February 3, 2019
Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | Genesis 1:1-2:25
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth,and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birdsfly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LordGod made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.—Genesis 1–2
Introduction: Thy Kingdom Come
When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” it can lose some of its fullness because we aren’t a people used to living under a king. When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we are repeating a slogan of defiance for a people who would not join the other citizens of their country in saying, “Caesar is Lord.”
When we say and pray these things, we are declaring with the people of God from ages past that we bow the knee only to King Jesus and that we gladly submit our whole lives to him. We declare that we are citizens of the kingdom of God and strangers and sojourners in this life because we are looking forward to and living for another Home that is coming when this life is over. As a blood-bought family, we want to be a people radically different from the culture we live in, because we live for another Kingdom.
So, we’re going to spend the next four weeks in a sermon series called Made for the Kingdom, where we’ll look at what the kingdom of God is and what our part is to play in it.
If you knew that everything in history was headed toward a certain goal and that everything in your life was meant to be a part in advancing toward that goal, wouldn’t that change your purpose and perspective in life? Well, we know that the kingdom of God is always at work, and one day soon it will come in full. And we know that we were made to advance this Kingdom.
Let me show you this from Daniel 7:13–14.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man (Jesus!), and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The Father has a kingdom that he has given to the Son that will be a global kingdom and will endure forever. We could sum up the kingdom of God in this way: the advance of the power and presence of God. This should transform how you change diapers and get groceries and drive to dance class. This should change how you do your job. This should change parenting and marriage. This should change how we relate to our neighbors. This should change how we use and think of our time, our energy, and our money. It is all to advance the Kingdom as those who have been purchased by the crucified King who will reign forever.
This unstoppable Kingdom is both comforting and convicting. It is comforting, because as citizens of the Kingdom, we can know for sure that there is a day coming when we will experience the power and presence of God fully, and when all sin and suffering will be done away with. It is convicting, because we are so prone to live for other purposes and priorities before living as citizens of the kingdom of God, and we are missing out on the freedom and joy of seeing all of our lives as meant to advance his kingdom.
Let me give an analogy of what I hope will happen. I played basketball throughout college and still love the sport. Now, today, as I watch my favorite teams play well and win really important games, it’s really fun. But do you know what was more fun? Experiencing the joy of playing in and winning really important games myself. There is more joy in being an active participant than being a spectator. And according to Daniel 7, we are playing on a team that cannot lose!
And so, I’m praying that as we walk through this series, all the way from Genesis to Revelation in the next four weeks, you’ll be eager to not be a spectator, but to pray and participate as a citizen of the Kingdom to advance the kingdom of God in all that you do.
God’s Power and Presence In …
In the beginning of Genesis 1, we see the earth created by God, but without form and void. A darkness and chaos with the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. Now, let’s just be clear that God is not creating the earth because he’s lonely or needy. Rather, God the Father and God the Son so delighted in and loved one another from before the world began that they overflowed to display that glorious joy in creation.
And so, in verses 3–25, we see Days 1–6 of creation play out, and we see the power and presence of God in creating the place of his kingdom—in filling up what is empty and bringing order to the chaos. And we should not quickly move past this account. God speaks and these things appear. “Light!” And light breaks into darkness. “Heavens!” and the waters separate and the heavens are there. “Earth and seas!” and the continents and oceans obey. “Vegetation!” and all sorts of magnificent plants sprout, which we will find out are “pleasant to the sight” and “good for food” as beautiful provision. “Lights in the sky!” and the sun, moon, and stars appear. “Birds, sea creatures!” and they fly and swim. “Wild beasts!” and they start running.
There’s a scene from the book The Magician’s Nephew in Narnia where the children come upon a new world where Aslan (who represents Jesus) is singing a new world into being in the darkness with different notes for different realities. This is a beautiful picture of the power and presence of God in the creation of the place of the Kingdom. And after every thing God creates, he declares it “good.”
And then we get to 1:26–27 and the crown of God’s creation—mankind.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Now, can I just stop here and say that this should humble us as we realize that we are created. And if we are created, we must realize that we exist to serve the purposes of the One who created us. And we must realize that it will be for our good to gladly submit to those purposes and not fight them or shake our fist at our Creator.
Here we see the unity and diversity of God being displayed in the crown of his creation. Humanity is made in his image and after his likeness. God is three-in-one. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit all have equal worth and value as God, but they are unique persons with unique roles. In the same way, God creates mankind in his image, male and female, as equal in worth and value made after the likeness of God, yet unique persons and with unique roles that we will see in chapter 2.
In a culture that that wants to flatten out all differences in sex; in a culture that wants to say you can choose your sex—we need to say loudly that our sex is determined by God as a way to display his unity and diversity to the world. In a world that is often seeking to demean and devalue women, we say loudly as citizens of the Kingdom that they are royalty in the kingdom of God!
Both male and female have unique value and worth over everything else as made in the image of God. We all know this, right? We all intrinsically know that if we fall on tough financial times, the family dog has to go before a family member, right?
So, here, the King has created the place where he will dwell and the people he will dwell with in his kingdom.
So, we’ve seen the King create the place where he will reign and the people he will reign with, but what is the purpose of this display? We can see the purpose as we read the commission that he gives these people:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
What’s the purpose? The spreading of the image and likeness of God. The spread of the kingdom of God—we see that in the phrase “subdue it and have dominion over” everything. And notice that God provides all man and woman need in plenty for this purpose. They get every plant and every tree for food to sustain them as they spread the power and presence of God throughout the earth as his image bearers. Now, notice three things about the kingdom of God:
God’s power and presence overflows to create the place where his kingdom will spread and the people he will dwell with, and then God gives these people a commission to spread his glory as his image-bearers. That’s why humans exist—for the spread of the glory of God! This is our purpose. This is our commission. This is what the best of human purpose looks like.
