Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Witnessing as the Clouds are Gathering (Genesis 7 and 8)

Noah, who was six hundred years of age when the flood came, had seen great decline in his society. He was a preacher of righteousness who warned his listeners of the judgement to come. The account in Genesis does not mention any converts, although there may have been some during his long years of service. But we can imagine him repeatedly coming home after preaching and lamenting the lack of response from his listeners.

Noah was commanded by God to build a means of refuge (the ark) for use during the flood that was about to come. He may have taken years to build it, yet his determination to obey God did not influence others for good. Yet he persevered because he understood the gracious ways of God and his plans for the future.

The worldwide flood is a vivid reminder of the judgement of God. Of course, he executed patience towards the nations. He put up with a society that was sinning its way into judgement until the time for judgement came and it was too late for them. What did Noah feel, and what did God feel, when the door of the ark was shut (7:18)?

The story of the Flood reminds us that God is able to judge a whole society simultaneously. Whatever had been their individual reactions to Noah’s preaching – probably ranging from indifference to hostility – they discovered that his message was not one of idle threats. Although the Lord has promised not to judge the earth again by a flood, he can still exercise judgment in a widespread and frightening manner.

The story of Noah’s ark and the Flood initially may seem irrelevant to us. Yet such a response is a big mistake. We have to imitate Noah and point to the Refuge (Jesus) as our society departs further away from God. After all, God has promised to bless our message to a degree that was not promised to Noah. Difficult times are not occasions for silence about God. Decline in the spiritual and moral outlooks of those around us should make us as determined as Noah to witness for the Lord.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Striving of the Spirit (Genesis 6)

Society was descending rapidly in sinful behaviour (6:5). Its rulers were guilty of tyranny and immorality (I think that the sons of God in this chapter refer to human rulers). Genesis 6 describes a sinful society led by godless rulers; it was a society marked by violence and immorality; it was a society, much like our own, with no time for God. Yet despite their determination to ignore God, he was determined not to ignore them.

The writer gives several details about the Lord’s response to the sinful state of the human race. The first feature of the divine response is that God saw the sins of the human race. And the consequence for God of his searching look was sorrow. ‘And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart’ (Gen. 6:6). This is perhaps a surprising response because we might have expected initial his response to be that of judgement. Judgement did come, but it was preceded by God’s sadness.

This was followed by stages of judgement. To begin with, there was a reduction in the human lifespan to 120 years (Gen. 6:3). Perhaps those details were announced by Noah. This was a reminder that their lives, even at the longest, would end far sooner than their ancestors. In addition, there would be a global judgment as well as individual punishment; God intimated to Noah that he was going to destroy the whole system of things by a flood.

Throughout this period, through the stages of judgment up to the flood, alongside his sorrow at human sin, the God of mercy was striving with sinners by his gracious Spirit. This striving indicates the eagerness that marks God’s love, his burning desire that sinners would listen to his voice. His divine energies were put forth repeatedly as he strove with sinners to return to God.

Obviously, in the pre-flood world, the Spirit would use the information that had been given by God: the promised coming of the Seed of the woman, the judgement predicted by Enoch, the warnings given by Noah. They did not have as much information as we have, but they had enough to save them – and to condemn them if they rejected it.

Yet we cannot read this chapter describing the spiritual decline of humanity without being impressed by the response of God. His response was not merely an intellectual one; it was also heartfelt. It is easy, in a sense, to analyse a society and deduce what is wrong with it. What is more difficult is to weep over it, and for that to happen we need to spend time with God.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Enoch (Genesis 5)

Genesis 5 contains the list of the godly seed through Seth down to the time of Noah. Therefore it is a list of love containing the names of those who enjoyed the favour of God. The list is a reminder that God’s priority is people.

A name that stands out in the list is Enoch. The account tells us that Enoch’s walk with God was connected to the birth of his son, Methuselah. For sixty-five years he had lived, perhaps paying little attention to God. But things changed once he had the responsibility of a child.

