As we suggested in the first article in this series, the very first words of the first book of the Bible are the lead-in to the story the author of the Bible is going to tell. They give us a clue as to how the book is to be read. In our typical Bible study classes in churches we tend to do verse by verse analysis of scripture and as a result we fail to grasp the “big picture.” This causes us to get lost in the details – we fail to see the forest on account of the trees.
The first few chapters of Genesis set the scene for all that is to follow. They introduce the major characters – the “hero,” the protagonist and the conflict – all essential elements of story. All the rest is the account of the development of the conflict and the working out of the resolution.
In this story, God is the hero. Genesis 1 leaps right in without telling us anything about who God is; it only tells us what God did “in the beginning.” That there was a beginning fits completely with the known facts about the universe – that it had a beginning. The Bible’s answer to the question of where did it all come from is answered in the simple statement that “…God created the heavens and the earth.” The remainder of Genesis 1 is a brief description of what God did and the sequence in which He did it, with the culmination of that creation being that…
“…God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” (v. 27).
The two main points we should remember from Genesis 1 is that (1) God is behind it all and (2) man was created in God’s image. The how of the creation is not described. That is not for us to know. We learn from what is said that He is infinitely powerful and can do whatever He pleases and that what He does is “good,” or by looking at creation in its totality, “very good.” The goodness of creation tells us something of the nature of the creator. He is good. An evil being does not, as a rule, do good things. But a good God does not and cannot do anything but good things. Thus, everything He has made is a reflection of goodness of His nature and His glory.
Other than something of His power and His goodness, the nature of God – what He is like as a living being – is to be gathered from the remainder of the story as He has revealed Himself to various people at various times through His mighty deeds.
Something of what God expects of human beings is to be gathered in the last verses of chapter 1 and in chapter two. Man, being made in the image of God should tell us that God has extremely high expectations for us. Although it has been seriously neglected, we cannot overstress this point about man being made in the image of God. It is central to the whole purpose of God as He has dealt with man through the ages.
God’s assignment to man was that he should “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.” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). He said to the man and the woman whom He created, “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.” He planted a beautiful garden, put man in it with the instruction that he was to “work it and keep it.” (v. 15).
All this says that man was expected to continue God’s work started in creation. Man was to become co-rulers with Him over the works of His hand. He was to develop, enhance, adorn, keep and protect this glorious creation so that the God of glory might be seen in everything.
If everything had gone according to God’s design, as the population of the earth grew and civilization developed the whole earth would have become an extension of the Garden of Eden. But that was not to be. There was one thing about man that made failure possible – the power and right of man to choose – the power of free will. By placing the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the garden and saying to man, “you shall not eat” of it, we know that man had both the ability and the freedom to choose to eat or not to eat. And of course, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, and as the saying goes, “The rest is history.” Or should we say, “His story?”