After reviewing the entire history of redemption we will go back to the beginning and spend the next months working our way through the great story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.
“The movement from creation to restoration is one organic development whereby God works out his plan for the redemption of a new humanity from all the nations (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Creation, in a real sense, is the preamble to the history of redemption.”
The relationships and purposes established at creation are critical for understanding all that follows as the rest of the story focuses upon the realization of these purposes and the restoration of these relationships through Jesus Christ.
I. Creation in Context
The first thing we must look at is the cultural/historical context of creation. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, was written by Moses sometime after the exodus from Egypt and sometime before his death. “The biblical accounts of creation are tantalizing for modern-minded people because they refuse to address the questions we want answered.” This is because “when God revealed the creation story, he revealed it first to Israel. The Israelites were concerned not with twentieth-century scientific presuppositions and models but with who Yahweh is.” Because of this we begin with the understanding that this story is primarily about revealing Israel’s God, who has brought them out of bondage in Egypt. This will be the primary focus of this study. I have added an addendum at the end which discusses evolution and questions on that subject can be asked on the website.
Not only does the account of creation aim to reveal God it also aims to refute all other deities and creation accounts; it is notably polemical or argumentative in tone. During their slavery in Egypt the Israelites would have become very familiar with the Egyptian gods and creation accounts, not to mention those they would encounter during their journey to and conquest of the Promised Land. We will begin the history of redemption with the narrative of creation, a narrative that aims to both reveal the creator and to refute all rival deities and their narratives.
II. The Accounts of Creation
There are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first, Genesis 1-2:3, focuses upon God as the sovereign who commands the world into being. The second account, Genesis 2:4-25, focuses upon God as He carefully crafts and shapes the creation as the place where He will dwell with man.
Hopefully you took time over the past week to study through the first two chapters of Genesis because now we are going to read through each of these accounts and share our observations.
III. The God Who Creates
A. His Name
Everyone here has a name right? Does anyone know what their name means?
While the meaning of an individual’s name has little bearing on our relationship with them, the names of God used here are of particular significance.
- The first, used throughout Genesis 1, is Elohim, a word used throughout the ancient Near East for God.
- The second, introduced in Genesis 2:4, is Yahweh, is the name which God introduced Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 and the name used by Israel to refer to the God who brought them out of slavery.
- In Genesis 2:4 we find these two names joined together to form Yahweh Elohim. This “makes the powerful point that the same God who rescues Israel from slavery is the God who has made all things, the creator of heaven and earth.”
B. His Word
“Creation is not only a question of beginnings, but of purpose and relationships.” We will now turn our attention to God and His Word in creation.
- First and foremost God creates by His Word (1:1). Many would expect Scripture to begin with a defense of God’s existence; however, as God’s authoritative and inerrant Word His existence need only be declared.
- Second, He establishes and governs relationships by His Word (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28-29).
- Third, He pronounces blessing by His Word (1:22, 28, 2:3).
- Fourth, He determines purpose by His Word (1:26, 28-30).
- Fifth, He communicates by His Word (1:28-30).
- Sixth, He reveals by His Word and man is dependent upon this revelation (2:16-17). Man already knew that every seed bearing plant was acceptable and intended to be eaten; however, man was dependent upon a revelatory act of God to know that he was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:18-19).
IV. Creation as Eschatology
Eschatology simply means the study of last things. Creation is eschatological in the sense that it points beyond itself and towards the great end for which God has created it. This is helpful because it serves to remind us that God will not be surprised at the fall of man, rather He has anticipated it and has been planning something far greater all along. There are two aspects of creation which are particularly eschatological.
A. The Cultural Mandate
The cultural mandate is mentioned in both creation accounts,
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28).
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
Clearly this is applied specifically to the earth and the garden as man is to fill it, subdue it, have dominion over it, work it, and keep it. However, “besides gardens, we also cultivate relationships, manners and forms of worship. We harness animals and the forces of nature. We formulate and develop ideas and traditions . . . culture covers the whole range of human society.” This will be discussed more next week as we study what it means for man to be made in God’s image, but at this point it is clear that this designed purpose looks forward to a creation that has been filled, subdued, worked, and kept. For this reason it should not come as a surprise to find that story of redemption begins in the garden and ends in a city.
B. The Sabbath Rest
Having completed and declared His creation to be good “he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). The word used here for “rest” is the same word from which we get “Sabbath” and it implies more than just a ceasing of labor; moreover it also speaks to an enjoyment. God has both ceased his labor and is now enjoying what He has made.
Verse 3 records, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” God only declares the seventh day holy, or set apart, in anticipation of the future Sabbath Rest in the Holy City presented at the end of redemptive history.
From this week forward I want to begin concluding by allowing you all to discuss how we can apply tonight’s study as individuals and as a church.
Excursus A: Evolution Theistic and Atheistic
I. The Nature of Scripture
We noted above that the primary purpose of this text was to reveal God. As a whole Scripture is not a scientific textbook, it is revealed history and future; because of this, we cannot expect Scripture to answer the smallest detail of every scientific inquiry, because its primary concern is the revelation of God and not the satiation of scientific inquiry. However, what Scripture does reveal, scientifically or otherwise, it does so authoritatively, inerrantly, infallibly, and clearly.
II. The Nature of Science
Science is not equal to revelation. Science is not raw data but raw data interpreted. Science is primarily based upon observation and the world which science observes has been profoundly affected by the fall. Observation alone cannot account for or explain the systemic effects of the fall and because of this, it is always subject to correction by the Word of God.
III. The Question of Evolution
Evolution can be classified into two main categories, theistic and atheistic. On the one hand atheistic evolution is purely naturalistic and therefore denies the possibility of any supernatural deity; this clearly stands at odds with a biblical worldview. Theistic evolution on the other hand holds that God created by means of evolutionary processes. This is problematic on several accounts. First, such an interpretation relies heavily on a poetic interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis while interpreting the remaining chapters literally. Having already noted the polemic structure of this text one must come to realize that it aims to both reveal the creator and to refute all rival deities and rival creation narratives, even modern ones. Second, theistic evolution provides an insufficient answer for the problem of evil and death. Within theistic evolution death is the means by which evolutionary change occurs and natural selection takes place. Contrary to this the Biblical account presents death as the result of sin. Because of this theistic evolution must be rejected as an inadequate explanation of how the world came into being.
Excursus B: Basic Categories for Alternate Theories of Creation
- Paganism: Meaning “earth religion” and its basic assumption is that the universe eternally self-exists alongside God (Pantheism, Panentheism, Wicca/Witchcraft, Satanism, Dualism, and Mormonism).
- Deism: The basic assumption here is that an intelligent designer created the universe as a self-sustaining and self-operating system, in which He is no longer involved.
- Naturalism: The basic assumption here is that there is no creator only a self-existing and self-evolving/functioning material order.
- Rejection: The basic assumption here is that the material is evil and should not have come into being (Gnosticism, Buddhism, and Hinduism).
Ludwig Koehler and Walters Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. and trans. Johann Jakob Stamm, Benedikt Hartmann, Ze’Ev Ben-Hayyim, Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher, Philippe Reymond, and M. E. J. Richardson (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), s.v. “שׁבת.”