Monday, May 19, 2014

Genesis 1:1-2

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." --Genesis 1:1-2 NASB

The verses above are fairly simple. At the very beginning of time, God (who is timeless) created the earth and everything around it -- the heavens. This was his first act of creation but it was not a completed work on that first day. It was formless, void, and dark. The earth and sky were like an empty canvass ready for the Master to paint his masterpiece. Another way to look at it was that the world was a huge lump of clay in the Potter's hands which would soon be made into a beautiful piece of pottery. At this time God's Spirit was moving over the waters that then covered the earth.

Even after studying the Bible for many years, several important questions come to mind.

  1. Who is God?
  2. This may seem like an academic question. But for those reading this book for the first time, there is little information offered. But this question does force us to make some very simple yet profound observations. "In the beginning" infers that God was there when all this happened. No one else was there. He was the sole witness of what happened when everything began. And he existed before anything was created. Thus, God exists apart from Creation. This is difficult for us to understand but it does place God on a different level than what he created. "God created" very simply tells us that God is the one who caused everything to come into being. Once again, we can see that God is endued with powers far beyond anything we can imagine. He created everything that we see out of nothing. The fact that God tells us what happened in the beginning reveals something about him. He wants us to know who he is and what he has done. As we read the rest of the Book of Genesis, we will see more of his character revealed.

  3. When did all of this happen?
  4. At this point in the story, we are not given a date. We are simply told that what follows happened "in the beginning." This is when everything that we see and know began. Therefore, Creation had a beginning point. It has not always existed nor has it been slowly evolved into what we see today. It all started at one point in time when God decided to create it. But when did that happen? The rest of the Book of Genesis gives us information to answer that question. "The age of the earth can be estimated by taking the first five days of creation (from earth’s creation to Adam), then following the genealogies from Adam to Abraham in Genesis 5 and 11, then adding in the time from Abraham to today."1 The end result is that approximately 6,000 years have elapsed since God created the heavens and the earth. Read the rest of Hodge's article for a more complete explanation.

  5. What does "create" mean?
  6. The Hebrew word translated "created" in verse 1 comes from the root word ברא. Its basic meaning is "shape, form, fashion, create."2 In other places, it is used of the Creation of the world (Gen. 2:3; Isa. 45:18), man (Gen. 1:27, 5:1; Deut. 4:32; Mal. 2:10), the wind (Amos 4:13), and a spiritually new heart (Psalm 51:10). These are things that only God can do. "Only God can create--that is, call into existence that which had no existence. '... The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear' (Hebrews 11:3)."3 God can also form something from what already exists as he did with Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:7) but there a different word is used. The Hebrew word יצ ר means "form, fashion"4 and describes how God made some things out of matter he had already created5. In the context of Genesis, God created some things out of nothing and made other things from the material he had already created.

  7. What does formless and void mean?
  8. Some have developed an idea that this chaotic wasteland was the result of a divine judgment before the creation of man described in the rest of Genesis 1. "The gap theory, as generally taught today, asserts that in the dateless past God created a perfect heaven and earth. The earth was inhabited by a pre-Adamic race and ruled by Satan, who dwelt in the Garden of Eden. Satan desired to become like God and eventually rebelled (Isa. 14). Thus sin entered the universe, and God's judgment came in the form of first a great flood and then, when the light and heat from the sun ended, a global ice age."6 This interpretation is based more on Babylonian myth7 and evolutionary teaching than what the Bible actually says. It is better to understand verses 1-2 as an introduction/summary of creation. God made the heavens and the earth and started with a watery glob of earth that took several days to fashion into what we know today.

  9. Why was God's Spirit moving over the water?
  10. God created the heavens and the earth. However, we know from John 1 that God the Son was involved in creating everything that exists. In this verse, we find that God the Spirit was also involved. But what was he doing? The participle is used elsewhere to describe an eagle hovering over its young (Deut. 32:19) and someone's bones trembling (Jer. 23:9). It implies energetic movement. Perhaps the best way to understand this phrase is that this describes the Holy Spirit's activity during the creation. Remember that verses 1-2 are a summary/introduction to the six days of Creation. Taken this way, this is simply revealing that the Holy Spirit was actively involved in the process.

