In the beginning…..
If like me you are an avid reader, you will know that a beginning like that is something authors would gladly swap their laptops for, it sure makes ‘Once upon a time…..’ look like the stuff of children’s stories – which of course it is.
It is fact the very first line of the very first chapter of the very first book in the most important, incredible , inspired and inspiringvolume of histories, stories, biographies poetry gospels letters and prophecies that make up the holy Bible.
Why are we embarking together as a Church on this challenge of reading the Essential 100 bible readings over the next few months? Well, for one thing I hope it will be the catalyst for us to read and re-read our bibles and engage us in the word of God. I hope through doing the daily readings together, by getting involved in a small group or Buzz group that we will learn together that there is much, much more to this book than we perhaps are aware.
Because this is a very special book, it is inspired by God and it charts the history of all that God is has done and all that he is doing in the world today. The Bible was written by faithful men and women over a period of 3000 years or more, it records in different literary genres the story of God’s people. That is, you and me, our heritage and who our God is. It can speak to us today as it has spoken to generations of believers and unbelievers for thousands of years.
It is impossible to read this book and not be changed in some way. It is exciting and challenging, it is full of things that will surprise us and things that may cause us to stop and think.
No matter how well you know your scriptures, whether you’re new to this book or an ‘old hand’ let’s be ready to be inspired and challenged.
Despite it’s age the individual books of the Bible have survived pretty intact and unaltered right down to our modern translations. Even though until 1948 many of our own earliest manuscripts for the Old Testament in-particular, came from medieval sources. When the dead sea scrolls were discovered they were found to include a number of much earlier biblical material including nearly complete version of Isaiah. Despite being over 1100 years older than the previously known oldest version there was very little difference in the two manuscripts:
Norman Geisler comments for example:
“Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The three remaining letters comprise the word LIGHT, which is added in verse 11 and which does not affect the meaning greatly.
Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission – and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.”(Norman Geisler & William Nix, “A General Introduction to the Bible”, Moody Press, Page 263).
This has been borne out again and again as new manuscripts for biblical texts have been discovered.
We can be fairly sure therefore that the Bible we have today is an accurate and faithful translation of what the Father’s of the faith recorded across the centuries.
So we start this E100 Challenge appropriately enough in Genesis. Today’s reading came form Genesis 3, though our E100 daily readings will takes us through selected parts Chapters 1 – 11.
Genesis takes us through God’s creation of the universe, the start of mankind and the fall away from God and to God’s promises for future restoration.
Now I don’t to get caught down some-sort of philosophical cul-de-sac this morning – so I just need to say this: No matter what your view of creation is – whether you are an out-and-out creationist who believes in the literal truth of Genesis, or if you’re an evolutionist/big-bang subscriber – no matter where between those two spectra you may be, if you reduce the Biblical account of Genesis to no more than the sum of it’s parts you’re missing the point. Genesis serves to impart the universal truth that God is the beginning of all things, that no matter what actually happened at the dawn of time, this world and all that is in it is God inspired and brought into being by him.
(thats all I am going to say about that now but to discuss it more – join a Buzz group)
So…In the Beginning…..
Image for a moment what it would have been like in the beginning, before anything had been destroyed or tainted. Imagine being there in the beginning when God looked at everything he had made and said it was all very good!
And human beings were part of that very-goodness. The Bible says that unlike the rest of creation, people were made in the very image of God. One commentator describes it as having one foot firmly in creation but with one foot in the divine realm. That position gives human beings a God-given dignity and value that the rest of creation, beautiful though it is, simply does not have.
And with it comes a God-given responsibility to oversee the earth as God’s representatives (the Hebrew word is râdâ meaning ‘steward’); ruling as God would, with his authority to be creative and make wise decisions, but knowing all the time that ultimately we must answer to God. That is what sets us apart from the rest of the animals on the planet. And in the beginning, we understood our place, and all was perfect.
