Expository Sermon on Genesis Chapters 1 – 3
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 7/27/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the delightful Children’s Corner by Mia Gurdian, and then the sermon, click the YouTube link below. Mia’s story begins at the 42:23 mark, and the sermon starts at 50:57)
Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1.
While you’re turning there, I would like to say thank you to Brendan Pecht for taking the pulpit a week ago. Actually, his pulpit looked a lot different than this one. Brendan, it was great to have you talk us through that powerful parable about your motorbike. By the way, if anyone missed that sermon, all you have to do is go to YouTube.com, and type in “Bellevue SDA church live stream.”
Another thank-you goes to our audiovisual team for helping with that process. The times I have spot-listened to our worship services on YouTube, the sound has been splendid.
If you are someone who makes a habit of thoroughly absorbing what’s in your bulletin each week, you will have already discovered this colorful insert. It’s a summary of the July 6 sermon where I introduced this new sermon series.
Glance over it, and I think you’ll see how important its ideas are. The Bible gives a lot of evidence that Jesus was present in the Old Testament. It seems as though, just like at His baptism, Jesus was the member of the “God group” who down through history has interacted with humanity here on earth. God seems to have been the one who remained in heaven, and the Holy Spirit the one who moved between them, calling people’s hearts toward Christ and the Father.
(For those of you reading online, I’ve added the insert’s contents immediately after the end of this printed sermon.)
The bottom line, you see, is that Jesus and His Father and the Holy Spirit are on exactly the same page when it comes to dealing with us. There’s no such thing as an angry Father versus a loving Son. Jesus has never had to calm God down, or distract His attention away from doing us harm. “For God so loved the world that He gave his Son, so whoever believes in Him can have eternal life.”
And anybody who may have doubts about this unity between God and His Son should go back and read Jesus’ heartfelt prayer in John 17, where a major theme is that Jesus wants you and me to be as closely united with Him as He is with His Father.
So over the next few months, we’ll be searching out the footprints of Jesus in many of the Old Testament books. Today we’re looking at Genesis, and next week we’ll be looking at Exodus. If you get a chance, skim through Exodus during the week ahead. Just read the stories, and see if you can see where Jesus’ footprints might lead.
And Jesus shows up in Genesis more often than you might think. For example, in the last part of Genesis 32, an angel shows up in the middle of the night and Jacob wrestles with Him. Jacob isn’t sure who it is at first, but it gradually dawns on him that this is a divine visitor. Afterward, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob says, I have seen God face-to-face, and my life is preserved.” This angel was most likely Jesus Himself.
Earlier, in Genesis 18, the Lord shows up with two angels at the door of Abraham’s tent. The Lord mentions that Abraham’s wife Sarah – who was well past childbearing age – woud soon have a son. And then He and Abraham discuss the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah. Again, this was almost certainly Jesus Himself, because in John 6:46 Jesus said that no one has seen the Father, but here, a divine Somebody is clearly visible.
But now let’s focus closely on Genesis chapter 1. Your bulletin insert will tell you that in John chapter 1, it says that Jesus was active in creation. It says that when something was created, Jesus was right there, closely involved in it. Some Bible scholars have called Jesus the “active agent” in creation. Jesus was probably the one out there on the ground, doing the work.
And I think that in the first three chapters of Genesis we see Jesus’ footprints very clearly. So, where can we see Jesus’ footprints in Genesis? Where did He walk?
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.
So where is Jesus? We see God, and we see the Holy Spirit, but where is the Son? You know where Jesus is? He is in the plural ending of Elohim, which is the Hebrew word translated God right here. That “im” on the end is plural. Do you see the word “heavens” there in verse one? That is shamayim, with that same plural ending. “Heavens.” And do you see the word “waters,” at the end of verse two? That’s mayim, which is the plural version of “water.”
Okay, so if Elohim has that same “im” plural ending, why doesn’t the verse say “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth”? Because, over and over in the Old Testament, and in the New, God wanted it very clear that there was such a close-knit unity between Him, His Son, and His Spirit, that they should be called God, and not Gods. God knew very well that the idolatrous nations His people would have to face had a lot of gods. In those countries, if you wanted rain, you prayed to the storm god. If you wanted fertility for your crops and animals, you prayed to the fertility goddess, and so on. And once in awhile, in these mythologies, the gods actually fought with each other. God didn’t want to give the impression that this could happen in the real heaven.
But that “im” ending on “Elohim” hints that the Godhead is plural. Another thing that hints at it is Deuteronomy 6:4. Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one!” At first glance you might say, “Well, that settles it. God is not plural, but one.”
