As Fraulein Maria sings in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start! When you read, you begin with A B C.” When you read the Bible, you start with Genesis 1. Cue the music!
We start with the mystery, pregnant with hope, of darkness covering the deep waters, of the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of “the great deep.” This opening scene is poetry, with all the loveliness and symbolism that literary genre frequently holds. Here in the opening verses of the Bible, we feel the joyful anxiety of anticipation as we see the curtain pulled back, the stage lights slowly coming up, the music swelling, and the story – the great story of our world – beginning to unfold.
Like most stories, the beginning details are foundational for understanding the rest of the story. This is not just a list of facts thrown out there in stark scientific detail; rather, Genesis 1, 2, and 3 introduce the setting, main characters, and plot of all the rest of the beautiful story of God and people. It’s a story of passionate love, gut-wrenching betrayal, costly redemption, and justice and mercy. Like our lives, it mixes joy with sorrow.
So. Verse 1.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
In my regular day-to-day life, I often forget that God is creative – that He has both the power and the desire to create. God is the first character in this story because He is the creator of it. He existed before time… in fact, He created time. He existed before people… in fact, He created people. As the author of the story, He also chose to make Himself one of the main characters of the story. He didn’t have to do that, but I sure am glad that He did.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – was hovering over the waters of the great deep. I think many American Christians often think of the Holy Spirit as a slightly lesser form of God. For years, I personally referred to Him as it rather than He. But the Holy Spirit is God – in substance, in character, in power. There is so much more we could say about Him, but for now, we’ll stick with the foundation: He is present here at the dawning of creation.
Immediately after we see the Spirit of God hovering over the great deep, we see these words:
And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.
The Word of God is also powerfully present at this breathtaking beginning. The Apostle John makes an important connection for us at the very beginning of his Gospel account: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him, all things were made.” God spoke, and it was.
John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” intentionally echoes the Genesis account to help his readers make the connection of what he’s about to share – the story of Jesus’ life on earth – to the very core of who they are, people created by Jesus. He shows us that Jesus was actively involved in the creation of the world.
In the first verse and a half of the entire Bible, we’ve been introduced to the first main character of the Bible, the Trinity: Father God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who will He show Himself to be in the coming verses?
The author, Moses, goes on to give us a first glimpse of the creation process. Chapter 1 is the panoramic view. In skillful poetry, Days 1, 2, and 3 correspond to Days 4, 5, and 6, respectively.
Day 1: God created spheres of day and night
Day 2: God created spheres of sky and sea
Day 3: God created dry ground and prepped it to support life
Day 4: God filled the spheres of day and night with sun, moon, and stars
Day 5: God filled the spheres of sky and sea with birds and sea creatures
Day 6: God filled the dry ground with land animals and humans
Throughout the chapter, God speaks a repeating refrain: It is good, it is good, it is goo-ood! (This refrain makes me think of a passel of little kiddos singing and dancing – joyful, free, and laughing!)
God told Job that when He created our beautiful world “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy”! Wahoooo!!! Our God is so creative, so joyful, so powerful, and so delighting in what He has made!
But then on Day 6, there’s an added bonus:
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
The second main character of this great story, the human race, is introduced first in panoramic view here in chapter 1. Not only did God create us in His image, but He gave us some massive responsibility.
Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it...
In many Christian circles, we tend to focus first and foremost on how sinful we are. But our sin is not where God chooses to start the story of humans. Once man and woman were created and given full authority to govern the whole earth, then God said His crowning compliment: It is very good!
Does your theology start with the fact that God made you in His image and delighted in giving you authority to rule over your corner of creation? Or does it start with God being displeased with you? Or does it start with God at all?
God’s conclusion to Creation Panorama is the beginning of Chapter 2. (FYI, the Bible was not written in chapters and verses. Those were added in the 1200s and 1500s, respectively.)
Day 7 of creation is a day that seems out of sync with the others. It has no corresponding day, like the other days. Nothing is created on it, like all the others. Why include it? Why is it pointed out that God rested from His creating, and why is that included in the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth?
Could it be that rest – regular, frequent rest – is as important for us in God’s sight as productivity?
It’s so lovely to see this poetry-filled, song-inducing beginning to our beautiful earth, and I love pondering how all this beauty came flowing out of the very heart of God. If every aspect of creation is good, it is simply because HE is good!