    One commentator suggests that the Holy Spirit's movements created the energy that invigorated the entire universe. "Waves are typically rapid back and forth movements and they are normally produced by the vibratory motion of a wave generator of some kind. Energy cannot create itself. It is most appropriate that the first impartation of energy to the universe is described as the 'vibrating' movement of the Spirit of God Himself. As the outflowing energy from God's omnipresent Spirit began to flow outward and to permeate the cosmos, gravitational forces were activated and water and earth particles came together to form a great sphere moving through space."8

These two verses are a summary of God's great work of creation. But as you can see, they also show us several important truths about creation. They reveal the greatness of our God. He is the pre-existing One who caused all things to come into existence. They show us that our universe had a specific beginning and how it happened. There is no need to add millions of years of evolution to this story because God created it all. They show us that God's creation was progressively formed. God first created an imperfect blob of matter and water but eventually fashioned it into the wonderful Creation we see today. They also reveal who was involved in the creating process. God the Father, Son, and Spirit were actively involved in causing the universe to come into being. This summary says alot about our God but we can be thankful that he further explains what happened in the chapters ahead. Read on.

---------------

1Bodie Hodge, "How Old is the Earth?" as viewed at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/05/30/how-old-is-earth on May 13, 2014.

2Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 135.

3Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, 40.

4Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 427.

5Ross Peters, Did God create plants on Day 3 out of nothing?, as viewed on May 16, 2014.

6John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison -- Studies in Genesis, 43.

7Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, 110 ff.

8Henry Morris 52

Friday, April 25, 2014

Psalm 37:4 and Your Next Mercedes-Benz

This morning I noticed a nice Mercedes-Benz S-Class with a license plate that read PSLM 374. I presume the owner was referring to Psalm 37:4 which says, "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart." My first inclination was to take a picture. I happen to own an older Mercedes-Benz of the same style and have no problem with someone driving a nice car. (Remember, I work at a Mercedes-Benz and Volvo dealership.) But I did wonder about having that Scripture reference on the license plate. What was the purpose or motivation. Was it a statement of God's gracious provision of the car? That could be and we should be thankful for every good gift he gives us. But I have seen too many prosperity preachers to bypass another possibility.

There are some who believe that God always rewards Christians with good things. To them, Psalm 37:4 is a promise that God will make them prosperous if they delight in spiritual things. For instance, if you love God and delight in Bible study and evangelism, God will give you everything you want. Or at least you will get some nice things that other people will not. I'm not comfortable with that kind of thinking.

When I view the message of Scripture as a whole, I see many times when good and godly believers did not receive good things. Think of Abel, Job, David, Ezekiel, and James. They went through some difficult circumstances despite their right attitude and dedication to the Lord. Were they not delighting enough at the time of their bad circumstances? Think also of the New Testament promise for godly believers to be persecuted. With all that in mind, I think it would be better to view Psalm 37 differently.

A pastor once told me that Psalm 37:4 best displays what happens to our desires when we delight in God. When we delight in him, he becomes what brings the greatest joy to our hearts. Think of what the apostle John said: "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." Delighting in God obviously changes our focus from temporal to eternal joys. Does that mean that we will never have the desire for a nice car, home, family, etc.? No, God does enjoy giving good gifts to his children. And we are designed to enjoy these things. However, it would be best to delight in the things that bring joy to our God. That's where the real joy comes from.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Believe-It-Or-Not" by William Ashbrook

The following article was submitted by Pastor William Ashbrook to the Columbus Dispatch in 1938 and was transcribed from a copy of the letter provided by Pastor Dan Greenfield of Orwell Bible Church.


