In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
WHAT IS IT?
In ancient days, books were named according to the first words written. The Hebrews titled this book “Bereshith,” meaning “In the beginning.” Around 250 B.C., the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the translation (known as the Septuagint or, LXX) entitled this book with the Greek equivalent “Genesis” which was retained by both the Latin and English translations because it is such a wonderfully descriptive title. The book gives us the beginnings of the doctrines of God, creation, man, and salvation. Messiah Jesus is promised in Genesis 3:15. Genesis lays the foundation upon which the rest of the Bible stands.
Yet, Genesis is not a textbook of theology. It is a collection of narrative accounts, or stories arranged by theme. The first eleven chapters deal with the history of the earth. Chapters 12-50 cover the accounts of Israel’s founding families. In scholarly language, chapters 1-11 are primeval history and chapters 12-50 are patriarchal history. “The famous Hebrew term toledoth, literally translated ‘generations of,’ occurs ten times in Genesis. Five refer to primeval history and five to patriarchal history.”Five accounts are narratives and five accounts are genealogies.
The first eleven chapters give us the universal history of the cosmos in five stories that each have the same structure. These accounts are of Adam, Cain, the sons of God marrying the daughters of man, the flood, and the tower of Babel. “All five stories follow this fourfold pattern: a) Sin: the sin is described; b) Speech: there is a speech by God announcing the penalty; c) Grace: God brings grace to the situation to ease the misery due to sin; and d) Punishment: God punishes the sin.”Each story represents a growing flood of sin bringing an increasing severity of punishment that is met with an abundant supply of grace. Adam and Eve rebel, are banished from God’s heavenly presence, keep their earthly lives, and receive the promise of the Seed of the Woman. Cain is banished from his family but is given God’s mark of protection. God sends a flood but preserves mankind through Noah’s family. Mankind unifies to defy God at Babel and God, rather than destroying them, instead separates them into new language groups.
The distinction between the Godly line and the evil world grows sharper in chapters 12-50 with the accounts of the patriarchs. Abraham receives God’s promise that the line of the Promised Seed of the Woman will continue through him and bless all the world. Despite the many sins of Abraham’s descendants, we see God preserving and blessing them as he continues to gather a people for himself out of scattered humanity. This first book of scripture is all about grace. Paul summed it up well in Romans 5:20, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The sinful lives of God’s promise-bearers cannot stop God’s promises. Judgment and grace are two separate, but inseparable principles built into God’s created universe.
AUTHOR, DATE, CIRCUMSTANCES
Both Old Testament and New Testament sources affirm that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy (Exodus 17: 14; Deuteronomy 31: 24; Joshua 8: 31; 2 Kings 14: 6; Romans 10: 5; and 2 Corinthians 3: 15). Jesus himself confirms Mosaic authorship in John 5:45-47. Moses’ writing was somewhat revised and added to by editors. Moses likely did not write Deuteronomy 34, the last chapter of the book, which describes his death.
Genesis was written during the time of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. As God’s people thought over God’s promise of a new land, they naturally would have been interested in the story of how their ancestors came to Egypt, how they had come to have a special relationship with YHWH, and who exactly was this God of theirs in relation to the many gods of Egypt and the pagan creation myths they had heard. So, God met Moses with his word, giving him not only Genesis but the other four books of what we commonly call the Pentateuch, with Genesis being written to explain the basis for God’s covenants with his people.
God had just delivered his people from an oppressive, demonic culture of pantheism with its elaborate stories of the many Egyptian gods’ love affairs and reproduction and jealousies and murders and warfare that were said to have produced the earth and the heavens. Egyptian priests often acted out the creation myths in elaborate ceremonies that drew many Israelites into their pagan practices. So, Moses begins his first book by establishing the true record of creation as an act of the one true God.
