 11:27 as “Abram.” By the end of Genesis his clan has a decent size of just over 70 people (Gen 46:27).
But when you get to the end of Genesis God’s promised people are not in the promised land. They’re in Egypt.
That’s a reminder that Genesis is only the beginning of the historical narrative. Exodus will pick up the history a few centuries later with the Israelites enslaved to Egypt. They’ll be delivered from Egypt and eventually get to the shores of Canaan the promised land.
All this takes place to fulfill what God promised to Abraham:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)
The Story of Redemption
But what begins in Genesis doesn’t end in Canaan. It’s the beginning of a much larger story of redemption. That story involves the fall of mankind into sin and misery. But then a redemption that God will accomplish through Jesus Christ the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah.
When Jesus is introduced in our New Testament it’s clear he’s the unique One to redeem us. He’s introduced as the Son of Adam to destroy Satan. The Son of Abraham to bring blessing to the nations.
The end of the story is an ending we’re still waiting for. It’s when God brings “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), one where there is a new fulfillment of the Garden of Eden—where “a tree of life” (Rev 22:2) is there and a new “river of the water of life” (Rev 22:1). And God will dwell forever with his people.
But before we get to the end, we need to look at the beginning.
I said that 1:1–2:3 is a prologue—a prologue to Genesis, our Old Testament, and our entire Bible. It’s a beginning we’re supposed to keep in mind as we read eveything that we read in the Bible.
In this prologue God creates everything and then rests.
Let’s read the opening 2 verses again to get oriented—Genesis 1:1–2.
We’ll look first at verse 1 and What Happened in the Beginning:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Ps 121:2)
With this opening verse, several “isms” of our day are instantly done away with:
But for Moses and the Israelites, there was another “ism” that was done away with and one far more threatening to them at the time:
God here is revealing himself to us as:
And because “GOD” is now introduced and present and active, there’s no need to say things like, “That’s impossible.” As we march through the six days of creatioin and see things happen that science can’t quite explain yet, we don’t need to say, “That’s impossible.”
Because “God” – the LORD God – Our God – is active and present, the Doer of Miracles is fully present. And that means any typical laws of nature can be active or set aside, whichever he might prefer.
When the angel Gabriel appeared before the virgin Mary before her wedding, she was told she would have a Son. Not just any Son, but “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).
But Mary knew enough biology to know this simply couldn’t happen. So she asked a logical question, “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34).
Her basic response was “It’s scientifically impossible for me to have a child, so how will this be?”
The angel Gabriel told her: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Mary rested in that: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
As we work through the creation account we need to remember that God the Doer of Miracles is fully present. “Nothing will be impossible” with him.
On to verse 2...
Now we turn to verse 2 – read Genesis 1:2. Here we learn What it Was Like in the Beginning.
Moses gives a brief picture of “the earth” in this verse – the earth here is “without form and void” – it’s got no clear shape or order to it. It’s empty of all things except “the deep” and “the waters.”
And there’s “darkness...over the face of the deep.” It’s a night sky empty of all stars, no moon, no sun.
It’s like a world covered in an ocean without any light or life.
All seems lifeless and hopeless until we get to the end of the verse—“the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The ruach of Elohim was “hovering.” Already we get a strong hint that our God is Triune—though the fullness will have to wait till the New Testament.
The only other time this word “hovering” is used it’s in Deuteronomy 32:11. In that passage God is presented as caring for Israel like an eagle cares for its young. In that verse Moses writes of how the eagle “flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, bearing them on its pinions.”
“The Spirit of God” is there over the primeval waters “hovering,” active, filled with energy and strength and purpose.
It’s a vivid beginning to the account of creation. Here at the start the creation is at rest and still and empty—but God is active and hovering.
And then at the end of the account on the 7th day, the creation is alive and bustling and filled with activity and “very good.” And then God will rest (Gen 2:1–3). The rest of a task accomplished, not the rest of fatigue.
Now we need to think about how the days of creation flow in these verses.
