Sermon Notes

September 2nd 2018

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson September 2nd

The Creation / Genesis 1:1-13 (NRSV/MSG)

1 1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then 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.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

MSG
1 1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—Day One.

6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
separate water from water!”
God made sky.
He separated the water under sky
from the water above sky.
And there it was:
he named sky the Heavens;
It was evening, it was morning—Day Two.

9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
Land, appear!”
And there it was.
God named the land Earth.
He named the pooled water Ocean.
God saw that it was good.

11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—Day Three.

INTRODUCTION TO THE LESSON
At its core, the Book of Genesis articulates stories of beginnings. Its title in the original Hebrew, b’reshiyt—coming from the first word of this first book—literally means “in beginning, in a beginning, or when beginning” according to African American Hebrew Bible scholar Wilda C. Gafney. Clearly, as the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, Genesis explores first things. It narrates the Divine catalyst of all creation; indicates the source of human physiology and identity; uncovers the keystone of evil and sin; and discloses the limitless bounds of God’s love for the whole world. However, while the book of Genesis tells the stories of beginnings, it does not speak of the creation of the One who creates (bara in Hebrew) beginnings, for God has no beginning.
Therefore, from organizing the cosmos, to facilitating humanity’s fruitfulness, to navigating the provision and protection of human progeny, the central actor in the book of Genesis is a God who is without beginning and without end—the One who just is. This quarter our lessons journey through God’s interaction with all of creation generally and humankind in particular, as recounted in the book of Genesis. God’s ongoing blessing of, and continual ordering of, creation is theologically significant for God’s blessing of and organizing work with all humanity—beyond Israel/Judah. For we cannot truly understand God’s creative interaction with Israel/Judah as recounted in the Bible if we do not grasp how all of humanity is universally connected to God’s creation and interaction with the cosmos. According to Terence E. Fretheim, “The Bible begins with a testimony to the universal activity of God. God’s creative activity not only brought the word into being but also was effectively engaged in the lives of individuals and peoples long before Israel came into being.” This week’s lesson explores the primeval story of creation and the disruption of the unordered chaos of the universe.
BRIEF BACKGROUND ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS
According to both Christian and Jewish tradition, Moses wrote the book of Genesis through direct dictation from God. However, the Hebrew Bible does not indicate this understanding, and ancient manuscripts of Genesis lack any claim of authorship. The first text that makes this claim is the second century BCE Book of Jubilees. Jubilees also claims that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch. Currently, traditional scholarship generally accepts that the book of Genesis, along with the rest of the Pentateuch, likely first consisted of oral traditions that were composed by multiple sources. Later, writers then edited those oral traditions together in written form during the monarchical period through the exilic/post-exilic period (approximately the tenth through sixth centuries BCE).
There are two main section in the book of Genesis, the primeval history in chapters 1-11, and the ancestral history in chapters 12-50, which is often divided into the stories about Abraham and Sarah (12-25), stories about Jacob and Esau (26-36), and stories about Jacob’s children (37-50).

INTO THE VERSES
1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
In verses 1-2, the writer gets right to the point, narrating the creation of the world. Because there are numerous creation myths in the Ancient Near East (i.e., Enuma Elish, and Atrahasis), the biblical writer makes sure that the hearers/readers of Genesis understands that this is not any ordinary creation story. Unlike other origin stories in the ANE, the God who creates in Genesis 1, does so alone, and is supreme—without equal. God creates (bara) from nothing, everything that is seen and that which cannot be seen. The text says the earth was without form. It was void and an unending pit of nothingness. Yet, God creates something out of nothing. The biblical writer is clear that only Elohim can bara out of thin air. God is the only subject of this verb in the entire Old Testament.
Further, Eugene Peterson’s Message translation illuminates the immediacy of creation. “First, this” underscores the explosion of activity that bursts like a fountain from the watery abyss of nothing and the inception of ordered creation—including the creation of time itself. This creation account differs greatly from the creation account that begins in Genesis 2:4. In the second creation account, attributed to the Yhwh-istic writer, God creates with materials that already exist. However, in this creation account attributed to the Priestly writer, God creates from nothing.
Although it is undetectable in most English translations, Verse 2 communicates the female aspect of the Divine by employing the word ruah for God’s Spirit. By engaging the grammatical rules of the original Hebrew, a more accurate translation is “God’s Spirit, She hovered (as in Jeremiah 23:9)—brooding like a mother bird above the watery abyss”. Through applying the specific grammatical constructions of the Hebrew language, the reader is enabled to fully embrace the male/female aspect of God as presented in this verse. Further, this translation resonates with the Christian theological concept of the Trinity.
3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—Day One.
Verses 3-5 record the Divine activity on the first day of creation. Following a tri-fold formula of speaking, seeing and naming, the biblical writer says that God invoked Light with speech. The Divine Word of creation denotes the purposeful, intentional will of God. The Word of God is not part of created order, instead because it ushers forth from God, it transcends the created order; having a life that is separate and distinct from the created order. God’s speech and God’s creative action are one in the same. If God utters it, then it—whatever it may be—shall come forth.
God commands light into being and it immediately separates itself from the primeval darkness. God then names the light Day. Ancient Hebrews believed that light was emblematic of God’s presence. Thus, the creation of light automatically pushes back the darkness, just as God’s presence pushes back all that is not of God. God calls the name of Light’s opposing partner, Night and the two together become the first day.
6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
separate water from water!”
God made sky.
He separated the water under sky
from the water above sky.
And there it was:
he named sky the Heavens;
It was evening, it was morning—Day Two.
In verses 6-8, the trifold formula of speaking, seeing and naming continues. God speaks the Sky into existence from the midst of the primeval waters. The waters are an unorganized chaos, and God speaks boundaries where there were none, creating order—even separating the watery abyss into an oceanic dome above and an oceanic dome below. The Divine act of separating the waters, and God’s subsequent naming of the sky, then allows space for additional creation to appear. The land that is present in verses 1 and 2, cannot come forth in verses 9-10 without separation from the chaotic waters. The Divine acts of separation and naming underscores God’s singular authority as Sovereign to order and determine the reality of all creation. After naming the sky the Heavens, God’s creative activity on Day 2 concludes.

9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
Land, appear!”
And there it was.
God named the land Earth.
He named the pooled water Ocean.
God saw that it was good.

11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—Day Three.

In verses 9-10, the writer narrates the third day of Creation. God speaks and the waters beneath the heavens gather themselves into one place. Then God calls the land—which was already present but not visible—forth. The land makes itself present at the sound of God’s voice, and God names land the Earth. God then names the waters that pooled together the ocean. At this point in the creation narrative, the biblical writer pauses to say that God sees that Divine creation is good. God is having a reflective conversation with creation. God speaks, acts, sees, reflects, and then does the same all over again.
In the final verses of the pericope, verses 11-13 God once again speaks, telling the Earth to bring forth vegetation. “Earth, green-up!” All plants yield seeds of every kind, trees yield fruit of every kind. The earth begins participating in the act of creation with its ability to produce fruit that can then reproduce. As God call the Earth into fruitfulness, the Divine has set into motion the ability for fruitfulness and creation to continue. Thus, creation can sustain itself, now that it is divinely ordered.
The culmination of the lesson is God’s act of stopping to review creation and saying, “it is good!” This reminds Christians that God designed creation to be in harmony with itself and with the Divine. Further, the pericope effectively communicates a theological touchstone: fruitfulness and goodness exists within the context of properly ordered relationship with God. This theological principle will bear itself out, as we move through successive narratives in the book of Genesis.

Want to get more involved at Shiloh?

Browse our Ministries