Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 01 (“The Sovereign God”)
[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 22 October 2017)]
According to the American Scientific Association, a worldview is… “a theory of the world, used for living in the world. A world view is a mental model of reality – a framework of ideas & attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life, a comprehensive system of beliefs – with answers for a wide range of questions: What are humans, why are we here, and what is our purpose in life? What are your goals for life? When you make decisions about using time what are your values and priorities? What can we know and with how much certainty? Does reality include only matter/energy, or is there more?
Some worldview questions are about God: Can we know whether God exists? Does God exist? If so, what characteristics does God have, and in what relationship with the universe? Have miracles occurred in the past, as claimed in the Bible, and do they occur now? Are natural events produced and guided by God? Was the universe self-creating, or did God create it? Was it totally self-assembling by natural process, or did God sometimes create in miraculous-appearing ways? Does God communicate with us (mentally and spiritually) in everyday life, and through written revelation, in the Bible? What is God’s role in history? Is there a purpose and meaning in history, for each of us individually and for all of us together, or is life just a long string of things happening? What happens after death?”
The Book of Genesis is one of the books in the Bible that is not very popular to preach from, but there are several reasons why it is of crucial importance that all Christians and churches should read and preach Genesis. Genesis provides Christians and the church with a worldview that is assumed but not necessarily taught by later Scriptures – Genesis is therefore a very important book to study, because if not, we deprive ourselves (and the church) of this foundational worldview on which Christianity is build – in other words, on what grounds do we as believers, believe what we believe and what do we use as guidelines for our belief system – our day to day decision making; our personal values, our actions and principles according to which we act.
As an example, we as Christians believe in God Almighty and that He is a sovereign God (in opposition to Atheism that believes that there is no God). We believe that God is wholly (Afrikaans: “geheel en al”) other than this universe (vs. Pantheism – they believe that God is everything and everyone and that everyone and everything is God). We believe that our God is the only true God (in contrast to Polytheism – the belief that there are many gods). We believe that God is the Creator of this universe (in contrast to Secularism and Naturalistic Evolutionism, who believe that the universe is many billions of years old and that after a long period of time, all galaxies, stars, planets, and life on earth evolved. This evolution was without divine intervention). We believe that God has made a covenant with His creation and upholds it (vs. Deism – God exists, but that He is not directly involved in the world. Deism pictures God as the great “clockmaker” who created the clock, wound it up, and let it go. A deist believes that God exists and created the world, but does not interfere with His creation. Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved.). We believe that God created human beings in His image to manage the world on His behalf (in contrast to Hedonism – Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the proper aim of human life). The Word of God and especially Genesis, teaches that God is not the source of evil, but that He created everything good so that His creatures can enjoy the physical world (vs. Gnosticism which teaches that salvation can be gained through secret knowledge).
Our worldview is based on the Bible in its whole, of which Genesis is a very important part. Gen.1 lays the foundation of the Christian faith.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Gen.1:1-2:3 (ESV) ~ “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds-livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
We see in our Scripture reading, that the King of the universe, with His powerful word, created the earth as His good kingdom. We will look at this fact according to the following outline:
- The King created with His word;
- The King completed His work;
- The King created His Kingdom good.
3. THE KING CREATED WITH HIS WORD (1:1-30):
Genesis 1 begins with the words, ~ “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It is clear from these words that God created the entire universe. The author of Genesis (most probably Moses), states it clearly that God the Creator is not any god, but he refers to the Creator as “Elohim.” “Elohim” is a Hebrew word that denotes “the One True God.” Elohim is the infinite, all-powerful God who shows by His works that He is the creator, sustainer, and supreme judge of the world. “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure – you, the righteous (Elohim) who probes minds and hearts” (Ps.7:9).
Sometimes the word Elohim is shortened to El and used as part of a longer name. El Shaddai, for example (“God Almighty”). When Jesus cried out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Mark.15:34), He addressed the Father with a form of Elohim, Eloi.
We therefore see that “the One True God” is the Creator of the entire universe. There is however a second important fact that we learn from these opening verses of the Bible, and that is that there is no reflection on what God was doing before creation, nor does the author of Genesis recounts the creation of angels.
A third fact that we see, is that God created by His word – He spoke to the universe with everything in and on it, into being with His word ~ “…and God said…” and “…there was…” All things came into existence by His word. As Ps.33:6 says ~ “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” God’s creation of the entire universe communicates His sovereignty and Lordship, for the Creator of all is also the Lord of all. The implication of this, is that God is not alone the only living sovereign God, but because of the fact that He called the universe into being, implicates that the complete creation is His very own possession and He is its Lord. He is the King of the created cosmos. Therefore, the creation of the universe demonstrates that God is the Lord of the whole world, and that His Lordship will not be limited to Israel – this is a very important fact for us as non-Jews (as Gentiles) to always keep in mind.
Since God is the Creator, it follows that the creation exists for the praise and glory of its Creator God (Ps.24:1). We see the glory of God when we delight in, reflect upon, and enjoy the world He has created ~ “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps.19:1).
God’s creative power supports the notion that Genesis describes God’s work in regal terms (Afrikaans: “koninklik/vorstelik”), even without using the word “king.” God’s wisdom, power, and goodness in creating the world demonstrate His sovereignty over all things (Ps.145). With His powerful word, He brought order out of chaos. With his powerful word, He controls the universe.
