Updated: Oct 9, 2021
September 19, 2021
As I shared at the beginning of the service, my family and I were out of town for the last few weeks visiting family and friends in Washington state. In addition to seeing family, one of the things I was really excited about on our vacation was being able to enjoy and share with Noah to some of the iconic big city Seattle sights and attractions, like going to a Mariners game or riding the ferry across Puget Sound, which were things that I loved about growing up there and remind me of great childhood memories of my own. And yet what I realized almost immediately in experiencing some of those things with Noah was just how severely I wildly overestimated what he would actually appreciate and get out of those experiences. For example, when we went to the Mariners game, I thought he might enjoy the actual baseball game, after all, we’ve watched baseball on T.V. before and he enjoys it, but instead what Noah was actually interested in was the hot dog and ice cream from the concession stands, then later racing out to the right field concourse so he could watch the Amtrak trains go by. He couldn’t have cared less about the actual baseball (though he did love the hydroplane race on the Jumbotron, so that’s a win I guess). Same thing was true with the ferry ride, I thought maybe just maybe he’d be in awe of the Olympics Mountains to the west and the incredible view of the downtown Seattle skyline to the east, but nope, all Noah wanted to do was play tag and run in circles around the concourse and play hide and go seek. So much for the ferry ride, I guess.
Of course, the fault wasn’t his, it was mine. He’s not even three after all. The fault was my own misplaced expectations and in the end I only could only throw my hands up and chuckle to myself about how absurd my expectations for him actually were. All this to say, we’ll try another Mariners game in 2025. Maybe they’ll be good then.
Anyway, this might be a clunky translation I’m about to make here, I’m a little rusty I suppose after a few weeks away … this morning we’re starting a new sermon series on the book of Genesis, more specifically Genesis 1-11, and in order to read Genesis and the creation story rightly, we must approach the book with the right expectations. Reading Genesis is all about setting proper expectations. Because if we approach the book with the wrong expectations, we end up setting ourselves up for disappointment, sort of, kind of like it was for me and Noah at the Mariners game weeks ago.
(And by the way in terms of setting proper expectations, we are going to barely scratch the surface of Genesis 1 in this sermon, consider this an introductory, table setting kind of sermon here).
Now, as for expectations gone awry, here’s what I mean by wrong or misplaced expectations. Often times, readers today will approach Genesis today wanting and wishing for it to say things and address different questions than it actually does.
For example, questions such as how old is the earth? Is it 6,000 years old? Is it 4.5 billion years old? Is it somewhere in between? Genesis doesn’t say.
Or, how about this one, kids, you might be wondering, what about all the dinosaurs? You might be thinking, “Wait, why no mention of dinosaurs?” And you’d be right, sadly there are no pterodactyls or t-rex’s in Genesis.
Or how about this one, how do we make sense of evolution and creation? Were all the animals that were created then look the same as they do now? Have species evolved over time? Genesis doesn’t say.
Finally, here’s a real stumper, did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons? Again, Genesis doesn’t say. … and if you think about it, that’s actually a more profound question that immediately meets the eye … it’s a bit of what came first, the chicken or the egg conundrum. Kids, if you have any theories on that one, I’d love to hear them after the service. Again, did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons? And now for better or worse, everyone’s going to have bellybuttons on their mind for the rest of this sermon …
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that many modern readers get frustrated with Genesis for what it doesn’t say, and the questions it doesn’t answer, and in doing so, often and incorrectly conclude that science and scripture must be at odds with each other and that in order to believe the Genesis story and creation account you must suspend the rational, thinking part of your brain.
But yet, that could not be further from the truth. And that’s because Genesis is intentionally designed to answer a different set of questions altogether.
For example, consider the creation story in terms of the questions who, what, when, where, why and how.
When it comes to the intersection of science and creation, science is really good at answering two questions (and if you’ve got your bulletin, you’ll notice I’ve included sermon notes as an insert, we’ve now officially reached fill-in-the-blank time, so kids, adults, everyone feel free to use those if helpful)
The aim of science as it relates to creation is mainly focused on the when and the how.
So for example, through archeology and fossils and artifacts, science seeks to answer the “when” questions of creation. When was creation created? How old is the earth anyway?
It also seeks to answer and explain “how” type questions. Such as, for example, through the study of physics, scientists can explain how is it that the sky is blue. (And I think it has to do with light refracting and honestly I have no idea, I clearly wasn’t paying attention at school that day)
The point is - science can answer the when and how and what and where type questions. All of which are good and important and worth answering and exploring. And yet, Genesis and the creation story are primarily driven by two other questions when it comes to creation.
And that is, “who” and “why.” Who created the earth and why was the earth and why were you and I created in the first place? Those are the kinds of creation questions that Genesis and the bible at large are most concerned about.
