“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3
The origin of the universe is a topic of serious debate in both Christian and secular culture. There are many who spend their entire lives, tens of thousands of hours, dissecting chapter one of Genesis or looking for clues through a telescope of how we came to be. While I hope to shed some “light” and context to today’s reading, you will be disappointed if you are looking for a detailed outline of theory or a presentation of observable evidence; you have the wrong blogger. What has become apparent to me in my last couple of readings of Genesis is the simple significance of verse one of our sacred scripture. Whether you argue the lifetime of the universe or the age of earth is thousands or billions of years old, God wanted you to know the understatement of eternity: He created the heavens. He created the earth.
The newest estimates place the universe somewhere at 93 billion lightyears across. This space is filled with roughly two trillion galaxies, each containing millions of stars. It’s incomprehensible, without description, unfathomable to our miniscule minds. While there is “universal” truth when we look to the heavens (Psalm 8:1-4), it is no wonder God doesn’t bog us down with the details. The focus of this revealed narrative is on Earth; the light, the sky, the lands, the seas, the moon and sun, the animals, and finally, us. This makes perfect sense when we consider it was deliberately made for you and I to inhabit for eternity, not just for the handful of breaths that are in life as we know it.
“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26, 27
While all creation gives glory to God, much of it inspiring awe and wonder, we are the only creation that is directly made in the likeness of the Creator (Gen 1:26). The two-billion galaxy creating Heavenly Father has exalted you as the highest and most purposeful creation. Each one of your 100 trillion cells carry 3.2 billion pairs of unique DNA coding that makes you, you. Again, these are pretty profound and puzzling figures, speaking to the deliberate nature of God Almighty. Because we are made in his likeness, and through Christ are adopted as children of the Light, we have access to the God of the infinite expanse. And He is not only the God of initial creation, but the God of new creation. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, can be the power that lives in each one of us (Eph. 1:18-21). Jesus has let it be known that there is a place that is being prepared for us according to this new covenant, so we may not only have access to God, but to fully dwell with our Father, God and His son, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah – this is the plan from the beginning.
Where do you see God’s amazing qualities in His creation?
What does it mean to you that you are made in His image?
How would you describe the new creation (through Jesus)?
Today is a really fun day to ask – What does God reveal about Himself to you in Genesis 1 & 2? What difference does that make in your relationship with God? Throughout the rest of our Bible reading this year, take note each time God’s creating is mentioned, it might be more than you think. You can create a marking, such as a C in a circle, to add in your Bible margins or journal pages whenever you find reference to God creating.
Praise and thank Him for being the God he is!
(Editor’s Note: If you find yourself unsure of God’s creating – or enjoying more “proof” to share with others – keep searching. There are many scientific and well-researched articles with evidence pointing to the Creator of Genesis 1. You might be interested in starting with a series of devotions written for SeekGrowLove in January 2021 by Greg Landry. Click here for the first one.)
Before Adam, before the fall, there stood Christ. While his life wouldn’t begin for another 4000 years, God had already set salvation in motion. It is why the stars and the sand could speak to Abraham. It is how Isaiah could see visions of one crying out, “prepare the way”. It was the fabric that held two genealogies together to come crashing into miraculous birth in Bethlehem. It is the very dead Jesus being raised by His Father to be the firstfruits of the resurrection and giving him preeminence as a King in the life to come.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:15-17
Jesus Christ wasn’t Plan B because of a fall of man in the Garden of Eden. He wasn’t a contingency plan to be used in emergencies only. He is the culmination of God’s love for man and the inevitability of the selfish nature of freewill. In him, through him, and for him, ALL things were created. Things of heaven. Things of earth. Things we can see. Things we can’t. And it all makes sense because of his life. God, the Father of Jesus, is the author of providence and will. Jesus Christ has been given the place as the executor, the head, the mediator, our way back to God after wandering in the desert, ritualistic religion, or feeling foreign in our own body.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. – Colossians 1:21-23a
The fullness of the word of God is revealed. It isn’t a mystery. It is available to anyone, anytime. No matter the amount of struggle or hate we fortify and reinforce in our minds, our hearts are attuned to Jesus because he is stitched and woven into every creation, including each one of us. Oh, how God was mindful of us. He knew. His creation surrounds us and testifies of His glory, which in turn, is distilled in Jesus Christ. My prayer is we all recognize that the glory of God can exist in each one of us when we live as Jesus lived, placing the Firstborn of Creation into our hearts, and embracing the very context for existence.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:1-4
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How would you describe Jesus, The Creator’s Firstborn, to someone who has never heard of him before?