Becoming parents is obviously a very happy time in a family, an occasion of great joy and pleasure. But Enoch realised something else because he was in the line of those who had feared God. He was aware of his responsibility to pass on the knowledge of God to his own family. But he could not pass on details about an unknown God. This is a reminder to parents that it is important to tell their children about a God they know well.

But there is a second aspect to notice of this crisis moment. The giving of this child was itself a prediction of divine judgement. His name means, ‘When he dies, it shall come.’ Methuselah lived for 969 years, and the year of his death was the year that the Flood came. God, in a way that we are not told, spoke to Enoch about coming judgment. No wonder he began to fear the Lord. It is a marvellous insight into God’s grace that the person whose death would bring about the judgment also lived the longest life. God delayed judgment, as it were, for 969 years. But eventually the judgment came. God’s patience did not last forever.

Enoch’s life is described as a walk with God. What does this imagery imply? First, God and Enoch were at peace with one another. Second, God and Enoch had communion with one another – they shared the same interests. Third, God led Enoch along the way to his destination and eventually they reached. Enoch had the privilege of not dying, but he also had the greater privileges of God’s company in this life and living in God’s home after it was over.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Learning from Abel (Genesis 4)

We can learn some lessons from the life and death of Abel. First, he realised that salvation was by faith. It is true that we cannot tell how much Abel knew of the gospel except to say that he surely had been told of the promise that God had made to send a strong deliverer who would defeat the enemy of our souls. Salvation has always been by faith in the promises of God regarding the Saviour. Abel’s faith looked forward to a coming Deliverer; our faith looks back to his first coming, looks up to his place of power, and looks forward to his return.

Abel is also an example of pleasing the right person. We all aim to please some one, even if it is only ourselves. Abel’s life pleased Jesus, because in Matthew 23:35 he describes Abel as ‘righteous Abel’. At the end of the day, the only opinion that will matter concerning our lives will be the opinion of Jesus Christ.

Abel is also an example of the fact that the destination is more important than the journey. He had a difficult journey, but reached heaven in the end. Indeed he was given the honour of being the first sinner to enter heaven. If we could ask Abel and Cain regarding the choices they made, what would they say to us?

Lastly, Hebrews 12:24 says that the blood of Jesus speaks ‘better things than the blood of Abel’. Abel’s blood cried to God for vengeance, for justice. The blood of Jesus cries out for mercy from God to all who will trust in Jesus.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The worship of Cain (Genesis 4)

The writer describes the two types of work that the two brothers engaged in. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer, and the account does not say that one activity was more godly than the other. The order that is given in this passage of mentioning work and then worship is a reminder that work is not the highest goal of humans. Worship of God is the most important purpose.

The passage also indicates that an aspect of worship is to give to God from what we obtain by our labour. In our society, the way we give is with money. The idea is that we give to God out of the blessings and functions he has given us.

Verse 3 indicates that there was both a time and a place for this aspect of worship. It is generally assumed that the time was the Sabbath and the location was the place where God had positioned the cherubim at the entrance to Eden.

It is very likely that God had indicated how the two brothers were to worship. It is not clear if an animal sacrifice was required. Some suggest that ‘if you do well’ in verse 7 refers to obedience to a previously-given instruction which Cain had ignored, and if that is the case then Abel had followed the required manner of offering a sacrifice for his sin. Yet it is the case that later, in the Levitical system, sacrifices composed of grain were expressions of thankfulness and dedication, and may have been acceptable to God in Genesis 4. Elsewhere the Bible states what the real difference was, their characters. In Matthew 23:11 Jesus describes Abel as righteous and Hebrews 11 says that he worshipped by faith. 1 John 3:12 says that Cain belonged to the devil and was evil in character.

Yet although Cain’s attitude was wrong, it is important that we note the Lord’s reaction to him. His response contains both encouragement and warning. He was not put off by Cain’s sullen attitude. In mercy the Lord draws near his sinful creature and assures him that the way is open for his acceptance. Cain deserved to be punished, but instead the Lord responded graciously. This is a reminder to us, even as we are engaged outwardly in an act of worship, yet perhaps with wrong attitudes, that the Lord, who reads our hearts, desires to reveal his grace to us.

