As businesses and community spaces cautiously begin to reopen, I have to admit that I am pretty excited. In a way, after nearly two months of forced “vacation,” I am ready to get back to work. While I have enjoyed the extra time with my family and working on projects around the house, I have missed working. And, I think there is a good reason. We are built for work. From the very beginning, we were designed, crafted to create and be creative.
“In the beginning,” God worked. I know this is a pretty basic observation, but unfortunately, this simple fact is often overlooked when we explore the story of creation in Genesis. Far too many teachers and theologians, in their attempt to squeeze this account of creation into their larger agenda to prove how God created the universe, miss the other significant truths from the story. In their desire to prove their point, they may have completely missed the point. What if this creation story is not about the chronology of creation, but the character of the Creator?
So, let’s take a moment and look at the work God does in creation. Why does God work? What does God’s work in creation tell us about God’s character? What was the author of Genesis trying to tell us about who God is? In fact, what makes this particular account of creation so important and meaningful that it is the very first thing we read about God? Of all possible events, lessons or truths, the story of God starts here. What if the author was not as interested in the “how” of creation, as much as learning more about “who” did the creating? After all, the fundamental reason that the Bible was passed along from generation to generation was not to give us a working knowledge of how the universe came into being, but to give us an opportunity to get to know the One who created it.
What kind of God creates like this?
What kind of God works like this?
If you have not read the story of creation in Genesis 1-2:4a recently, you can click here to view my translation. I have also organized the text to emphasize the themes that we will be exploring below.
Typically, we assume that the six days of creation are arranged chronologically. After all, how else would we read a story that seems to be based on a sequence of days in the universe’s first work week. However, as we progress through the week we might take note of a few inconsistencies in this approach. For example, how did light exist before the Sun, Moon, or stars? How can we even mark a day before the Sun makes its first sunrise or sunset? Or, how do you mark a month without a full moon?
When our kids were very young and we were living in Georgia, we had a playroom upstairs. It was a large open room with natural light flooding in from a big window overlooking a forested backyard. We had cubbies, trunks and buckets strategically located around the room to organize a collection of Legos, Lincoln Logs, Matchbox Cars, and games. Each morning, sunlight would filter through the tall pines and dance across the clean, empty floor. A peaceful quiet seemed to ride upon the sunlight of a new morning as it entered our home.
Then, the kids awoke…
By evening, I am not sure I could tell you the color of the carpet. Instead, we had to cautiously tread across a chaotic sea filled with the flotsam and jetsam from another fun-filled day.
When we look at the first three days of the creation story in Genesis, I think we find a similar idea. In the beginning, we are told that the universe was chaotic, without form or order. The howl of the wind was deafening, and the waves were breaking in every direction over a darkened sea. Chaos reigned. Into this chaos walks a Parent who said, “Enough!”
When we walk into a chaotic mess, what is our first goal? We need to stop the chaos and assess the situation. Before we can start cleaning-up, we need to stop whatever, or whoever, is making the mess. This is exactly what God does over the course of the first three “days” of creation. God shows up in the middle of the chaos and starts setting limits and outlining boundaries. Let’s call it a cosmic “time-out.” On the first day, light and darkness are confined. When light is created, darkness is not eliminated, but limited. On the second day, an expanse or dome was created to separate “the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse.” (Genesis 1:7a) With the waters above and below put back into their cubbies, God sets further limits on the seas so that land appears. In each of the first three days, chaos is arrested by the work of God.
So, with chaos controlled, God begins the clean-up project. As we look at the next three days, we find some important similarities. Take a look at how the first three days are paralleled with the second set of three days.
Day One Day Four
Light is separated from darkness The lights in the heavens move according to God’s direction.
Day Two Day Five
Waters above & below are separated The animals of the waters above (birds) and below (fish, etc.) are commanded to fill the earth
Day Three Day Six
Waters are separated from the land The land animals are commanded to fill the earth
Once chaos has been brought under God’s control on each of the first three days, everything is redirected to work according to God’s creative design. For example, on the first day, light and darkness are given limits. Then, on the fourth day, light and darkness are released from their “time-out” and given specific tasks within their areas of expertise. Likewise, after the heavens and seas are neatly organized on the second day, they are commanded to swarm with living creatures on the fifth day. Finally, on the sixth day, the animals are told to fill the spaces created three days ago by the brand new shorelines.
Instead of six days, we really have what appears to be two parallel sets of three days. Over the course of the first three days, God limits chaos and establishes boundaries. Then, once chaos has come to an end, God gets creation moving in the right direction. But, notice that God does not do all of the work Himself during the second set of three days. When He limited chaos, he also created space. Space for creation to create. Space for us to continue the work and to be creative.
The author of Genesis shows us that this Creator not only has the power to limit chaos, but He also has a desire for His creation to participate. God wants His creation, you and me, to be involved in the process, to be “fruitful.” As part of God’s creation, we are given the honor and responsibility to help limit chaos and be creative in our world. Today, we have the great privilege of continuing the work of invention and innovation. And, yes, that even includes cleaning up the playroom at the end of the day.