Read or listen to Genesis 1 – 5
Read or listen to John 1:1-5
As part of Marine officer training, there is a little challenge called the leadership reaction course. It really is a fun challenge. There are obstacles to be negotiated, tall walls and deep water, and very few resources.
But sometimes even a few is too many.
I ran this course as an officer candidate about 35 years ago, then about 8 years later came back as a captain and evaluated hundreds of officer candidates on the same course. About 5 years later, I ran an entire company of Marine reservists through this course.
Normally it is preceded by other physically demanding events—a five mile run in full gear, climbing cargo nets, or some other exercise that tasks both mind and body. The intent is that when you get to this course, the mental and physical stress factors are already hitting on all cylinders.
Some of the obstacles just require a little common sense and a lot of brute strength and agility. There was one though that confounded more candidates than any other. This one had water, a high wall with a metal pipe over it, and places marked in red that if anyone touched them, they were dead. Among the items included as resources were a small pulley, a very thick rope, and a couple of boards.
To negotiate the obstacle, candidates needed the rope and boards. The rope would not fit through the pulley. It wasn’t even close. The pulley functioned perfectly. It just didn’t work with that rope. Most students looked at the three items and chunked the pulley.
Some kept trying to make the pulley do something. They wanted it to fit. They wasted valuable time trying to make the rope fit though the pulley.
Sometimes things just don’t fit like we want them to.
Sometimes, we just need to quit trying to put a big rope through a little pulley.
Let’s consider the creation accounts that we find in the Bible. We will start with a couple questions.
Did God tell Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
Let’s get back to that.
How many creation accounts are there in the Bible?
There are 4 distinct ones.
Most gravitate to the one that begins, “In the beginning…”
Oops! Two of them begin that way.
Most go to the one at the beginning of the Book of Genesis that begins, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
But if we jump ahead to the Gospel of John, we get another very concise creation account.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
But if we return to the Book of Genesis, we see a second creation account. This starts just a few verses into the second chapter and man is formed out of the dust. God breathes life into him and he becomes a living soul. This occurs before there were any plants coming up out of the ground.
Hold your horses!
In the first creation account, vegetation came into existence on day 3 and man didn’t come to be until day 6. But in the second account, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything growing. It’s the first dust bowl and that’s where man gets his start.
Then God plants a garden in Eden and tells Adam to go work it. And there is an OBTW–Oh by the way, “Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Back to the first question. Did God tell Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Seems like Eve wasn’t around yet in this account. Only after Adam had named all of the animals, did God find no suitable companion for him and created Eve.
So God told Adam and Adam told Eve not to eat?
OK, Ladies, do you always get the detailed account that you are looking for when you ask your husband something?
It’s not that we are holding anything back, it’s just that when you ask us how did our day go, “fine” or “ok” is an all encompassing answer. Why use 1,500 words when 1 will do?
How was your meeting?
For most men, this was a complete conversation. It was concise, explanatory, and conveyed as much emotional reassurance as any conversation needs to.
But somehow—even though her knowledge of what God expected came from her husband—Eve knew that the instruction not to eat of this tree came from God because she first rebuts the serpent by saying, “God said no.”
It seems like Adam got this very important message right.
By the way, how did Adam know which tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Adam only named the animals. Did God give Adam a quick botany course between planting the garden and making Eve?
Let’s not try to answer those. Instead, let us move to the fourth creation account. It comes in the 5th chapter of Genesis. It says, When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “Man.”
Why is it that the creation account that we find in the Bible seems like it was pieced together from different accounts?
Because it was.
One is a poem.
One is a narrative with two main human characters and a crafty snake.
One is more of a preface to a lineage.
The scribes that compiled these creation accounts did not try to merge genealogy with poetry or squeeze in what was happening in a garden plot where elsewhere the poet was painting grandiose stanzas. The accounts are just provided consecutively.
The writers of Genesis remained faithful to the accounts that had survived centuries of being passed down in the oral tradition. What one group remembered was different than the others, but when it was time to finally put these creation accounts into writing, all were given a voice in this first book of the Torah and of our Bible.
That is not always the case. If you jump ahead to the account of Noah and the flood, it is very likely that two different accounts were merged in chiastic stanza. What is at the center of the poem that points to its center? God remembered Noah. Noah found favor in the eyes of God.
