Updated: Oct 9
September 26, 2021
Friends, I want you to turn to your neighbor and answer this question. (If you’re at home, I want to encourage you to play along as well) If you had to choose between these two, which would you choose. Mountains or beach? Take 30 seconds, ready, go!
As you know, I’m choosing the mountains just about every time. That’s part of what I love about Dillon, Montana. Callie, on the other hand, would choose the beach. Of course she loves the mountains too, but the beach holds a special place in her heart. And so, maybe just maybe we’ll settle down when we’re 80 and find a house on some beautiful mountain lake.
A few weeks ago we were in California. My grandparents live in Central California, about 2 hours from the ocean, which, at that point, is close enough, right? We drove due west to the California coastline about an hour south of San Francisco, and it was the strangest experience, where in about the last 15 minutes of the drive the temperature plummeted about 30 degrees as we just about immediately transitioned from a warm, blue sky to spooky, mysterious fog. It was so cool. We had a picnic on the beach and as we looked up and down the coastline, the clouds and blue sky were in such stark contrast and yet so near the other, that it looked like what happens when you try to mix oil and water. It was spooky and beautiful and having not really packed accordingly for the moment, a little bit cold as well.
Whether you’re looking at mountains or a beach, a lake or river, the wide open plains or rolling hills, just about every human everywhere has at some point had a similar “wow” moment. Have we not? We live in Montana for goodness sake!
And as Christians we believe that creation isn’t simply to be enjoyed as an end in itself, but rather, through it, it points back to its Creator, and ought to bring us to a place of awe and worship of our God who created it all.
This fall we’re doing a sermon series on the first part of the book of Genesis, Genesis 1-11. Genesis is an astounding book, one that gives us the trajectory for the rest of the biblical story, introducing us to creation, humanity, calling, sin, grace, and God’s plan of salvation for the entire world. Last week we introduced the series and started laying some groundwork as to what we can expect from the book of Genesis and the kinds of questions it seeks to answer.
And today, we’re diving in head first to the Creation story itself, as we look at days 1-7. And by looking closely at this Creation story that Cindy and Paige just read from Genesis 1, we’ll learn more about God himself. In fact, it’s by looking at the structure and repetition used in the creation story that we can learn more about God himself.
Consider this for a second, the original audience of the book of Genesis wasn’t reading this creation story, they were hearing it. Thousands of years ago, there was no Gutenberg, no printing press, no individual bibles. The Israelites heard rather than read the Genesis story. And so if you’re an author or writer, two of the best literary tools at your disposal are structure and repetition. This is partly why we remember the lyrics to our favorite song – there’s a lot of structure and a lot of repetition. The same is true with Genesis 1. By looking at the structure and repetition, we get a glimpse into the most important aspects of the Creation story, and even more what this God who created it all is like.
So with that said, I want to share with you four things we learn about God through this creation story and creation itself. And within each of these, I’ll highlight what that means for you and I right here, right now. So here’s the first:
Here’s the first: The God of Creation is a God who forms and fills.
Friends, Iet me warn you now. I’m about to nerd out a little here. I want to show you something really cool that’s happening with the structure of the creation story.
It says in verse 2:
2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind (Spirit) from God swept over the face of the waters.
The picture painted before us at the very beginning of creation is one of emptiness and darkness and watery nothingness. And there’s this phrase that’s used to describe the earth in its initial state. It says,
The earth was “formless and void.” And this phrase formless and void is an absolutely incredibly fun phrase to say in the original Hebrew. Here’s what it sounds like and then I want you to repeat after me (By the way, you’ll see the phonetic spelling in your sermon notes … if you don’t have that out and you enjoy that kind of thing, I encourage you to use it. Anyway, here’s the phrase, kids say it like you mean it … “tow-vu-vah-voh-who.” Isn’t that great? Who said Hebrew can’t be fun?
This phrase “formless and void” tells us that the early was formless and empty. And then notice what God does in Days 1-6, he forms and he fills.
And in your sermon notes, I’ve tried to map out the structure behind God’s forming and filling.
On Day 1 God forms the Day and Night and then comes back on Day 4 and fills it with the sun, moon and stars.
On Day 2 God forms the Sea and the Sky and then comes back on Day 5 and fills it with the sea creatures and birds
And then on Day 3 God forms the dry land and then comes back on Day 6 and fills it with animals and humans and you and me.
Forms and fills. Forms and fills. Forms and fills. Pretty cool, right?
The God of Creation is the God who forms and fills.