What does creation teach you about the Creator and His plans?
What does it mean to you to be reconciled to God through Christ?
“We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how about you?”
“We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how about you?”
“We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how about you?”
“We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how about you?”
That takes me back over 40 years to my high school days. The cheerleaders out on the sidelines leading the call and response cheer to help get the crowd involved and pumped up to keep the team motivated.
Call and response is a part of the culture. In music, particularly jazz and some rock and roll, the call and response is a form of music with a long history. One instrument plays a riff, and another answers back.
Call and response is a big part of African worship. I once preached a community service with several hundred in attendance including a sizeable contingent of black worshippers who really got into the call and response and kept me, the preacher, energized.
The call and response is an old form of worship and Psalm 136 is a great example of how call and response was incorporated into the ancient Hebrew worship tradition. As you look through this great Psalm of praise and worship it’s all about call and response. One calls out, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” and the other responds right back, “His love endures forever”. The other calls back, “Give thanks to the God of gods.” And the other responds: “His love endures forever.” And so it goes, call and response, call and response. It’s an interactive prayer in two voices and it tells a powerful story of Israel’s gratitude to God for his endless love and mercy and faithfulness to his people.
With each successive call, this Psalm tells the story of God’s greatness. God is greater than anything else that people worship. God’s greatness is revealed by his acts of creation. He made the heavens, the lights, the sun and moon and stars, this part of the Psalm shows God’s universal greatness to all people. Then, the Psalm shifts to how God reveals his greatness particularly to His people, Israel, by recalling the story of the Exodus and how God showed His faithfulness in delivering his people from slavery.
With each call revealing God’s creative and saving acts there is a response proclaiming the permanence of God’s love. The Hebrew word, “hesed” is a challenging one to translate. If you look at various translations of Psalm 136 you will see it translated as love, mercy, steadfast love and faithfulness. Hesed is a word so full of meaning that it takes a lot of words to try to capture the fullness of it’s meaning. And that makes sense. God’s love and mercy and faithfulness are so great and so dependable that it can’t be contained in one simple definition or translation.
As you go about your day, pay attention to all of the ways that God reveals his love and mercy and faithfulness to you. Be sure to give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, His love endures forever.
Choose one element of God’s power or character that is included in the Psalm and think about how God has revealed that to you in your life.
Try writing your own Call and Response Psalm to God. What parts of God’s story revealed in creation, the Bible and your own life experience would you include in the call? Which element of God’s character would you magnify in the response?
Do a word study on “Hesed” (Bible Gateway lets you compare multiple translations in parallel – for example, see Psalm 136:1 in various translations). What would your definition of Hesed sound like?
The phrase “In that day” is used at least 7o times in the Old Testament – NIV version. Over half of those times (43 times) it is used by the prophet Isaiah – and four of those times is in today’s chapter 27. Clearly, “in that day” is one of Isaiah’s favorite topics and we can’t really discuss today’s reading without knowing a little more about this phrase. It is interesting to look at all the references Isaiah makes to this time period, not a 24 hour day. Simply go to BibleGateway.com (or your favorite Bible study website) and type in “In that day” in the search bar. If you add in the slightly more descriptive phrase, “The day of the Lord” you will get additional passages listed. Out of curiosity I also checked the KJV and found even more “In that day” passages in this version, including several in the New Testament, used by Jesus and Paul (including in the Thessalonians which we are also reading this week). It appears in the NIV New Testament the phrase is often changed to, “ON that day”. So, it’s talked about a lot, throughout Scripture – but, what is it talking about and why does it matter today?
As you look through the list of “In that day” passages, you find a lot of doom and gloom as a result of God’s judgment and punishment. For example, “In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword.” (Isaiah 27:1 NIV). It also appears that pride is often the culprit that leads to the judgment, “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,” (Isaiah 2:11, and similarly in 2:17). Pride gets in the way and causes all sorts of trouble when we think we know better than God, when we forget about Him and His way and strike out in our own direction – towards destruction. Isaiah says it quite poetically in chapter 28, “You boast, ‘We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement…for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.'” (28:15 NIV) But they continue boasting and bragging, believing their lies as they get closer and closer to death. It seems they don’t even see the danger or care, they are so wrapped up in the lie that has become their false refuge.
