Expository Sermon on Genesis 1 – 2
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue SDA Church 3/23/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
To hear the audio for this sermon, click the white “play” triangle on the line below.
Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1.
My brother remembered the story I’m about to tell you, but it had vanished from my memory until Chester told me about it years later when he was a grownup.
At the time this story happened, Chester would have been about nine or ten, which would have made me about 17. I had driven him to Frankfort, South Dakota, about ten miles east of our home town, to Lefty’s barbershop, so we could get our hair cut.
Lefty was a baseball fan. In fact, back in the day when there were amateur teams all over the Midwest, he had pitched in one for awhile, as a southpaw. And there in his shop, Lefty always had baseball items on display. Some of them were memorabilia from his playing days, and some were new items for sale.
While I was getting my hair cut, Chester was bending down peering into a glass case at a beautiful new Wilson baseball glove. He didn’t say anything to me about it, didn’t even hint about it, but I could tell he was wishing it was his.
After both our haircuts were done, Chester went out to the car while I paid Lefty. When I came out of the shop, I saw Chester waiting in the car, and suddenly I turned around and headed back into the shop. “Lefty, could you sell me that glove?” I asked him, and paid for it. As I walked out to the car, I hid the glove behind my leg so Chester couldn’t see it. And when I got into the car, I tossed it in his lap. Chester was deeply grateful, and said so over and over on the way home. And he used that glove for years.
A couple of weeks ago I preached the first of a two-part sermon series called “God’s Genesis Gifts.” As I mentioned back then, James 1:17 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 chapter or two 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, and you, and me.
But the tragic thing is that, even though God bestowed those gifts on all of us, the Devil 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 one of them.
Because 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, get them out from behind the glass display case and out where we can use them. 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 descendants.
A couple of weeks ago in my sermon, I opened the first two of these gifts. If you’re taking sermon notes, let me tell you what those first two gifts were.
What is the first staggeringly valuable gift God gave this planet?
God’s first gift was intelligent, “fiat” creation.
What is “fiat creation”? The word fiat comes from the Latin Old Testament, and it means “Let there be.” 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, and followed them with the name of something, that something new appeared. No long and complicated incantations. No magic spells. Just one two-syllable Hebrew word plus a direct object. It’s two syllables in Latin, and two in Hebrew.
So why is a fiat creation—one in which God spoke things into existence—so important? I think that the main reason is that it totally does away with any need for a tooth-and-claw, survival-of-the-fittest ascent to higher orders of beings. Genesis 1 said that God created by His voice, and once He was done creating, what He had made was not “developing” or “embryonic” or “raw” or half-formed, but “good.” “Very good.”
But there came a point in Creation Week when God stopped using “let there be” as a creative force. It was when He created human beings. First He announces (in Genesis 1:26) that He is going to make humanity in His own image. And in Genesis 2:7 He gives more details—He formed Adam from the earth, and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.
So if God’s first Genesis gift was intelligent, “fiat” creation, I believe His second gift was a hand-fashioned humanity.
So why is it important that God made us by hand? Again, it totally blows away any suspicion that you and I evolved to where we are now by trampling on feebler forms of evolution.
My sister and husband are visiting in Arizona at the moment, and a couple of days ago she sent me a little mini-video that her son Michael and his wife Dana sent them from South Dakota. It was of their little boy, my sister’s grandson, saying “I miss you, Grandma and Grampa.”
It’s a precious little video, and I watched it several times. And there in his face I could see not only his dad Michael, but also his grandpa Ron. He looked just like them. Which was only natural, of course, because they had formed him.
So as you and I look into each other’s faces, we must abandon any idea that we are looking into the faces of evolutionary life forms which have struggled brutally up the ladder while knocking lesser forms off, back into the swamp. As we gaze at each other, we are not looking at inferior race versus superior race. We’re not looking at someone we can exploit and discard. Instead, in each face we are looking into the image of the God who hand-fashioned us. That’s what it says in the Bible. “Behold,” what He did was “very good.” Not good in embryo. Good right then and there.
So now let’s go further into Genesis 1 and discover still another of God’s great gifts. And remember, these gifts are for all of us, because all of us came from Adam and Eve, who were the first to enjoy them.
Genesis 1:27 – 28 [NKJV]: So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
So God puts Adam and Eve to work. And naturally, when you work, you use energy—even in that happy, weedless, thorn-less, pest-less Garden.
So what’s for lunch? Here comes Genesis Gift Number Three.
Verses 29 – 30: And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
When I first read those verses as a student at the little one-room Sunrise Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School a mile southeast of Redfield, South Dakota, I remember thinking, “Poor Adam and Eve.”
