Expository Sermon on Genesis 1, 2, 3
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 3/9/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the audio for this sermon, click the white “play” triangle on the line below. NOTE that due to a technical error the audio starts about 3 or 4 minutes into the sermon. But the missing segment is in the printed text below.)
Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1.
Up until the time I was five years old, I lived with my younger sister and parents in a humble two-story house on First Street East in Redfield, South Dakota.
I must’ve been five—or maybe just four–when I received a severe shock. At that point I was the owner of a nice American flag. It wasn’t a tiny flag. Instead, it was attached to what I remember was a 3 foot aluminum pole.
I got to thinking this week, I don’t remember why I had that flag. It’s not that I was obsessed with flags. My dad wasn’t obsessed with flags. What I was obsessed with was my dad’s hammer. If you are holding a hammer, this gives you a sense of power. You can go around and bang things with it, making a loud noise and leaving little dents in whatever you hit.
Another thing that gives you a sense of power is a black crayon, because if you have a black crayon, you can draw a nice long mural on the wall along the first floor hall of your house. I actually did this at one point, and was able to complete about 15 feet of it, in a freewheeling, abstract style–before my mom caught me and quickly suppressed my artistic instincts.
Anyway, how I got that flag I do not know. It didn’t mean as much to me as the hammer or the crayon. But I did know that it was mine. Maybe I saw it in a store and begged my dad for it. I can still picture it, its aluminum pole held in my right hand, the Stars and Stripes waving in the breeze.
But suddenly that flag was gone. Nobody could find it anywhere. And a few days later I saw Dwight, a kid about my age who lived past our back alley on the block to the west of me. I saw him waving my flag around. Dwight had stolen my flag.
Even at that young age I realized how delicate a situation this was. I didn’t know Dwight that well – he wasn’t a friend of mine – so it wasn’t a matter of me marching over and saying, “Dwight, you turkey, give me back my flag.” My parents thought things over and decided that maybe we’d just better forget about that flag. A stolen bike would have been more expensive, and therefore more serious. And I myself don’t remember kicking up much of a fuss – but I do remember the jolt of possessing something and then having it stolen from me.
If you been here during my last several sermons, you might remember that I’ve been doing a series on the Bible’s “sidekicks” – people who assisted the Bible’s major leaders. For example, during the last few weeks we’ve been talking about Moses’ assistant Joshua.
Today I decided to take a break from that series for a bit and preach on a topic that came to my mind a little over a week ago. Today’s sermon – and it will actually stretch into next week also – is called “God’s Genesis Gifts.”
In James 1:17 it says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father,” which means God. And if you stop and think about it, in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis, God gives us several generous gifts.
And this is key: since the only two people on the planet at that point were Adam and Eve, and since every person since then came from that first couple, then each of those God-given gifts is not just for them but for every one of their children, down through the centuries and right up to 2019. These gifts are for Venezuelans, Buddhists, Hindus, immigrants, everyone.
But the tragic thing is that, even though God bestowed those gifts on all of us, someone has stolen or defaced or deformed every single one of those gifts. And what you and I need to do is to recognize and reclaim each of those gifts. It’s not the same as going to Dwight’s house and demanding them back. These gifts aren’t so much stolen as they have been deliberately deformed and hidden from us, often buried back in history.
But since these were God’s gifts to us, given while He was creating a planet with a dewy fresh garden in it, these gifts were meant to be good for us, healthy for us, restorative for us.
So I believe we have to get them back. And I believe that if we do that, our minds and hearts and lives can come back into balance – the balance God originally planned for His first children and their descendents. (And in a couple of weeks, in my next sermon, I’ll be opening more of these Genesis gifts.)
Because the more I think about these gifts, the more important I believe they are. So let’s find out what they are, and reclaim them.
See if you can spot the first of these gifts.
Genesis 1:1 – 10 [NKJV]: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And this gift will keep on giving through the next verses, but let’s stop and identify it. What is the first staggeringly valuable gift God gave this planet?
God’s first gift was intelligent, “fiat” creation.
What does “fiat” mean? I’ve been seeing a lot of Fiat cars in the Seattle area recently – I saw one just a couple of days ago. Wikipedia and other online sources tell me that when it comes to the car model, “Fiat” is an acronym. It stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. In English, it means “Italian Automobile Factory, Turin.” Turin is a town in Italy.
But more famously, the word fiat comes from the Latin Old Testament, and it means “Let there be.” So in Genesis 1 verse 3, when God says “Let there be light,” in Latin it’s fiat lux.
So when it comes to creation, a fiat creation is one that is spoken into existence. God uses that word several times in Genesis 1, and each time, as He pronounced the syllables, something new appeared. No long and complicated incantations. No magic spells. Just a two syllable word in Hebrew, and then the name of what it was He wanted to appear. And even though people didn’t speak Latin back then, it’s, again, a two syllable word. And in English, it’s three syllables, three simple words– “Let there be.”
And anybody who gazes at the natural world with open eyes recognizes that God produced intelligent fiat creations. The more I gaze at huge maple leaves, and well-dressed little birds, and the brown bunny rabbit I saw yesterday afternoon racing across someone’s yard, a reverent chill runs down my spine. Who is this who could do that with His voice?
But is it really true that God spoke light and vegetation and birds and animals into existence? Or was this some kind of metaphorical fable?
Well, people all through the Bible take it very literally. Put a marker here in Genesis, because we’ll be right back, and turn to Psalm 33. David wrote this psalm about 1000 BC, long after creation happened.
Psalm 33:6 – 9: By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Do you see where it says, “He spoke, and it was done”? In the Hebrew, the phrase “it was done” is just one word, and it’s the same “fiat” Hebrew word used in Genesis 1. “Let there be.” “It is done.” That’s what God can do.
