Bookends Part 1: In the Beginning
June 1, 2008
East Valley Bible Church
I. Introducing the series
A. Bookends—examining Gen 1-3 and Rev 20-22
1. “Genesis 1-2 gives us a picture of God’s creation design, what the world was like before sin entered the scene…Revelation 21-22 gives us a picture of God’s future intent, what the world will be like once redemption has been fully completed with the consummation of the judgment of sin and the evil one. These four chapters serve as bookends to the rest of the biblical story. The rest of the story is about the redemptive work of God in a sinful and fallen world.” (Craig Van Gelder)
B. We live in the middle—in a world that is ravaged by natural and man-made destruction.
1. 78,000+ dead in Myanmar (more than 1 million still without aid)
2. Austrian man locks his daughter up for 24 years
a) In late April 2008 a 42-year-old Austrian woman, Elisabeth Fritzl, stated to police that she had been sexually abused, raped, and physically assaulted by her father, Josef Fritzl, since 1977 and had been imprisoned by him for 24 years, since 1984. Her father had held her captive in a small, soundproofed and windowless cellar in the underground basement of the family home. During her captivity, she had given birth to a total of seven children, all of whom had been fathered by Josef. Three of them had been imprisoned along with their mother for the whole of their lives: daughter Kerstin, aged 19; and sons Stefan, 18; and Felix, 5… Fritzl said that he “always knew during the whole 24 years that what I was doing was not right, that I must have been crazy to do such a thing,” yet “it became a normal occurrence to lead a second life in the basement of my house.” Regarding his treatment of the family he had with his wife, he stated “I am not the beast the media make me to be.”
C. This raises big questions:
1. Why is the world this way?
2. Where can we find hope that the world will change?
D. By looking at these bookends we will see how the world was intended to be, how it got messed up, and what our hope for the future is.
II. Gen 1 – This is God’s world
A. “In the beginning, God” (1:1)
B. “God created” (1:1)
1. Not going to go into detail about different views of Genesis. We believe it was six, 24 hour days.
2. God created the world “ex nihilo” (out of nothing)
a) The word “create” (bara) always refers to something God does. It is never used referring to a man’s creative efforts. Man cannot create out of nothing.
1) Exod. 34:10 – “…I will perform (bara) miracles which have not been produced in all the earth.”
2) Isa. 65:17 – “…I create (bara) new heavens and new earth”
3. God’s intentional creation gives us meaning
a) This denies atheism, because God created everything.
b) This denies pantheism (everything is God), because God is distinct from creation.
c) This denies polytheism (there are many gods), because there is only one God.
d) This denies humanism, because God is on the throne.
e) This denies evolution, because God created man and he didn’t come from goop.
C. “God created man in his own image” (1:27)
1. Man is God’s representation on earth.
a) “image of God” means that man is made in God’s image and likeness.
b) Similar to Gen 5:3, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”
2. Man is God’s highest creation, made to fellowship with him.
a) “It would be good for us to reflect on our likeness to God more often. It will probably amaze us to realize that when the Creator of the universe wanted to create something “in his image,” something more like himself than all the rest of creation, he made us. This realization will give us a profound sense of dignity and significance as we reflect on the excellence of all the rest of God’s creation: the starry universe, the abundant earth, the world of plants and animals, and the angelic kingdoms are remarkable, even magnificent. But we are more like our Creator than any of these things. We are the culmination of God’s infinitely wise and skillful work of creation. Even though sin has greatly marred that likeness, we nonetheless now reflect much of it and shall even more as we grow in likeness to Christ.” (Wayne Grudem)
b) Bill Hartley’s story about “Ella”
From the time we brought Ella home, she made two things perfectly clear – I want to be with people, and I don’t want to be alone. If there’s a person in the room, that’s where Ella parks herself – at that person’s feet. And, when we take Ella for a walk, it only magnifies this priority of hers. As we walk down our usually-deserted suburban streets, and another human being emerges, the leash is immediately taut from Ella’s insistence that we get to that person as quickly as possible. Funny…I don’t join her in her enthusiasm, but rather find myself wondering about that person - “Do I know her? Is he friendly? Could this be an evangelistic moment? Is she a salesperson? A criminal? Should I stay on this side of the street, just in case?” Ella bypasses such reflection, and sees only a possible moment of interaction – a pat on the head, on the tummy if lucky, a new smell, a new person to lick…that’s all she sees.
