Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson 1
© Chet Bishop 2012, (revisited and revised 2018)
Old Testament Foundations for New Testament Faith
Genesis 1:1-10; Luke 24:13-35
In Luke 24:13-35, we find the account of how Jesus met two of his disciples as they walked the seven or so miles down from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They did not recognize him, and when he asked what they had been discussing, they told him how distressed they were over the events of the last few days, including the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ…(and maybe the resurrection, though they weren’t sure what to make of that just yet.) He gave them an astonishing rebuke, saying “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?”
The disciples must have been flabbergasted to get that sort of response from this “Stranger, on the road to Emmaus,” but he didn’t give them time to respond…he just went ahead and taught them, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, specifically what the Old Testament had to say about himself. The scriptures he taught them were not new to them at all. These were adult Jewish men who had passed their “Bar Mitzvahs” and were “sons of the book.” They knew the written word fairly well, for non-Levitical men…not scribes or priests. But they had never tied the whole of scripture together with the single central theme of the Person of the Messiah. Following this line of thinking, we would like to attempt to do just that. We are not the first, by any means, but it seems profitable to follow the Lord’s example, and teach the way He taught.
We will begin by pointing out that the Person we see in the Gospels did not originate there. We see that the “Life of Christ” is only “the account of his physical life as a human being on earth.” The rest of the Written Word of God reveals Him as the Eternal Living Word of God, pre-existing His Creation, because he is the Creator, and superseding the importance and glory of the whole creation, because He is God. So, with that in mind, let us proceed, beginning at Moses.
“Beginning at Moses”
Moses is the writer of the first five books of the Old Testament. Genesis is the “Book of Beginnings”, so we will start there. To begin with, it seems fair to point out that the phrase, “In the beginning, God…” uses the Hebrew word “Elohim” for “God.” The Hebrew language seems peculiar to us, because we English-speakers think of nouns as either singular or plural, meaning ONE of something, or MORE than one (two or more). In the Hebrew language there are singular, dual and plural: one, two and more than two (three or more.) Guess which type the word Elohim turns out to be? Yes! It is a plural noun, designating three or more!
I don’t want to put more weight on this point than is fitting, since that word is also used for the false gods—the pagan gods; but, you see, they were plural; there were lots of them! The religion of Israel is strictly monotheistic. (Deuteronomy 6:4) “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is One God!” In the King James Bible, the word “God” (Capital “G”, lower-case “o-d”) is always a translation of the Hebrew word Elohim. It is the office of deity, not His personal name, nor even a title reserved just for Him. It is applied to false gods, too, though it is printed in all lower-case, when that is the context. We will see several other names of God, as we progress.
In Isaiah, God says he is the only God that has ever existed, and the only one that ever will exist. In fact, after declaring his singularity, he also points out (Isaiah 43:11) that apart from him there is no savior. So…why would he use the plural word for himself, unless there was something about himself that He wanted, thereby, to reveal? There’s something here, to think about, at least: possibly a hint of the Trinity. In light of that, let’s consider the first four words:
“In the Beginning, God…”
This four-word fragment is a profound statement about the rest of the scriptures, the whole creation, and life itself. In the beginning, (before anything else) God…. (Yes, “in the beginning, God created,” but that isn’t all.) In the Beginning he was God. Before anything else, HE IS! “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) “Before Abraham was, I AM! (John 8:57) This speaks of the Eternality of God, and the Preeminence of God! We will discover later, that, in full agreement with Genesis 1:1, God not only pre-existed His creation (which only makes sense), but He himself has no beginning. He does not have a starting-place. He exists outside of time and space, so that all time is “now,” to Him, though he can also address time from human perspective. He has no beginning and no end. “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God!” (Psalm 90:2)
The Order of the Creation
It is important to consider the order in which God says the earth and its contents were created. There are several things here, which point out the stark contrast between the Naturalist’s world-view, which assumes everything “just grew there”, by random chance, and cosmic caprice, versus the Biblicist’s view, which sees through the eyes of scripture. The first contrast is in the fact that God says the Earth was created three days before the Sun, Moon and stars. From the naturalist’s point of view, this is considered laughable. So, we are faced with a decision, here, in the very first chapter of the Bible: “Will we see this as the Word of God, and take it at face value, or assume that it is merely a “primitive world-view,” thus not to be taken seriously?”