Who do you see today who has boastfully made a lie their refuge? I have a few ideas, but what do you think?
I thought first of the movement who boastfully displays pride all over themselves as they try to hijack God’s symbol of hope and His sure promises while blatantly denying the truths of God’s creation: male and female. And, speaking of creation, what of those who make a lie their refuge as they turn from the Creator of heaven and earth and put all their trust in big bangs and chance mutations. There are also those who put great pride in the works of their hands, like the Israelites who were so proud of the capital city Samaria that they had built (and then indulged in the selfish and messy ‘pleasure’ of getting drunk in regularly). (Isaiah 28:1-4, 7-8). And, in their prideful lies they all miss Isaiah’s message that God’s judgment is coming…”in that day”.
And, while it is good to consider how these verses apply in our society, let me never forget to consider how it applies to ME personally TODAY. Where and when do I pridefully put myself and my wishes before God and His will? Do I allow pride in my Christian lifestyle or background to prevent me from loving others? How am I led astray by lies that I have put my trust in, lies about who God is or who He created me to be, what is right and what is wrong? When do I get so caught up in the busy-ness of today that I forget to remember what is coming…”in that day.
Remembering God’s righteous punishment that will be coming in that day can be good motivation to stop doing wrong. It can help me put away the pride and lies and selfish sins. The true threat of coming punishment can be powerful incentive. I know, I am a home-daycare provider. Sometimes it just takes mentioning time-out to make a child stop a moment, consider their actions and stop their misdeeds or tantrum.
But, that’s not all!
Rewards are a beautiful incentive to do what is right. As we look at the list of Isaiah’s use of “In that day” references, we see many exciting and glorious views of the future, following the punishment. Isaiah 27:13 says, “And in that day, a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” And in the next chapter, we read, “In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people.” (Isaiah 28:5). It is such an encouragement to read through the passages describing the coming reward – the perfect Kingdom of God when He shall reign. In Isaiah’s “In that Day” passages of hope and a coming perfect joy and peace, he includes references to the coming Messiah and His role in his father’s Kingdom. (When you have time, it would be interesting to create a list of what other names and descriptions Isaiah uses for Jesus the Christ?) Rewards can sometimes do what threats can’t. It’s amazing to see how fast the daycare children focus on the work at hand and get all the toys picked up when there is the promise of a waiting treat.
We can be sure God’s threats are not empty, His punishments are just and the rewards He graciously gives we can’t earn but will be beyond all we can imagine! How will you prepare today for all that will come “in that day”? And, how can we help others to be prepared? Paul had some great ideas for the Thessalonians. “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12,13 NIV)
How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?
What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?
John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.
John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.
John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.
It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.
John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.
So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.
So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).
Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.
Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.
In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.
Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.
We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.
I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 19-20 and John 1
Shortly after awakening this morning, your body started releasing cortisol, your fight-or-flight hormone, into your body to prepare for today’s stress. The concentration of these levels in our body might be higher today than most, as you feel the mounting pressure of the New Year. You are trying to recover from staying up too late, or trying to implement a new routine, or trying to rid yourself of some addictive behavior. Unfortunately, what you do today, and any stress that comes about, isn’t an isolated event. It is the culmination of a lifetime of rehearsed behaviors. If you are trying to shed a few pounds, you might be looking back to Thanksgiving or further as the culprit. If you are trying to read your Bible more, which is why you may have very well ended up here today, you may look back to some chaos that was introduced into your life shortly after the beginning of 2020. If you are trying to quit smoking/drinking, you may be looking back to college or high school years as its introduction. If you are trying to reduce your screen time, you may look all the way back to your childhood when your parents let you watch TV without any limitations. No matter the case, lasting change is hard to acquire. Over time we have fashioned (or maybe more like, warped) our true nature, mold, or patterns, making it so hard to change. Wow. Deflation complete. And another round of cortisol is released. Hang on – Don’t fly!
