The One and Only God
Passage: Genesis 1:1–2:3
Why should we give God alone our full devotion?
Home. Kids come home for college. Soldiers return home from war to be greeted by family and friends as a hometown hero. Even when kids move away to start their own families, everyone comes back home for holidays and family events. People sometimes expend great effort to salvage their childhood home because it represents their history and is photo album of their life. Those steps are where they broke their wrist. That’s the door frame with pencil lines marking their height through the years. That’s the swing dad would push them on.
Vacations are fun, but perhaps like me once you get near the end you begin longing for home. You’re tired of living out of a suitcase in an unfamiliar place. You long for the comfort and familiarity of your own bed and your own house. By the end of a vacation, Katie and I usually say to each other, “This has been really fun, but I’m ready to go home.” We were guests in hotels and foreigners in different towns and states and we were longing for home.
Home is a place where we feel that we belong. We feel safe and known so we can rest and let our guard down. For some of us, our childhood home was not a place of belonging. Our home environment was not a safe place where we could be at rest. Perhaps you saw your parents argue a lot or they were hard on you and criticized you. Perhaps you didn’t feel safe and loved at home. You didn’t feel at rest there.
We all are looking for a place to call home. We all are looking for a place of rest. We all are looking for a place where we belong and feel safe and accepted. We are looking for a place where everything is as it should be.
Today, we are beginning a series in the first book of the Bible: the book of Genesis. Genesis means “beginning” and it is a book of beginning - of origins. In it we learn the origin of humanity, the origin of what’s wrong with the world, and the origin of Israel.
We learn in this book that humanity’s home is supposed to be with God under his care, protection, and guidance. But because of our rebellion against God, our home with him becomes the first broken home in human history. However, God puts a plan into motion to bring us home. That’s what this book is all about and that’s why the name of this series is: Beginning the Journey Home.
This evening, we will be introduced to the only one who doesn’t have an origin or a beginning: God. God is the one responsible for creating our physical home and it’s only in relationship with him that we feel at home. This week and next week we will be covering Genesis chapters 1 and 2 which tell us all about how God created our world and us.
Bible scholar John Walton gives us a very important truth that we need to remember as we read chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis: Genesis is God’s Word written for us but not to us. Genesis is God’s Word written for us but not to us. Genesis is for our benefit but it was not written directly to us.
Genesis 1-2 was written to the ancient nation of Israel to show them that their God is the only true God. Over 3,000 years ago, God brought them out of slavery in Egypt so that they could worship him. God used a man named Moses to lead them out of slavery and he commissioned Moses write Genesis along with the four other first books of the Bible. Genesis is part of a five book series instructing Israel on who God is, what he has done, and who they are in relation to him.
They received these instructions as they were about to enter the land of Canaan that God had promised he’d give them. The problem is that there are many other religions with their own “gods” in Canaan. Genesis was written to this group of people to solidify their faith in their God.
This leads us to the big question this passage answers. The big question is: why should we give God alone our full devotion? Why should we give God alone our full devotion?
Though Genesis was not written to us, it was written for us so it can convince us of the same truth it was convincing the ancient Israelites of.
We will go over this passage and then we will return to answer our big question.
Let’s begin with verses 1 and 2 of Genesis chapter 1.
Creating Heaven and Earth (1:1-2)
The first words of the Bible are powerful and to the point. Verse 1 says:
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. (Genesis 1:1)
Everything finds its origin and beginning from God. He created all that exists. Verse 2 tells us:
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
“Without form” is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe desert wastelands, emptiness, and chaos. “Void” is used twice in combination with it to further emphasized a place of disorder and chaos. For the ancient readers, these verses point to the harshest desert of emptiness and say, “That’s what the earth was like.” There was also darkness and “the deep.” “The deep” of the sea represented an untamable, chaotic zone for ancient people. The waves are powerful and dangerous. Storms can threaten your life. The point made is that the earth was uninhabitable. But the rest of the verse says that the Spirit of God, his personal presence, was hovering like a bird over the chaotic waters ready for action.
