Now this story that I am talking with you about is a big one. It helps I think to divide it up a bit. If you want to divide this story up in order to better understand it, one of my favorite ways to do so, is to divide up into four big sections.
And the first section is the beginning and that’s creation.
God creates with a word.
The story begins with God creating a good and perfect world.
This is where everything came from.
And if you need a verse to attach to this, you might just pick the very first one.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Now the first chapter of Genesis is going to describe primarily God’s creating of what’s on the earth, but we know from other parts of the Bible, that God also created what’s in heaven, and one of the things that God created which is in heaven, are angels, spirit beings who were created to be God’s servants.
Nehemiah 9:6 tells us what happened. “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host.”
We don’t know exactly when in all that’s happening with Genesis 1 God created these angelic beings, but I think it must have been before he created much of everything else because Job 38:7 describes them as shouting for joy as they watched God create everything we see in the universe.
And I think we can understand these angelic beings being impressed by the creation of the universe, because God did it all with just a word out of nothing.
When I was telling this story to children recently, I asked them to imagine being asked to build a house out of nothing. What would you say if I told you that I wanted you to build a house but you weren’t allowed to use any materials to build it? I then had one of the children come up and try, and they stood in the middle of the circle and they shouted let there be a house, and you know what happened after they shouted that, the same thing that happens when you or I shout it, and that’s nothing. But God demonstrates His absolute control over everything by simply saying let there be light and there is light and let there be an ocean and there is an ocean and let there be stars and there are stars.
God creating everything like this is significant because it not only shows His power, it also reminds us of His ownership. Because God created everything, He obviously owns everything.
The Bible says it like this,
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (Psalm 24:1)
This means that absolutely everything you see belongs to Him.
But even though it all belongs to Him, He by nature is generous, and we see that generosity even in the way He created the world, because He created all these things for a very special purpose and part of that purpose was to increase the joy of us as human beings.
He created everything good and He created this good and beautiful world as a means of making Himself look great through showing His love to us as humans.
We hear a lot about humans as another kind of animal; it always seems strange to me that people so desperately want to be the same as all the other animals, because it is so obvious we aren’t; and as we read the first chapter of Genesis we see very clearly that humans are much more than just another animal to God because everything in the first chapter leads up to God’s creation of us as human beings.
I was asking a group of young people recently to tell me what was different about them as humans than dogs, and surprisingly it took them a little while to come up with some of the differences but finally they said things like they bark and we talk, they walk on four legs and we walk on two, and while there are all kinds of differences like that, there is one difference that is even more significant and that is the fact that humans were created in the image of God and animals were not.
To be very specific in Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man in our image; after our likeness.”
To explain what that means very quickly, one author explains the word likeness “indicates that man has a special relationship with God like that of father and son” and the word “image indicates that man was created to have a special position and status as king under God.” Humans have a special relationship with God and a special status in the world.
Apparently in the ancient world a king would often set up his statue (likeness, image) in certain places to proclaim that he was ruling over the area where the statue was placed. And in a similar way, God placed man in the middle of creation to function something like his statue. Men were to be reminders that God is King of creation, and to serve as God’s managers over that creation, servants through which God would exercise His rule.
Of course this is a great privilege and it’s hard to conceive of what life must have been like for the first two humans that God made, Adam and Eve, I mean, imagine it, in a sinless world, a world where man’s relationship with the earth was perfect, there was no pain, no suffering, where man’s relationship with each other was perfect, there was no conflict, no fighting, just love and where man’s relationship with God was perfect, there was no hiding, no guilt, no shame, just intimacy, people walking and talking with God as you might with a friend.
And one of the ways we see God showing His love for men and women was by making a very special place for them to spend time with Him and to worship Him, and the Bible describes that place as the Garden of Eden. This was a place where man would meet with God. In fact, some people describe it as being something like the first temple, a sanctuary, where men could enjoy God’s special presence.
This was God’s amazing plan, to fill the earth with people who would know Him, enjoy Him and delight in His character forever. To fill the earth, in other words, with worshipers.
And in the middle of all these amazing blessings, God gave man only one rule to follow. Now we don’t always like rules, but of course, we know as parents that we give our children rules because we love them. And this rule that God gave man was fairly easy to follow, he told him that he must not eat of one particular tree in the garden and he warned him of the consequences; and this was not a difficult rule, Adam and Eve were was able to eat of every other tree, not just in the Garden but in the entire world and they were the only people on the planet, so it’s not like there was a lot of competition for food. What I am saying is that God was not giving man this rule because He was stingy or unkind, but instead there was something deeper going on and I think it is because God wanted man to learn to trust Him and to obey Him as His servant.
By submitting to God’s Word, Adam and Eve would learn the joy of living in dependence on God’s Word.