Life: How did we get here ... and why?

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Feb. 16 focuses on Genesis 1.

All good stories have a beginning. Fairy tales start with “once upon a time.” Mysteries start with “a dark and stormy night.” God’s redemptive story starts with “in the beginning.” Genesis reveals the world was no accident. God created our world with purpose and intention, and he placed us here so we might know and serve him. It matters; the beginning always shapes the ending of a story. Our story ends with the coming of King Jesus, but it began when God shattered the darkness with his word.

Only one God

The story begins with God. Genesis 1 is a declaration that our God is the creator of the world. Neighbors who had their own versions of a creation story surrounded Israel. Egyptian myth referred to Ptah as the one whose words began the creation of everything, the Babylonians believed Marduk created the heavens and the earth, and the Canaanites proclaimed El as the “father of the gods” and the “creator of creatures.” In contrast, Genesis declares God alone is God.

In fact, Genesis does not even mention words that could be construed as the names of other gods. Genesis describes the sun and moon as the “greater light” and the “lesser light,” avoiding using the Hebrew words for “sun” and “moon.” The Hebrew name for the sun was derived from the name of the Babylonian sun god. Genesis reveals God alone is Creator and Lord. He does not share his glory with another.

Order and Purpose

Genesis 1 also reveals God created the world with order and purpose. Days one through three describe the creation of space. Days four through six describe the filling of that space. The days can be paired off neatly. On Day 1, God separated light from darkness; on Day 4, he created the sun and moon. On the second day, God separated the sky from the waters; on the fifth day, God created the birds that fly in the air and the fish that swim in the sea. On the third day, he created land; on the sixth day, he created the animals that live on the land.

This is in sharp contrast to the creation myths of Israel’s neighbors. Ancient creation stories tended to view creation as a cosmic battle against the forces of chaos. When the battle was won, the gods created and established order. Our story is much different. There are no battles, no challenges to God’s sovereignty. God simply spoke, and it was. Creation was not an accident or afterthought, but the deliberate working out of a plan conceived in the mind of God.

For the Hebrew reader, this pairing off of days would have served an important function. For us the seventh day may seem somewhat anticlimactic: “On the seventh day God rested” (Genesis 2:2). But in the Hebrew mindset, the climax of the creation account would have been the seventh day, the only day left unpaired. God’s rest was the point of the story.

God rests

The work of creation was done. God had established order and set himself up as the sovereign ruler over creation. Israel saw creation itself as God’s temple (Psalm 78:69; Isaiah 66:1). On the seventh day, God ceased from his created work and seated himself as the rightful ruler in the temple of creation he had just formed. There were no threats to God’s sovereignty; no worries the forces of chaos might force their way in from the edges and violate the order God had established in creation. God’s sovereignty was established, and his reign is sure.

God shaped the world with a particular purpose in mind—to be a home for his people. God made man and woman “in his own image,” set them up to rule over all created things, and commissioned them to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:26-28). This was royal language, the kind of terminology the peoples of the Ancient Near East used to ordain kings.

God gave this commission not just to the king, but to all his people. God created a world where people were to serve as his regents, establishing his rule as they subdued, ruled and filled the earth under the authority he had given them. Humanity was not created as an afterthought or a nuisance. We were placed on the earth as the pinnacle of creation, reflecting the very image of the creator.

We are here for a reason

Genesis helps us understand we are here for a reason. The world was not an accident. Our universe was the purposeful work of the Creator. Similarly, the creation account tells us men and women were intentionally created by God to live with dignity and purpose. Our lives matter because God gave us meaning. Ephesians tells us we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (1:4). God created with full knowledge of what was to come.

When God said, “let there be light,” he spoke knowing that one day there would be a cross (Revelation 13:8). Creation was only the beginning of God’s plan to choose a people for himself from every nation, a people bought by the blood of Christ and marked as his own by the Spirit. We are his. We still serve as his regents, commissioned to fill the earth with the gospel (Acts 1:8). It is our part in the story.

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