I don’t know about you, but when I imagine the earth in this scene, I am imagining myself out in space looking at the globe of the earth. The original readers were not picturing a round globe floating in space when they heard this. When they hear earth, they are picturing what they are standing on. The “earth” to them is basically our modern day Middle East plus Egypt. They don’t even know that North America exists. That’s how much of the earth they know. We need to remember that God communicated to this group of people living in this time in a way that would make sense to them.
How should we imagine this? When I was a kid, I played with Legos a lot and eventually I got this really cool thing called a Lego table. When I would play, I'd get all my Legos out and it would look like chaos. All that chaos would need to be formed into something. I'd build castles and pirate outposts. Once that was formed, I would fill it. This is how we can imagine what God does here, as we will see in the rest of the passage.
The earth was formless and void. There was chaos and disorder. Next God brings order and purpose to this situation. In days 1-3, God takes care of the formless problem by forming it. In days 4 through 6 he takes care of the void problem by filling it.
Days 1-3: Forming (1:3-13)
In days 1-3, God forms the earth into a home able to be inhabited by life. Each day has similar patterns: “God said”, “let there be”, “and it was so”, “and God made”, “God saw that it was good”, naming or blessing, mention of the days.
Look at day 1:
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5)
The pattern continues. On day 1 God creates light and separates it from darkness and he declared it good.
On day 2, God forms the heavens by separating the waters above from the waters below. This refers to the waters on the earth and the waters in the sky. That may sound weird, but think about it. If you look up at the sky right now, what do you see? You see blue, which looks like water. And where does rain come from? The sky. From the vantage point of an ancient Israelite, God sends rain from the water in the sky.
God separates these two water sources by creating an expanse, verse 7 says, and God calls it “heaven” in verse 8. The original readers thought that there was this big dome over the earth, which God created to hold the waters up there. After forming the heavens, God declared it good.
On your seat was an image. Take that out. This is how the ancient Israelites and others in their time viewed the earth.
On day 3, God forms the dry land. He tells the waters under the heavens to gather into one place so dry land can appear and he called the dry land earth and the waters that were gathered seas. On this day, God also commands the earth to bring forth vegetation of all kinds. And he declared it good.
On days 1 through 3, God took a world without form and he gave it form. In days 4 through 6, he takes a world that is void and empty and fills it.
Days 4-6: Filling (1:14-31)
On day 4, God fills the heavens. He creates lights in the sky that mark seasons, days and years and give light to the inhabitants of earth. He calls one the greater light and one the lesser light. The greater light is the sun to rule the day and the lesser light is the moon to rule the night. And he declared it good.
On day 5, God fills the seas with all sorts of sea creatures and he fills the expanse of the heavens with birds and he declared it good. Then he commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the sea and earth. And he declared it good.
On day 6, God fills the dry land and here we reach the climax of creation. More time is given to this day and at the end God declares it very good. First, God creates living creatures on the land of all kinds and declares it good. Then in verse 26 we read:
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Only one creature in all of God’s creation is made in God’s image and likeness and that is human beings. What does it mean to be made in God’s image and likeness? In the ancient world, kings would make statues of themselves called “image.” These statues would look like them and would be placed in various parts of their kingdom as a sign that that particular king had dominion and lordship over that area.
So for God to create humans as his image bearers in his likeness to have dominion over the rest of creation means that we are living statues showing that he has lordship over the earth. We are living images of God’s reign and rule. We are set over creation as God’s representatives and we are given the commission to rule over it like he would and to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. We are supposed to live on earth as God’s ambassadors, both male and female equally.
After the creation of humanity, he indicates that we have been given the plants of the earth for food and God declares that it was very good.
Now that the formless and empty earth has been formed and filled in days 1 through 6, something different happens on day 7.
Day 7: God Enters His Temple (2:1-3)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)
God finishes creating then rests. Does this mean he was physically tired so needed to put his feet up with a glass of iced tea from a long work week? No, God doesn’t get tired. The word for “rest” indicates God ceased working because all is finished.