Sadly, Cain chose to ignore God’s warning and this response had horrible consequences. Instead of imitating his brother, he murdered him. Cain's downward spiral can be seen in that his disobedience to God led him to become defiant of God, which led him to despair because he was rejected by God. That is an awful descent, one that has been imitated by many millions down the centuries. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The God of the Garden (Genesis 3)

The story tells us that when Adam and Eve sinned, God still came to the garden to meet with them. The impression is given that this meeting was a regular occurrence. When God arrived at the usual location, there was no sign of Adam and Eve. Because they are absent, God cries, ‘Adam, where are you?’

We are not to assume that God did not know where Adam was and what he had done. Rather this was the voice of God wanting to have fellowship with his creatures.

The meaning of this question has been summarised by Griffith Thomas: ‘God’s question to Adam still sounds in the ear of every sinner: “Where art thou?” It is the call of Divine justice, which cannot overlook sin. It is the call of Divine sorrow, which grieves over the sinner. It is the call of Divine love, which offers redemption from sin. To each and to every one of us the call is reiterated.’

The picture of a seeking God is one of the most attractive given of him in the Bible. Think of how Jesus described himself as the seeking Shepherd. He described his mission as to seek and to save that which is lost. There are many pictures of God in the Bible, but this one of him seeking Adam in Eden is a foretaste of others in the Bible that will magnify his love.

The story gives another picture of God, that of him functioning as interrogator as he cross-examines each of the creatures before him. How careful he searches, how penetrating are his questions. He is here as judge of the rebels. They may want to escape but they cannot. This is a foretaste of his future role on the Day of Judgment when each one of us will give an account to God.

But the story gives a further picture of God. He is not only the seeker and the interrogator, he is also the provider of deliverance for sinners. We see this in the pronouncement made to Satan that one will come, a member of the human race, who will undo the disaster brought about by the devil. A Champion will come who will suffer in the process, which is a wonderful description of the sufferings that Jesus endured on the cross.

A fourth picture is given in verses 22 to 24, where God appears as the Banisher of Adam and Eve from the garden. It seems that Adam was very reluctant to leave the garden because he had to be driven out. But he had to be because the blessings of the garden now became a source of danger. The one that is identified is the tree of life, which had been a symbol of eternal life. God had promised that if a person had eaten of that tree, he would not die. God never reneges on a promise, but sometimes sin brings about a situation that would not be good if the promise was kept. Therefore God ensured that Adam would have no access to the tree of life. He banished him from the garden so that he would be able to have mercy upon him. The banishment was protection from eternal punishment.

So we can say that in the garden God was the seeking God, the probing God, the providing God and the protective God.

Monday, 24 June 2013

What we lost (Genesis 3)

In Genesis 3 we have the account of an event which changed everything about human life. The details describe the change in the relationship between God and his creatures, between his human creatures themselves, and between these creatures and their environment. The chapter tells us why we no longer live in Eden, with all its pleasures and delights. It tells us why we live in a world of problems, of frustrations, of disappointments and of fears.

The details in the chapter are not wide-ranging, in the sense that there are many other consequences of sin that are not mentioned. No mention is made of suffering, of wars, of crimes, and countless other effects. I don’t suppose it entered the minds of Adam and Eve that they would experience murder within their family. Neither does the account mention that many people would not get married. Instead, it focuses on the situation as it was and considers some issues that belonged to Eve and on some issues that belonged to Adam. From these issues, we can derive general principles.

First, Adam and Eve experienced shame. They became aware of their nakedness. They had been created naked, although some think that they were clothed with glory and had no need for a covering. When they sinned, they lost that glorious covering and stood naked before God. They sensed that they were now unfit to be seen by God. But the root of their shame was in what they now felt in their hearts.