Because that very morning, I had come from a breakfast which included eggs, and literal bacon. Later, my folks dropped pork from the menu, yet I can still remember what a ham sandwich tastes like. But though we abandoned pig meat, we continued to eat Pork ‘n’ Beans, and hamburgers, and chicken, and turkey once in awhile, and Spam.
So as a kid staring at these Bible verses, I remember thinking, “Well, maybe they had better fruit in Eden than we do now.” We did not get good fruit in South Dakota. Large, glossy, deceptive apples were trucked in, but when you bit into them they were mostly mealy. The oranges we got tended to be small and mean-spirited, or bloated and mostly skin.
And the more veggie our Adventist diets became, the more we were kidded by the carnivores. But things have changed. Vegetarian food has gotten better and better, mainly because of the arrival of recipes from foreign lands for whom meat was not an everyday luxury, and whose creators had learned how to use enchanting spices with far subtler flavors than the salt and pepper in Mom’s pantry.
And by now I can better understand the delights of those Garden-grown gifts of God.
Because I believe that if God’s first Genesis gift was intelligent, “fiat” creation, and His second gift was hand-fashioning humanity, God’s third Genesis gift was a diet fit for eternity.
Because that’s exactly what it was—a diet for eternity. When that fruit hung fat and ripe upon Eden’s branches, there was no smell of death anywhere. Adam and Eve were designed to race past their 930 years, and nobody would probably ever have had any reason to count years at all. Days, of course, because of the Sabbath. But maybe years only began to be obsessively numbered when people realized that those years could come to an end.
Fast forward to the 1820s, when steam machines began to grind flour into unhealthy refinement, when white bread came to be considered more sophisticated than wheat. Electricity brought us ground meat in such quantities that no culture had ever had before, and provided us with refrigeration to keep that meat cool so we could have it as often as we wanted it. As a college kid in South Dakota I ate three hamburgers a day in the Northern State College student union cafeteria, and I drank a Dr. Pepper with each one.
But appetites are turning back toward the Garden, aren’t they—even though many today don’t know about the Garden, and many others don’t believe it ever existed. When I was a high school or college kid, Seven-Up was the drink of choice, if you wanted to avoid caffeine. I remember being astonished when I began to see young people of a more recent generation carrying around bottles of water to drink.
Earlier this week, or last week, just before an online YouTube video began to play, I saw a commercial from one of the major soft-drink brands, promising that they were working hard to make their drinks healthier, and almost in so many words, begging moms to realize that the company wanted them back.
I have been providentially gifted with a wife who not only has a deep enthusiasm for healthy eating, but who has the zeal and the patience to seek out better and better vegan recipes. I know very well that the words “vegan” and even “vegetarian” can be land-mines for people who haven’t gotten used to those eating styles. Part of that is because those early veggie cooks just didn’t know what they were doing.
I remember that back in the mid-1980s, Shelley and I came to the Seattle area, we heard to our amazement that there was actually a vegetarian restaurant in town. We went there one day, and ordered what we thought would be good, but when the food came, we discovered that it was pale and dreary, and tasted like fried cotton.
These people simply didn’t know what they were doing, and we have never gone back. (I think that this restaurant still exists, and by now they probably DO know what they are doing. It’s just that back then they didn’t understand the concept of natural spices.)
So when you think of the word “vegan,” you have to add a year-label to it, sort of like a footnote, in order to speak accurately. You shouldn’t just say “I hate vegan food,” because what you’re probably really meaning is, “I hate the vegan food that some well-meaning but culinarily clueless person (or restaurant) served me in 1985.” Shelley and I experienced “Vegan 1985.” But “Vegan 2019” is a whole different story. Let me give you an example.
A month or so ago, Shelley fixed me a large salad. Here’s what it had in it—lettuce, two kinds of cabbage, cherry tomatoes cut in half, avocado cubes, cauliflower, ginger in some form, and garlic. She may have squeezed a squirt of lemon on it, though you would have to ask her. She served it to me in a large bowl, and set out a couple of bottles of our favorite salad dressings beside it.
At the appointed time, I took fork in hand and began to eat the salad. I hadn’t yet put any salad dressing on it. I forked a chunk of cabbage—these were all bite-size chunks—and then a chunk of lettuce, and then a cube of avocado, and then a chunk of the other kind of cabbage, and so on.
About halfway through the salad I discovered that I had not yet put any salad dressing on it. Now, you’re lookin’ at a guy for whom back on the Great Plains, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing was essential. Just like you put ketchup and mustard on your hamburger, you put Dorothy Lynch on your salad. That, or Thousand Island. In fact, Dorothy Lynch was probably a form of Thousand Island. You got your salad, and the first thing you did was to glug Dorothy Lynch on it, and only then did you start to eat it.
But now here I was, in 2019, eating a salad with no salad dressing. I paused for a moment, debating which of Shelley’s two salad dressing choices I should go for. But then I realized that the salad already contained the flavor variety I needed—with the avocado and the ginger and garlic and lemon–and the flavor was coming directly from Eden and nowhere else.