We must not overlook John’s account of the creation. John just wants to get down to business and tell everyone that it has been about Jesus all along. In 14 verses John goes from creation to the Christmas story.
We should not be surprised when the creation accounts cause us to struggle with things such as, “How long was a day?” According to the poem, God did not put the heavenly bodies by which we measure a day into place until the fourth day. So was the third day 24 billion years long but the fourth day was 24 hours, give or take a few seconds that we would figure out how to reconcile with a leap year some centuries later?
Did God speak vegetation into existence or did he literally plant a garden?
Was Adam the only man created or was he representative of a greater creation?
Where did Adam’s sons find wives?
The biblical creation accounts are beautiful things until we try to make them into something that they are not.
So what do we need to know about the creation?
Let’s go once again to the Confession of Faith.
1.10 God is the creator of all that is known and unknown. All creation discloses God’s glory, power, wisdom, beauty, goodness, and love.
1.11 Among all forms of life, only human beings are created in God’s own image. In the sight of God, male and female are created equal and complementary. To reflect the divine image is to worship, love, and serve God.
1.12 The natural world is God’s. Its resources, beauty, and order are given in trust to all peoples, to care for, to conserve, to enjoy, to use for the welfare of all, and thereby to glorify God.
Nothing sneaked into creation by accident. God created everything that we know and even the things that we have yet to discover. Sometimes we struggle with this when it comes to mosquitoes, head lice, and dogs that bark all night long, but God created everything.
More than that, all creation discloses God’s glory. It wasn’t enough just to create, the majesty of God is revealed in the creation itself.
All creation reveals God’s power. From the energy packed into a single atom to the vastness of the universe, we witness the incredible power of almighty God.
We also see his wisdom, beauty, goodness, and love in the creation. Stick a rather unassuming sunflower seed into the ground, add water, and wait for the sun to shine. A towering stalk emerges. Where did this giant get the material to grow? From the sun and the micro particles call nutrients that are in the soil. But it’s not like a gallon of gasoline that’s gone after running it through an engine for an hour. The soil is still there.
We witness beauty, goodness, and love in the newborn baby and know that each life is a miracle from God.
But we are told that out of all the life known to us, only we are made in the image of God.
We say that God created male and female equal and complementary.
We reflect the divine image in worship, love, and service to God.
The world and everything in it is God’s, but he has entrusted it to us. We are to:
- Care for
- And use for the welfare of all
This sort of stewardship will bring glory to God.
We can look at a big rope and a small pulley and try to make them fit together and just be frustrated or we can let the God-inspired authors speak to us using the literary tools that they knew.
Some were poets.
Some were story tellers.
Some were concerned mainly with lineage.
As we continue reading our Bibles, we will find historians, prophets, and counselors.
We will find teachers and law givers.
We will find many, many ways in which God reveals himself to us.
We find a thread of grace that runs throughout.
We find a divine compass that points to Jesus.
The Bible is not provided as a play in 66 acts neatly sequenced for our reading ease.
But it does attest to God’s glory, power, wisdom, beauty, goodness and love. All of which have been present since the creation.
Consider the words of Paul that we find early in his letter to the church at Rome.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 NIV
The creation itself says, “Look at me and know this ain’t no accident!”
Those who do not know God are without excuse to believe there isn’t one.
The creation itself beckons humankind to search for the Creator.
Only the fool can proclaim what is so intricately constructed is an accident, an uninspired incident, or anything but the work of the divine.
The biblical authors that provided us with these creation accounts could only describe the indescribable in words and ways they understood.
As we share the good news of life in Jesus Christ, let us not get tangled in making science books out of poetry or chronologies out of stories full of inspired metaphors mixed with descriptions that go beyond history.
Many have failed to share the glory of God because they insisted on making the rope fit through the pulley.
Let us hear the story that the authors wanted to tell.
God made it all.
The majesty of the creation itself says so.
We are made in the image of God—man and woman alike—and it is the unique nature of such a creation that we complement each other.
God has trusted us with the care of his creation.
Everything we do with the creation should bring glory to God.
Let us take in the wonder of the creation and just say wow.
Then let us realize that God entrusted all of it to us.
All of humankind is without excuse to see the wonder of creation and not know that it is a gift from a glorious God.
Read Genesis 1, 2, and 5 in The Message
Read John 1:1-5 in The Message