This is a view I first read in Francis Schaeffer’s Genesis in Space and Time, but then a Westminster scholar Vern Poythress did a great article on the topic. Gordon Wenham is another Genesis scholar who defends this view. Not everything I say here is from them, but they are the main sources.
To make sense of these verses we want to first compare Genesis 1:1 and 2:1. What is “created” in 1:1 is “finished” in 2💯
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (Gen 2:1)
Everything is “created” in 1:1 but not yet “finished” until the end of the six days of creation.
Like starting with an oak tree but then ending up with a dining room table and chairs. All the furniture is there in that oak tree, but there’s a creative process that needs to happen before it’s “finished.”
This helps us make sense of Genesis 1:2 where you have the earth in its very unfinished state.
Everything is made in Genesis 1:1 but it’s in the unfinished state described in Genesis 1:2.
It’s “without form and void” and “dark.”
But then come the six days of creation and all the FORMING that happens—separating light from dark and waters from waters, gathering water together to expose the land. And all the FILLING that happens—birds and sea creatures and stars and land animals. And LIGHT! Where all was in darkness before, now there is LIGHT!
Once all that happens you get the word of 2💯
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (Gen 2:1)
When you read it this way Genesis 1:1 isn’t a title but the first creative act of God.
But one question that confronts us with this opening chapter is how long did it take?
John will say more on this next week, but because it connects to my passage also, let me a few words.
I think the key way to answer this question is to read these words in light of what Moses himself says and then the rest of the Bible.
When Moses wrote this, what was he intending by his words? He actually gives a very clear explanation of what he meant in his next book, Exodus. In two places he’s quite clear about Genesis 1 taught:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exod 20:11)
[The Sabbath] is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” (Exod 31:17)
Since these “six days” cover the entire creation of “heaven and earth,” that means what happens in those first two verses of Genesis also occurred within the six days.
So, then, Day One of Creation really includes Genesis 1:1–2 and 1:3–5.
Some people read Genesis 1:1 as a title or summary for what follows in the rest of the chapter. They sometimes say that the unfinished earth of Genesis 1:2 could be millions or billions of years old or that the text simply doesn’t say. And then they might say that the six days of creation are nonetheless like our days. There’s an old earth but six days of creation.
But I think this view becomes a problem when you read those two passages from Moses in Exodus 20 and 31. Using the principle of letting “Scripture interpret Scripture,” I think it’s a better reading of Genesis 1 to say that it all occurred in six days, and that these days are basically like our days now.
When you read the rest of the Bible it takes this for granted.
God is routinely presented as:
We see this in Psalm 33:
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!...
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm. (Ps 33:1,6-9)
Or in Isaiah 40:
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isa 40:26-28)
Our God revels in science and how things work.
He delights to engineer the intricacies of a cell and the glories of a galaxy.
But he delights to do the miraculous as it suits his purposes.
One day this whole marvelous but fallen universe will be transformed into “a new heaven and a new earth” where we will dwell forever with the Lord (Rev 21:1–4).
But this “new creation” won’t happen as the result of natural cause-and-effect, but it will happen like the first creation happened—by the miraculous intervention of El Shaddai, God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Our God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. That’s our starting for all that follows.
As we start this series:
Prayer and Song
 “One statement in particular summarizes the role of Genesis 12–50 in redemptive history: Yahweh’s gracious promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the very platform of the history of redemption. In other words, having set forth the four areas of promise in Genesis 12–50 [i.e., seed, land, blessing and God’s presence, blessing the nations], Yahweh is committed to fulfilling his Word. He will not be content until the fullness of the promise is realized. We might also say that the covenant promises are, in a real sense, the plan of redemption itself. While we should not exclude later amplification of the promises, those found in Genesis do contain the center of the plan of redemption. They tell us the direction and purpose of God; they point to where salvation history is heading” (Willem Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 122).
 Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time; Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary; Vern S. Poythress, “Genesis 1:1 Is the First Event, Not a Summary,” Westminster Theological Journal 79 no 1 (2017): 97–121.
 See Ps 72:20 for another use of this verb in this verb form (pual). In that verse it says “the prayers of David, son of Jesse, are finished.”
 For example, John Currid, Bruce Waltke,
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