Well, this is starting to sound like a health talk, but guess what—this is one of those Genesis gifts that was stolen long ago, and some pretty feeble substitutes were offered us to replace it. I know—I consumed a lot of those substitutes. But over the years, my taste buds have been re-oriented toward Eden, and I’m getting more and more first-hand evidence that that God’s gift of the “eternity diet” is wonderful in every way.
Now let’s look at just one more of God’s Genesis gifts. Since you’re sitting in this room on this day, you’ve already opened this gift. But let’s unwrap it once more and get an even clearer look at how beautiful it is, and why many Christian authors across the denominational spectrum are writing books with “Sabbath” in their titles.
Let’s pick up the story starting with the last verse of Genesis 1, and go right on into the next chapter.
Genesis 1:31 – 2:1: Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
So here we have a completed creation. Sure, new trees and flowers will grow. Animal will give birth to animal. Humans will have babies. But God’s creation is done, and it is “very good.” God didn’t say, “Well, we put in a week on this Creation project, and it’s got some promise. We’ll hit it hard again next week, and everybody had better be prepared to put in some overtime.” No, this was a finished creation, a “very good” creation.
And you know what comes next.
Genesis 2:2 – 3: And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Blessed are those workplaces whose bosses truly know how to rest. Here is God, owner and general contractor and subcontractor and supplier and inspector all rolled into one, and what happens at Friday sundown? Does He hurry back to His laptop and its AutoCAD program and tinker with next week’s creation-enhancements?
No. He fully immerses Himself in His own fourth Genesis gift.
Because I believe that if God’s first Genesis gift was intelligent “fiat” creation, and His second gift was a hand-fashioned humanity, and His third gift was a diet fit for eternity, then I believe God’s fourth Genesis gift was a day of real rest.
So, why can’t any “day off” be a day of real rest? For that matter, why can’t any day be a Sabbath?
Well, if when you say “Sabbath” you’re talking about the Bible Sabbath, then the Bible speaks of no other Sabbath than the one that comes when Day Seven rotates around the planet. World languages recognize this. If you speak Spanish, how do you say “Saturday”? Sabado, right? In Arabic, Saturday is as-Sabt. In Armenian it’s Shabat. In Bosnian, Bulgarian, Corsican and Croatian it’s Subota, Sabota, Sabatu and Subota. In Italian it’s Sabato. And there are many more. Russian: Subbota. Serbian: Subota. Ukrainian: Subota. Indonesian: Sabtu. Greek: Savvato
Interestingly, this information came from the website of the United Church of God, another Protestant denomination who worships on Sabbath.
But the Sabbath is far more than discovering the right day. Far more than that.
You see, when you rest on the Sabbath, and know why you’re doing that, you are truly resting. Let’s say you take Monday as your day off. You say to yourself, “Wow, it’s finally Monday. It’s about time I had a break! Well, let me figure out how I can make the most of these few hours, because I know it’s back to the salt mine tomorrow.”
That way, your day off becomes merely a breather. And we all need a breather. But our rest must be more than that.
You see, when you rest on the Sabbath, and know why you’re doing it, your rest is far different, far deeper. When you rest on God’s designated Sabbath, you are saying this:
“I know that my company’s owner, or my workplace supervisor, these are not the source of my survival. My Creator, who also rested on this day, is the source of my survival.
“I know that my bank accounts, my investments, my property, are not the final source of my security. My Creator, whose dwelling is a city made of solid gold, and whose Son has prepared a place for me there—they are the final source of my security.”
“And I’m resting on this day because I know that the rest I gain is not merely the temporary relief which a few hours’ break will provide weary muscles and a tired mind. Instead, the rest I experience on the Sabbath day is the rest which comes from knowing that my Creator is also my Redeemer and my Sin-forgiver, who rested in the tomb over the Sabbath hours so that He could rise victorious from death, and give me eternal life.
“I rest today because Jesus, the Creator of the Sabbath, the Lord of the Sabbath, calls out to me through the roar of traffic and the thud of machines, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30)
How about you? Have you fully opened all four of God’s Genesis gifts? Have you searched around in the tissue paper to see if there’s something you missed?
Do you feel utterly secure knowing that your God can create with a word?
Do you feel cherished knowing that He fashioned you by hand?
Are you utterly grateful that He provided you a stupendously therapeutic and delicious diet which would serve you for eternity (remember those various kinds of fruit on the Tree of Life in heaven)?
And do you utterly adore Him even more for creating you, but then not abandon your planet to spin slowly away into the galaxy’s void, but who wants to visit you and rest with you at the end of every week?
Would you like to raise your hand to tell Him you thank Him for those gifts?