So, as you go about your day, your parenting, your interaction with other people, your jobs, your use of time, money, and energy, the thought should be, Whatever I do, let it be an expression of spreading the glory of God and advancing the kingdom of God.
So, we’ve seen the creation of the people and the place, and we’ve seen the purpose for which all of it was created—and then chapter 2 suddenly zooms in on the life in covenant with God. If you read the Hebrew, you find that in chapter 1 the general word for “God” is used, but then in chapter 2:5 and following, it switches to the personal name – Yahweh – throughout that chapter. It is getting personal. And it is portraying what it is like to live daily, covenant life in the presence of God. It is zooming in on what it is like to live in the Kingdom in its perfection.
Now, there is not yet a sacrifice in this covenant, but we have all the ingredients here. We have a ruler. We have a people dwelling in a place—the citizens of the Kingdom. And we have provision for the people from the Ruler along with commands that the people must follow in order to stay in right relationship with the Ruler. These are common features of covenants we see in the Ancient Near East, and they are all present here.
So, what do we find here? First, we again see that God literally takes dust from the ground and forms man and breathes life into him. What a humbling reality. We are created. We find out later that woman was formed from man by God. God is creator. He is the potter; we are the clay.
Second, we see that God provides richly for his citizens of his kingdom. He gives them all the food they could need. He gives them all the fresh, running water they could want. He gives them a tree of life to eat from and opportunity to dwell in his perfect presence forever. He gives them each other. It’s not good that man is alone and so he gives the man a helper that is perfectly fit for him. He gives him a woman, and the man sings the first song or recites the first poem we see in the Bible (Genesis 2:23). God richly provides for his people dwelling in his presence.
Third, we see that work is good. Man is called to work and to keep this garden. The woman is to join him in this work, partnering with him as his helper. It is good to work, and this work they do in the Garden is then meant to expand to bring the rest of chaos to be well kept like this paradise they live in. Therefore, our work is good and meaningful and meant to advance the kingdom of God!
Fourth, we see that God gives them one rule to live by. Don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now, why does God say this? Why have a rule that could break fellowship? I agree with most commentators who say that this tree represents mankind taking control of their own moral autonomy. It represents them throwing off authority and saying, “I get to choose right from wrong from now on.” And I think God wants to teach mankind from the very beginning that true freedom and joy in the kingdom of God comes when we gladly obey him as created citizens. We have no freedom in lifting ourselves up to be gods. We have no freedom in being our own gods. We have no freedom in doing it our own way. We have freedom and joy in the Kingdom in gladly submitting to the King.
Oh, that even in this moment in those sins that we like to cultivate, in those fists we are shaking at God, that we would bow and submit and find freedom and joy.
And fifth, we see that man and woman are naked and unashamed. This is phenomenal. Now, this has implications for marriage. Man and woman become one so that they can complete their mission, and notice that God makes the mission in such a way that they must display the unity and diversity of his glory as his image bearers and they must partner in it, and they must enjoy it!
But, an even bigger implication is simply that the first two humans fully knew each other, were fully known by God, and fully loved each other and were loved by God with no shame. Don’t you long for this? With God? With others? Fully known. Fully loved. No sin that separates. No suffering that messes things up.
So, for citizens dwelling in the kingdom of God, it means dwelling in glad obedience with the God of the universe—fully known and fully loved by God and others and richly provided for in every way to complete the good work the King calls us to. In this place where we know complete peace and joy in the presence of the all-satisfying God and a response of the glad, obedient spread of his kingdom.
So, as we close, we can go back to verses 1–4 of chapter 2 and see that God rested on the seventh day. His work was done. The place and people of his kingdom were created. The purpose of his kingdom was given by his commission. And he rests. It is very good. Everything as it is meant to be. God fully knows and fully loves his creation; man and woman fully know and fully love each other.
Christian, saved by the crucified King, you are a part of this Kingdom now, and this is what your heart longs for. Listen, you will be restless as long as you try to find some kind of identity outside of “citizens in the kingdom of God.” If you try to fit in with the identities this world places value on, or if you live your life and do your daily activities disconnected from advancing the kingdom of God, you will always feel like a fish out of water—not doing what you were made to do.
Where you resist complete, glad obedience to King Jesus, you will feel in bondage, because joy and freedom comes for mankind when it gladly bows the knee to King Jesus. Where you feel your sin creeping in and creating shame, you must remember that your King was crucified and your shame has been removed, and he has clothed your naked shame with grace so that you can walk out of that shame and know his love and then walk into your mission to advance his kingdom for his glory. And know that God has richly provided all you need to walk in sweet relationship with him and advance his kingdom in Christ and by the Spirit.
Now, a word to the limping and the suffering: The victory of this Kingdom is sure. But, it’s not completely here yet. And we must remember that we our King was crucified soon after he prayed, “Thy will be done,” to his Father. We must remember that sometimes in this life the Kingdom advances as our King shows the sufficiency and supremacy of his kingdom living in us by how he sustains us in suffering. Sometimes the road of God’s kingdom looks like carrying a cross right now. Jesus knows your pain. He suffered to advance his kingdom. He will use your suffering to advance his kingdom and bring you to the full reality of it someday.
So Christian, you were made for the Kingdom and are citizens of it. You were made to rest in glad obedience with the God of the universe—fully known and fully loved by God and others—richly provided for in every way to complete the good work the King calls us to.
Bow the knee. Gladly submit. Walk out of shame. Get to work in spreading his glory as his image bearers. You were made for this. We were made for this together. And true, ultimate rest is coming soon when our King returns and brings his kingdom in full.