"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1). From the beginning of Scripture, it is clear that the origin of the world and everything in it is God. But what else does Genesis have to teach us about who this God is? As we talked about before, the first twelve chapters of the Bible introduce every significant doctrine of the Christian faith. One of the most important of those doctrines is what is known as theology proper. It is the doctrine of God. Who is God, and what is he like? As A.W. Tozer famously wrote, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." (Knowledge of the Holy) As far as the things we think and do, this is absolutely true. But of more importance, as C.S. Lewis notes, "How God thinks of us is not only more important but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it relates to how he thinks of us." (The Weight of Glory) I believe that these are two sides of the same coin. To understand how God thinks of us, we need to understand who he is. That is how he has revealed himself in his word. We cannot truly understand how God thinks of us apart from understanding who he is. So what does the Bible's first book teach us about who God is and how he thinks of us?
As I said, the first thing we see about God is that he is the creator, but something else that immediately becomes evident is that he is intentional, ordered, and creative. In the six days of creation, there are incredible depths of wonder, from the fact that the first three days are mirrored in the second three days to the fact that everything is thought out and structured. Every part of the creation account screams the wonder of this God. On the first day, he creates light. But unlike anything that we create, he does not use existing material but simply speaks light into existence. There was nothing before he spoke, and there was light after he spoke. This teaches us something of his power. If we read between the lines a little bit, we can get an even greater glimpse of his power. "In the beginning" is temporal language, meaning it is the language of the time. Before God speaks the universe into existence, there is no such thing as time. This might be one of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around. We are so connected to time that thinking of time's absence does not make sense to us. The best way I have heard it explained is by comparing our world to a story in a book. The characters in the story exist in their own time, but you, as the reader, are outside of their time.
How He Works
Something else we learn about God in the first couple of chapters of Genesis is that God works in a variety of ways. In the creation narrative, we see the Lord both speak things into existence as well as use parts that he has already created to influence and work in his creation. For example, he creates the plants and then nurtures and sustains them by using the water he has already created. In this, we see both direct and indirect interaction with creation. Man is the most remarkable example of this. Man is created not like everything else but is molded out of the dust of the earth, and woman is created out of the rib of the man. These two are created for the purpose of working in and administering the world God has created. But they are not the only ones working. God does not simply leave everything to them but continues to be active in his creation. We see this in how the Lord brings all the animals to Adam for him to name them. The Lord walks in the garden with Adam and Eve, talking with them. This kind of direct and indirect interaction does not stop with Adam and Eve. Even now, the Lord is working both directly and indirectly. As Paul puts it in Romans 8, "And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Sometimes, the Lord acts directly, taking away sickness, bringing the rain when it is needed, and so on, and sometimes, he works indirectly through people. He works through all people at all times. He worked through Pharoh to demonstrate his power and glory to the world, and he worked through the preaching of the gospel to demonstrate his grace.
Genesis is the starting point of the whole story of the universe. In the rest of Scripture, the Lord continues to reveal more and more about himself. He reveals his name, his grace and mercy, his justice and wrath, and so much more. The pages of scripture are filled with the working of the Lord as he reveals himself. This year, as I have started to read through the whole of the Bible again, I have been highlighting every time the Lord is named and taking a look at what is being revealed about the Lord each time a name is mentioned. It has been quite an encouraging study so far, and I expect it to continue to be so. There is so much more that we can learn about the nature and attributes of God in the first twelve chapters than what we have talked about here today. From the way he interacts with people through covenants to his plan for salvation from sin, all of it has its origins here. I hope that this will encourage you to dig deeply into Genesis and start to trace the lines that flow out from there. As we might say, this is only the beginning. What the Lord has started, he will see through to the end. He is not finished with us yet.
Soli Deo Gloria