Second, Adam and Eve were afraid of God. They attempted to hide from his presence (v. 9). Before they sinned, there had been nothing to be afraid of. God was their provider, their companion. They had been warned by him of the consequences of disobedience, which was death. Now they were dreading his reaction to their sins. As we think of their response, we should note that it is appropriate to be afraid of God. After all, he is the sovereign judge. It is a sign of intelligence to be afraid of God’s condemnation and a sign of foolishness to imagine that somehow we don’t need to be.

Third, they attempt to blame others for the situation; Adam blames Eve, she blames the serpent. What a sad commentary on the effects of sin. Adam admits he has sinned, but does not confess that he is to blame. Instead he blames the one whom God had given to him as his companion. ‘Rather than bear the blame, he will fling it anywhere, whoever may suffer’ (H. Bonar). And this attempt not to accept blame is instantaneous. Adam and Eve did not have to learn to blame others, this reaction came with the sin. Adam even tried to blame God because it was him who had created the woman. We can summarise Adam’s admittance of his sin as bold, blasphemous and blaming.

Fourth, God also indicates that there would be conflict within the family, when speaking from Eve’s perspective he says that she will attempt to control her husband, but will not be able to. What is being said here is not a reference to the modern concept of equality. Instead, Eve is told that God’s judgement on her will affect profoundly the two basic roles of wife and mother. Instead of harmony, there will be conflict. Instead of pleasure, there will be pain and danger. As John Piper puts it, ‘This is a description of misery, not a model for marriage.’

Fifth, God judges the man by ensuring that his role as provider will be a difficult and frustrating one. Life will involve sorrow and disappointment, and will ultimately close in death. The way his situation is depicted is like a battle between Adam and the ground, with the ground winning because eventually Adam, as do all humans, will return to dust when he dies.

As we think of these verses, we have to admit that they accurately describe the human situation. Human lives are marked by disappointment, dangers, and death. It is easy to see that is the case. Yet many people fail to consider that our difficulties are described in Genesis 3, with the explanation that we have them because we have sinned. But the chapter does explain the universality of sin, the existence of death and the inability of the human race, despite all its technological advances, to change human nature.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Tragedy (Genesis 3)

In Genesis 3 we meet an enemy, here called the Serpent. Was it a snake?  As far as I can see, there are problems in accepting that ‘the serpent’ refers to a snake-like creature. To begin with, snakes were made on Day 6 of creation and were described by God as very good. Yet the creature that is described in 3:1 as very subtle is not depicted as being good.

Also, with regard to its curse, it is said that it will eat dust. Yet snakes don’t eat dust. The contents of the curse – ‘on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life’ – can be seen as a reference to the judgement that was meted out on a defeated ruler; such were often made to abase themselves before their conquerors.

Moreover, it is evident that God was not speaking about a literal snake because he says that its head will be crushed by the Deliverer, which could hardly be said of a snake in the Garden of Eden.

So who is being spoken about here? Regarding the serpent, it is clear from the rest of the Bible that he is the devil (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). It is obvious from this chapter that the devil’s aim was to deceive Eve by causing her to doubt the statements of God (2 Cor. 11:3). He continues to engage in this practice.

Along with creating doubt about what God had said, he gave the impression that God was denying authentic experiences to Adam and Eve. According to the devil, these experiences would result in a rich reward – they would become like God.

The devil managed to defeat Adam and Eve. Perhaps Satan imagined that he had overturned God’s plans to have a race of human beings who would be devoted to him. The devil knew that God was bound to judge the human race for their sins. Instead he received a big surprise, because God announced to him that one would come, as a Champion of the human race, who would overpower the devil, although he would be wounded in the process (Gen. 3:15).

This was the first indication given to fallen man that, although they had sinned, it was not the end of the story. In this announcement to the serpent the guilty pair heard the promise of deliverance. The glad tidings of the gospel were preached in Eden before the sinful humans were evicted. Before the judgement fell, the Lord wanted them to hear the gospel offer.

