Read: Genesis 1:1-2:4
The first verse in our Bible is one with which many people are familiar. It tells us where our universe and our world came from. There are many people who believe that this account is simply a myth along with most of the other stories found in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. However, these chapters are widely quoted throughout the rest of our Bible. Either the information in Genesis is factual or the entire Bible cannot be trusted to be true. Actually, there is no logical reason to doubt the facts presented in Genesis, but there are many reasons to be skeptical about the doubters.
There are many people who do not want to believe in God. Yet, they must still explain how this world came to be without a God. This world runs too well. There are too many things that fit perfectly together to say that it just happened to come together. Suppose you stumbled across a watch lying in the grass, would you jump to the conclusion that the elements just happened to shape a functional watch at that spot or would you conclude that someone made it and lost it? The later is more reasonable because we can see that the elements rarely shape things into tools. The natural process tends to tear things down. Only when some intelligence is applied do we get complex function. When we look at the world and its complex function, the natural conclusion is that there must have been some intelligence applied to shape the universe. Ultimately, this implies there must be a God.
The only alternative to a God is to believe that the universe came into being through random events. In order for random events to have a remote chance of coming together into some sort of order, you would need a large amount of time. However, the Bible tells us that the world isn't all that old. Various scholars have worked out the date of creation and have come to believe that the creation occurred about 6000 to 7000 years ago. Obviously, these two ideas cannot co-exist either God created the world or it just happened. If it just happened, then the universe must be incredibly old. We will talk more of this in another lesson.
The first two verses tells us that God created the world. The Old Testament portion of our Bible was originally written in the Hebrew language. Going back to the Hebrew to learn the definition of its words is often enlightening. Many times when words are translated from one language to another we lose some of the original meaning. The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. This word is a plural noun ( im is a plural ending in Hebrew). Literally, the word means gods. Even though we speak of God as a single being, the Bible teaches that God is composed of multiple beings -- three beings in particular: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (See Revelation 1:4-5 and Matthew 28:19.) We can see that there are at least two involved in the creation because of phrases like "Let us make man in our image" found in the first chapter. This is not a royal we, but a literal we indicating more than one person.
God created the heavens and the earth. The Hebrew word for created is bara. This word is only used in connection with God. It means make something from nothing. Only God can make something from nothing. When man makes something, we work with things that already exist. Our creations are putting things that currently exist into new forms or applying them to new purposes.
The first two verses tells us that God created three things from nothing: time ("In the beginning"), space ("heavens"), and matter ("earth"). Initially, there was no order to the matter. It was just one large blob. God said that there was darkness on the face of the deep. In other words, there was no energy and, without that energy, matter was just a shapeless liquid filling space. Then the Holy Spirit moved through the matter and energized it.
The first thing to be formed was light. The light was separated from darkness. The period of light was called day and the period of darkness was called night. This implies that the matter is now rotating. Notice that there was no source for the light. The sun, moon, and stars were not made until the fourth day. I do not understand how a person can have light without a source, but I trust that this was the way it was created. A period of one night cycle followed by a day cycle was called a day. The writer is making sure that we understand that a day is a 24-hour period. There are some people who try to make evolution blend with Genesis. They claim that each day was really a long age lasting thousand or millions of years. Obviously, this belief does not match the wording in the Bible. Later, the Jews were told to celebrate a day of rest every week because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day (Exodus 20:11). If God is powerful enough to create a universe, then it is not difficult to believe that he could do the creation in any amount of time.
On the second day God gave form to the earth. Isaiah 40:12, 22 says that God precisely determined the world's form. The air was separated from the water with a cloud layer overhead. Notice that the Bible confirms that clouds are just another form of water.
There is some confusion from the use of the word heaven. We already seen in verse 1 that heaven can be used in a general sense to mean space. The Bible also uses heaven in a specific sense to refer to three different areas or spaces. The first is what we call the atmosphere, the region in which birds fly (see Jeremiah 4:25). The second is what we call outer space where the planets and stars move (see Isaiah 13:10). The third heaven is where God dwells (Hebrews 9:24; II Corinthians 12:2). The last heaven does not exist within this physical universe, but is outside of it.
On the third day, land was made and plant life was created to occupy the land. Notice that the plants were created full-grown. God did not plant seeds and weeks later the plants appeared. Order was placed on the plant life. Each kind of plant could only produce plants of its same kind. You can't get a watermelon from a pine tree. Variation is allowed within a kind, but there are no changes between kinds. You can get green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, hot peppers, and mild peppers by breeding different peppers, but you will always get a pepper plant.
The fourth day saw the formation of the objects in outer space. We now have a sun, moon, and the various stars.
On the fifth day, God made sea creatures and birds. The description of these animals is different from the plants. They are called "living creatures." Unlike plants, animals can move. They have life within them. Like the plants, the creatures were restricted to reproduce only after their own kind. (See I Corinthians 15:38-39.) You cannot get a cow from a fish.
On the sixth day, God made the land animals and man. Once again there is a distinction made between man and the other living creatures. Man is made in the image of God. This does not mean that God has two eyes, two arms and two legs. God is a spirit. Man is a living creature that also has a spirit. Therefore, man is three things in one - we have a physical body, a life which is sometimes called a soul, and a spirit. Animals only have a body and a soul.
Man was given the responsibility to rule the earth (see also Psalms 8:6-8). Man is responsible for caring for God's creation. Pay attention to Genesis 1:29. Initially, man and the animals only ate plants for food.
On the seventh day, God pronounced his work "very good." On this day God rested. It does not mean that God was tired. It only means he took a break from his work.