God’s Presence at Creation

Hello Readers!  If you have been reading along with us everyday in 2019 – you have now read all of the gospel of Matthew.  Well done!   We will cover the other three gospels later in the year (John in April, Mark in August and Luke in December). This week we are going to take a little theme break and investigate the topic of the Presence of God.  Every day there will be a Bible passage to read, but they won’t be consecutive New Testament chapters.  Then, next week (starting Sunday, February 10) we will begin a chapter by chapter daily walk through the book of Acts.  Remember, stick with us all year and we will cover the whole New Testament – as well as lots of other golden nuggets as well.  And so we begin – – – The Presence of God at Creation!

Text: Gen 1:1 – 2:3

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This week, I want to lead you in some thoughts, taking a tour through scripture to highlight some big moments in the story of God’s presence among us. Today we are going to start this journey in Genesis 1, with creation.

 

But why creation? I think that is an important question, if not the biggest question Genesis 1 aims to answer. Probably hundreds of times I came there preoccupied with questions about who, what, when, where, and how, but forgot to ask why. And the answer to the “why” question is intimately tied to God’s presence.

 

When we think about “why” questions, we’re starting to think about purpose. Teleological questions. We’re going places scientific inquiry doesn’t (and can’t) go. We’re starting to ask the questions God wants us to think about most.

 

The opening verses of Genesis paint a picture of a wasteland. God is hovering over the deep, or the waters (a recognized symbol of chaos). The earth is said to be without form and void. It has no purpose. God begins his work to shape it all into order.

 

But why? If you are God, do you need the heavens or an earth? Do you need plants, animals, and people? I’d guess that no, God doesn’t require any of those things. He’s God, right? It seems that if God doesn’t need anything, he was motivated by something to create.

 

The earth was set up as a space for us to live, and rule with God, or be stewards, over the rest of creation (this is at the core of what it means to be made in God’s image). The earth is a gift to us. The first six days of creation are the account of God separating, naming, and giving function and purpose to all the moving parts of his cosmos, really for our benefit.

 

God calls what he did “good” after each day, and then after he is finished, he calls the whole thing “very good.” In other words, all the parts come together and work like a well-oiled machine. Thank God the earth functions beautifully for us, but there is something more going on here, particularly when we talk about day seven.

 

Day seven is something we usually mention as an aside to creation. We say things like, “now God kicked back to relax, and he did it to admire his creation and be an example for us so that we remember to take a day off.” And we might be correct in saying something like that. But let’s be real, God doesn’t need rest. There is something more going on here.

 

First, “rest” in this context probably doesn’t mean God is tired and needs to recharge. It means he now has stability and order in his creation. You can see this idea of stability and security come up many times in scripture when it talks about God giving rest (see Exodus 33:14, 1Ch 22:9, 2Sa 7:11).

 

Second, it is understood among the Israelites and other ancient Near Eastern cultures that when deities rest, they rest in temples. And a temple isn’t finished until a deity rests in it. This is a strange idea to us, but it was understood in those cultures (we can see a similar thing happening in the ancient Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, for example). They would know right away from the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that it has a temple theme, and that God rests in it on day seven.

 

Third, the number seven carries with it a symbolic meaning of completion. We think of numbers strictly as representing quantities. Ancient Israelites aren’t as strict with their use of numbers, and use them in ways that qualitatively symbolize things. This is why you see numbers like 7, 12, and 40 all over the place in the Bible.

 

But where was the temple in the story, though? Did you miss it? So did I. Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It’s the best Indiana Jones movie, by the way. There is a part in that movie where they are in an old church that was converted to a library, and they’re trying to match Roman numerals from a stained glass window with locations in the building. They are stuck on finding the location of 10, until Indiana walks up a staircase to a balcony overlooking where they were standing. Lo and behold, there is a giant X across the whole floor. They didn’t see it, because they were standing on it the whole time.

 

If you are looking for the temple in Genesis 1, it’s been under your nose the whole time. In Isaiah 66:1, God declares, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” The whole cosmos is God’s temple. God spends the first six days of creation naming and giving purpose to the different parts of the heavens and the earth, to provide a place where we can thrive, but the dual purpose is that these parts are being inaugurated and paraded in as pieces of his temple.