Also, in those times, divine “rest” was associated with temple building. The implication is that God’s temple has been completed. The earth is God’s dwelling place where he will be present with those whom he calls to worship and serve him. We will see God’s desire to dwell with humanity next week. Temples are holy places, meaning they are set apart and special. They are set apart for the presence of God. God doesn’t only create the world for humanity to dwell in. His intent is to dwell with humanity. God creates a home for us where he wants to be specially present with us.
You’ll notice that the end of every day says “and there was evening and there was morning, the [blank] day.” Every day says that except day seven. The implication is that this day was never supposed to end. God’s desire was that we would forever be at home in his presence. Both Jesus and the book of Hebrews teach this.
The big question this passage answers is: why should we give God alone our full devotion? Why should we give God alone our full devotion?
This is the question Genesis 1 is answering for Israel. God calls them to full devotion, but in a world of other religions and other gods and belief systems they need to be told why they should give their full devotion to God alone. We have the same need for this message. We have a world of options competing for our devotion. We have even more religious options than the Israelites. So why should we give God alone our full devotion?
First, because God alone created everything from nothing (1:1-2). Because God alone created everything from nothing. This is what verses 1 through 2 tell us and it’s why we should give him our full devotion. Because nothing exists that doesn’t owe its existence to God. And nothing would exist if it weren’t for God. Because of God, there is something instead of nothing and if it weren’t for God, there would still be nothing instead of something.
Because God alone is our Creator, it means we are dependent on him. We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him. We receive our life from him, we receive our identity telling us who we are from him, and we receive our purpose from him telling us what we are supposed to do. God is the one who knows what is good and is not good so we should fully devote ourselves to him alone if we want to experience goodness in life.
Second, because God alone is god (1:3-23). Because God alone is god. This whole passage of Scripture shows that the God whom the Israelites followed and the God whom Jesus worshiped is the only God who exists. The Bible’s God is the one and only true God.
At almost every turn, this description of the beginning of creation proves the other gods of the time don’t exist. Other creation accounts started with pre-existing material from which the earth was created. God is the only pre-existing one and he starts creation from nothing. In other creation accounts, the sea monsters and the sun and moon were competing gods but in this account, God creates them and tells them what to do. In other creation accounts, humans are created as an afterthought to supply the gods with food but in this account God creates them in his image. Humans are created with dignity and purpose and are blessed by God to partner with him in taking care of creation and cultivating its good potential. God supplies the humans with food not vice versa.
In other creation accounts, there is inherent evil built into the universe but God declares his creation only good and very good. In other creation accounts, there is a fight between the gods that leads to the creation of the world we know with one god winning out as the supreme. Here there is no struggle and no explanation for where God came from. He just is and all of creation obeys his word. The point is, God is the only god and he is in complete control with no competitors or rivals.
The third reason we should give God alone our full devotion is because we were made for him alone (1:24-31). Because we were made for him alone. Made in God’s image means we are his ambassadors which means by definition that we are not God - we are not the king. God is in charge and we are not. Life is not about us. As ambassadors made in his image to represent his reign and rule on earth, our job as humans is to advance his agenda and his will on earth. Because we are ambassadors of his kingdom made for him and not for ourselves, we should fully devote ourselves to our King.
Fourth, because in him alone do we find our home (2:1-3). Because in him alone do we find our home. God created us to live in close relationship with him. He created us to depend on him, to trust in him, to rely on him for everything. From him we know who we are and we know what we are supposed to do. For humans, home is where our God is. And if we live in line with how he has created this world, we will experience a sense of belonging, safety, and security.
Rescued from slavery in Egypt and about to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land filled with other religions and “gods”, Israel need to be given confidence that their God was the right God. He had called them to full devotion in him and this creation story tells them why that should. We also live in a land of other religions and other little “gods” that may threaten our devotion to the one true God. For Israel, there were storm gods and fertility gods. The gods of Egypt, the gods of Canaan, the gods of Babylon. What “gods” compete for our devotion in this time and place?
First, we have the the god of science. This god asks us to put all our faith into the scientific method and the theories that come out of the scientific community. To be clear, science is not opposed to God. After all, science is observing the natural world that God has made. In fact, the basis of scientific inquiry rests on the foundation of an orderly and predictable world governed by laws. We believe God set up this orderly world!
