Monday, September 07, 2015

In the beginning

My Sunday School lesson for Sept. 6, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Fall is a good time for new beginnings. The start of school has already begun, and this weekend college football kicked off.

When we start something new there’s a feeling that everything will be great. God’s given you a chance to make it perfect. Expectations are high. You can start from scratch, life is a tabula rasa, or “blank slate.”

As we study of Genesis we can reflect on the beginnings of the universe. Be amazed how God created something out of nothing.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we wrapped up our study of Revelation, which tells of the end times and a future eternity. For the next three months we will go back to the beginning when all was created.

*** Genesis 1:1-2:3 lays the foundation of our world view about God, human beings, creation, and laws (e.g., to worship no other gods; to keep the Sabbath).

*** The size of God’s creation is hard to fathom.

--- Just our solar system is so large that it takes 248 years for Pluto to make one revolution around the sun. Our sun is only one star in this galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, which consists of about 100 billion stars. Furthermore, the universe consists of billions of galaxies, each one of which has billions of stars.

--- That makes us feel very small, but it also helps us to see how great God is.

*** Something does not come from nothing.

--- The Bible says that the universe did not begin by chance, but by design. To believe that nature—with all its complexity—came into being by chance is against everything we know about design. The universe is the intentional creation of a Designer, and the Bible reveals that Designer as the one true God.

You either believe that God created it, or you don't. Not much middle ground. Of course, I'm not even going to touch on the question of whether it's a literal day or a figurative day and whether the earth is 6,000 years old or 4.5 billion Years old.

OUT OF NOTHING (Gen. 1:1-2)

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

*** In the beginning.

--- God already existed.

In Psalm 90:2, the psalmist wrote to God, “Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Jesus affirmed the existence of the Trinity before the world began (John 17:5 – “Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”).

--- Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." It literally says, "In the beginning Elohim, Elohim created the heaven and the earth." That's the Hebrew word from two root words: El, which means strength and unlimited power. And the last part of is allah, which means to keep a promise. Elohim is also a plural noun. I believe that right here on the threshold of the Bible we see an indication of the nature of God, as shown in the Holy Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three were present in creation (see John 1:3 – “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.”). (Love Worth Finding)

*** Cosmic Play-Doh.

--- Verse 2 says the earth was formless and empty, and God shaped it all.

A lot of people seem desperate to find an explanation for the origin of life that doesn’t involve God.

*** Question - Why do you think people have such a problem with the idea that God created all of this? To what lengths have people gone in order to prove that these words aren’t true?

BY HIS WORD (Gen. 1:3-5)

3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came and then morning: the first day.

*** (Like sand through the hourglass …) These are the days of our lives.

The first verse of the Bible establishes that God created everything; the remainder of Genesis 1 describes how He created everything.

The pattern of each day is similar: an announcement (“God said”); a command (“let there be”); a report (“and it was so”); an evaluation (“it was good”); and a chronological framework (e.g., “the first day”).

Not only did God create all the universe out of nothing, He did so with purpose.

Day 1 - Light.
Day 2 - Sky/Water
Day 3 - Land/Vegetation
Day 4 - Stars
Day 5 - Sea creatures and birds
Day 6 - Animals and humans

Note the pattern: In addition to being divided into six days, the first three days relate to the second three days. On the first day God created light, and on the fourth day God decreed that the sources of light would govern the nights, days, and seasons. On the second day God separated the waters above the earth and on the earth, and on the fifth day God filled the waters above (clouds) with birds and the waters below with fish. On the third day God separated the land from the water and placed vegetation on the land, and on the sixth day God filled the land with animals, including humans.

IN HIS IMAGE (Gen. 1:26-31)

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
29 God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, 30 for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.

*** With great power comes great responsibility.

--- Man is made in God’s own image, not referring to physical resemblance but that He has given us abilities possessed by no other part of creation. We reason, we have a moral conscience, creativity. We are capable of having a relationship with God.

When I observe the behavior of my children, I recognize myself in them. They are my image. When God looks at us, He sees that He has put part of Himself in us.

--- God puts mankind in charge of His creation, complete with instruction and provision. Mankind was to manage and use God's creation and to take care of it.

*** Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

--- Perhaps God’s command to be fruitful and multiply is the only command humanity has ever consistently obeyed; we have filled the earth!

--- There’s a lot of talk about gender confusion in today’s culture. On Facebook you can choose from 50 different sexual orientations. But God’s design is clear. He created humanity with two separate, different genders.

*** Question - WHY did He create us?

When you make something, you have a reason for making it. The Old Testament speaks of man bringing the world under his dominion. It speaks of being created to show forth God's glory (Isaiah 43:7). It speaks of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

FOR HIS GLORY (Gen. 2:1-3)

1 So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. 3 God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation.

*** God completes His work.

--- The work of creation was finished, but God immediately began working to draw people to Himself.

*** God blessed the Sabbath and declared it Holy.

--- He created a pattern He wants us follow - work, then rest - so much that it became the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8).

Question - Why is it important to have a regular “Sabbath” day? How do you get refreshed and reconnect with God when you observe times of rest?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

The things made by men are not perfect. They break. They have defects.

God does not create bad products. The creation story declares five times that the various components of the universe were created to be good (1:10,12,18,21,25). After the creation of humans, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (1:31).

Everything in creation was created at the spoken word of God. Every ocean shore, seashell, and flower. Every sunrise and sunset. Every mountaintop. Every bird. Every insect. And yes, every person. All of it has been created at the word of God alone. We are not a coincidence or an accident.

We don’t know all the specifics, and that’s just fine.

The Love Worth Finding daily devotional Monday had a great statement about how we can never know all about God and His ways:

“You can take a bucket down to the ocean and dip out a bucket full of water. Everything in that bucket is ocean, but not all the ocean is in the bucket.” And with our bucket-size minds, we are never going to know all there is about God. I’m not. You’re not. Nobody is. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

*** There is one explanation for the origin of the universe: God created it.

*** As His creation, our purpose is to bring glory to the Creator.

*** Be a good steward of God’s creation.

(Note: I largely use Lifeway's Explore the Bible teaching guide for my lessons, and sometimes use other sources such as Love Worth Finding and Grace to You ministries.)

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