Summary: God centers his creativity on the earth, forming a “nursery” for his children and revealing himself as gloriously worthy of worship.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood well creation’s testimony to the goodness of God. In his memoirs, Sherlock Holmes makes a rather remarkable speech to Watson: “What a lovely thing a rose is…! Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers” (Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, “The Naval Treaty,” 1892).
Holmes is right (as always): we do have much to hope from the flowers, and from the rest of the earth which God formed and filled as a perfect nursery for his children. Please give your attention to the creative work of God from Genesis 1.
[Read Genesis 1.1-25. Pray.]
In Greek mythology, Echo pines for the handsome Narcissus, but he rejects her as he has rejected all others who longed for him. In response to Echo’s cry, one of the gods curses Narcissus so that he will experience unrequited love. One day, when passing a lake, Narcissus sees his reflection in the water and falls in love with himself. So captivated is he by his own beauty, that he stares at his own image until he wastes away and dies. Thus, “narcissism” is “self-love.”
A few years ago, Paulina Borsook, published her study of the culture of Silicon Valley in the book, Cyber Selfish. She concluded that this part of the country was “bizarrely narcissistic”; then “worried” that these same attitudes and values were seeping into every pore of America. I remind you of the human tendency toward narcissism to stress again that God is the center of the Bible’s story.
Genesis 1.1 describes the cosmic breadth of the miracle of creation with the sweeping pronouncement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” All that is, is because God made it. He alone is eternal and self-existing; all other things have both a beginning and being which depends wholly on him. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1.17).
The vastness of space and the complexities of the heavenly bodies have long fascinated mankind. Peering into what some call “the final frontier” well absorbs the considerations and meditations and inquiries of the most determined and diligent scientists and mathematicians. Yet for all the wonder of the stars and all the questions we long to have answered, verse 2 of Genesis quickly narrows the story of the Bible to one small spot in the universe: “[Now] The earth was without form and void.”
E. J. Young, Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary, explains the transition between verses 1 and 2: “Thus, from a contemplation of the entire universe,… the Bible turns to a geocentric emphasis, and maintains that geocentric emphasis throughout to its last page.”
The universe has a significant, but supporting role in the great story. Attention must focus on center stage: where the main characters interact and the great drama unfolds.
Because God lavishes his attention on mankind, we might assume that humans must be the subject of the story. Sometimes people read the Bible that way, don’t they? We might see this book as a manual – how to have a more fulfilled life, a happier marriage, greater financial success, better behaved children, even how to ensure good “luck.” Almost as if the cover of our Bibles was embossed with the Day-Timer slogan: “It’s all about me” – virtually a hermeneutic of narcissism.
The Bible is about mankind, but not in that way. The earth is the center of the universe, but only because God reveals himself here. We have much to hope for from the flowers, but only as they mirror the goodness and greatness of our God.
Surely you have noticed that no matter how much you love yourself, the universe resolutely revolves around another center. The first and great commandment is: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” Deuteronomy 6.5). Obviously, that law imposes on mankind a duty. But it is much more. Because it is not all about me, the times when I am most self-absorbed produce the most pain. The command “to love God first” is the offer of life to my narcissistic soul by the One who can re-center my heart on him.
In the study of theology we say that God shows his nature to us and our duty to him in two ways. By “general revelation,” the universe bombards our senses with attributes of its maker. The first words of our Westminster Confession of Faith speak of general revelation: “the light of nature and the works of creation and providence manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, to such an extent that men are without excuse…” (WCF 1.1). We should see in the world the connection of the dots leading to praise and thanksgiving for the Creator. We sang earlier: “This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears, all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.”