But that Hebrew word “one,” which is echad, is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 where it says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That’s that same word echad.
Adam and Eve weren’t just one person, they were two separate people, but God designed them to be so closely unified that they would be like one. After all, one was taken from the other. Adam and Eve weren’t “joined at the hip,” but you could say that they were “joined at the rib!” If only, back there in Eden, they had stayed close together, so that when the snake appeared they could compare notes on God’s commands, and strengthen each other.
Okay, back to the footprints of Jesus. Since Jesus was present right here at creation, and probably doing the major work, we see His footprints everywhere. If you’re taking sermon points, here comes Sermon Point One.
Where did Jesus walk?
Jesus walked to where He could grow beauty from chaos.
If you ever need a lift during the day – in the morning, or in the evening, or any time – you should make it a habit of going to our church website and clicking on the “Daily Photo Parable” icon on the homepage. Every day, one or another of our bloggers displays a photo he or she has taken, and follows it with a devotional thought. And most of the blogs are about something beautiful, or startling, or humorous, that God has created. In other words, that Jesus has created.
You see, as He left those divine footprints during creation week, Jesus was walking away from safety and predictability and sameness, and walking toward where He could grow beauty from chaos.
And all through the Bible, again and again, Jesus brought beauty out of misery. He called prophets who had absolutely no confidence in themselves, and gave them powerful work to do, and sustained them through it. He took fishermen and tax collectors and made them household names for centuries, all around the world. He had a dramatic conversation with a hardheaded ISIS-style persecutor of Christians and changed him into a teacher and Bible writer whose heart throbbed with the gospel.
So what does this mean to me? What should I do, now that I know this?
Well, in my time on this earth, I leave footprints too. And in the sense that Jesus was constantly calling His disciples and saying “Follow Me,” my footprints need to carefully follow the footprints of Jesus. He walked to where He could grow beauty from chaos, and in my limited, human way, I need to try to do the same. I need to be someone who defuses situations rather than ignites them. I need to be someone who graciously changes the subject when tempers flare. I need to do as Jesus did – look for the best in people, and trust that if His Holy Spirit is given an opportunity, these people can change for the better.
For the next set of Jesus’ footprints I’d like to look at, let’s go to chapter 2, starting with verse one. By this time Jesus has created at least Adam, and possibly Eve as well.
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.
Here comes Sermon Point Two. Where else did Jesus leave footprints?
Not only did Jesus walk to where He could grow beauty from chaos, but He walked to where He could give us real rest.
Okay, but what connection is there between walking and resting? Why would Jesus need to walk to somewhere in order to provide real rest to us?
Have you ever tried to rest in front of your computer? My home office is filled not only with my PC, but also with books, and papers, and little projects and tasks. In fact, it’s even difficult for me to outline my sermons in my home office. There’s just too much distraction. So normally I will go someplace else in the house, or go to our local library, in order to focus on outlining my sermon.
Why did Jesus give us the Sabbath? (By the way, here’s another clue that Jesus was front and center in creation week. Mark 2:28 quotes Jesus as saying, “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Which is only natural, since He was the one who rolled it out on Day Seven of Creation Week.
Jesus walked to where He could give us real rest. The last weekend in September, our church is going on a retreat to the Walla Walla Marine station on Rosario Beach close to Deception Pass. It’s something we look forward to every year, and I hope that today you will sign up to go on the easel in the foyer.
Now, we could just as well skip Rosario this year. We could say, “You know what? We don’t really have to drive all that distance to get some rest. Why don’t we just all stay at home, and have our retreat that way? It would save a bit of money, save a lot of travel.”
Well, I can tell you that if our social committee ever tried to float that idea, they would face an earnest mutiny. Those of us who’ve been to Rosario and plan to go again, look forward to it, precisely because it is a chance to walk away, drive away, from the routine.
That is exactly the way that the Lord of the Sabbath wants us to think about the Sabbath. It’s a walking away from the six-day cycle, walking toward a day, and a schedule adjustment, which helps us experience a little of that Eden rest.
Smart people recognize how important retreats are – especially the weekly mini-retreat known as the Sabbath.
How can we do this? Well, experienced and faithful Sabbath keepers have built into their lives the kind of “walking away” this takes. In the Fourth commandment of the Ten – and remember, it was probably Jesus Himself who was speaking those words from Mount Sinai – in the fourth commandment it doesn’t simply tell us to rest, it tells us to not work. Nobody in our family should work. If we employ people in a business we own, or in our home, they should not work. Nowadays animals don’t do the farm work they use to, but the commandment even says don’t have your farm animals work.
