Throughout these articles we have been stressing that Genesis matters for two fundamental reasons: 1) it tells us who God is, and 2) it tells us who we are. In other words, Genesis matters because it puts God and man in proper perspective. If we lose that perspective, we lose the concept of purpose for our existence. It is foundational to everything we do and think, so it is appropriate that we think even more about these vital points.
The two ideas regarding God and man go hand in hand. Paul made this connection in Romans 1. It is through the creation of the world that God’s “invisible attributes” may be “clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (vs. 20). Yet, even though mankind “knew God” by means of creation, they failed to “honor Him as God or give thanks.” Once this happened, “they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” When the proper understanding of God is given up, we become “fools,” exchanging “the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” As a result, God gives man over to impurities and dishonor. Why? Because man exchanged the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. The direct correlation is clear: when man forgets about God and dishonors Him, man himself is dishonored and loses his sense of purpose and dignity. Without a proper concept of the Creator, man has no hope of understanding his own purpose and value. And without Genesis, where would we go in our search to understand who God is?
When Moses came before Pharaoh to demand the release of Israel in the name of Yahweh, Pharaoh’s defiant reply was, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go” (Exod. 5:2). It’s not that Pharaoh didn’t believe in gods; he likely thought of himself as one. But he thought that Yahweh had no claim over him. He pitted his own will against Yahweh’s, much like Adam and Eve did in the garden. Yet this is a familiar problem to us. There are many who will not outright deny God’s existence, but they will think that God has no particular claim over their lives. To them, God is powerless and inconsequential. These are the fools of Psalm 14:1. Like Pharaoh, the world asks, “Who is God that I should obey Him?” Due to an utter failure to see God in His proper perspective, as Genesis teaches, they think there is “no divine purpose or providence for the human species” (Humanist Manifesto). Before it was over for Pharaoh, he learned well that Yahweh is indeed the true and living God. He learned firsthand of God’s goodness and severity, of His sovereignty and might. He learned that there was no power that could withstand Almighty God. These, of course, are the lessons of Genesis.
In a synopsis form, then, what does Genesis tell us about God? First, there is a Supreme Being who is not limited to the material universe. “God created” (Gen. 1:1) speaks to the fact that He stands outside of creation; He is not a part of it, but He transcends the natural world. Recall Solomon’s words as he was dedicating the temple that he built: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings ). Paul echoed the same thought in Acts 17: God “does not dwell in temples made with hands…” (vv. 24-25). We cannot think in such a way as to limit God to human limitations. He cannot be contained by human thought. He cannot be measured by science. He cannot be experimented with in a test tube. He is far too great for that. Always remember that God is in heaven and we are on earth. Our words need to be few and careful (Eccl. 5).
Second, God has made known His power through creating all things. Because of this, there is no excuse for not believing in Him (Rom. -20). “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The power and glory of this world is evidence to all, but He who made it far exceeds it in power and splendor.
Third, since God created all things, He has power and authority over all things. He created and sustains all things, including mankind. We are therefore under His authority; He has the right to command and expect obedience.
Fourth, God cares immensely about His creation. He has acted in history to deal with the problem of sin, showing us that He loves mankind and desires for us to be in fellowship with Him. From Genesis 3 on, the biblical story is about God carrying out His plan to make this happen.
What should our response be? How can it be anything but humility and submission? “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38). Who can approach God with wisdom and counsel? Who can match God’s power or try to inform Him of anything? “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add nothing more” (Job 40:3-5).
Next: man in the image of God
(Doy Moyer preaches regularly for the church in Cork, FL. He is a professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. He has his own web site located at http://studywell.org. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)