November 10, 1938

"Believe-It-Or-Not"
Contest Editor
Columbus Dispatch
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Sir:

The following incident occurred about 2 p.m. on October 31st., 1936. Mrs. Ashbrook and I, together with our four children, had just completed a hurried visit to the bed-side of my mother who was critically ill at Washington, Pa. We were returning by automobile to our home at Columbus, Ohio. Traveling west on U.S. Route 40, we had just passed through the village of Claysville, Pa., where the road makes a slight turn to the right and starts down a small hill. The car was going at approximately 35 miles per hour. Our youngest child, Emma Ruth by name, was just past two years old. She was riding in the front seat with her mother and myself. At this particular moment she was standing on the floor of the car next to the front door, holding a baby doll in her arms. A sudden gust of wind opened the door with terrific force and the resulting suction drew the child from the car head-first, before her mother could lay a hand on her.

The mental agony of the next thirty seconds cannot be described! Fearing to apply the brakes too suddenly, I brought the car to a gradual stop, meanwhile looking in the mirror for some sight of our little one in the road behind. The baby doll was lying in the road at the point where the child had pitched out, but there was no Emma Ruth to be seen! Before the car came to a complete stop, Mrs. Ashbrook was out on the road. She could see the child's feet and red leggings protruding from under the running board, her head and shoulders being concealed beneath the car. Great was the mother's surprise and resultant joy wen she discovered her child suspended in mid-air by the sleeve of her coat which had caught on a small bolt beneath the running board. She seemed to be held up by a single thread, but that thread had suspended the child's body safely above the hard road and had protected it from the front and rear wheels of the car.

As the child was extricated, her scream of fright gave some assurance that she was not badly injured. A hasty, but careful examination revealed a badly torn little dress, a small tear on the coat sleeve, and one tiny scratch on a little finger! A lady living nearby, whose name can be furnished, heard our screams and seeing the open car door and the baby doll rolling in the road, came running to our aid. She arrived just in time to see the child taken from under the car uninjured. Be assured that prayers of thanksgiving ascended from the middle of that National Road, and tears of joy fell freely also as father and mother and the three older children thought on the wonder of it all. A little dress, badly torn, but very precious, is among our most valued possessions!

The car in which we were traveling was a borrowed one, 1935 model. The doors were hinged at the rear, the latch in front, making the doors open from front to rear as they did in some cars of that period. We discovered later that this door had a faulty latch which made it possible for the gust of wind to open it. However some might attempt to explain, we firmly believe that our Heavenly Father in His wonderful loving care spared the life of our child. We would give Him all the glory. This incident was freely told to many at the time it happened. The next evening, being Sunday evening, Nov. 1st, 1936, I preached to my congregation on the theme, "Why I Believe in Miracles", relating to them the happenings narrated above. "Believe It Ir Not" the age of miracles is not past and our God can still give his angels charge over us!

Very Sincerely,

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Doctrine of the Remnant

"The trouble still in the church is a matter of foundations. There are those who would have us believe that it is a good and a right thing to form great unions, to have a great ecumenical church, and that then we shall be a great body of people confronting the world. But the question is, what is this great ecumenical church to stand for? What is she to believe? What is her foundation? We are not concerned primarily about numbers, for however great a body the ecumenical church may be, she will have no influence upon the world unless she has a truth to present, unless she has a solid and firm foundation on which to stand. Surely that is the great emphasis of the Bible. What the Bible is concerned about is truth, and in a very extraordinary manner it ridicules our pathetic faith in big battalions and in great numbers. It seems to go out of its way to teach a doctrine of the remnant and to show what one man can do when that one man is truly Christian."

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones in Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, (Carlisle PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 5.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some Thoughts on 2 Peter 1:1-4

"Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."
2 Peter 1:1-4 NASB

When my son and I first started looking over these verses last year, he was unsure how practical the first few verses in 2 Peter would be to his daily life. Why memorize Peter's greeting to his readers? But as we looked at them more closely, it became apparent that this was no casual greeting but a carefully planned reminder of what God has accomplished for every true believer. Before we can delve deeper into the knowledge of God, we have to understand and be certain of where we stand with Him. This is what Peter does in these first few verses.

