Chapter 1 - Birthing Waters - Creation
This lesson focuses on the totality of the initial creation story in Genesis. It is a magnificent creation epic with lessons for us even today.
1. Chaos and Order – in the lesson, the author describes God dealing with chaos. For many of us this might seem a bit odd since we have been taught that God created all that there is out of nothing. Therefore how can there be chaos? Yet the Hebrew text implies that God encountered not a vacant universe but one in which there were the chaotic powers at work. These were chaotic forces such as Rahab/Leviathan the sea monster (Job 41:1-8), darkness in which no one can see (Isaiah 9:2) and void, meaning a place in which nothing grows (Jeremiah 4:23-26). These three are opponents of God because they refuse to allow life to flourish.
The sea held a prominent place in this concept of chaos. The sea was a place where the Hebrew people did not go. They were not seafaring people. It was their enemies who sailed. We witness the sense of the sea as enemy/chaos in the Exodus story. The Red/Reed Sea had God’s people hemmed in and made them vulnerable to Pharaoh. We find a later version of this concept in Jesus stilling the storm on the lake; the disciples are amazed that he can do so because only God can control the chaos of the waves.
God however is the one who brings order to the chaos filled creation. We witness this in the process of sea finding its bounds and allowing land to be formed. As the author reminds us, God is in charge and God brings not only order but goodness to light.
2. The Goodness of Creation – this concept is one that is critical for understanding Judaism and early Christianity. Because creation is good it means that the earth is not a place from which we are to escape, but a place we are to care for and enjoy. As Christianity moved from Judaism and into the Greco-Roman world, it was confronted by a number of dualistic philosophies which proclaimed that the spirit/soul was good and the body bad (or at least neutral). These beliefs led to a theology which promoted escapism. This escapism can be seen in our own culture tradition in which heaven is our real home and earth merely a place of testing. This view is not Biblical and runs counter to the sense of God’s creation being good. In addition the Apostle Paul speaks of creation “waiting on tip-toe” to see the restoration of humanity and its own self. (Romans 8:18-22) This idea is also the heart of the resurrection. Jesus is not raised as a spirit or a specter, but as a flesh and blood human being. God believes the creation is so good that our end state is one that is re-enfleshed.
3. The Image of God – this is one of the most significant and yet often misunderstood concepts in scripture. The image has been linked to our physical bodies (we are a physical image of God), to our ability to think (God thinks and so we do, as opposed to animals who do not), to our possessing a spirit/soul (we possess a spirit even as God is spirit) as well as a variety of others. In the Hebrew, the word for image, was used to represent the statue/or individual whom a king established to rule in the place where the king could not be. This meant that human beings were God’s stand-ins here on earth. We were/are tasked with the job of caring for this God’s creation and living according to the standards that God has set (loving God and neighbor). As the author states (quoting Brueggemann) this is the idea of having both power and responsibility; God given power to act as God would act. Again as the author states we see this image of God most clearly in Jesus, something that Calvin points out in his Institutes.
4. Sabbath – the concept of Sabbath is one that we as God followers have often ignored or misunderstood. For many years there were blue laws which prevented businesses from either being open or from selling certain types of goods…in other words Sabbath became legalistic. Others asserted that the Sabbath was for worship…which often entailed a great deal of work. The idea of the seventh day of rest (which God takes) is instead to be seen as a gift; it is a gift to people, animals and creation itself (every seventh year fields are to lay fallow and have their own Sabbath). This gift comes to us, I believe, because we are loved by God. God does not want us working ourselves to death. God wants us to rest and to enjoy the creation that we have been give; as well as to reflect on God as creator and sustainer. God wants us to rest and trust in God that even if we are not working, God will provide. God wants us to rest from the ever constant pressures of accumulation and give ourselves over to the enjoyment of what we have.
1. Where do you see chaos in the world, as well as where do you see God restraining chaos?
2. What is your view of the goodness of creation? How does that square with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis?
3. How are you living out your role as one made in the image of God?
4. How do you live Sabbath?