When the apostle John writes his gospel, he intentionally echoes the majestic words of Genesis 1 ~ “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness. The Word became flesh and lived among us.” (Joh.1:1-5, 14).
John identifies Jesus Christ as the Word of God through whom all things were made. Christ was there in the beginning. He is one with the sovereign Creator God. Paul expresses similar ideas this way ~ “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col.1:15-17).
Our Lord Jesus is one with the King of the universe. By Him all things were created, and “in Him all things hold together.” Seeing the exalted nature of Jesus makes us more aware of His tremendous sacrifice in becoming a human being. John proclaims that this eternal Word “became flesh” (Joh.1:14) and Paul says that He “emptied Himself, taking on the form of a slave” (Phil.2:7). The King of the universe became a slave. When the world was headed for destruction, God spoke His word again through Jesus ~ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Joh.3:16). The Word of God, Jesus, created this world and the Word of God, Jesus, will redeem this world.
4. THE KING COMPLETED HIS WORK (2:1-3):
The author of the book of Genesis also emphasises that the King of the universe completed His work in seven days. He highlights the number seven and its multiples. In the Hebrew, vs.1 has exactly 7 words ~ “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Vs.2 has exactly fourteen words (2×7). In this narrative, the name of God (“Elohim”) is mentioned thirty-five times (5×7), while the heavens and the earth are each mentioned twenty-one times (3×7).
Why all these “sevens”? “Seven” is the number of completeness and perfection. God finished His creative work on the sixth day, but God rested on the seventh day. God’s rest plays a significant role thematically in the story line of the Bible. God’s rest indicates that He was now reigning over the creation for the good of His people. According to Joshua, Israel enjoys rest from its enemies when it possesses the land promised to it (Jos.23:1). Israel’s Sabbath observance also replicates the rest of the Lord on the seventh day (Deut.5:12-15). The theme of “rest,” points to the refreshment and joy found in God’s presence, for the seventh day never ends. The Sabbath rest of God, according to Hebrews, finds its fulfilment in the new creation, where believers will enjoy a heavenly and eternal rest during the eschaton (time after this life – eternity) (Hebr.4:1-11).
5. THE KING CREATED HIS KINGDOM GOOD (1:3-31):
A third point is emphasised by the author of Genesis and that is that the King of the universe created His Kingdom good. Six times we read, ~ “…and God saw that it was good…,” when referring to what He created (e.g. the vegetation; the light, the fish, etc.) and the seventh time it says in vs.31 ~ “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
God’s creation was very good – it was perfect, because He created it. We can see this especially on day six, when He created the crown of creation, namely man (Gen.1:26). God made human beings in His image and placed them on earth, to be His representatives in this world (to be created to God’s image, means to be His representative). As “images of God” we must manage this Kingdom on His behalf. That is God’s good plan for His Kingdom and for human beings.
As God, earlier blessed the fish and birds so that they could be fruitful and multiply, so now God blesses male and female both with an eye to reproduction and to having dominion (vs.28). Both male and female receive the high honour and authority of being rulers on this earth on behalf of the King of the universe – God’s representatives – what a responsibility! This is something that we must keep in mind – we are not only saved. We are not only honouring God through our lives. We are also His representatives here on earth!
God’s creation is complete; His Kingdom on earth is well established. God blesses the seventh day and makes it holy. What God created on the other days God declared good, even very good. God makes the seventh day holy, that is, God sets it apart from the six days of work as His very special day. This special day accents and symbolises God’s communion with His creation.
Genesis 1 sketches God as the King of the universe who created this earth as His good kingdom. God’s Word assures us that God is in control. Through the creation narrative we learn that God is sovereign and that He will take care of His people. No matter what dangers threaten us, we can find security and rest in Him.
6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Our God is the Creator of the universe – He is greater than the sun and the milky way; He is sovereign and almighty and omnipresent. Why are we always fearing all sorts of threats and calamities? We serve a sovereign God!
The sovereignty of God refers to the fact that God is in complete control of the universe – His universe!
The sovereignty of God impacts everyday life in that it removes all cause for worry. We can trust that what the Bible claims about God’s character is backed up by His ability. Not only does God love us, but He has the ability to care for us. Those who are part of the family of God can claim the promise in Rom.8:28 ~ “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We can rest in the fact that our God is actually able to work all things for our good, even when we cannot readily see how that may happen.
The sovereignty of God impacts everyday life in that we can trust God’s sanctifying work in us and that He will bring us to maturity ~ “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). Our salvation has been God’s sovereign plan from eternity past. Rather than focus on our own performance, we can rest in the character of God and focus instead on actually getting to know Him.
The sovereignty of God also affects how we make decisions and if we make the wrong decisions, we can trust in God’s faithfulness and His ability to set us back on the right course.
That God is sovereign impacts our sense of identity. When we understand how powerful God is and how much He loves us, we can know we are secure in Him. As the objects of God’s sovereign love, we allow God to define us and give us our worth rather than look to the changing ideals of the world to do so.
When we understand that God is in complete control, we are freed to live our lives. We need not fear ultimate failure or final destruction ~ “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom.8:1). We need not fear worthlessness. We can be confident that God will have His way and that it will be good.
We can trust that the One who says He loves us, is fully able to act on that love in all ways. We can trust that, even when the world seems completely out of control, God is in control. We can trust Him with our daily details – our everything, because He is caring; He is faithful and He is in control!