Summary: God addresses the most basic questions we can ask. "Where are we from?" and "Why are we here?"
The famous musical, The Sound of Music, includes this song which Maria teaches the Von Trapp children. "Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with do-re-me." When we read the Bible, however, most people start three-fourths of the way through the book, in John or one of the other three gospels. I certainly understand why people begin reading in the New Testament, but there are some big disadvantages of skipping the first part of the book. My Bible, and yours, begins with Genesis, a book whose title in Greek means "beginning." During the next seven weeks, our plan is to explore the first eleven chapters of this book. We are going to start at the very beginning and see some important, foundational truths, as God reveals who He is, who we are, and what the rest of the Bible is about.
Now, some folks, including a few who call themselves Christians, think it is a waste of time to study the first chapters of Genesis. After all, they say, these early chapters contain myths and legends and are really just religious fairy tales. They say there are some spiritual lessons to be learned, but claim there is no historical information in this part of the Bible. I disagree. I believe Genesis 1-11 contains historically accurate accounts. The truthfulness of what is written here is important for two reasons. #1–Jesus taught that the events recorded in these chapters really happened. He treated them as real history. If these are mere myths and legends, then the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is put into question. #2–The truth of these chapters is important because it is here that God addresses the most basic questions we can ask. "Where are we from?" and "Why are we here?" As human beings, we have a natural curiosity about the ancient past, about our roots. A few years ago, PBS did a series with Carl Sagan entitled "Cosmos." It was extremely popular because people are interested in the origin of the human race and how this planet and the entire universe came to be. Friends, if we cannot believe what the Bible says about these topics, why should we believe its teaching on other subjects? If what these first chapters teach is not true, it seems strange to base our whole lives on the rest of the book.
But I am confident that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are true and that they are God’s words for us. So today we start with a very good place to start, the very beginning. As we look at Genesis 1, let’s pray God would show us the significance of these words for our lives today.
The very beginning, Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." This is a very simple, but powerful statement. At the beginning of time, God brings the universe, everything in the physical realm, into being. The remainder of the chapter uses a six-day framework to describe God’s creative activity in more detail, culminating with the creation of human beings. This chapter has been the subject of much discussion throughout the history of the church, and I think there is value in outlining the major interpretations of this chapter that have been proposed. Now, keep in mind, each of these views is held by Christians who believe the Bible is God’s inerrant word and that what we read in Genesis 1 is true. Let’s look at four different Christian understandings of Genesis 1.
#1) The most popular idea is that Genesis 1 describes the creation of the universe in a one-week time period. Henry Morris and the Institute for Creation Research are the most prominent advocates for this view called "Scientific Creationism." During the 1800’s, Bishop Usher, an Anglican, calculated that the events in Genesis 1 occurred in September of 4004 B.C. Advocates of this position say Usher was slightly off, but that he was close. They maintain the earth and the universe are probably 10-30,000 years old. They claim there is much scientific evidence to support their view, and that evidence for an older earth is due to the fact that God created a mature universe. For example, the Lord had the light from stars a million light years away reaching the earth as soon as he made those stars. Scientific creationists also claim that Noah’s flood distorted the geological and fossil records so that our planet appears to be older than it actually is.
#2) A second interpretation is what could be called "The Long Day View." Some argue that the Hebrew word for "day" (yom) could mean a much longer period than 24 hours. They point to 2 Peter 3:8 which says that to the Lord "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." They also claim that the events of the sixth day of creation appear to occur over a longer period of time. In Genesis 1:27 we learn God made man and woman, Adam and Eve, on the sixth day. In Genesis 2, a more detailed account, we learn God created Adam, in verse 7, placed him in the garden to care for it, then brought all the different kinds of animals and birds to Adam and had him name them in verse 20, and then in verse 22 God created Eve to be Adam’s companion. These folks argue this was an awful lot for Adam to do in one 24-hour day. Their conclusion is that the six days of creation may have been millions of years each, and thus Genesis 1 is consistent with the claim