The beginning of the Bible is not just a description of the creation account and first few events involving humanity. God has beautifully revealed himself and his salvation plan to people (like us) who so desperately need saving. God’s power, holiness and love is on full display in the first 12 chapters of Genesis as well as some wonderful foreshadowing to the conclusion of the story found in Revelation 21-22. Take some time and see how God created you to be included in his epic drama.
God’s Salvation Story: Chapter 1
Who has not experienced a breathtaking sunrise on a glorious summer’s morning or had their hearts stirred by the expanse of the stars on a cool crisp night. Equally inspiring is the miracle of birth and amazing capabilities of the human body. The magnitude of the universe overwhelms us and yet the tiny intricacies of biology boggle the mind. The wonder and beauty revealed through the diversity of creation alongside the reliable order of that created realm brings joy and confidence to our existence.
In Genesis 1:1 the first words pulsing out of God’s holy book assure us that God is responsible for that we see, smell, hear, taste and touch in this life. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’ These words, like the rhythm of a heartbeat, continue to beat throughout the entire book. As creator, God not only claims responsibility for the heavens and the earth and everything in them but also authority over all that he has created (which includes us). Inherent in this claim is the necessity of raw, surging power woven together with unlimited, awe-inspiring creativity. That is the God we meet in chapter one. He is both the author and main character in the book as the story the Bible tells is autobiographical.
Not only is the Bible autobiographical, so is his creation. In Isaiah 6:4 the angels cry out, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ while Romans 1:20 tells us that ‘since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.’ God’s character is written into the fabric of every star, tree and creature that calls this universe home. The epitome of this fact is how, according to Genesis 1, God created human beings, male and female, in his image! We carry God’s DNA in our bodies and were created to reflect his glory perfectly. We were designed to express love, speak the truth, serve each other as we live in relationship with one another and all of creation. God certainly thought of everything.
Perhaps the most incredible part of God’s creation is the fact that he started with nothing. He had to create the canvas before he could begin painting. There was no template, no rough draft, God simply spoke and it came to be! All that we see around us along with everything we haven’t discovered yet, all breathed into existence by almighty God! And that rhythm continues as the heartbeat of God thumps with each breath in (breathe in)…and each breath out (breathe out).
(hand over your heart) bmp bmp – bmp bmp – bmp bmp
God’s Salvation Story: Chapter 2
The universe is perfect. Everything is functioning to its fullest potential, all in wonderful harmony. God’s glory is precisely revealed by every created thing. (pause) It is hard to believe that one small act of rebellion – one simple moment of indiscretion could have the catastrophic consequences it did but here we are. The lack of faith and lapse in judgment by Adam and Eve introduced a foreign element into the creation, a disease we call sin. Genesis 3 tells that after being tempted “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes… she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
It would be easy to try and justify the nibble of a piece of fruit because trying to justify sin is something we have lots of practice at! We focus on how insignificant an action was or how it didn’t hurt anyone yet this is looking at sin from our perspective. Let us consider for a moment sin from God’s vantage point. Not just perfect, our God is holy, completely set apart, without blemish. A scratch may be small but has a huge impact on the paint job of a beautiful new car. God’s brand new paint job from Genesis 1 has an obvious and ugly scratch. To make matters worse, there is nothing we can do but hang our heads under the weight of guilt and try to avoid the discouraging shadow of our shame.
Looking back on that event we realize that the original scratch in the garden of Eden became infected and a horrible disease has plagued the creation ever since. Today we not only inherited this disease we are responsible for transmitting it, whether one small act of indiscretion or a life of blatant and wild rebellion. Romans 5:12 explains that ‘just as sin came into the world through one person, and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.’
We desperately need a cure for the disease not simply relief from the symptoms and the only place we can find an antidote is somewhere not affected by the virus. A place free from the disease of sin, a person without a single scratch. We have a word to describe a place or person like that…holy. The characteristic of God that resonates throughout the pages of Scripture in the voices of angels, saints and psalmist, ‘Who is like you, O Lord — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?’ Only an antidote from the strain of God’s holiness can fight the disease of sin. Other medications may help the pain or even hold the disease at bay for a season but nothing else is potent enough to be a cure.
We desperately crave an antidote for our sickness. The Bible tells us in fact that all creation is ‘groaning and longing’ for God’s holiness to break the power of the sin disease. A crisis looms however, as this disease has removed us from the very source of the antidote. We no longer have access to a holy God in our sinful state and must simply join with the tax collector in Luke 18 crying out ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.’
God’s Salvation Story – Ch 3
The population of the earth grew from the time of Adam and Eve and things were changing but not for the better. Sin had firmly taken hold of the once pristine creation. In Genesis 6 we read, ‘The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.’ Drastic times call for drastic measures. God’s plan involved a creation cleansing flood and the destruction of everyone save one righteous man – Noah – and his family. This story of judgment and drowning is not nearly the cuddly cartoon we decorate our nurseries with. It is a bold step in God’s salvation plan.
