Summary: In the beginning GOD created heaven and earth!
Introduction: Reading of The Creation by James Weldon Johnson
In 1977 Alex Haley’s novel Roots came to life on television and became an instant hit with viewers across racial lines. Many of us sat spell bound throughout that mini-series as we followed Haley on his ancestral tracing. This morning, we begin our summer series, “Classic Chapters of the Bible,” with a return to humanity’s “roots” – Genesis 1.
The poem I just read is James Weldon Johnson’s poem The Creation. Some literary scholars suggest that he wrote it as a tribute to the various African-American preachers that were a part of his life. Now while it may not be theologically correct, it is based on the Genesis 1 story of creation and it is certainly inspirational.
This morning we are going to hear the Genesis account read aloud by several members of our congregation. You can follow along in your Bibles or you can simply listen to the text being read aloud.
(Group reading of Genesis 1:1 – 2:3)
The first thing we notice as we look at this chapter is that it begins with a declarative statement. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” A declarative statement is a statement that announces something matter-of-factly and forthrightly.
These kinds of statements set the tone for what is to follow. For example, we recall a declarative statement in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
Our presidents have often made in their inaugural addresses declarative statements that have rallied our nation. For example, FDR said at the beginning of his presidency, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” JFK noted, in what would be a rallying point for activism in the 1960’s “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your county.”
The Bible also contains many declarative statements including Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” and John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”
But, what is important to remember about this passage is who is being talked about – God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible begins with a statement about who created this world and us – it was God, not some random cause or force.
There is purpose in our world and our lives. We were created for more than just to exist for a time and then that’s it. More about this important truth in a few moments.
Another thing that we notice about this chapter is the orderly flow of the Creation. (Overhead 1)
During Day 1 we see that God creates light over the dark empty mass called earth and night and day are created. God calls this new creation of light, “good.” Why?
Let me suggest two reasons: First, we need light to live by. Think about what happens to plants when all they have to exist on is darkness. They can’t exist alone on darkness; they need light to help them survive or they die. And if there were no plants to eat we would not be able to eat corn and beans and rice and such nor would there be feed for the cows, hence no milk or meat. We would be in trouble. We would probably freeze to death, as there would be no spring or summer, just a cold, dark environment. We need light.
Second, light represents what is good and right and true. Jesus would say in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
During Day 2 God brings further order to creation as He creates a space called sky between the waters above and the water below. Now what does this mean? In Genesis 2:4-6 we read this interesting segment: “When the Lord God made the heavens and earth, there were no plants or grain growing on the earth, for the Lord God had not sent any rain. And no one was there to cultivate the soil. But water came up out of the ground and watered all the land.”
Some scholars have speculated that “the waters above” refer to the clouds that covered the earth until God sends the flood that, as Genesis 7:11 says, comes from both the rain and the bursting underground waters: “The underground waters burst forth on the earth and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky.”
But basically what God is doing here is bringing further order to the creation in order that life becomes sustainable so that humankind is able to exist.
During Day 3 God continues to define and delineate or mark out the various aspects of this new world. And on this day boundaries are given to the earth and sea that enables the earth to produce that plants needed for food for the animals and later for the first humans. Life continues to become more and more sustainable and orderly.