As R. Kent Hughes writes in his commentary on Genesis:
His style was one of calm, majestic, measured grandeur. Moses did not condescend to mention the pagan worldviews but answered them through deliberate, solemn utterances that dismissed the opposing cosmologies by silence and subtle allusion: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (vv. 1, 2). The emphasis is threefold: first God, then the universe, and then the earth.
ALL ABOUT GOD
Moses begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”God’s name, Elohim, dominates the whole chapter— occurring thirty-five times, so that it catches the reader’s eye repeatedly. Most Christian scholars see the entire Trinity at work in this passage because the name “God,” Elohim, is in the plural, and the verb “created” (bara) is in the singular, so that God (plural) created (singular). The Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters. The Son was an active participant as well, as we read in John 1:1-5.
There are certain modern translations that wrestle with the Hebrew grammar to give us the interpretation, When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was void and without form. This leads to an interpretation that matter was co-existent with God at the time of creation. However, creation of absolutely everything out of absolutely nothing is taught in the vocabulary of the passage. Calvin wrote, “[Moses] …teaches by the word ‘created,’ that what before did not exist was now made; for he has not used the term יצר, (yatsar,) which signifies to frame or form but ברא, (bara) which signifies to create.”
There was nothing but God before God began to create. Someone once asked Martin Luther what God was doing before He began to create. Dr. Luther replied, “He was cutting switches to flog inquisitive questioners.” But the answer of the ancient Rabbis is more enlightening: before God created, He was silent. That is, He was perfectly content in and of Himself. There was no need among the Trinity; God did not needto create. God was not lonely, or bored. God was not floating in space because there was no space. There was only God; and everything he created, he created from himself.Everything has its being out from God’s person – making God’s hatred of sin a very personal thing for him. The entire creation comes from his essence – making sin a deeply personal insult to the very essence of God.
Moses showed the clear meaning his creation account in Psalm 90:2 when he sang, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” At the beginning of all matter, God was there. At the end of all matter as we experience it now, God will be there. St. Author of Hebrews gave it precise explanation, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11: 3; cf. Isaiah 40: 26; Revelation 4: 11).Moses was attacking the Egyptian creation myths of multiple gods (polytheism) and spirits being united into creation (pantheism).
Genesis 1 is the answer to philosophical materialism and naturalism, which hold that the only real things are material, physical things— or as the opening line of Carl Sagan’s best-seller Cosmos puts it: “The cosmos is all there is, or has been, or will be”— matter is God! This is dominant world view of the sciences for over one hundred years. And it is defended, by some, against all logic— for fear that the religion of materialism might crumble with the possibility of the Divine existence – as would the notion that truth is defined by only what humans can observe. To the materialist, observation is absolute. Divine revelation is irrational. Absolute devotion to materialism has been the creed of Darwinian evolution. It has been the creed of philosophy and all social thought since Adam rejected God’s revelation in favor of his own observations and ate his sacramental meal with Satan in the Garden.
In the beginning, God existed in plural unity as the Holy Trinity. In the beginning, God was existing from eternity to eternity. In the beginning, God was— before there was as much as a quark or lepton of the cosmos.
The late Professor Stephen Hawking, wrote in his best-selling A Brief History of Time that our galaxy is an average-sized spiral galaxy that looks to other galaxies like a swirl in a pastry roll and that it is over 100,000 light-years across— about six hundred trillion miles. He said, “We now know that our galaxy is only one of some hundred thousand million that can be seen using modern telescopes, each galaxy itself containing some hundred thousand million stars.”It is commonly held that the average distance between these hundred thousand million galaxies (each six hundred trillion miles across and containing one hundred thousand million stars) is three million light-years!
God not only created the vastness; he also created every speck of dust in the hundred thousand million galaxies of the universe. He created every atom— the sub-microscopic solar systems with their whimsically named quarks (from James Joyce’s Three Quarks for Master Mark) and leptons (the same Greek word used for the widow’s mite) and electrons and neutrinos (“little neutral ones”)— all of which have no measurable size.