So one of the ways we walk away from the six days and go to where we can experience Sabbath rest is to simply not go to work. Don’t open your laptop and grind out a report you have to prepare for your boss. Don’t go shopping. Don’t go golfing.
Because we have to keep in mind that on the Sabbath, God Himself – Jesus Himself – set the example. These verses say that God rested. What it looked like when God rested on that first Sabbath, we do not know. In fact, when the Pharisees harassed Jesus for supposedly working on the Sabbath, He said, “My Father works, and I work.” What He meant, of course, was that God heals, and sustains, and nourishes, and preserves, on the Sabbath the way He does the other days of the week.
And I hope that we as a church have turned completely away from keeping the Sabbath with a gritted-teeth legalism. If we are still stuck in that mode, we need to turn our back on that as well, and walk toward God’s true Sabbath with a gasp of gratitude and relief.
And when we leave this building, when the service is over, we have to watch our footsteps. Because it’s so easy during the Sabbath hours to slide back into those six days, with their pressures, their buying and selling, their entertainments. Can we learn to savor the Sabbath which Jesus leads us to?
When I was a kid, growing up on a farm, I didn’t always like to go to bed, didn’t always want to drift off to sleep. I wanted to keep my light on and read books. Sometimes I stayed awake on Sunday nights, my stomach knotted up because I knew that the next day I would have to go back to school and do some more math.
I was always dreadfully behind in my math workbook. One day I counted up and found that I was 12 pages behind. I used to say that I have math phobia, but now I realize it was just plain laziness. I didn’t buckle down and do the work.
But when I finally got to sleep there in the bed up in my second-story room, I slept an almost dreamless sleep. I could get my rest because even though I might have been uneasy about my math workbook, I knew for certain that Mom and Dad were there in that farmhouse, and that they had things under control. I could rest because I knew that they would do anything they had to keep me safe.
Here’s another interesting set of Jesus’ footprints. After God through His Son creates Adam, He puts him in a garden.
Genesis 2:15 – 17: Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
So where else did Jesus leave footprints?
Not only did Jesus walk to where He could grow beauty from chaos, and not only did He walk (away from the six-day work routine) to where He could give us real rest, but Jesus walked to where He could give us real choice.
That meant walking away from the kind of creating He had been doing of other living things. Now, a lot of animals – maybe all of them – and insects, and so on, all of them have some limited ability to choose. If I saw a little bug walking across the top of this pulpit, and if I were to put my finger right in front of that bug, the bug would make a choice. If it was a nervous bug, it might turn quickly and start walking in the other direction. But if it was a drowsy ladybug, that ladybug might just choose to climb up my finger.
And human beings exercise those kinds of choices two. God has built reflexes into our systems which give us ways of reacting to unexpected challenges.
But look at the choices Jesus gave Adam. Verse 15 says that God wanted Adam and other human beings to tend that garden, and make decisions on how to maintain it. And God also gave a specific command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You see, by this time, Satan had rebelled in heaven, and had started casting doubts about God in the mind of the universe.
So God gave Adam a real choice. “Adam, you’re going to have to trust Me on this. You don’t know what evil is, and you don’t want to know. Just don’t eat that forbidden fruit.”
And you and I have choices like that today. God has given us a whole lot more information about right and wrong choices than He gave Adam and Eve. We need more information, because we have drifted further away from God. The further you go from God, the more detailed He needs to be about how to live safely and healthily.
So, it’s a no-brainer. Make the right choices. Yesterday I heard a radio interview about how a company that makes vaping devices is using the same basic plan of advertising that cigarette companies did decades ago. They’re packaging these devices in ways that make them seem harmless to those who use them. That’s why it’s important to remember that – in any choice related to health – we need to remember who our Creator is, and how the Holy Spirit wants to enter our hearts and minds and live there, because Paul says that our bodies are to be temples of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at one more set of Jesus’ footprints, maybe the most breathtaking of all. To set the stage, I need to mention the tragic event which took place in Genesis 3, where both Eve and then Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and then ran cowering away to hide in the garden.
Genesis 3:8 – 11: And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?
And then Adam and Eve begin their famous “I’m the victim and I blame someone else” dance, and the Lord responds by describing the results of their decision.
But in verse 21, Jesus – because this almost certainly was Jesus speaking to them – Jesus takes His most heartwrenching walk of all.