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17
Today, we revisit the beginning in a couple different fashions. Not the start of a behavior, but the origin of the heavens, earth,and man. Everything that has happened up to this point in the universe has its lasting signature of this single event. The complex ecosystems of the earth, sea, and sky, the hanging of stars, planets, and galaxies in the heavens, and the most beautiful and the reason that all these things exist, our salvation plan that comes through Jesus Christ, come from a single origin: God. All of them have their catalyst in the events that unfold in Genesis 1 and 2. Generation after generation, Matthew 1 tells of God’s alignment to move us from sin’s patient zero, Adam, in the Garden of Eden, in-and-out of lives of some very messed-up, still-sinning, trying to make their resolutions work people, to the Culminating Curer, Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:17,18
There is more. The plan doesn’t stop there – You and I are part of it. Since Jesus Christ offered propitiation for our sins, we can enter into the nature, the mold, the pattern for which we are created, not that one that has been fashioned by all the paper mache forms we have haphazardly placed in our life. When we do this, we will find ourselves quite a bit more malleable than before because this is the form for which we’re truly made. We get into shape by the Great Shaper. When we renew our thinking in this way, maybe the pounds are not the priority, but our prayer life (but it’s okay to lose the pounds, too). Maybe we point our addictive behaviors in the direction of God to His worship and study. Maybe we linger at church and fellowship or pile in the car after school to serve somewhere, instead of coming home to a favorite show. And when you do not do these things, thank God, you can always go back to the beginning: salvation. We do not have to wait on a sacrifice, we no longer are slaves to these things awaiting a Redeemer, when we seek out God, we are offered an instant renewal through repentance and grace. Every day we have on Earth is the beginning, a New Year or season, and an opportunity to fight for a closer relationship with God than the day before.
Welcome to the FIRST day of our 2021 Bible reading plan! Print your copy below so you can mark and keep track of your progress. Most days we will read 2 Old Testament chapters and 1 chapter from the New Testament or Proverbs or a few Psalms. Some people like to do one reading in the morning and one later in the day, others like to do both at the same time. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or more – but hop back in so you don’t miss His words to you.
I wrote this devotion with Ps. 65 in mind but specifically v.5-13. Go ahead and read it now if you haven’t already.
Everybody has their hobbies and one of mine is woodworking. It’s super tactile and when I am woodworking, I have a kind of solitude. In a crazy technology driven era it is just really nice to do something physical and focused. It allows me to focus completely on one thing. No distractions, just wood and my hands and tools. My tools aren’t seeking my attention and neither is the wood. One of the other parts of woodworking that I love is the design element. Taking different materials and being able to think about how to put them together to get something that is designed well for its purpose but also holds a beauty. One of my favorite things that I have designed is a coffee table for my girlfriend. I made it as a Christmas present and definitely spent a ton of time (read: too much time) making it. Haha. I had a great time doing it though. I originally was just going to make it out of a wormy pine but I realized I didn’t have enough materials to make it the dimensions I wanted to. Through a little bit of problem solving and some design though I decided to make it out of two different types of wood. I had some beautiful red oak that I thought would work perfectly. I laid the oak and pine in an alternating pattern to make the table the size that I wanted. At the end of the process I was really happy with what I had made for her and in my opinion, it is really beautiful.
This new hobby has also allowed me to grow a deeper appreciation for how things are designed. This includes many types of design from something like how businesses are structured to the architecture in homes. People have designed some really awesome things. I think about how they designed the pyramids with no modern construction equipment to the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. There have been a couple failures, too, like the sinking city of Venice and the leaning tower of Pisa. Maybe Italians aren’t the best architects. Haha. Too much passion and not enough structural integrity.
Some of the designs I have seen in the world made by humans are really impressive but the designs of God are truly mind boggling to me. The more I think about how God designed things in creation the more amazed I am. There are a ton of different things to consider too. All too often we can simply consider the earth and how beautiful it is. However, God’s design goes so far beyond that. God in 6 days did some pretty incredible things. Some of the things that really put me in awe are how he designed the water cycle, which allows the earth to receive water all over the land. If you think about water without the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation it would just stay in the lowest place it could run to. God designed that. He designed it so that all the earth would be watered as in Psalm 65.10.
He also designed the concept of gravity and set its force in just the right way. It is perfectly tared so that we are neither crushed to death by its pull or float around with nothing to tether us to the ground. God designed that. This gravity is also the same force which draws the water to flow in beautiful streams and rivers to a lower point in the earth.