We don’t know what response Adam and Eve made to this offer. John Bunyan, in a chart he has of the book of life, has his character read it and say that the first clear name in the list is Abel, but there was a space above it but he could not see if there were names in the space or not. This was Bunyan illustrating, in a very graphic manner, the uncertainty there is over the eternal destiny of Adam and Eve.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Garden in Eden (Genesis 2)

The garden was the place where God would meet with his creatures. Therefore, it was a kind of temple or royal palace in which the King would enjoy the worship and service of his subjects in a particular way.

When we think of the garden in Eden we are not to imagine the attractive pieces of ground found beside houses, with lawns and rows of plants and flowers. Rather what is being described is a large estate in which Adam would function in many different ways.

In the garden there was a forest (Ezekiel 31:8 says that there were cedars, fir trees and chestnut trees). Notice how the trees are described in Genesis 2: they were pleasant to the sight and good for food. This detail is a reminder that God desires his creatures to see beautiful things and to enjoy eating his provision. It is also a reminder that humans are to imitate God by making beautiful works of art and providing appetising food.

Two trees are specifically identified: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Moses is not suggesting that eating the fruit of the trees in itself would provide these benefits. Rather they were symbols of what God could provide for his creatures as long as they did his will. They were specific reminders that humans were dependent on God. The tree of life showed that God alone could guarantee their existence and provide quality of life. Even although they were living in a perfect creation, subsequent chapters reveal that there was also danger, which resulted from the earlier rebellion of Satan. The tree of life reminded them that God alone could preserve life.

The tree of life depicted security and satisfaction; what did the tree of the knowledge of good and evil convey? I would suggest that the main function of this tree was that God alone was to be their teacher. There were two ways open to them concerning the discovery of good and evil. One was to learn from God’s directions and explanations; the other was to follow the advice of another, the devil. We know from Genesis 3 that sadly they listened to another voice than God’s and came to experience good and evil from the position of disobedient creatures.

The garden was also the place from which the rest of the earth was to be watered. The account does not say where the river began and it has been suggested that it was an underground stream. In any case, when it reached the garden it divided into four mighty rivers which then flowed out into the rest of the earth. Why did God place the garden in such a location? Perhaps to teach the human race that he was the source of temporal blessings as well as spiritual ones.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Celebrating the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3)

The appearance of the Sabbath is a reminder that God is the Lord of time. He decides how long a week should be, and what should be done on each day. As long as his authority would be recognised, there would not be any problems for Adam and Eve. This feature of God’s sovereignty is revealed shortly after Adam and Eve had been given authority by God to govern the earth. Yet they had not been given unlimited authority, for God had kept some things for himself. The Sabbath was a reminder that they had a King.

The first Sabbath was blessed by God. The term ‘bless’ contains the idea of ‘speaking well about it’. When we bless God, we speak well of him. So when God blessed the seventh day he was stating that this was to be the best, most important day of the week. Calvin comments that this phrase indicates that God loved the day: ‘Thus we may be allowed to describe the day as blessed by him which he has embraced with love, to the end that the excellence and dignity of his works may therein be celebrated.’

This distinctiveness of the day is also seen in the other term that is used, that God sanctified the day, that is, he set it apart from the other days for a special purpose, which was, in one word, ‘rest’. It was set apart for God to rest and also for man to rest.

On the first Sabbath God rested from his work of creation. It was not the rest of inactivity, for he was still engaged in his works of providence; it was not the rest of indifference, as if he was not interested in his creation; it was not the rest of exhaustion, as if he had stretched his powers to the limits. We get some insight into what is meant by God’s rest in Exodus 31:17: ‘It [the Sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.’

When we think of God resting we should note several details connected to it. First, his rest included rejoicing in the finished work of creation. God takes great pleasure in his actions because they are perfect. What is flawless pleases him.

Second, it was refreshment in the fellowship of his people. God did not wish to take part in the Sabbath rest without the presence of Adam and Eve. Only they were capable of appreciating the great works of God.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Sabbath - an opportunity for being human (Gen. 2:1-3)

The Sabbath is called a creation ordinance and In Genesis 2 three such ordinances are mentioned: marriage, work and the Sabbath.

