Expository Sermon on Genesis 1 and 2
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 4/22/2023
©2023 by Maylan Schurch
To watch the entire worship service, click the link just below:
Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1.
Not too long ago in one of my sermons I told about Charles Felton, the pastor who married Shelley and me when I was teaching English at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Chuck Felton had been a pastor for several years, and then had gone back for further education and had become the chairman of the Union College education department. The English and education departments were right next to each other on the fourth floor of the administration building, so Chuck and I would often pass each other on the way to teach our classes.
Chuck was an unconventional person, and he liked to change things up a bit when interacting with people. When the average person approached another person on the fourth floor of the administration building, one person said, “How’s it going?” And the other person would respond, “Great!”
But Chuck had a different greeting, especially with people he knew well. He and I would saunter along the hall toward each other, and Chuck would pause and say, “Maylan, how’s your courage?”
The first time he said that, I wasn’t braced for it. As it happened, that particular week had been a stressful one for me. It was my first year of teaching English, and it was beginning to dawn on me that pretty much no student – at least among the freshman and sophomores, which were the ones I taught – likes English classes. So I had to spend each class period not only teaching English but trying to sell the students on the idea that it was important.
Anyway, the first time Chuck asked me that question, tears actually sprang to my eyes. My courage was not the greatest. I don’t remember what I said in response, and our conversation wasn’t long, but I’ll never forget the way he seemed genuinely interested in how my courage was.
How’s your courage this morning?
It’s awfully easy to be overwhelmed by discouragement, even if we are only moderate listeners to the news, as I think I am. And once in awhile I learn about specific things our church members are going through which cause discouragement. And I’ve had to face the fact that often these situations are ones I can’t do much to personally solve.
Providentially, God has provided a lot of encouragement for us in the chapters of the Bible. So this morning, I’m starting a new sermon series called “Encouraging Chapters.” Over the next few weeks I’m going to be going through the Bible and finding passages which to me are deeply reassuring.
It’s going to be an interesting search, because if you know anything about the Bible, you know that any encouragement it offers is often crowded close up against some discouraging situations. In fact, the chapter we’ll be looking at this morning may be the only chapter which is the exception to this.
But Genesis 1, and the first couple of verses of Genesis 2, are not only very familiar to people who know their Bibles, but they contain a tremendous treasure of encouragement, which I would like to unlock for you this morning.
I think the reason these first couple of Genesis chapters are so encouraging is that they prove, right up front just as the Bible begins, how much God actually cares.
So as we go through these verses, let’s find out how much God truly does care for us. And that may be the most encouraging truth the Bible has to offer.
So let’s get started.
Genesis 1:1 – 2 [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.
What is this chapter’s first encouragement? How does it show us how much God cares for us?
Well, if you’re taking sermon notes, get ready to write down Sermon Point One. What does creation tell us about how much God cares for us?
God cares enough to be present.
How do we know that God was present all through Creation? I’ve always assumed He was, but is there any evidence to back that up?
Well, all through the chapter we hear God saying “Let there be this,” and “Let there be that.” He seems to be sitting right there in the director’s chair as he supervises this astonishing drama. And on Day Six He gets up out of that chair and kneels down to do a bit of soil-sculpture. Verse two says that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. John 1, verse 3 says that Jesus played an active role in creation as well. It says “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
So God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were right there, all throughout that week. This shows that God cares.
A couple of days ago, the first SpaceX Starship was launched from a launchpad near Brownsville, Texas, and aimed out over the Gulf of Mexico. There was nobody on board, and no special equipment. As I understand it, the launch was designed to simply test the rocket to see how it worked.
Well, the rocket got into difficulties. A few of its 33 engines shut down, and then four minutes into the flight, an automatic self-destruct feature blew the rocket up so that it wouldn’t veer off course and land where people were.
The SpaceX people are taking this in stride. They say that even though the rocket failed, they have learned a lot, and they will apply that knowledge when they try again. And they already do have a number of very successful spacecraft which are working well.
I was watching a video recording of the launch, and just after the rocket exploded, the screen showed a view of the control room, with everybody behind computer monitors. And there at the near end of the front row, was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. He had decided to be present, on the scene, during this momentous event.
God cared enough to be present at Creation. After all, He was the designer and contractor. His presence proves that He had a major stake in the success of the project.
And one of the most heart-touching truths which you see throughout the entire Bible is that God has always come as near to us as He dares. In Eden, He could come as close as He wanted, before sin entered. Yet all the rest of the way through the Bible you see God coming close, again and again – to Abraham, to Jacob in an early-morning wrestling match, in vision to Daniel and other prophets, and then in the human-divine Jesus Christ, who then sent His Holy Spirit to be even closer than ever. And then as Revelation 21 begins, God announces with what must’ve been deep emotion, that the time had come when He would dwell with His people forever.