He also happened to design the earth in such a way that it is self-sustaining. The earth requires absolutely nothing from humans except not to harm it. Haha. It has been around thousands of years without us doing anything to maintain it. It has been and will be. God designed it that way.
He designed the process of photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis plants take the energy from the Sun and convert it into food which the plant then uses to grow and sustain itself. God designed that.
Oh yeah, and it just so happens that we take that plant and eat, or preferably take that plant and feed it to another animal and eat that animal. Haha. God designed that
Oh yeah and the Sun, we missed that one. God designed it so that the earth was the perfect distance from the Sun. Too far away and we would be a block of ice and too close and we would be a ball of fire. God designed that.
He designed the seasons by making the earth rotate around the sun in such a way that the hemispheres received longer and shorter periods of sunlight. Thereby, allowing us to have beautiful white snow on the ground in February for most people, or if you are in New York, in May, and also get to experience the warm summer days and plants growing all around. God designed that.
You may be saying, I get it – God designed it all. For me it all screams of his glory, might, and his love for us that we would get to experience something that he designed so beautifully. This all leads me to a point of awe. An awe of all creation. My heart’s desire is to always have something to praise God for and something to keep me in awe of Him. Sometimes when I am looking for something I go to God’s creation and I can admire the beauty of his design and the deep level of care that He put into all of it. He did so for his glory. I am so thankful that I get to experience all of it, that he allows me to use his beautiful creation and that it provides for me.
Hope you guys have a great day back to work and really enjoy the day that God has given you to rejoice in.
The opening chapters of Genesis play out like a graphic novel, presenting us with the dream scenario where the world is perfect, God is dwelling among His creation, and human beings are in perfect relationship with each other and their Creator. Unfortunately, the scene does not last very long, as the human beings forget their Creator and disobey, bringing an end to God’s perfect world. They start to blame each other, are ashamed of the way that they look, and are separated from God’s presence. It is a terrible tragedy, but one that we still experience today.
At the very core of this story, and the reason that the humans disobeyed God, is because they believed a lie rather than the truth of their Creator. The serpent in the garden promised the humans that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, that they would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” What is tragic about this story is that the humans are already like God, being made in His image (1:26-28)! They did not believe the words spoken by their Creator, and instead, let the lies spoken by the serpent define and destroy them.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a story of the past, but a daily struggle that every human being faces today. The teenage boy is told that he isn’t worth anything because he failed to perform well at a sporting event. The young girl is told that she is ugly because she doesn’t match what the pictures show in the magazines. The elderly man is told that he is no longer useful since he can’t operate the same way as he could in his youth. The barren woman is told that she has no purpose because she struggles to bear children in this world. And the list continues to go on and on…
These are all lies that the serpent still tells God’s creation, in order to drive them into despair and death (see John 10:10). We see and feel this on a daily basis; we all buy into the lies of the serpent, forgetting the truths that God pronounces over each of us. Scripture tells us that God loves us (John 3:16), that He has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), that we are chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), that we are forgiven of our sins in Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that God made each and every one of us in a very special, personal way (Psalm 139:13-14).
Today, I want to encourage you to listen to the truths of your Father and forget the lies you’ve been told. You are valuable. You are precious. You are loved. You belong to Him. God cares deeply for you, and wants you to come into a real relationship with Him like our ancestors had in the Garden of Eden. Come before Him through the blood of Jesus and rest, knowing that your Creator tells you the truth.
As we leave the Garden, the state of God’s relationship with his creation is strained. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the garden because of their defiance, and no longer have access to God’s presence like they had before. They are effectively exiled.
Let’s jump ahead to Moses. Now, there is much that happened between the garden and the introduction of Moses, and it is important stuff to know, but I want to race ahead to our topic of God’s presence.
As you probably know, Moses was a man chosen by God to lead God’s people (the Israelites) out of captivity in Egypt. It’s quite the epic story, and it is crucial to the Israelites. It reminds them how God chose them as his people and was faithful to them, bringing them out of captivity.
So now the Israelites, under the leadership of Moses and the miraculous deliverance of God himself, have escaped the clutches of Pharaoh. While they are in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God begins to form a deeper relationship with them. He begins by giving them some basic guidelines of being his people, part of which is what we know as the Ten Commandments.