I find it interesting that we tend to view the Biblical image of water exclusively in terms of a refreshing drink. Jesus did in fact use this analogy himself in John 4 when he offers the woman at the well water that will quench her spiritual thirst. In contrast to this safe and enjoyable water stands the brooding, dangerous waters of the Noah account. These waters are dark, thundering, deep and deadly. We are not given waters like these to enjoy but rather to survive! Like the Israelites crossing through the Red Sea or Peter stepping over the side of the boat and into the storm, we have only one hope in water like this, God. He will either lead us through or we will perish.
In the pleasant picture of baptism we often consider the serene, calm waters of a small pond or even safer yet, an indoor tank. Often calm waters on an ocean occurs after a storm. Perhaps the imagery of baptismal waters should be compared to the raging waves and deafening wind of a violent storm. We enter the water on one side with no hope of surviving the flood. Like Jonah cast into the sea to feed and appease the awful storm, we accept our fate. Ephesians 2 describes it this way, ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.’
There is something freeing about coming to grips with one’s helplessness. When we finally recognize we cannot do something ourselves we must look outward for help. It is in that place where we discover God’s grace as he continues to offer us help even after we have rejected him time and time again. In lifeguard training you are taught to never try and rescue a drowning victim until they stop trying to rescue themselves. When they surrender their own efforts they are then ready to accept help from someone else and can be saved. Ephesians 2 goes on to say, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved by faith, not by your own works, it is the gift of God.’
When we acknowledge that we are drowning in our sins and helpless to save ourselves we are then able to cry out ‘God, I need you!’ Now the saving can begin.
God’s Salvation Story – Ch 4
It must be frustrating for God to watch people he deeply loves and who once demonstrated their utter dependence on him fall back into old routines of self reliance. We can be so sure that this time we are going to really surrender all of our lives to God only to rely on our own efforts to maintain this commitment and fall miserably short. God’s saving grace is not just for a moment in time where we get ‘saved’ and then it is back on us. That same grace that saves us sustains us each moment of every day.
In the gospels we read an encounter between Jesus and a rich, young executive. This man thought Jesus would be impressed by his resume and that he would inherit eternal life by working hard to religiously adhere to an outward code of behavior. He wasn’t alone. The disciples and others who witnessed the conversation were stunned to watch things unfold. Knowing that this man loved his money, Jesus dared him to give it all away and rely solely on God. After the man left, deciding he would rather drown wealthy than experience and abundant and eternal life, Jesus declared, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than someone relying on their wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
In Genesis 11 there is a curious story about a community work project. The global population gathered together and determined to build a tower. The premise was that this tower would reach to the heavens so that they might have access to God. The issue was not their building acumen but rather their stubborn hearts that desired to connect with God on their own terms. The story results in chaos and broken communication with each other rather than global unity and connection to God.
The simple truth is this: there is only one way to get to God and only God can provide it. World history is littered with thousands of half built, broken down towers of Babel as men and women have tried to reach God on their own terms. Sometimes these efforts are the result of wonderful intentions and the builders of these towers were fine, upstanding church folk, but the result is always the same, failure. Each day of the Christian life is a referendum between God’s way and our way. The God’s holy path or our crooked, broken, sin infected trail.
In Deuteronomy 30, just prior to entering their promised-land, God gave the Israelites this simple option, ‘Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you – Life and Good – Death and Evil. And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God.’
Sometimes we trick ourselves into believing there are all kinds of options but God is clear on this, there are only two and only one of those ways actually leads us into the holy presence of God.
God’s Salvation Story: Epilogue
An epilogue is found at the end of a story where loose ends are tied up and closure is brought to all the important elements and characters. It often requires that you fast forward ahead to a more complete ending and can be essential to understanding the full purpose of the story beyond the immediate and obvious.
The end of Revelation (the last book in the Bible) serves as not only an epilogue but also a bookend to the beginning of Genesis. These two pillars together collect and support everything in between. Both the beginning of Genesis and the end of Revelation have God revealing his holy self through his power and authority to all of creation. In the garden of Eden, heaven touches earth. In Revelation, the Lord’s Prayer is fully answered – ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The picture is extraordinary with a spectacular array of colours, unimaginable gem and jewel crafted furnishings, eternal breath-taking worship by the largest ‘mass choir’ ever assembled and brilliant shining light all at the culmination of human history. This scene has been beckoning us since the first of creation, drawing us towards that glorious day that never ends. And at the centre of this phenomenal vista, in unrivaled splendor, the author and perfecter of the epic drama: God [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] and his creation, re-deemed…re-stored…re-created.
The holy rhythm Jesus infused into creation in the beginning had been relegated to a faint pitter patter – until the cross. Now it is beating again and in the book of Revelation we hear and feel it in full surround sound. Once more the universe sings in perfect harmony. The disease of sin is fully inoculated by the blood of Jesus and the universe showing no signs of once being fatally infected. The raging flood waters have cleansed and baptized human history and are now replaced with a river of crystal clear life giving water cascading from the very throne of God.
The most significant difference between the two images found in Genesis and Revelation involves the vast number of people in the finale versus the one man and one woman at the start. The end of the story is populated with men, women and children who chose to accept God’s offer of life and step into his glorious salvation story, the very story they were created for. Until that day arrives however, God’s invitation continues. Revelation 22 declares, ‘The Spirit and the Church say, “Come! …Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.”’