So God cares enough to be present. What should I do with that news? I need to have faith in the God who loves to be near me. I need to talk to Him. I need to write to him, if I can express myself better that way, in a prayer journal, or in some other way.
You might want to call into our Wednesday evening prayer call if you aren’t already doing that. The people who gather on that call believe that God is present on that call as well. He cares enough to be present.
But now let’s move on to the next encouragement this chapter gives us. Let’s start with verse three.
Verses 3 – 10: 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.
How else do we know how much God cares? Here comes Sermon Point Two.
Not only does God care enough to be present, but He cares enough to build well.
This wing of our church, which includes a sanctuary in the foyer and the classrooms down the hall, and the offices, was planned and built in the very late 1970s. Back then the people on our building committee made an important decision – they decided to not cut corners but to use top-quality materials. One example is our door-locking mechanisms all throughout the church. That was top-of-the-line equipment back in the day, and when we occasionally people have service-people come and work on the doors, they marvel at how good the equipment is.
And there’s no doubt that God used quality materials. We don’t know whether this planet already had a core when he started work, but it does seem to have had a lot of water ready for use. And if our planet had been positioned just a little closer to the sun, or a little further away, and if our atmosphere layer had been made of different gases, life would not have been possible. Our race would’ve shriveled up and died a long time ago.
God builds well. Why is this so encouraging? Because a God who doesn’t cut corners on infrastructure can be trusted. When God spoke the planet into existence, He wasn’t hauling in low-quality, salvaged material from another solar system. God created quality from scratch, with His voice.
And if you read through Genesis 1, you find that God Himself recognizes quality workmanship. Again and again, He completes part of a project, looks at it, and says “That’s good.” And then at the end, He looks it all over, and says, “That’s very good.”
God builds well. What I do with that news? For one thing, I myself need to be honorable. I need to do good work. I need to be an honest example to my kids and anyone else I come in contact with. And I need to take courage in a God who has built quality into everything He has created.
Let’s find a third encouraging way we can tell that God cares.
Verses 11 – 13: Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.
Now glance down at verse 20.
Verses 20 – 22: Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
“Be fruitful and multiply.” Now for the third reason I know God cares.
Not only does God care enough to be present, and not only does He care enough to build well, but God cares enough to share creatorship.
Did you notice what was happening in the verses I just read? God not only speaks grass, vegetables, fruit trees and other growing things into existence—but He also gives them the ability to re-create themselves, to procreate. And starting in verse 20, He does the same thing with all the living creatures, the birds, the sea creatures. He tells them to be fruitful and multiply – in other words, He shares His ability to create with them.
Now if God didn’t really care, He wouldn’t have given every living thing, every organism from small to large, the ability to create others like themselves. Isn’t that encouraging? God cares enough to share creatorship.
When Shelley and I were still in Lincoln, Nebraska, one of our friends was a very serious artist. Somehow he had gotten acquainted with the famous Adventist artist Harry Anderson. Anderson’s illustrations had appeared in many books and magazines printed by the church back in those days. Before he became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian Harry had been a well known magazine illustrator, and in his work was superb.
Back when our friend was still an art student, he was astounded when Harry Anderson invited him to come and stay with Harry and his wife for a couple of weeks, so that Harry and our friend could paint together. Our friend was amazed at such an opportunity, and immediately accepted the challenge.
So two weeks went by, and he and Harry stood side-by-side, painting a still life of a ceramic bowl and a couple of other items. When the two weeks were over, Harry said to our friend, “Let’s exchange paintings. I’ll take yours, and you take mine.”
And Shelley and I had the chance to stand in our friend’s apartment one day and look at that original Harry Anderson painting. It was obviously the work of a professional artist. But what especially fascinated me was the light-reflection on the side of the ceramic bowl in the painting. If you stood a few feet back and looked at that painting, it was amazing how realistic that light reflection was. But if you came close, you saw that it was what looked like just a careless dash of white paint. And because Harry Anderson gave our friend the chance to create together with him, my friend not only owns an Anderson original, but learned a lot during those two weeks.
God cares enough to share creatorship. So, what I do with that? I need to refuse to limit my creativity. True, we don’t all have equal talents and abilities, but we should never write ourselves off as untalented.
I know I’ve mentioned before how thrilled I am when I see someone taking on a new challenge, deciding to step out and dare to do something they may never have thought they could do, in order to serve the Lord.
Within a couple of weeks, our nominating committee will begin the process of asking our members to be involved in various areas of service. And I would urge you that if one of our committee people calls you up and asks you to help, even in a way you’re not sure you’d be able to do, give your answer some thought and prayer. I could tell you lots of stories of people in this congregation who took a deep breath, said yes, and thus widened their joy in God’s service, by giving joy to others.