In short, she thinks people are great! And…well, I don’t. Not as much, anyway.
Contemporary life has put an even greater distance between us and “strangers.” We’re a fearful bunch, and want to keep ourselves and our families safe from people who might do us harm. “Better safe than sorry,” we say … so we keep our kids from playing in public spaces unattended, riding bikes to the store, or even hanging out with questionable playmates in the neighborhood (all of these things I did as a kid, and all of them are sources of fond memories today). But it’s not just kids. We like our drive throughs, our self-checkouts, our ATMs, our self-service stations … anything that will limit our contact with strangers. When we shop for a home, words like “exclusive” and “secluded” tantalize us. As a result of this brand of contemporary living, most of us have only limited contact with our neighbors … and this doesn’t really even bother us.
The scriptures, and the exemplary life of Jesus, know nothing of such isolation. God clearly points out that human beings are the pinnacle of creation, the 6th-day finale, called out as “very good”. Somehow, though, we would rather stare at the ocean, the grand canyon, or even the specimens at the zoo rather than stare into the eyes of our extraordinary neighbors around us! Jesus regularly took the time to interact warmly and deeply with people who lived on the outer edges of the community (woman at the well, Zaccheus, the man living in the tombs, the lepers, ex-prostitutes, paralytics, tax collectors, blue collar fisherman, political radicals…you get the picture). He even told the story of the Samaritan man who modeled proper community involvement by stopping to help someone he may not have even liked.
Somehow, when it comes to loving people, I think Ella is more like Jesus than I am. My prayer is that I would keep my leash taut at all times in my desire to reach out to the wonderful people all around me. Hopefully, I’ll do Ella proud.
D. “it was very good” (1:31)
1. 5 times it says that God saw what he made and “it was good” (1:10,12,18,21,25)
2. When God is done creating he says, “it was very (exceedingly) good.”
III. Gen 2 – God created a totally satisfying world
A. Man has unbroken fellowship with God
1. God has breathed life into him (2:7)
2. God’s favor was on them (1:28) “God blessed them”
B. Man is living in the midst of paradise (2:9-10)
C. Man has work that is satisfying and good (2:15)
D. Man has oneness in relationship (2:21-25)
1. “Here we have the first recorded words of any man in human history, and—smartly—he sings a love song to his naked wife.” (Mark Driscoll)
IV. Gen 3 – the world is the way it is because of the destructive power of sin
A. The nature of sin is idolatry—loving creation more than the Creator (Rom 1:25)
B. Sin ruins everything
1. Sin separates man from himself (3:7).
a) Feelings of shame
2. Sin separates man from his God (3:8)
a) Darkening of thinking –
Romans 1:21 - For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…
Romans 1:28-32 - 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
b) “We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, in innocence and without sin. But in Adam’s sin the race fell, inherited the guilt of his sin, a sinful nature, becoming spiritually dead and alienated from God so that man is a sinner both by nature and choice. Man, of himself, is incapable of remedying his lost and depraved condition.” (EVBC Doctrinal Statement)
3. Sin corrupts the creation (3:17, Rom 8:20-22)
a) Romans 8:20-22 - 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
4. Sin makes work difficult and painful (3:18-19)
a) Gallup survey says that almost 80% of people feel miscast in their jobs. “Despite all our gains in technology, product innovation, and world markets most people are not thriving in the organizations they work for. They are neither fulfilled nor excited, they are frustrated. Most of all they do not feel that they can change much.”
5. Sin separates man from his wife (and others) (3:12, 16)
a) “All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.”
C. Death and pain and suffering are the result of living in a sinful world (Rom 5:12)
V. Suffering and death will be defeated through suffering and death (3:15)
A. God is not a passive observer of human suffering, but gets involved in it
B. The hope of a world without sin comes through Jesus dying in place of sinners.
 Steven Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith, Restoring Broken Things, p. 12
Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 449.
Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).