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Starting with the Beginning (and Ending There)

Starting with the Beginning (and Ending There)

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Published by David Driedger
A sermon on the themes of creation throughout the Bible.
A sermon on the themes of creation throughout the Bible.

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Published by: David Driedger on Oct 14, 2008
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06/16/2009

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1
Starting at the Beginning (and Ending There)
(September 28, 2008; The Creation and Flood Accounts)In our culture we have historically had a preference for the facts. Truth is theright observation of the facts of nature around us. This is essentially the scientificmethod of observation and hypothesis.
 If a + b = c; then b = c – a
. It was this thinkingthat led to breakthroughs in medicine, astronomy, and the social sciences. In these areas people began discarding what they considered to be the superstitions of the dark ages or medieval period. This was a wonderful thing as people could see for instance that illnesswas related to germs and not divine wrath. Theologians, however, were not at such aliberty to discard their origins. You cannot easily discard something like the Bible that isconsidered divine. And so many theologians began to consciously or unconsciouslyadopt the emerging scientific worldview in their reading of scripture. To them the Bible became a collection of facts. This led many to interpret the creation account as givinghistorical facts about the physical origins of the universe.
 If Adam is the first human and the world was created in seven days; then the lineage of Adam will tell us how old theworld is
.
 
 No matter how we understand the relationship between the Bible and sciencethis emphasis was not helpful because it neglected the way in which the creation accountwas used throughout the Bible.
 
There is not just one creation account in the Bible. During the time when scienceseemed to have control over our understanding of the Bible there were people calledDeists who believed that God started the universe but then let it run on its own. It wassaid that God was a watch-maker who wound up the world and then left it to let it run itscourse. This is not a biblical view of reality. In the Bible the creation account functionsas a living and ongoing reality that was not a one time event but the continuous work of 
 
2God in the world. The reason why I had the Flood account read alongside Genesischapter 1 is because the Flood story is also a creation account. In both accounts waterscover the earth. At creation the Spirit of God hovers over the water while at the Flood adove is sent out to find land. In both accounts the water recedes and dry land appears. In both accounts God calls the people to multiply and be fruitful. And in both accountsGod’s work and promise was established for the whole world. This is important toremember. It can be easy, or perhaps desirable, to forget that God’s plan has always beenall encompassing. In God’s vision there is no separate public and private sphere, no political or economic boundaries. There is nothing that is out of bounds for God. It iseasy to forget God’s vision for the world because as the story unfolds God beginsworking through particular individuals and particular people but within these stories thereis always the understanding that God’s work is for the whole world.Also much of this message is subtle to us because while we were only looking for scientific or historical evidence about the past the writers of the Bible were placingtheologically significant statements. In Genesis chapter ten after the flood account we aregiving a list of the descendents of Noah which according to the Bible make up the wholeworld’s population. The number of Noah’s descendents adds up to 70 in all. At the endof Genesis 70 is also the number of descendents of Jacob that enter Egypt. It is seventy people, the symbolic number for the whole world, who represent the people of God’s promise that enter Egypt. The people then enter slavery in Egypt and after God deliversthem they are lead into wilderness where God calls Moses up to Mt. Sinai. But it is notonly Moses who goes up the mountain. When the covenant relationship between Godand the people is made God also calls up the seventy elders of Israel. In this gesture God
 
3is making the covenant with all of creation. The people of God’s promise always carrywith them a call that is for all people and all the world. This is the message that flows outfrom the creation.And so if the Hebrew people in Egypt represent the whole world then shouldn’tthey also have a creation story like Adam and Noah? The Exodus
is
their creationaccount. When God delivers them from the hands of Pharaoh the people flee Egypt onlyto find that the Egyptian army is chasing them. In this chase the Hebrews soon foundthemselves flanked by the Red Sea. Their fate seems to set as they are going to be driveninto the sea which is an expression of chaos and de-creation (as we saw in the Flood andat Creation). But what happens? As in Creation and the Flood the waters part and dryground appears. This too is a creation account. It is the creation of the people of Israelwho continue carry the promise and instructions of God to be a blessing to all people.So what exactly does the creation account, this stone or marker in God’s storytells us? What does it mean that our God is one who is always at the work of creation?What these stories tell us is that alongside and perhaps before the work of creation is thereality of destruction and chaos. The first story for Christians and Jews begins withdarkness and deep waters. The sea or water in the Bible is often used to represent chaosand destruction. At that time in history the sea was a place of overwhelming power wheremysterious and unknown beasts dwelled. Sometimes the threat of chaos was forced on people like the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Sometimes the Bible speaks of beasts thatemerge from the sea like what overtakes Jonah but in other places in the Bible these beasts can also represent world leaders who are violent and corrupt like William Blake’sunnerving depiction of the beast that rises from the sea in the book of Revelation.

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