The spectacular nature of creation has been the subject of famous biblical poems like Job 38, Psalms 19, 33, 136, and Isaiah 40 and 45. Isaiah 40 references creation repeatedly, culminating in God’s statement:
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.(vv. 25, 26)
What these four English words – In the beginning, God …tell us is that all of our life is to be about the worship of God. God made us to worship. As his image-bearers, God has ingrained into us the fundamental need to worship. What do I mean by “worship?” The Biblical words translated as “worship” from Hebrew or Greek, speak to us of both internal attitudeand external action.
If all of life is about worship, then we need to know what worship is. Paul defines it for us in Romans 11:36 through 12:2:
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
These first four words of God’s revelation, In the beginning, God… demand of us, above all else, that we see God as our highest good, that we give ourselves over to praising Him alone, and that we sacrifice EVERYTHINGto Him! Every one of our idols – politics, food, health, family, money, power, reputation, pride, even church life – must be cast down before the only Being worthy of worship. That means that every sin issue, every addiction, in your life is ultimately a worship issue. At the end of the day, EVERYTHING we worship instead of Jesus will let us down. It will bring you bitterness and anger and disappointment because you were not created to worship that thing, that person, that lifestyle, that life-goal, or even that church. When we get to Genesis 3, we will see that played out in the choices of our parents, Adam and Eve.
When Moses writes that …God created the heavens and the earth,he is using a literary expression called a mirism.The most famous merisms are found in Ecclesiastes where we read those phrases: a time to be born / a time to die; a time to build up / a time to tear down; a time to laugh / a time to cry, etc. Both here and in Ecclesiastes the form means from first to last and everything in between.It means the whole enchilada.
God made everything from the galaxy containing millions of stars and planets that are so far away even our best telescopes can see it only as a pinprick of light, to the tiniest particle of matter that not even the greatest electron microscope can detect. There are billions and billionsof stars, and planets composing countless galaxies. Many of their movements are violent and seemingly random, but God made them and governs them down to their last detail. They are held together by the good pleasure of Jesus, as we read in Col. 1:15-17:
15 [Jesus]is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For byhim all things were created, in heaven and on earth[another mirism], visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
When Job at the very height of his suffering and grief and misery questions God, God does not answer Job directly. He never says, Job, this is why your children were killed and this is why you are sick and bankrupt and miserable.
I can look out over this room this morning and spot the faces of several of you who are members of Job’s club. In your darkest moments of grief and pain you cry out, Why? God rarely answers, Because…. It’s the wrong question. These first few verses of Genesis don’t answer the why, they answer something FAR more profound and fundamental. They answer the Who. Job cries, “Why?” God answers “Who!” God takes Job back to this very point in space-time here in Genesis, the creation of all things out of nothing:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
Your first need is not health, or wealth, or even family! Before all else, your first need, your highest and best good which demands your time and talent and resources and love, is the Creator God through the Lord Jesus Christ!
God asked Job:
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, 20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” 
Our first need is the one thing, by our sin nature, we absolutely do not want.We want whatever we falsely believe benefits us. We want to control our lives and the lives of everyone around us. When others fail to worship our agenda, we bind them on the altar of our idols and slash them open with our tongues. We plot and scheme to punish them into submission to our will. We want to do what feels good to us.
But Moses tells us the darkness of our self-worship is completely illogical since we have been created by God to live and walk in the light of Messiah Jesus.
In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Ge 1:3-5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Jn 1:1-5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Hughes, R. Kent. Genesis (Preaching the Word) (p. 16). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Hughes, 18. (Kindle Edition).
Calvin, J. Calvin’s Commentaries: Genesis(electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Calvin’s Commentaries (Gen 1:1).
Hughes, 19. Kindle Edition.
Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1990), p. 37.
Hughes, op. cit.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Rom. 11:36-12:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Col 1:15-17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Job 38:4-13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Job 38:19-21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.