….of our new congregational two-year Bible reading program, we will start with Genesis chapters 1-11 and Psalm 1 for the first week (June 14-20). The first chapters of each book (Genesis and Psalms) introduce us to the power of God’s Word, to create and to re-create. Genesis is the seed bed of the rest of the Bible. Get the basic assertions down in the first three chapters and you’ll be on track throughout the rest of the Bible, assertions such as:
- God creates, and all power to create comes ultimately from God
- God creates in a peaceful, orderly and harmonious way, by means of his word (as opposed to the violent and chaotic ways that the gods of Egypt and Babylon brought the world into being)
- The material world that God creates is good (Gen. 1)
- While it is good (not perfect, or it would be another God), and while God loves and delights in it, the world is not God. Genesis 1 challenges the pantheism that blends the Creator with Creation, as well as the indifference and inattention to Creation that the Deism of Thomas Jefferson holds.
- Humans occupy a place of dignity within this good creation, as God’s vice-regents and the bearers of his image (Gen. 1: 26-28). But we are still a part of God’s Creation, not apart from it.
- Both male and female members of humanity are equal and necessary to bearing the image of God in the world (as opposed to the “image of God” residing only in the emperor or the royal family)
- While science is necessary for understanding the world, the Word introduces us to the world in the language of a worship. The language of Genesis 1 is that of a worship litany, not a science textbook.
- The Creator wants harmony and relationship with us (Gen. 3:8).
- Evil and disorder in the world are not necessary and equal parts of creation, ever destined to be in tension with goodness and harmony, but are the result of a fall, an ongoing moral catastrophe.
- God is addressing the fall of creation and its moral source, with a promise of ultimate victory through” the woman’s offspring” (Gen. 3:15). Christians see in that a 2-fold promise, that God and goodness will have the last word, and that this last word is Jesus.
We get off track when we forget that creation is good, that nature is not God, that both men and women and their mutual, equal and harmonious relationships reflect the image of God, or that God has the last, and triumphant, word over evil and disorder.
In the chapters that follow, we’ll see how evil and disorder unpack themselves in creation, such as through violence (Cain and Abel), polygamy, machismo and mysoginy (Lamech, Gen. 4: 19-24), and empire (Babel, ch. 11). But we’ll also see how God works to restrain evil and chaos, such as through Noah;s Ark, and to give us symbols and reminders along the way of his faithfulness and his eventual triumph, as in the rainbow.
Psalm 1, like Genesis 1, is a rhythmic litany about the power of the word to create, or re-create, the image of God in us. In it we see similar themes of fruitfulness and harmony, with a warning, like that in Genesis 2, against disobedience.
To further explore the connections between creation, peace and the word of God, check out:
- Dr. Walter Wink on the history, current and ancient, of “The Myth of Redemptive Violence,” which Genesis 1-2 seems to challenge and suvert: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/cpt/article_060823wink.shtml
- Ted Grimsrud (Eastern Mennonite University) on Creation and peace: http://peacetheology.net/the-bible-on-peace/02-gods-creative-love%E2%80%94genesis-1/
- an inspiring and artistic rendering of Genesis 1 on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEgp2_Rcc80
I welcome your questions and comments to any of the thoughts above, and about the passages covered so briefly in this post.
God bless you and your reading, that as you meditate on the law of the Lord, you may be “like a tree planted by streams of water.”
Pastor Mathew Swora