Verse 21: Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Tunics of skin? That’s interesting. Why didn’t He quickly weave them some linen garments? Animals weren’t originally designed to become leather jackets, or shoes. But He made these tunics of skin. And He got these skins from innocent animals. The death of the innocent provided covering for the guilty. Every time Adam and Eve got up in the morning, they put on those skins. It must have been a heart-shuddering reminder that they were alive because something else had died. God had warned them that they day they ate the fruit, they would die. And they did—through a substitute, who pointed forward to the final sacrifice of Jesus the Lamb of God.
Where did Jesus’ footprints go? Where did Jesus walk?
Not only did Jesus walk to where He could grow beauty from chaos, and not only did He walk (away from the six-day work routine) to where He could give us real rest, and not only did He walk to where He could give us real choice, but Jesus walked to where He could give us grace.
What is grace? It’s a widely used word which has a lot of definitions in English. But here are two dictionary definitions which express it in a spiritual sense. “A favor rendered by one who need not do so.” And “Divine favor bestowed freely on people, as in granting redemption from sin.”
Who knows what Jesus was thinking as He walked across the grass of that Eden meadow? Could He have been thinking of another garden through which He would finally need to walk? Could He have been thinking of the agonizing prayer He would pray, finally resolving to carry through His Father’s will?
Jesus did not need to give us the grace of forgiveness. Adam and Eve had broken the covenant. God and His Son and His Holy Spirit were not required to give grace.
But that, of course, is what they do. Jesus’ footprints led Him through that garden, through those mock trials, and up the hill of Calvary, to die for us.
So where will your footprints, and my footprints, go now? Will we pause and turn back, or will we follow Jesus through to the foot of His cross?
I mean, where else can we go? What else shall we do? The God who loved us, created us from some tender mental embryo, who sustains us, who even died for us. Where else can our footprints go?
What about you? Would you like to follow Jesus wherever He leads? Raise your hand if that is your wish.
(What follows is the bulletin insert I mentioned at the start of the sermon.)
“Jesus’ Bible Footprints”
Review of the Introductory Sermon—Bulletin Insert
NOTE FROM PASTOR MAYLAN: It’s my belief—and this idea of course isn’t original with me—that the better we understand who Jesus is, and the more we recognize that He has been a fully active presence throughout Bible history, the better we’ll understand God and His motives. What follows is a brief summary of my July 6 sermon, which served as an introduction to a series I’m calling “Jesus’ Bible Footprints.” (You can read—and in most cases watch—our worship services by going to YouTube.com and typing in “bellevue sda church live stream”.)
I think that one of the most surprising Bible discoveries I ever made is that Jesus has left His footprints over the entire Bible, not just from Bethlehem on, and not just in the Messianic-prophecy texts. How do I know this?
During the “Emmaus walk,” Jesus told two of His friends that He appears often in the Old Testament. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:27 NKJV Here’s some of what He may have told them about Himself:
Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1, 2 (Verse 14 shows that the Word was Jesus.) Is Jesus exactly God the Father? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Note that the verses say both that Jesus was “with God” and that Jesus “was God.” That’s a mystery many have struggled with—but that’s okay. A God who has no mystery our limited minds can’t understand would be no greater than we. In other words, if we can’t explain this, we shouldn’t obsess about it, or try to twist or ignore Bible verses to force a solution to satisfy ourselves.
Jesus is our life-giving Creator. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life . . . “ John 1:1 – 3 Jesus was most likely the one who knelt in Eden’s dirt and sketched out the human form. Each baby who’s born, each of the body’s systems that senses a blood-producing scratch and then springs into action to heal it, each hair upon the head, each fingernail that grows mysteriously from the ends of our fingers (always on the tops, never on the bottoms), these were Jesus’ designs, His metaphorical “footprints,” on our human existence.
Jesus is the Old Testament’s “I AM” God. In Exodus 3:13, 14, Moses asked God what His name was, so he could introduce Him to the Israelites back in Egypt. “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Later, in a tense discussion with antagonistic religious leaders, Jesus claimed that Abraham knew Him. The leaders said, “You’re not yet fifty years old, and you’ve seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:57, 58
And as those religious leaders stagger back from what they think is audacious blasphemy, they quickly decide that talk must stop, and stone-throwing must begin. Verse 59: “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” These leaders knew exactly what Jesus was claiming—that He was the Old Testament’s “I AM” God!
And the Bible also claims that it was Jesus who led the Israelites through the wilderness on their way to freedom. Here’s why we know this. Listen to part of Moses’ final speech (or song) to the nation before His death:“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:1 – 4
In 1 Corinthians 10:1 – 4, Paul tells us the amazing truth about who this Rock was: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
So join me over the next few months as we follow Jesus’Bible Footprints! – Pastor Maylan