If we take the former stance, then we can begin to learn and understand who the Author really is, and what He has planned for us. If we take the latter stance, then the Bible becomes increasingly a “closed book” to us, as we assume God to be a liar, or at least a very questionable authority. Assuming, then, that we believe this to be God’s Word, let’s take this verse by verse:
“God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” He created the physical Earth, but he left out the light, initially. We see elsewhere in scripture that He himself is the light, so perhaps he is showing, here, what the world is like without God. If so, it is only a glimpse, so we can’t build much upon it. But another thing we see is the immense, unimaginable, unmeasurable power of God: we call this “Omnipotence,” meaning “all-powerful.” God is omnipotent. We have already seen His eternality and preeminence. Now we see His unlimited authority and power.
“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (KJV) Other translations render this as “was brooding over the face of the deep.” Either way, we can immediately see that either God is a Spirit (true), or, God has a Spirit. Also, in either case, the omnipresence of God is in view, as He is hovering over the entire face of the waters. The Spirit of God is not a created being. He is God, as we will see much later. He is omnipresent: He is everywhere at once. Also, He is active. He is dynamic, and vital: not just a presence, like gravity.
It is interesting to me to see how God handled the light and dark. He says “God said, Let there be light, and there was light, and God saw the light that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.” Now, there are several things we can observe, here:
- The first is the fact that God speaks. Why is that so important? Only persons speak, as a rule. Parrots can be trained to mimic human speech, as can a few other birds and animals. But within the natural realm, pretty much only humans speak. That does not make God human, but it does make Him a person, not a force. (By the way, in Acts chapter 13 we see the same about the Holy Spirit. He is a person, not a force; not a “breath of God”, or the “active force of God,” or “a feeling,” or any such thing. He is a Person, and specifically, the Person of God… usually the third person listed of the triune Godhead.) We refer to this as the “personality” of God. He is not “impersonal”
- God said “Let there be light” and there was In the New Testament we read a parallel passage—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The Apostle John introduced “The Word:” the “spoken (and living) communication of God.” How was the world created? By the Word of God. And Who is that Word? “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His Glory…” John 1:1-3, 14
- We also see that “when God speaks, things happen.” This reflects the total authority of God. In Hebrews 11:3 we are told that, “by faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” We could take that in several ways, I suppose, but, the primary way we are to understand Scripture is to allow God’s Word to explain God’s Word. Thus, in John 1:1-3, when I read “In the Beginning was the WORD, and…the Word was God…” and that, “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made,” I have to see it as a direct parallel to Hebrews 11:3. When it says they were “framed by the Word of God,” it doesn’t simply mean that the worlds were made “under the authority and auspices of God.” It literally means He (the Word) made Jesus is the Creator…and He is God!
We see it proven, in the life of Christ: When Jesus said to the storm, “Peace, be still,” it instantly became a great calm, rather than a deadly storm. He is the true Master.God said “Let there be light”, and the light sprang into being. Eventually we are told that God is not only the source of light, but that He himself is that light. But when he commanded it, the light evidently filled the universe. How do I know? Next verse:
- “God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.” Three things:
- God sees! God observes! He is not “way out there, somewhere,” indifferent to what is happening here on earth! He knows exactly what is happening here on earth. He is Omniscient–all-knowing!
- He made the judgment that “the light was good,” but made no such judgment about darkness. (God has the authority to judge His own works.)
- Then it says that he “divided the light from the darkness.” (He makes executive decisions about the physical universe.) But, why would he need to do that? We know from God’s Word that the very character of light is to dispel darkness. That is what light Ephesians 5:13 says “Whatsoever maketh manifest is Light.” It shows us that which is otherwise in darkness. Darkness is nothing more than the “absence of light.” Darkness has no substance of its own. Light has existence, and attributes: it is both a wave and a particle. It is measurable. It has an effect on its surroundings. Darkness has none of these. I can go buy batteries for a flashlight, but no one has ever invented a “flash-dark!” In order to “produce darkness,” all we can do is shut out light. You may have noticed a growing tendency in our society to do just that: to deliberately “shut out light”…to make it socially unacceptable to speak God’s Word, or to testify of its truth. By speaking God’s Word, we “make manifest” the things that the World would rather keep in darkness. So they strongly desire to “shut out the light,” and maintain their own darkness.Therefore; for God to “divide the light from the darkness,” he had to limit the light: He had to reduce the light to a single source, making it come from only one direction. Prior to that, the light evidently permeated the universe, as He is the light, and He himself fills the universe and beyond. How do I know that he had to reduce it to a single source? Because the very next verse says that “And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and the evening and the morning were the first day.”