And in your own life, give yourself permission to be more creative. Read more, write more, take up a musical instrument. Take a class in something you already know how to do, and learn to do it better. Glorify your Creator by being creative.
Now let’s find another way we can be encouraged by God’s caring.
Verses 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 . . . .”
Not only does God care enough to be present, and care enough to build well, and care enough to share His creatorship, but God cares enough to reproduce Himself in us.
When’s the last time you looked at some old family photos? It’s really spooky, especially when you come across photos you haven’t seen for decades. There’s your dad, smiling for his wedding photo, and you realize that you have his mouth, or his ears, or his eyes.
I think my brother looks most like our dad, and I look more like Mom. But the family resemblance is there. It’s unmistakable.
God wouldn’t have had to create us in His image, whatever that means. He could’ve made us all look like lions. Then when we came up to Him, He could pat us fondly on our heads while we tried to lick His hand.
But He didn’t create us that way. Whatever the “image of God” means, God created us in it. Most people believe that the image of God is the power of choice. We have the ability to think and choose and deliberate in ways that even the higher animals will never have.
So why is it so important to remember that God cares enough to reproduce Himself in us? I believe one reason is that we can be sure that when we think about God, and pray to Him, we are not addressing an alien being. Jesus called God “Father” about 200 times total in all four Gospels. Jesus didn’t call God “Sir,” or “Master,” or “Supervisor,” or “artificial-intelligence-powered-computer,” or even “Almighty God.” Jesus called God “Father.” And when He taught His disciples to pray, He told them, “Pray this way: ‘Our Father . . . .’”
Let’s start down at verse 29 to find another way we can be encouraged by God’s caring.
Verses 29 – 31: 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. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
God cares enough to be present, and cares enough to build well, and cares enough to share His creatorship, and cares enough to reproduce Himself in us. And God cares enough to nourish humanely.
When I first read these Bible verses I was a farm kid who loved Mom’s fried chicken. When I was around five or six, I think we were still eating Spam, and slices of ham, and sausage. Later Dad would buy Black Angus steers, let them mow down our pastures all summer, and then sell them back to the sale barn in the fall. But he would reserve one for us, and would have the local butcher slaughter it and create hamburger meat, which we would put in our freezer.
So when I read these verses in Genesis, I got pretty thoughtful. I would ask myself, “How would this even work? Don’t you need meat to live?”
But by the time I was 30, I had stopped eating meat, and didn’t even miss it. And nowadays, it sometimes seems as though I hear the thundering sounds of footsteps around me as huge numbers of people – most of them not Christian – are passing up my Adventist church on their way to truly Eden-style healthy eating.
A lot of them are doing this not because they believe in a Creator God who cares enough to nourish humanely. But humane treatment of animals is one of the reasons people are going vegetarian and even vegan. One of my favorite foods back in the day was my Mom’s fried eggs, but just within the last couple of years a couple of totally chicken-free egg substitutes have come on the market, and if you blindfolded me and we did a taste test, I would not be able to tell them apart from real eggs.
God’s original plan was not for animals and birds to slaughter each other for food. Sin has twisted nature in many ways. But Old Testament prophecies hint about a time when animals will dwell peacefully with each other without fear. And because of this, I can confidently turn my face back to Eden knowing that God’s heart is kind.
So what do I do about this? Whatever you think about veganism, you need to remember that Vegan 1996 had improved from Vegan 1976, and Vegan 2023 will absolutely astound you if you give it a try. I’ve been “giving a try” to a host of staggeringly delicious vegan dishes Shelley has been cooking for me for years now. I thank God for her, because she is proving to me that nourishing humanely is an Eden matter, and a New Earth matter.
I could find just one more encouraging proof of God’s caring. To find out what it is, we need to step briefly over into Chapter 2.
Genesis 2:1 – 3: Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 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.
God cares enough to be present, and to build well, and to share His creatorship, to reproduce Himself in us, and to nourish humanely. And God cares enough to commemorate Creation.
The Sabbath is a memorial of Creation. It’s not an anniversary of Creation, because an anniversary happens just once a year. I don’t know what you call an anniversary that happens every 7 days (a septiversary?) But the bottom line is that when God finished Creation Week, He didn’t wash his hands in a construction-project sink, dry them off, and wave goodbye to us. No, He wanted us to remember creation. Exodus 20, versus 8-11 begins with the words “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
Most people in this room know this. This is a Seventh-day Adventist church. But if this is a new idea to you, I challenge you to try it out. Treasure this day. Use it for your health. Use it to transport yourself back to Eden, back to that first Sabbath. And try to re-create this every week.
Because this is our Father’s world. Someone wrote a wonderful song expressing this idea, and we are going to stand to our feet and sing about a God who has provided us such encouragement through what He has made for us and how He has cared for us.
Let’s stand together and sing “This is My Father’s World.”