Reflections on Genesis 1:1

in the beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  – Genesis 1:1

What is not said can often be just as powerful as what is said. The book of Genesis opens with a powerful assumption: God exists. The first two chapters explain that God created and describes the creation process. But it does not offer any explanation for, or description of, God.

Though out history we have tried to explain God with our philosophy and theology but Moses does not bother with any of that while writing Genesis. He doesn’t open by saying, “Before I tell you about creation let me break this God thing down for you.” If that was the kind of opening God wanted for the Bible then it would’ve been more fitting to start Genesis off like the apostle John starts off his gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3 NASB)

John doesn’t really break the “God thing” down in these verses. For many these bring more questions than answers. But he does do a little more than Moses did in Genesis 1:1. By that I mean that he at least states that God exists before he says that God created. So why didn’t God open Genesis up with some theological explanation about, or apologetical defense for, His existence?

I don’t know! As far as I know He doesn’t yell us anywhere in the Bible. What we do know is this. The Genesis account was originally written for the children of Israel. For them the question of God’s existence was never really a question. God was and always had been as far as they were concerned. They didn’t need any theology or apologetics to convince them of that.

What they did need though was a little clarity on exactly who God is. Meaning, clarity on the nature and character of God. You see, the first five books of the Old Testament were originally written for a generation of Israelites that grew up in polytheistic, Pharaoh worshiping Egypt.

The children of Israel had lived in Egypt for 400 years. And during those 400 years they didn’t have a Bible or churches or synagogues to meet in and worship and learn about God together. The God of their forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – was really just a vague concept/figure to them passed down by word of mouth through what might have seem liked folk tails to them after 400 years in Egypt.

We also know from other places in the book of Exodus that they participated in the worship of Egypt’s many gods while they lived there. Some of them even took some idols from Egypt with them when they left. And a lot of them wanted to go back to the comforts of Egyptian society and the familiarity of Egypt’s gods. We also know from stories like their making the golden calf, calling it God and worshiping it just because Moses was on the mountain too long that they didn’t really have any clue who God really is.

So what we see in the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – is not just a record of historical events such as creation, the exodus, the giving of the law and the building of the tabernacle. It’s so much more than that. These books are a revelation on the nature and character of God to a people whose minds and hearts were saturated with a pagan culture and did not know Him. God just wanted to be there God, and for them to be His people (Exodus 6:7). He just wanted to have a relationship with them!

In establishing that relationship with them the first thing He revealed to them is that He is a God who saves, who looks out for His people, and the God who is sovereign over all other so called gods. He did this in Exodus by the way He brought them out of Egypt. And now that they’re out and on their way to the promise land He takes them all the way back to the beginning revealing to them that He is the Eternal God who created the heavens and the earth!

We too often look at the Old Testament books as boring books full of dry doctrine and historical teachings. When what we should be looking for is, What does this reveal to me about this awesome God that has saved me and delivered me from Egypt? Just like the children of Israel we’ve been delivered from our own Egypt and we’re on our way to the promise land. And just like them our hearts and minds and our perception of God have been saturated with the unhealthy ways and idolatry of the culture from which we were delivered.

Yes, we’ve come to see God as a God who saves, who looks out for His people, and who is sovereign over all other so called gods. However, we – like the Israelites – also have a tendency to make our own golden calfs and call them God just because He was up on the mountain too long. It’s not all that uncommon that we bring our “Egyptian” mindset with us into our faith and allow it to shape our perspective of God. This can even happen to those who grew up in the church! We all need help from time to time bringing a little clarity to our understanding of God.

Also, like the Israelites, our faith begins with one simple but powerful assumption: God exists. You can’t very well believe He sent His Son to die on the cross if you don’t believe God Himself is even real! And not just that He’s real, but that He alone is the real God who created the very real world we live in and that no other force or theory can take credit for that.

Sound Christian faith begins with a solid conviction that the God we worship and love is real, has always been real, there was never a time when He was not real, and there will never be a time when He is not real. He has always existed without beginning and will always exist without end. And that this Eternal God, and Him alone, is responsible for bringing into existence all that exists in creation.

It may seem unnecessary to remind ourselves of God’s eternal nature or that He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. It may seem like on of those things no Christian would need to clarify for themselves about God. But it’s amazing how refreshing it can be to take a moment every now and then to just let it sink in… God… my God… has always been… will always be… and He is the reason all of this exists… and He’s so awesome He just spoke it into existence… He said, “Let there be…” and there was…

Just take a few minutes today to remind yourself of that. Meditate on it. Let it sink in. And when life gets tough just remember… your God is eternal, and the Creator of heaven and earth. He’s definitely the guy you want on your team! And this eternal God, who created the heavens and the earth, using just His words, has always got your back. Even when you don’t fully understand what’s going on.

Joseph Sterling

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