Where science goes wrong is when it becomes a god of its own to people. When people look to science to answer questions only God can answer, then science has replaced God for those people. Many look to science to tell us who were are, where we came from, and what our purpose is. Those questions can only be answered by God.
Sometimes people reject the Bible because they believe it contradicts science. Sometimes people reject science because it contradicts the Bible. But remember this: God reveals himself perfectly through both nature and Scripture. If nature and Scripture are contradicting each other, we are interpreting one of them incorrectly. Perfect revelation can be wrongly interpreted. The error is not in the revelation; the error is in the interpreter.
Katie has told me about many times when she perfectly revealed to her students that there was going to be a test on Friday. She would put it on the board and announce it all week. But still, Friday would come and she would hear, “What?! There’s a test today? You never told us that.” She may have perfectly revealed it, but her students were not hearing it, paying attention, or remembering and so the error is with them.
God revealed himself according to what they were capable of observing about the natural world. Science observes the natural world. If God wrote Genesis 1 today, I believe it would be written differently because he would reveal himself according to what we are capable of observing about the natural world.
We know much more about God’s creation than the ancient Israelites and that should give us even more reason to worship him. They were filled with wonder at what God had made and it led to awe-filled worship of their Creator. Should we not be led to even more wonder, awe, and worship for the power, majesty, and greatness of our God?
The first god that competes with our full devotion to God is the god of science. The second is the god of whatever. This god lets you believe whatever you want and do whatever you want as long as you aren’t harming others. He just wants you to be the best person you can be and love others. People believe that this god basically loves everyone except for the very worst people and that he just wants you to be happy. People who believe in this god also believe that basically all spiritual paths lead to their god and that all religions have the same basic message: love other people. They also usually don’t take their god too seriously because religion is good unless you are too devoted to it.
Genesis 1 speaks directly against this. There is one and only one God who created all things and we are morally accountable to him. God doesn’t tell the Israelites, “You know, all those gods that the people are worshiping in Canaan are really just different versions of me so it’s ok that you they worship them. You can worship right alongside them. Go ahead and put your COEXIST bumper sticker on your car. What I’m telling you is basically the same as what they are doing. ” That is the exact opposite of what he tells them. God tells them that the gods of other religions are false gods and he warns Israel about turning away from him because it will have disastrous consequences. He calls them to love him above all else with undivided loyalty. What’s the first of the Ten Commandments? You shall have no other gods before me.
The final god that competes for our full devotion is the god of me. This god is really the one that drives the other two. Because if the other two are true, it relieves us of responsibility. If science proves the Bible wrong, we don’t have to do what it says. If all God wants from us is that we are happy and all spiritual paths lead to him, then we don’t have to do what he says. Life is about us and what we want. We aren’t accountable to a Creator.
It’s easy for us to compartmentalize which parts of our life God gets. We say to him, “I’ll give you an hour and a half every Sunday and maybe a few other hours when I can, but the rest of my week and life is mine to do with as I want.” But God created us for him. All of life. Every moment, every day, every week, every year. Your life belongs to him. All of creation does his bidding. Moon and stars go into place at his command. Sea separates from dry land by the instruction of his word. But we have the audacity to tell him “no.” We have the gumshion to give God a sliver of our life when he gave us life.
Parents, how well would it go over if your kids told you, “Mom and dad, I’ll give you an hour and a half for family dinner on Wednesdays, but the rest of the week is mine to do what I want”?
This week, ask God to show you which parts of your life you have kept for yourself. And as we go through Genesis, read it for yourself. This is a book that enriches our understanding of it and of God the more we read it.
We see in this chapter God creating a home for us to dwell in and for him to dwell with us. It’s a home that is blessed. Next week we will get an up close and personal picture of what home with God looks like.
But we know that Jesus came because that home was broken. John 1, our first Scripture reading, told us that Jesus was there in the beginning with God. In fact, he is the Word through whom God made the world. But the Word that created us had to become flesh so that we can be recreated. When we separate ourselves from God, we experience chaos, darkness, and disorder. Jesus can remake us and save us from this chaos because he is the Word through whom we were created.