Now certainly, scientists make attempts to answer the question of “Who created the earth?” And many of them have in fact concluded that there is no “who.” That we’re simply just some random collection of cells and molecules that came together by chance and that there’s either no meaning or purpose for our existence or it’s up to us to create our own sense of meaning and purpose.
And yet, here comes Genesis, wasting no time at all, declaring right out of the gate in its very first verse, declaring that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God is the creator behind it all and when Genesis says that God created the heavens and earth it’s a way of saying God created everything. Everything! Or, as the Apostle Paul says in the book of Colossians, 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, all things have been created through him and for him. God is the creator of it all. He is the “who” behind all of creation.
Even more, because we were created by a who, we’ve also been created for a “why.” You and I and everyone who has gone before us and will come after us have been created on purpose, for a purpose. In fact, maybe the greatest power and influence of Genesis and creation and the bible as a whole is how it addresses the question of “why.”
Take for example questions like, “Why did God create the heavens and the earth? Why is there something rather than nothing?” Genesis, or more accurately, the bible at large, answers that question.
Questions like, “Why on God’s green earth am I here? What’s my purpose? What’s my calling? Genesis answers that question.
Questions like, “Why is the world somehow both so beautiful and yet also so broken? Where and why did things go wrong?” Genesis answers that question.
Questions like, “How will God make things right? Just by looking at our world today, even a quick glance at the news makes it abundantly clear that there’s a problem, so what in fact is the solution? What’s our hope?” Genesis answers that question.
Those are the kinds of questions that science can’t answer, for they are beyond its scope. But yet Genesis answers and speaks into those kinds of questions. The biggest and greatest and most transcendent “why” kinds of questions.
And this is part of the absolute genius of the bible. It is not a book that says everything about everything. That’s not its purpose. That’s not how it’s been designed. Instead, through its brevity and exclusivity of information it is making a profound statement of its own. It’s trying to highlight before us and trying to fix our eyes on, dare I say, what’s most important.
The “when” of creation, how old is the earth is a good and important question to answer and one worth exploring, but the “why” of creation, what am I doing here and what am I made for? What’s my purpose? That’s the kind of question that can get you out of bed in the morning. And those are the kinds of questions we’ll explore over the next 10 weeks.
We’ll dive deeper into answering the “why” behind creation in a couple weeks when we study the creation mandate and being made in the image of God toward the end of chapter 1, but for today, I want to highlight a couple reasons that we can rule out for why we were created. Reasons that don’t explain why God created the earth and you and me.
One thing we know for sure is that God didn’t create us because he needed us.
Now friends, my guess is that might catch you off guard, and maybe even sound somewhat offensive or off-putting, or maybe it sounds incredibly depressing and the last thing you wanted to hear this morning and the anthesis of the kind of motivating truth that will get you out of bed in the morning.
But yet, I’m here to tell you the fact that God doesn’t need us is in fact is great news. It’s really great news.
Consider it this way. Before he created humanity, God wasn’t lonely. He wasn’t desperate. He wasn’t bored. Not in the slightest. In fact, in the beginning, before God created Adam and Eve, he wasn’t even alone.
One of the central doctrines and beliefs of the Christian faith is the Trinity. That there is one God who exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And this triune God has existed from the very beginning. In fact, we even see glimpses of this Trinitarian God in the very first two verses of Genesis. Where in verse one we’re told that God created the heavens and the earth and that in verse two the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
And by the way, if this God as three in one stuff breaks your brain a little bit to think about, well it does for me too.
But the point is this: God wasn’t lonely. Rather, he was experiencing the greatest and most intimate fellowship there’s ever been. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God three in one, existing before the very beginning. Each one delighting in the other, each one adoring the other, each one serving the other.
He didn’t need us. Which again, is great news, and is actually pretty freeing. Imagine if God were lonely and desperate and needy. That would put so much pressure on us, and in the end, we would certainly buckle under the weight of that pressure and his neediness and we would only let him down.
Imagine being invited to a party where the host is desperate for you to come. You can hear a pin drop in the room there’s so much awkward silence. A party where He needs you to be the life of the party and to make the party worth having. That’s a lot of pressure to be sure. (And that actually may not be a great example because I know some of you would just love to be the life of the party)
But yet, imagine another party. The host is part of a family that loves one another, laughs and celebrates with one another, there’s music and dancing, and the party is already off to a great start and you just happen to be invited in to join in on the fun. That’s the party I want to go to and hopefully that example, though imperfect, gives is a glimpse of what God is inviting into.
I think in many ways, this is summed up best by pastor Tim Keller, when on reflecting on the God’s triune love and why he created us, he says this:
“That God must have created us not to get joy but to give it.”
Creating us not to get joy but to give it. And though he doesn’t need us, nevertheless he’s invited us, commissioned us, and called us as his own. It’s not like you and I are just to sit here twiddling our thumbs. As we’ll see in the weeks to come, we’ve created by God and appointed by God to be his representatives on earth, to rule it for his glory and the benefit of all creation.
Created out of love, made to glorify him in all things.