I often hear and read about people going on about how the God of the Old Testament is ‘evil’, normally with a list of his supposed crimes afterwards. So, as my New Year Bible challenge, I’m going through the Old Testament (just 4 chapters a day) and writing down, verse-by-verse all the OT indications as to who God is. I’m about half way into Genesis now, so I thought I’d share in this post the clues that the very first chapter of the Bible gives us about the nature of God.
Genesis chapter 1 is the creation poem. Generally, it seems to be agreed that it is a poem, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be taken literally as well. I know many Christians who take it literally and many Christians who take it in a more allegorical sense; the point of this blog isn’t to go into that, it’s to look at what it tells us about God. I might be wrong, but I don’t see why the picture of God that it gives would be different if you took it literally compared to taking it in the allegorical sense. Below, I have 5 verses leading to 5 clues about who God is.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God is the creator. For the purpose of this blog post, whatever opinions there may be about how God created the world are irrelevant, it seems to me that looking at the method is entirely besides the point in this passage. What matters here as that it’s pretty clear that God did create the world. What does this mean about who God is? Well, it means that God’s pretty creative for a start. If you look at some of the pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, you’ll see how amazingly artistic the universe is – it’s beautiful! Our God is an artist who seems to love creating beautiful things. What does that say about me and you?
Genesis 1:2 – Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. God is spirit. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial point to make, but it needs to be said all the same. God is not a physical being; we cannot reach out and touch him in the world we currently live in. That’s not to say that he can’t be a physical being. In the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord commonly appeared to the Israelites in a sensory way (normally sight or sound) and of course, when God came to Earth as Jesus Christ, he was a human just like us. But here in Genesis, God is spirit. Why is that important? Well, it means that he’s not bound by the physical world that he’s creating, he is different to it and he is free of its limitations. Christians do not worship a god that is simply the manifestation of nature, we worship the God who is greater than nature.
Genesis 1:4 – God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. ‘God saw that the light was good’. This says to me that God differentiates between good and bad. If something can be good, then clearly, something else can be bad. This means that God has standards and if the sovereign ruler and creator of the universe has standards, we need to sit up and take notice. Yes, I’m talking about absolute morality. As Christians, we are called to live by God’s standards of good or bad, not the standards of a leader on Earth or our own personal standards. This means that there can be no arguing about what’s right and wrong for us because we go by God’s right and wrong as revealed in the Bible. Still, this is a big topic and maybe I’ll go into it more another time. The important thing is that even in the first chapter of the Bible, it is revealed that God makes a distinction between good and bad.
Genesis 1:26a – Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ I admit that I haven’t checked the Hebrew for this verse, but I am (possibly naively) assuming that the word ‘our’ is used because there is a plural in the original text. This is important because it shows that God is plural. I’m not saying that there’s more than one God, I’m saying that God exists in, as it is called in Christian tradition, the Trinity. Three in one; one in three. I’m not going to try and explain this idea as an understandable concept because I can’t. However, if the plural word is used here, it shows that God exists as something more than a singular being and that this is important enough to include this early on in the Bible. Why is that important for us? Because if God existed as 3 persons for eternity before creation, it means that he has always existed in a state of mutual love, hence the New Testament verse that says ‘God is love‘ (1 John 4:8). That’s what that verse means! The Father and Son have always loved each other, the Father and Spirit have always loved each other and the Spirit and the Son have always loved each other! God is love because he has always loved. Amen.
Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Here we have it affirmed again that God is the creator, but more than that, he is the creator of man (by this I mean humanity) and man was created in his image. Here there is no distinction between man and woman in that they were both created in God’s image. What does this mean? Perhaps it means that humanity is God’s finest creation. If God is the greatest being in existence, surely beings made in his image are (or should be) the greatest in creation? How far we have fallen. And thank God that Jesus, the perfect man, the perfect image of God, came into the world to restore us to the fulness of life in which God created us originally. We were created by God, for God and in his image. We are called to be holy because God is holy. The blood of his perfect image cleanses us so that once more, we represent God on earth.
All that from 5 verses in the first chapter of the Bible! As and when I get more stuff like this from my reading, I’ll post it on here.
Thanks for reading!