Now, at this point, you might say, okay that’s nice and all and maybe a nice bit of bible trivia, but so what? What’s so special about a God who forms and fills?
Well, I think it’s this. Notice the divine mandate that God gives humans and you and me on Day 6, he says: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” What you and I are called to do sounds awfully like what God just did. To form and fill. To form, to create through our work, whether it be a beautiful piece of art or life-saving medication. And then to fill, to be fruitful and multiply, to give birth to and raise up children, who fill the earth. As people made in the image of God, we are called to reflect our Creator God. A God who forms and fills. And that’s all I’m going to say on that for now.
There’s so much happening in Day 6, when God creates humans and makes them in his image and gives them this divine mandate, that I’m just going to park that over here, we’ll devote a whole sermon on everything that happens and is said on Day 6 for next Sunday.
But for now, there’s lots more to say that we won’t be able to say later. So now to the second thing I want you to see in our Creator God. The God of Creation is a God who forms and fills and secondly, is
A God Who Is Good
One of the things that is just about impossible to miss in the creation story is how God feels about his creation. Day after day after day, God says this about his creation,
“And God saw that it was good.” It is good, it is good, it is good, it is good.
Everything, (everything!) that God created is good. And more importantly God creates what is good because he is good. He is good in every way.
I’m convinced that you and I take for granted the simple joys and wonders of God’s good creation.
Consider for example the incredible fall colors we’re experiencing right now, the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. Noah and I were out hiking the other day enjoying the beautiful fall colors. They are so, so good right now. And think about what it took to create those colors.
Not only is the earth at just the perfect distance from the sun, not so close that we burn alive, but not so far that we freeze to death, but even more, it tilts throughout the year on such an axis to give us these seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter, and in turn, changing leaves that signal the changing seasons.
Think about it: God could have very well created a world where green leaves freeze on the tree and fall off months later without ever changing color … oh wait, that actually happened a couple years ago … whatever, most years, you get beautiful fall colors, what a beautiful example of God’s goodness and immaculate design.
Or consider the food that we eat, God could have very well given us edible cardboard that did the job in nourishing our body, but yet he wasn’t simply good in giving us food to eat, even more he showed off his goodness by giving us good food to eat. Consider the vanilla bean that gives us vanilla ice cream. Amazing! Kids, I believe that vanilla ice cream is far and away the best ice cream because it’s amazing on its own and you can go any direction you want with it topping wise. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me on that one after the service.
Whether it be through an epic sunset, or a chocolate bar, a snowball or full moon that brightens the night, take notice of the good creation our good God has created.
Now, here you might be saying, but wait, can we really say that everything in creation is good? Like, what about wildfires, with smoke that feels suffocating, houses that burn down, ash falling from the sky … is that good? Well, no. In a few weeks we’ll get to Genesis 3 where we see that part of the ripple effects of sin on our world extends even to creation, a world now filled with earthquakes and floods, hurricanes and tornadoes … we live in a good world gone bad. A world beautiful, yet broken, and we’ll talk about that more in a few weeks.
Nevertheless, so much of what we see in creation itself is so very good.
For your homework this week, if that’s even a thing I can give you, I want to encourage you all to get outside sometime this week and take note of the creation in front of you. Go for a walk or a drive or a hike, and simply observe and reflect on what kind of creator would create handiwork like this (you’ll see notes in the Going Deeper part of your Sermon Notes)
Even more, if you are feeling discouraged or weary, exhausted or anxious, you need to do this all the more. Whether you are a healthcare worker or schoolteacher or simply living in the deep end of the pool these days for whatever reason, take some time to get outside and notice the power and creativity and intentionality and provision of God that has been woven into creation itself. After all, do you remember what Jesus used as an object lesson for worried and anxious people? He pointed them to creation. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field. If he feeds and cloths them, won’t he feed you too?
So go outside and open your eyes. It’ll do you some good to reflect on the good God who created all that is good.
That’s the second thing, The God of creation is a God who is God. Third, the God of creation is God who rests.
For six days God worked, 6 days he formed and filled, 6 days he spoke creation into existence. 6 days he created, there was evening and morning, evening and morning, evening and morning, and then on the seventh day, with all of creation’s work being done, God rested.
In creation, God establishes this divine pattern of work and rest.
It’s a curious thing in some ways what God has done here. His work was done. Shouldn’t day 6 be the end of the creation account? Shouldn’t we just know this as the 6 day creation story and think of our weeks today as 6 days rather than 7? Why add a day of rest?