This was the beginning of time, for us. The rotation of the earth, ticking off the days, one by one, has been a faithful clock, ever since. But a Day is coming, which will be the last natural day: after that, there will be no night. The light will once again be unlimited; permeating all things and all places. But even at that first day, God himself was the only source of light. Notice that the heavenly luminaries were not created until three days later (v. 14-19.) They then became the time-pieces for Mankind, who were yet to be created.
The Heaven, or “Sky”
We may think of the sky as “just being there”, as part of the earth, but there is a very peculiar statement, here: He says, “Let there be a firmament (KJV: other translations say “expanse”) in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” And God separated the waters below the “expanse”, or “firmament” from those above the “expanse”, or “firmament”, and He called the expanse “heaven” (KJV), or “sky.”
Unfortunately for translators, in both Greek and Hebrew, there is only one word for “heaven”; and in both cases, it simply means “heaved-up things”…and the same word is used to describe:
- “Sky” where the birds, wind and clouds move (the atmosphere,)
- “Sky”, where the sun, moon and stars exist (outer space,) and
- “Heaven, proper”, which is seen as the throne-room or habitation of God.
I wish it were otherwise, but that is just a fact. Only the context can tell us which “heaven” is in view. In this context, the King James Version translators assumed that the readers would not be confused, and simply translated it (quite correctly) as “heaven”…meaning “Sky, where the birds, wind and clouds move,” as that was common usage in 1611. The modern translators saw that the language had changed and that modern readers were very likely to be confused, so they (also quite correctly) translated it “sky”, meaning “Sky, where the birds, wind and clouds move.”
We can sort it out logically, and understand that the Sun, Moon and Stars certainly do not exist “between the waters”, nor is it likely that God’s throne is situated there. So we correctly see it as the nearest “sky.” But this raises another question: What is the water above the sky?
This is not the clouds, as clouds actually are only in the lowest levels of our atmosphere. When we study the Flood (chapter 7,) we will see what apparently existed as three separate sources of water:
- The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and
- The windows of heaven (sky) were opened and
- It rained.
There was evidently a water-barrier cloud around the earth, in ice-crystal form, which may have shielded the earth from harmful radiation. It apparently collapsed, as part of the flood.
I remember reading, about 30 years ago, in Time magazine, or Newsweek, that some scientist had spent 20 years trying to convince the rest of the scientific community that there were thousands of immense snowballs, the size of two-story houses, entering our atmosphere daily, from outer space. They did not show up on telescopes and they melted and evaporated virtually instantly when they hit the atmosphere, just from friction. He had finally developed equipment with which to detect such snowballs, in a manner that satisfied the other scientists, but they did not see it as a “significant” discovery, so the news simply disappeared in a matter of weeks. No one cared. It was a very disappointing response. But those snowballs may be the remnant of that old water-barrier, still falling to earth, and still adding to our supply of water.
At the flood: the majority of the water from above the sky was released, adding to the flood. Water from under the ground and within the ocean was also released, adding to the flood. And, here is the clincher: the Rain only continued for forty days and forty nights…but the floodwaters continued to rise for five months. After that time the waters began to subside. It is something to think about, for sure.
The Dry Land
The next passage seemed odd to me, when I first read it, as I had always seen the world as a solid mass with a certain amount of water in certain places (plural.) But the fact is, there is a great deal of water on the Earth (mostly salt, now,) and so deep that it could easily cover the whole earth, were it not for the huge variations in surface elevations. It requires places like the Challenger Deep, and the other great deep abysses, to contain the water. What we miss, here, and elsewhere, is the fact that the original creation had no mountains as we see them today…it was a single, low land-mass; one giant, fairly flat pancake of a continent. We see the proof of that, in Genesis 7:18-20, where a 15 cubit increase covered the “mountains,” and over in Genesis 10:25, where, after the flood, we see the breakup of that huge, flat continent.
So, in verses 9 and 10, when he says “let the waters under the heaven be gathered together in one place,” he literally meant one place…not thousands of bays, lakes, oceans and gulfs. There was one body of water, and one land mass. And God saw that it was good. We will see later where the rivers and the mountains came from, and why the geology looks the way it does, today.
Next time, we will continue to read, to see
- How Man came into being,
- How we became sinners, and
- What God has chosen to do about it
Lord Jesus, give us Grace and Light, to believe your Word; to understand your Word, and, by your Spirit, to apply it to our lives. Make us lights in the dark world around us. Help us to serve you faithfully, and with Joy.