Our reading from Genesis 3 talks of God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day- that was the relationship we had with God then – man and God and creation in perfect harmony. The world God created was perfect. We have no idea how long those first people were in that relationship with God – in that perfect place – the Bible doesn’t say the narrative moves swiftly on to the moment when it all goes wrong.
All of us would agree I’m sure that beautiful though this world is; things are far from perfect now. In a world where there is so much wealth and where so much technological and scientific progress has been made, millions still die daily because of preventable diseases, or from starvation, when millions more are obese.
And we no longer have the excuse that we just don’t know. With satellites and worldwide TV networks we know exactly where there is great suffering going on; it’s just that collectively we have neither the desire nor the energy to do anything about it. It just feels too overwhelming.
So where does this wickedness and apathy come from? According to the Bible it entered the world when human beings sought to rebel against God’s authority and take control. It was pride that quite literally came before the fall.
That’s what’s going on in Genesis 3. You know the story, the serpent appears and tells Adam and Eve, who incidentally were together at the time, that God is a spoil sport and that if they want to be like or equal with God then they need to eat the fruit from the tree from which God had forbidden them to eat. And so Eve ate, and Adam, who said nothing to defend God or protect his wife from this tragic mistake, ate some too. And in that moment of rebellion when mankind reached up to take God’s crown, the whole of
creation was tarnished.
It seems such a little thing, but like leaving a single red sock in a washing machine full of white shirts has a dramatic affect on everything, so Adam and Eve’s pride and disobedience had some awful consequences.
When we look around the world today it’s easy to see just how broken it has become.
As well as incredible medical cures we have developed deadly viruses that could wipe out entire nations.
As well as sending rockets to the moon we have developed weapons of such great ferocity and accuracy that a single apartment can be hit from thousands of miles away or see whole cities flattened.
Through the internet we can communicate with billions of people around the world instantly, but has also made pornography more accessible, and abuse of the vulnerable easier.
(and so on)
Whatever we touch gets tainted whether they are our relationships of our environment.
Our world is in a desperate state. Across the globe deserts are growing, rain forests are being felled, seas and rivers are becoming toxic and species after species are dying out. And behind every door in every town in every country across the world there are tales of sadness and suffering, of dreams lost and promise unfulfilled, of broken promises and damaged relationships. Our world is in a terrible state. And we are to blame.
Like the builders of the Tower of Babel we’ll read about in Genesis 11 we have become interested as a species in only our own glory, not God’s. Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule and chose to go their own way. And since then the human race has been in rebellion against God, rejecting him as our rightful Lord and treating with contempt our
fellow human beings and the world God made and once called very good.
But there is hope. At this time time of year, at Easter in particular we are reminded that God always had a plan for our redemption. From the moment the human race rebelled against God, He set in motion a plan to win us back.
We also catch just a glimpse of God’s long term plan of salvation for the world. It’s tucked away in Genesis 3:15 – God tells the serpent that one day one of Adam’s descendants would crush his head. And in this subtle verse we are being pointed to the arrival of one who would, by his death and resurrection, totally and comprehensively defeat the power Satan in this world.
Jesus, by his death and resurrection crushed Satan. The very last book in the bible, the book of Revelation, promises us that when Christ returns, as he has promised to, that death and sin and sickness and pain will be no more, and God that will dwell again with his people again, as he did in the beginning. This is the perfect world we long for; the world that God created and will one day be renewed. Can you imagine that? A new earth like this one but perfect. Where we are no longer separated from the people we love. Where sadness and death and crying and pain no longer exist. Where we are at home without the fear of separation.
As we read these first chapters of Genesis over the next week we are reminded of how we have failed God, how we destroyed the perfect creation he provided for us.
But we are also given that hope in the future. The hope of Noah and God’s promise sealed with a rainbow, The hope of the coming Christ who would die to repay a debt that we cannot afford and enable us to have a relationship with our Father again.
Let’s pray together.