It wasn’t like God was exhausted after six days of work, couldn’t go any further and needed to take a divine nap, which is how I think many today think of rest, as though rest’s only and primary purpose is to give us a quick fix when we’re exhausted. There’s nothing to suggest that God was tired, he’s got infinite power and resources after all.
So why, did God rest? The text doesn’t say explicitly, but it seems as if God from the very beginning of creation is inviting us into a better way and rhythm and maybe we could even say structure in which to organize our weeks and lives. Six days of work and one day of rest.
In fact when the Sabbath is introduced in the 10 commandments to the Israelites, what does Moses reference as the reason for it? He points back to this creation story. Which, once again points back to the goodness of God. The Israelites for many years were slaves in Egypt, under the oppressive reign of Pharoah, working nonstop around the clock. Evening and morning, evening and morning, evening and morning. No rest. And yet here’s God modeling before them and inviting them into this weekly day of rest.
So friends, quickly here. Let me highlight and encourage this rhythm of rest in a few different ways:
First, have you established regular rhythms of rest in your life? Do you take time off to rest and enjoy and take delight in all that God has created, both his creation and the people he has blessed you with? Do you take time to celebrate, and rest in the satisfaction of a job well done? Or when one job is done do you simply get back on the hamster wheel and move onto the next project? Take time to rest, to worship, to give thanks, to celebrate, to slow down, to savor, to reflect. It’s for your good.
For those of you in leadership positions or have employees that are under your care? Do you take a regular Sabbath? Do you take all of your allotted vacation days? Certainly, part of what you want to model before your people is a strong work ethic, to get in the trenches with them and model what good and godly hard work looks like. There are six days of creation, after all. But yet, do you also model before them rest? And if by chance you don’t, are you implicitly communicating to your employees that they can’t afford to or have permission to rest?
And parents, are you modeling this divine rhythm of rest? Are you modeling this kind of Sabbath rhythm before them and based on what you’ve said yes to and no to as a family, is there even space or margin in your schedule to get that kind of rest? Parents, you are not being bad parents if and when you put limits on how many extracurricular activities your kids can participate in. Saying “no” is not necessarily bad, sometimes its badly needed. And please, please, please in a few years when Noah and Caleb are a bit older. I want you, I need you to make me listen to myself here. After all, this is on Facebook Live, things on the internet live forever it seems.
Friends, go get some rest. For even God, the God who never tires or wearies, in 6 days he created the earth and on the seventh day he rested.
That’s the third thing we see: A god who rests and here’s the fourth and final one and we are running out of time, let’s see what we can sneak in here:
The God who speaks.
The God of creation is a God who speaks.
Two of the things that we absolutely cannot miss in this creation account is the “who” and “how” of creation.
Day after day after day, each day is introduced with this repeated refrain:
“And God said … “ “And God said …” “And God said …” “And God said …”
Time after time after time we reminded that it was God himself who created. Who created everything (everything!) in the created order.
And in addition, we’re told the way in which he did it. He spoke things into existence. Which is crazy! God could have created any which way he wanted to. He very well could have put on his work gloves and cut 2 by 4’s and created the world through his hands. But no he created through his word. He spoke creation into existence. When he created Zebras, he simply said, “Zebra” and there were Zebra’s. (Actually, we’re told later on that humankind named the animals, so God must have said something like “black white stripey horse looking thingy” but regardless … the point is this):
God spoke creation into existence. And here before us lies a foundational biblical pattern and truth that runs throughout scripture and is true for us today:
Our God is a God who speaks, a God who breathes life into his people through the power of his Word, both through the written word that we have in our bibles, but also through the living Word, Jesus Christ. For of Jesus it was said, “The Word of God (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Throughout human history, God has been breathing life into his people, into his churches, simply through the power of his Word.
I know that there are many among us who are tired and weary and discouraged and short on hope these days. And I know many are frustrated and bummed out that some things here at church are currently on pause. Friends, I’m bummed out too.
And yet, as I said in my video pep talk this week, though some things at church are on pause, growing in and living out your faith in Christ doesn't have to be.
In your sermon notes, you’ll see some ideas on how you can grow deeper in your faith in Christ this week, whether it be through reading scripture or watching a video or listening to a podcast or discussing some questions with your spouse or kids or friends later this week.
Friends, at the beginning of time, God spoke creation into existence and he continues to speak through scripture, breathing new life into his people. Let’s keep learning, loving, listening and growing one day at a time. And of course, on a crazy stunning beautiful fall day like today, for goodness sake and God’s sake, do yourself some good and get outside and open your eyes.