 

But to just build a temple out of materials doesn’t make it a temple. A temple isn’t a temple until God rests in it, otherwise it’s just a structure. Day seven is when God rests in and inhabits his temple. It’s when he moves in with us. This is part of why it was important to the Jews to observe the sabbath, to celebrate his stability and presence in their lives.

 

Day seven isn’t the aftermath of creation, it is the completion, the crown, like the shiny star or angel on your Christmas tree. God could have made this beautiful place, put us in it, and moved on, never to have contact with us again, and it would still be amazing! But no, God didn’t just wind up the clock and step away, as some people mistakenly believe he did. He decided to be involved with his creation, especially us, in real and intimate ways. He decided that he would be present in his temple, living among us.

 

The why of creation, the purpose, is that God wanted to make his home with us.

 

Next, we’ll travel to the garden.

 

Just a quick note to give credit where it is due. The idea of creation being a temple isn’t mine. First of all, it is God’s idea. But if you are interested in reading more about it from scholars who can articulate and support it much better than I can, check out The Lost World Of Genesis One by John Walton, or The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale.

— Jay Laurent

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Hold Firmly

Hebrews Chapter Four

Hebrews 4_14

There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.”  Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation.  This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation.  Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin.  Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.”  The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience.  They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience.  In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed.  This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.

This should provide a wakeup call for us!  We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously.  We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it!  Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin.  God hates sin.  The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven.  We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.

The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter.  What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest?  Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:

  1. Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
  2. The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
  3. We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
  4. God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
  5. God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
  6. Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
  7. Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
  8. Strive to enter the rest (4:11)

Here’s what I get from all of this.  God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient.  The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom.  I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand.  There is still a chance to enter God’s rest.  However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God.  In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest.  If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest.  However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom.  Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen!  Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.

Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest.  We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus.  One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin.  He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations.  He is no stranger to struggle and suffering.  We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH.  Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity.  James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.”  If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another.  It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself.  Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time.  It doesn’t work that way.  It logically does not make sense.  Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.

To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts.  However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active.  We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today.  If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible.  The Bible has only flourished though.  It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word.  I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions.  You are truly doing a great deed.  Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.

-Kyle McClain

Rest

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Hebrews 1-4

One of my favorite things to do on a dark stormy day is to curl up with a good book, relax, and ultimately take a nap.  It’s one of the best times for me to forget all the things to do that swirl around my mind and just rest. After that period of rest, I feel refreshed, renewed, and better able to work through what needs to be done.  Rest is not just something we enjoy but we are actually commanded to rest in both the Old and New Testament but since today’s reading is Hebrews 1-4 that is what we will stick with.

Hebrews 4:11 says, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” We NEED to rest.  It doesn’t say rest if you have the time or only rest when you are tired but instead it says to be “diligent.”  I am diligent to eat dinner every night and I am diligent to read my Bible each day but am I diligent to rest every day?

We are reminded in 4:13 that nothing that we do is hidden from our creator.  We might be able to hide our lack of rest from our friends and family but we cannot hide the truth from God. One day we will enter God’s rest in God’s Kingdom but until then let us rest from the turmoil of each day and focus on the one who promises us peace.

If you haven’t tried it already for the remainder of the time that you are reading through the Bible, before you jump into reading take a few minutes to rest.  Turn off your phone, go to a quiet place, breathe deep, and be still.  When you feel as though your mind is no longer racing then spend time in prayer and begin your study.

-Lacey Dunn

Fortress

Psalms 61-67

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January 4, 2017

Living in Minnesota can be challenging, yesterday it was 35 degrees and it started raining. Shortly after that, the temperature started to drop. This caused a thin layer of ice making walking dangerous and driving difficult. Today, the temperature has continued to fall and the wind has picked up. I am counting on my house to keep me warm and safe. I do this because my house has kept me warm and safe for many years.

David claimed God as his shelter and source of protection against all that threatened him. Experience had shown how God cared for him and loved him. There were many times David called upon God to watch over him and God was always faithful to David’s pleas.

Psalm 62:1-2, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

David questioned God when he felt his enemies threatening him, and God always reminded him he was with him. God is our fortress, a place to rest and reset to face our troubles.

-Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/psalm-61-chiastic-structure/)