As we read the account of creation in Genesis 1, we should note that there are two climaxes. The first concerns the climax of the created order, which was the creation of humans; the second concerns the climax of the days of creation, which was reached with the arrival of the Sabbath. It was God’s pleasure that both should be combined in humans having the provision of the Sabbath. We could say, as far as the original week of creation was concerned, that each subsequent day was better than the day before. There is not an eighth day, which indicates that however notable and worthy the activities of the first six days were, the activities of the seventh were suited for man’s highest abilities.

At a basic level, God’s provision of the Sabbath is a reminder of two things. First, it is important that each week there should be one day that is totally different. What has happened in our society since Sunday became a ‘normal’ day is that the actions of every day become the same, and there is no variety.

Second, the existence of the Sabbath is a reminder that work is not the highest activity of man. Some people are ‘workaholics’. If we spend Sunday wishing it were Monday so that we can resume work, then we are missing out on our highest calling. Work was important in Eden, but it was not the highest activity of Adam and Eve.

One of the problems of the modern world is that many people suffer from too much stress. Stress can come from a variety of sources and I am not suggesting that all stress is avoidable. Yet much stress exists because people work too much, perhaps because they want to get more and more things. Value is assessed by what we do and what we have. But at the beginning, man received his highest value by meeting with God on a stress-free day.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Am I in the image of God? (Gen. 1:26-28)

What does it mean for us that we are made in the image of God? Various suggestions have been made, such as rationality or personality. I suspect it is a mistake to focus on one feature; rather we are to look at every relevant detail that this passage mentions about it. Here are four details.

First, an obvious aspect to take into account is that God spoke within himself regarding making humans in his image. This discussion does not only reveal that there is more than one person in God, it also indicates the dignity of humans. This is a reminder that  there are no insignificant persons.

Second, the image of God also directs the disposition of humans. Adam when he was created possessed an original righteousness that included an understanding of what God required, a willingness to obey God, and a love towards God and his ways. Yet he was created capable of losing it, which he did when he rebelled against God. But in believers, this image, composed of ‘true righteousness and holiness’ (Eph. 4:24), is being restored.

Third, the image of God is seen in community. Adam and Eve were like God in that they were created to live together. To begin with, there was Adam and Eve, but eventually there would have been millions living together in harmony. Within this human community there would be equality yet distinctions in the roles that each would play. This human community was an image of the divine community, the Trinity, in which there is equality of persons but distinctions in the roles fulfilled by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In a way that would resemble the joy and happiness of the Trinity, the human race was created to live together in harmony and joy under the blessing of God. Of course, they were not to only have fellowship with other humans, they were also to have fellowship with God.

A fourth detail connected to the image of God is revealed in the duty of humans to have dominion over the rest of creation. They were commanded by God to populate the earth, control the environment, and have authority over all the lower creatures. In this, man was reflecting God, who is the supreme sovereign of all things. 

In summary, we can say that the image of God in humans is that which made them rational, righteous, relational and regal. These all combined together in Adam’s status as the son of God. This would have been the lot of every human if Adam had not sinned. As we think of what we once were, two responses are appropriate.

First, there should be lamentation regarding the height from which we have fallen. Each of the above features has been affected by our sins. Take our rationality. Our minds have been darkened so that we no longer know what is good for us. We make choices that have long-term negative repercussions. What about our righteousness? We have lost that also. Humans still do ‘righteous’ things in the sense that they do good deeds on behalf of their fellowmen, but they do not do them for God’s glory. Our relationships are no longer marked by harmony. Instead there is conflict, stress and war. Our rule over creation is affected too as we destroy the environment and mistreat the other creatures. Humans, made in the image of God, given the status of sons of God, are rebellious creatures, disinherited from the family inheritance, living under the judgement of God.