David wrote Psalm 33 right around 1000 BC. But long afterward, into the Early Christian era, Hebrews 11:3 makes God’s fiat voice-activated creation an article of faith. It says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
So there you have it. Among Jews, and later Christians, God’s fiat “let there be” creation was a firmly-held article of faith.
So what has happened since then? Somebody stole our flag!
Well, we first of all have to think about why this is such a big deal. Why does it matter whether the Lord spoke apple trees and sheep and parrots into existence? For one thing, that’s the way the Bible – from front to back – said it happened.
Another reason it matters is that if you let go of the idea that God created things with His words, everything turns falsely chaotic.
I say “falsely” chaotic, because on the systems level, neither this planet nor our universe is chaotic. Mars orbits the sun so predictably that we can aim a Mars rover not at Mars but at the place where Mars will be 300 days from now. And if you do your calculations right, and burn your fuel for the proper amount of time and with the proper intensity, you don’t have to guess if Mars will be there. It will swing steadily around to that spot – right on time.
No, the God who spoke our planet and the rest of the universe into existence is not a God of chaos. Instead, He is a God who rescues us, if we will let him, from the chaos our disbelief in Him can cause. And that’s worth knowing.
Because this coming week, as we listen to the news, and hear about Venezuela and its struggles – including its recent power outage –, and as we read about all the other crazy things done by people who want to control other people, we don’t have to be discouraged. We don’t have to look up at the sky and wonder if God is really up there, and if He really cares. What’s happening up there, in His mind? Is He simply allowing us to fight our problems out for ourselves? Did we come from chaos, and are we doomed to return to chaos?
Or will He one day show up and return this world to its Eden order? The Bible says that He will. And the very God who can say “Let there be” and there suddenly is, this God can and will do it again for His earthly family.
Here in Genesis 1, let’s discover another precious gift God gives us. His fiat, “let there be” gift is amazing enough, but in verse 26 He stops using fiat, and upgrades His creating to something even better.
Genesis 1:26 – 27: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Do you see what’s different here? No more “Let there be.” No more fiat. Instead of just abruptly speaking humanity into existence, God pauses, and announces what He is about to do. And even more thrilling, He announces that He is going to create humanity in His own image. And Genesis 2:7 gives us more details about how He created the first human being.
Genesis 2:7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
I mean, “let there be” is amazing in itself, but how much more personal and loving and cherishing is this way of creating His human family!
So if you’re taking notes, let’s add another gift to God’s gift list. Many of you know that we had a bridal shower recently upstairs in the fellowship hall. Usually the last event on the program of a bridal shower is where the couple opens their gifts. And there’s always somebody sitting by with a pencil and paper, recording the gifts that were given, and who it was who gave them.
So if God’s first Genesis gift was intelligent, “fiat” creation, His second gift was hand-fashioning humanity.
He didn’t have to do it this way, did He? Really? The same God who could speak animals with their brains and complex nervous systems into existence, could’ve done the same thing with humanity as well. But God slows down, muses aloud for a moment, then makes it a point to kneel down in Eden’s soil, and thoughtfully and carefully shape His ultimate creation with His own fingers, and animate it with His own breath.
What a gift that is.
Yesterday I stopped by at a library for an hour or so, and as I left, I saw a heartwarming site. A man and his two children were standing at the counter talking to the librarian. There was a girl and a boy, probably in the age range of 7 to 10.
I think this family had recently come from Eastern Europe or perhaps even Iraq. The dad was wearing humble clothes, and he had a stubbly beard. I believe that he had asked the librarian to prepare a library card for each of his kids. The kids were looking solemnly up at the librarian, and dad was standing there with such a shy, proud smile on his face. It seemed that he knew that this was an important step in the life of his children, a step which could change and enhance their future forever, and could unlock breathtaking possibilities in this strange new country they’d come to.
And that’s how God cares for us. To Him, though He cares for the sparrows, we are not birds who swoop and call. To Him, who clothes the lilies in lush splendor, we are not flowers. To Him, we are not the pairs of deer who eat grass just beyond the woven-wire fence near the trail where Shelley and I walk.
No, to God we are His children. Just like that dad in the library, our Heavenly Father wants the best for us. We are not His chance acquaintances—we are His children.
So don’t let anybody ever snatch from you God’s gift of hand-fashioned humanity. If you let that gift loose from your grasp, your world will dissolve into chaos. Without the firm knowledge of a Father who cares for you, you will in your own mind become just another struggling organism who must fight to become fit enough that you can survive over the others.
Don’t let the devil steal your flag–that banner which Song of Solomon 2:4 says has the word “Love” written on it. As the little chorus goes, “He invites me to His banqueting table; His banner over me is love.”
Turn your Bible’s pages to the little book of First John, just a couple of books before Revelation. This is one of the final books of the New Testament, and it was written by one of Jesus’ closest friends. John knew Jesus very well, and it was John who in John 14:9 quoted Jesus as saying, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
So John not only knew Jesus very well, but because of Jesus, John knew God the Father. And the apostle could say with the fullest confidence what he says in first John 3, starting with verse one.
1 John 3:1 – 3 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Just as that father in the library hovered lovingly over his children as they were taking an important step in their lives, the God who has such power that He can speak things into existence, regards us not merely as creations but as His children.
So what should our response be to that? My response is to want to learn to know God better, through reading the stories about Him in my Bible. And I want those stories to remind me, again and again, that no matter how chaotic this world seems, this is my Father’s world, and He will rescue me from it, and then re-create it.