"There are always those who are ready to help us to yield to doubts and fears and to encourage us in them. I therefore believe, as I am never tired of saying these days, that the first thing that is necessary at the present time is that Christian people should be certain of their position. I borrow the words of the Apostle when he says, 'I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them'. That is profound psychology! It is a very great mistake to think that because we know a thing we need not be reminded of it repeatedly."

D. M. Lloyd-Jones in Expository Sermons on 2 Peter (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 3.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Remember the deeds of the Lord.

During college, Dr. Ollila often reminded us to remember the works of the Lord. The idea was that remembering what God has done would encourage us to trust him for the future. As I read Psalm 77 this morning, the same idea popped out of the text.

Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.
Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.
Psalm 77:9-12

The writer of the psalm must have been going through some dark days — so bad that he thought the Lord had forgotten him. His remedy was to remember and meditate on the works of the Lord. In his case, he went back to God's works during the days of Moses and Aaron. But what about us?

The Scriptures were written to give us hope. As we read the Bible narratives of ancient believers, we should be encouraged that God can do the same for us. But there comes a point where we have to remember what he has done for us as well. What has God done for me during my life? What has he done for me recently? Remembering those things will be an encouragement to all who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What can I get from those verses?

I have begun memorizing 2 Peter 1 with each of the children but got a bit of negative feedback recently. One of them asked, "What can I get from those verses?" I was incredulous! The first two verses of 2 Peter 1 teach some great doctrines that should encourage every believer. Take a look at them.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;

Here's a sampling of what I found in these verses.

  1. Peter's humility and authority.
  2. Peter addressed his readers as a slave and apostle of Jesus. He willingly served Jesus as his Master but also recognized himself as one of the few who had been personally chosen and sent out by Jesus. He had a great task, great message, and great authority, but he also knew his place compared to the Lord Jesus. He was just a slave who willingly did what his Master commanded. This is the attitude that each of us should have as we seek to proclaim God's truth to the world.

  3. God's gift of faith to the elect
  4. Peter wrote to those who had received faith just as he had. His readers were on an equal plane as the apostles and prophets who had come before them. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" but it is also the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Here Peter points out that this common faith is something believers receive not something they do. God gives faith to those whom he has chosen. That ought to bring great humility and gratefulness to each true believer.

  5. The righteousness of Christ
  6. Here is a place for more humility and thankfulness. My sinfulness kept me from ever being right with God on my own. So what do I have to boast about? I have nothing except for the righteousness of Jesus imputed to me. That's where my hope lies. So there is no reason to doubt my standing before God when I consider that he is my righteousness.

  7. The deity and saving work of Jesus Christ
  8. Who is this One who gave me his righteousness? It is my God and Savior Jesus Christ. He is both God and Savior to everyone who believes. Because he is God he has all the attributes which give me hope throughout life. He is perfect, unfailing, loving, just, all-powerful, and always does the right thing. Think of that the next time you hear the name of Jesus. But remember that he is also your Savior. He is the One who rescued us from our sinful life and from eternal punishment in Hell.

  9. The blessings of knowing God and the Lord Jesus.
  10. When Peter prayed that grace and peace would be multiplied to his readers, he knew exactly how they could obtain such blessings. They come from knowing both God the Father and God the Son. Is it really that simple? Yes, but grace and peace will only multiply as your knowledge of God grows. The more you know him, the more you will trust him and find his peace. The more you know him, the more blessings you will recognize as grace coming from him. So get to know him more and more!

What can you learn from these verses? I found some really good things. And I'm sure that there is even more to be found should we think about them some more. Perhaps if we took more time to meditate on the Scriptures, we would find them to be that much more of a blessing to us. But don't stop there. Share them with others so that they can enjoy the multiplied grace and peace that comes from knowing God.