Second, there should be longings within us for the world that we have lost. Humans have within them an awareness that there can be a better world than what we have, despite our advanced technologies. They long for a place where the elements that composed the image of God at the beginning can be restored in their fullness. And this is what the gospel promises us.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Four details about God from Genesis 1

The chapter obviously teaches the pre-existence of God. There is a sense of grandeur in the opening verse, not merely that God did something, but that he was there before anything created appeared.  Linked to his pre-existence is his self-existence - he was not brought into existence by anything. 

A second detail about God in Genesis is that he has a programme according to which he works. On each of the days he did particular activities. God was capable of creating everything in one second, but that was not his plan. Instead he worked according to his own purpose. This is a reminder that God is sovereign (he alone decides what to do), that he has power (he is capable of bringing about his purposes), that he is patient (he is willing to wait for his purposes to come to fulfilment), and that he is orderly (every detail has its use and prepares for what comes next).

The chapter also indicates that within the one God there is a plurality of persons. It is hinted at in the first two verses where we read of God (a plural noun with a singular verb) and of the Spirit of God. But it is explicit in verse 26 where God says, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ Although some scholars attempt to dismiss the obvious by suggesting God is including the angels in the work of creation or is using the grammatical technique of plural of majesty, a straightforward reading indicates this plural reality in the Godhead. Verse 26 is not the only time such language occurs in the Old Testament. Another example is Isaiah 6, where Isaiah heard the exalted Lord ask, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ (v. 8).

A fourth detail that the chapter tells us about God is that he took pleasure in his work of creation. At the close of each day, apart from the second, the divine cry of delight was heard, ‘It is good.’ Perhaps it is to this cry of joy that the Lord refers to when addressing Job in Job 38:7 about the times ‘when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy’. In that chapter in Job, the Lord reminds Job of what took place at the creation and it is not difficult to think that the angelic song is a response to the divine delight expressed daily at the beginning. The days of creation echoed with the songs of the heavenly choir until they reached their climax with the creation of humans, when God saw that it was very good.

God is more important than his creation (Genesis 1)

The Book of Genesis begins with the One who is the cause of all else. God has no beginning, but everything else does. Genesis 1 tells us how he brought the universe into existence and gives it one verse before focussing on what he did on the earth during the week of creation.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us in 11:3 that ‘by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible’. This does not mean that we look at evidences for the hand of the Creator and then believe that he was involved. No doubt, there is a place for looking at such evidences, but what the writer means is that we accept as true what God says in his Word about the method of creation. 

God speaks to us in a twofold manner concerning creation. First, he speaks through the creation. Psalm 19:1-2 tells us that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.’ Paul, in Romans 1:19-20, writes: ‘For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.’ But this form of divine revelation is limited, because it does not tell us about God’s mercy, about his love for sinners who have rebelled against him.

Second, God speaks about the creation in his Word. This is what he does in Genesis 1 and 2. He tells us how he brought it into existence. We are no longer listening to creation speaking of the Creator, but of the Creator speaking of his creation. By faith, we affirm that what he says is true and rest upon it. This response of faith was expressed well by Robert Candlish: ‘But now, God speaks, and I am dumb. He opens his mouth, and I hold my peace. I bid my busy, speculative soul be quiet. I am still, and know that it is God. I now at once recognise a real and living Person, beyond and above myself. I take my station humbly, submissively at his feet. I learn of him. And what he yells me now, in the way of direct personal communication from himself to me, has a weight and vivid reality infinitely surpassing all that mere deductions from the closest reasoning could ever have.’

When we read the first two chapters in Genesis, we should recognise that we are not reading scientific descriptions of the creation of the universe. This is not to say that God did not take seven days to complete the original work of creation. Moses, in the Decalogue in Exodus 20, makes it clear that the ordinary human cycle of six days for work and one day of rest follows the divine pattern set in Genesis 1 and there is no biblical reason for thinking that the days in Genesis 1 are not literal days. Nevertheless, to treat the chapter as if its main focus was the number of days is to miss the fact that it is a chapter about God. Perhaps you would like to read the chapter and see what it says about God.