In Exodus 25, God begins giving Moses some very specific (exhaustive!) guidelines for building a tent structure called the tabernacle. It is important to ask why, just like how we asked why God would create us in the first place. And I think the answer to why he created and the answer to why he wanted a tabernacle built are the same answer: In 25:8, God says, “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
Simple enough. But God has been interacting with his people all along. We can see how he worked in Noah, Abraham, and Joseph, just as a few examples. And now he has entered into a very special relationship with Moses, and by extension, to the rest of the Israelites. So if God is working among them and has a relationship with them, why do they need a tent thing?
I don’t know why God chose a tent specifically, but there is something special about it. God wanted to use it to dwell among his people, in a way that was closer to how he dwelt in the Garden. It was a much more intense dwelling and presence than he had been able to have among his people for a long time, since the Garden. Mankind lost special access to God’s presence after the Garden was off limits, but with the tabernacle, God was providing them with a new way to access his presence again. God is in the business of restoring.
God’s intentions and vision for this tabernacle are made more clear by the frequent callbacks to creation. In chapters 25-31, there are seven sections that begin, “the LORD spoke to Moses…” followed by detailed tabernacle plans. This is a reference back to the seven days of creation, when God commanded the cosmos into order. The sixth speech mentions craftsmen and priesthood, where day six of creation features mankind created in his image. The seventh speech is a reminder to the Israelites about the importance of the Sabbath, while day seven of creation is when God rests.
The tabernacle and creation accounts are further connected in structure with key phrases: Gen 1:31 vs Ex 39:43 (seeing what was done), Gen 2:1 vs Ex 39:32 (completing), Gen 2:2 vs Ex 40:33 (finishing work), Gen 2:3 vs Ex 39:43 (blessing), and Gen 2:3 vs Ex 40:9 (sanctifying).
Additionally, there are several symbols in the tabernacle that are connections back to Eden. The lampstand in 31:8 is a symbol of the tree of life, and the ark may symbolize the tree of knowledge (it contains the law, and you die if you touch it). There are images of cherubim in the tabernacle, reminding us that cherubim guarded the entrance to the garden. Gold and precious stones may also be symbols that tie the tabernacle back to Eden.
Similar connections to creation and the garden exist when looking at Solomon’s Temple, but I’ll leave that unexplored to return to our regularly scheduled program.
What is the purpose of all these references to creation and the garden? I believe God wanted his people to recognize the symbolism as his attempt to bring the garden back to them, in a way. God wanted to commit to his people and assure them that they could again have access to his presence. God wanted them to know that dwelling with them was his plan from the very beginning, and he will restore it. And we know that God’s intent is to dwell with us too, in ways that far surpass the tabernacle among the Israelites, and in ways that far surpass even the garden.
What? Yes! We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Now to Exodus 40 before I get too excited. When everything for the tabernacle was done according to God’s instructions to Moses, God’s presence rested in it:
Ex 40:34-38 (NASB): “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.”
If you are Moses, then this is a fairly anti-climactic way of ending Exodus. He didn’t even get to go in! There is still apparently a problem with sin. If you go into the holy of holies and are not clean enough, you die. Only the high priest can go in, once a year, offering blood to cover for the sins of him and the people (Hebrews 9:7). Looking back at the garden, and how sin and the presence of God are incompatible, maybe kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden could have been more of an act of mercy than a harsh punishment.
But here is God, dwelling among his people again, restoring and guiding them. My prayer for you today and every day is that you will seek to be where God is, by following that cloud. That you will linger when the cloud lingers and that you will set out when the cloud is taken up. That God will show you where and how he is moving and invite you in on the action.
Hello Readers! If you have been reading along with us everyday in 2019 – you have now read all of the gospel of Matthew. Well done! We will cover the other three gospels later in the year (John in April, Mark in August and Luke in December). This week we are going to take a little theme break and investigate the topic of the Presence of God. Every day there will be a Bible passage to read, but they won’t be consecutive New Testament chapters. Then, next week (starting Sunday, February 10) we will begin a chapter by chapter daily walk through the book of Acts. Remember, stick with us all year and we will cover the whole New Testament – as well as lots of other golden nuggets as well. And so we begin – – – The Presence of God at Creation!
Text: Gen 1:1 – 2:3
This week, I want to lead you in some thoughts, taking a tour through scripture to highlight some big moments in the story of God’s presence among us. Today we are going to start this journey in Genesis 1, with creation.
