God Creates the Heavens and Earth
Lesson and Read: Genesis 1.1-13
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
Genesis 1.1-3 (NRSV)
Though it is often at the center of many conversations (and arguments) about the origin of the universe, the Book of Genesis was never intended to be a scientific book. The stories of creation in its opening chapters were offered for theological reasons. Genesis declares “who” created all things but does not give the details of “how” that creation was accomplished. And God’s motive for creation, the “why,” will not be clearly stated until we hear the stories of God’s covenant with humanity.
Through the centuries, the Hebrew story of creation has been mixed with our own thoughts and theories. If we read Genesis chapter 1 carefully and thoughtfully, we may encounter a fresh understanding of why this story is told in this way. The story of creation begins with the words, “In the beginning, God . . .” The first theological lesson of the Hebrew creation story is that God is present before anything—God is the creator and there is no other. The Hebrew word “create” (bara’) is a verb that is exclusively used with God as its subject. Human beings can “make” things but only God can create. The creation account in Chapter one is organized and poetic, making it easy to remember. Genesis 1.2 says the earth was a formless void covered by water and darkness. God commanded light to shine (vs. 3) and, in the following verses (4-13), God transformed the chaos into an ordered environment. Genesis 1 gives us a view of creation from God’s perspective. We watch God form a dome that separates the waters. The water above is called sky or firmament, the water below is further separated into earth and sea (vv. 6, 10). The dry land produces grass and vegetation. All these actions create the space and support for later creations (see the following lessons).
Each day is set apart by a poetic, perhaps even musical refrain, “and the evening and the morning were the first . . . second . . . third day.” God is the sole and sovereign creator who speaks and all things respond. All is as God desires it to be: “Good, very good.”
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence