In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
There’s an awful lot packed into that first verse of Genesis. For one thing, the fact that there was a “beginning” means that everything that exists around me had a starting point. Also, the fact that God was already there at the beginning of everything I know means that he was around even before the starting point.
Some people say that God is something we’ve made up…it sounds more like we’re something he made up!
The other fascinating thing about this verse is that it says God created the heavens and the earth…i.e., all matter. That means he had no raw ingredients to work with when he started creating.
When we create something – a report for work, a dinner for our family, something to give as a gift – we start with materials that already exist. But the beginning, by definition, is before anything exists. So God’s power to create is different from ours: he can create without having raw materials to work with.
The author of a letter to the Hebrews that is included in the New Testament said it this way.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:3 (NIV)
If God can create things without having raw materials, that tells me a lot about how powerful he is. I also learn that he is the ultimate source of absolutely everything in my life. I may have bought the set of dishes and the house and the car but they exist because God created the materials from which they were made and God created the people who were smart enough to design them.
But there is one strange thing about the first verse in Genesis: it says that God created the heavens and the earth. Why is “heavens” plural and not singular? Why doesn’t it just say God created heaven and earth?
The answer is apparently because the Hebrew people believed there were three heavens. The first heaven is what we call “atmosphere”: where the clouds are and where birds fly. The second heaven is the rest of the universe: stars, planets, and such. And the third heaven in the Hebrew mind was the spiritual realm where God and his angels are; in fact, where all spiritual beings are. Even demons and Satan are there because they are just angels created by God who ended up rebelling against him.
In Egypt, the Hebrews had heard a lot about spiritual beings and gods…all sorts of gods…but Moses was telling them that even the spiritual realm was created by the true God.
There is no human or spiritual being that can do something to you that God doesn’t want to happen. God is greater than everything and everyone. What this meant to the Hebrews is that they didn’t have to worry about Pharaoh or the Sun god or the river god.
For us what it means is that our job or lack of one doesn’t ultimately determine whether we are provided for or not. God does. Our doctor isn’t ultimately the one who makes us well. God is. Our president and our congress don’t decide our economic future. God does. Our spouse or the person we are dating isn’t in control of our happiness. God is. Even the drunk driver doesn’t ultimately control our destiny. God does.
Someone once said that even evil has to flow in the channels God carves for it.
Although God didn’t create evil, even it has to answer to him.
While we are at a serious disadvantage compared to the original readers of Genesis because our lives and culture are so different from theirs, we have one enormous advantage over them: we have been told what the story is ultimately about.
When Jesus was on earth, he was having a discussion at one point with the most religious people of the day. These were the Jewish religious leaders and their Scriptures were what Christians call the Old Testament. Listen to what he said to them.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me… John 5:39 (NIV)
Did you catch that? Jesus says that the Old Testament is about him.
A little later in the same conversation, he also said.
If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. John 5:46 (NIV)
Since Genesis is one of the books written by Moses that means that Genesis is ultimately telling us about Jesus.
The Apostle John who wrote one of the accounts of Jesus’ life in the New Testament helps us see how Genesis is about Jesus.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. John 1:1-4 (NLT)
John begins his book with the very same words that Genesis begins with…. “in the beginning.” He does to draw his readers’ minds back to the account of creation.
If we read a little more of the opening chapter of John’s book we would quickly discovered that in John’s writings “the word” is Jesus.So let’s substitute Jesus’ name for the Word.
In the beginning [Jesus] already existed. [Jesus] was with God, and [Jesus] was God. [Jesus] existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through [Jesus], and nothing was created except through [Jesus]. [Jesus] gave life to everything that was created, and [Jesus’] life brought light to everyone. John 1:1-4 (NLT, additions mine)
That really changes things, doesn’t it? Jesus did not start his life in that manger in Bethlehem. Jesus was there at creation.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter which is included in the New Testament that explains this further.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Colossians 1:15–17 (NLT)
Jesus is the agent through whom God the Father created everything. And everything continues to exist and work and spin because Jesus commands that it should.
The reason the seat you are sitting in as you read this post doesn’t collapse is because Jesus is holding together the molecular bonds in it. The reason you just took that breath is because Jesus made the perfect combination of gases in our atmosphere to enable us to breath, and because he gave you the health to expand and contract your lungs.
(By the way, Johann Kepler, a German scientist and mathematician from the early 1600’s, once said that scientific discoveries are thinking God’s thoughts after him. I like that.)
So when we read “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” we need to know that Jesus is God himself who was there at creation.
That should have a big impact on more than our Christmas plays; it should transform the way we think about Jesus. Suddenly he should appear much bigger than we thought him before…much more powerful…perhaps even a little dangerous.