But why creation? I think that is an important question, if not the biggest question Genesis 1 aims to answer. Probably hundreds of times I came there preoccupied with questions about who, what, when, where, and how, but forgot to ask why. And the answer to the “why” question is intimately tied to God’s presence.
When we think about “why” questions, we’re starting to think about purpose. Teleological questions. We’re going places scientific inquiry doesn’t (and can’t) go. We’re starting to ask the questions God wants us to think about most.
The opening verses of Genesis paint a picture of a wasteland. God is hovering over the deep, or the waters (a recognized symbol of chaos). The earth is said to be without form and void. It has no purpose. God begins his work to shape it all into order.
But why? If you are God, do you need the heavens or an earth? Do you need plants, animals, and people? I’d guess that no, God doesn’t require any of those things. He’s God, right? It seems that if God doesn’t need anything, he was motivated by something to create.
The earth was set up as a space for us to live, and rule with God, or be stewards, over the rest of creation (this is at the core of what it means to be made in God’s image). The earth is a gift to us. The first six days of creation are the account of God separating, naming, and giving function and purpose to all the moving parts of his cosmos, really for our benefit.
God calls what he did “good” after each day, and then after he is finished, he calls the whole thing “very good.” In other words, all the parts come together and work like a well-oiled machine. Thank God the earth functions beautifully for us, but there is something more going on here, particularly when we talk about day seven.
Day seven is something we usually mention as an aside to creation. We say things like, “now God kicked back to relax, and he did it to admire his creation and be an example for us so that we remember to take a day off.” And we might be correct in saying something like that. But let’s be real, God doesn’t need rest. There is something more going on here.
First, “rest” in this context probably doesn’t mean God is tired and needs to recharge. It means he now has stability and order in his creation. You can see this idea of stability and security come up many times in scripture when it talks about God giving rest (see Exodus 33:14, 1Ch 22:9, 2Sa 7:11).
Second, it is understood among the Israelites and other ancient Near Eastern cultures that when deities rest, they rest in temples. And a temple isn’t finished until a deity rests in it. This is a strange idea to us, but it was understood in those cultures (we can see a similar thing happening in the ancient Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, for example). They would know right away from the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that it has a temple theme, and that God rests in it on day seven.
Third, the number seven carries with it a symbolic meaning of completion. We think of numbers strictly as representing quantities. Ancient Israelites aren’t as strict with their use of numbers, and use them in ways that qualitatively symbolize things. This is why you see numbers like 7, 12, and 40 all over the place in the Bible.
But where was the temple in the story, though? Did you miss it? So did I. Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It’s the best Indiana Jones movie, by the way. There is a part in that movie where they are in an old church that was converted to a library, and they’re trying to match Roman numerals from a stained glass window with locations in the building. They are stuck on finding the location of 10, until Indiana walks up a staircase to a balcony overlooking where they were standing. Lo and behold, there is a giant X across the whole floor. They didn’t see it, because they were standing on it the whole time.
If you are looking for the temple in Genesis 1, it’s been under your nose the whole time. In Isaiah 66:1, God declares, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” The whole cosmos is God’s temple. God spends the first six days of creation naming and giving purpose to the different parts of the heavens and the earth, to provide a place where we can thrive, but the dual purpose is that these parts are being inaugurated and paraded in as pieces of his temple.
But to just build a temple out of materials doesn’t make it a temple. A temple isn’t a temple until God rests in it, otherwise it’s just a structure. Day seven is when God rests in and inhabits his temple. It’s when he moves in with us. This is part of why it was important to the Jews to observe the sabbath, to celebrate his stability and presence in their lives.
Day seven isn’t the aftermath of creation, it is the completion, the crown, like the shiny star or angel on your Christmas tree. God could have made this beautiful place, put us in it, and moved on, never to have contact with us again, and it would still be amazing! But no, God didn’t just wind up the clock and step away, as some people mistakenly believe he did. He decided to be involved with his creation, especially us, in real and intimate ways. He decided that he would be present in his temple, living among us.
The why of creation, the purpose, is that God wanted to make his home with us.
Next, we’ll travel to the garden.
Just a quick note to give credit where it is due. The idea of creation being a temple isn’t mine. First of all, it is God’s idea. But if you are interested in reading more about it from scholars who can articulate and support it much better than I can, check out The Lost World Of Genesis One by John Walton, or The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale.