Another New Beginning (Genesis 1:1-12:3)

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Introduction and Review

I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning back to the book of Genesis. After a year-long hiatus in 1 Peter, we are going to pick back up where we left off in Genesis 12 and study this book for a while. Now, today’s sermon is going to be pretty different than most of my sermons. Instead of focusing on a few sentences or a few paragraphs, like I usually do, today I am going to do a review of everything we covered in our previous sermon series from this book, which covered the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Like last week, your fingers will need to be ready to do some walking. So I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to Genesis 1, where we will begin. If you do not have a Bible with you today, I encourage you to make use of one of the pew Bibles where you will obviously find Genesis at the very beginning.

Now, the first thing I’d like to remind you is that the reason we call this the book of Genesis is because in the ancient world it was customary to use the first word or the first few words of a book as the title for the whole book. And that is what was done with the book of Genesis. If you look with me in your Bible this morning at the first verse in Genesis 1, it will most likely start out with the words, “In the beginning.” Well, these words “In the beginning,” are the translation of a single Hebrew word which, as you would expect, means “in the beginning.” And when the Greek translation of Genesis was completed, it was appropriately decided to title the book using the Greek word genesis (γένεσις) which means “origin.” And so, it is from the Greek word γένεσις that we get our English word “Genesis.” And this is an appropriate title because the book of Genesis is a book about the beginning of the world and the origin of the human race. And that is pretty much what we dealt with in our studies from chapters 1-11.

Genesis 1-2

Genesis 1-2 contain the story of God’s creation—his creation of the world and everything in it, including human beings. Now, as I said in those first few sermons way back when, there are at least two different ways Bible-believing Christians can read and understand what is contained within these chapters. Now for the sake of time this morning, I won’t dive off into the details of those two different views. But if you are interested, you can go to our website and find the first two sermons I preached from Genesis where I cover those views in detail.

The first is the traditional view that you are probably all familiar with. In this view, God created the Earth and everything in within six, literal 24-hour days. On the sixth day of creation, God created Adam, and using the biblical genealogies that trace Jesus all the way back to Adam, those who hold to this view usually believe that the Earth is relatively young—somewhere between 6,000 and 15,000 years old. Now, the reason it is called the traditional view (and is the view most of you are probably already familiar with), is because it is the oldest known view of creation we have.1 Lot’s of Christians have held to this view, and many still do.

Now, the other view about how to read the creation story I discussed way back when is a view that has been made popular once again in recent years by the late Dr. John Sailhamer who taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. And, the most interesting thing about this view is the way it remains faithful to the biblical text (just like the traditional view) while also allowing for an Earth that is older than six to fifteen thousand years—something that the traditional view requires which causes angst for people who believe the Earth is older than that. Again, I won’t go into all the details, but Dr. Sailhamer shows us how to read Genesis 1 and 2 in such a way that remains faithful to the biblical text, without dismissing the very straight-forward reading of twenty-four hour days, while still allowing the earth to potentially be billions of years old. And again, if you interested in hearing a bit more about this, go back to my previous sermons where I go into a bit more detail.

Now, whatever conclusion someone reaches about the creation story, the essential thing to believe about Genesis 1 and 2, is that God could have done what he did in six seconds, six hours, six days, or six billion years. He could have done it however he wanted, and he did it precisely as he wanted. That is the most important thing that we need to believe about the creation story. That God created everything out of nothing and he did it on his timeline.

In addition to this, it is also important to believe that the Bible is the very Word of God and that it is perfect and without error. Second Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” and “all Scripture” includes these early chapters of Genesis. And because the Bible is God-breathed, that means it is not only free from theological error, but it is also free from scientific and historical error when and where it addresses those sorts of things. While we may not understand it all because God chose not to reveal everything to us, while there may be some missing pieces to the puzzle because the Bible is not a science book or because we are simply too far removed from the story to connect the dots for ourselves, my conviction is that the Bible is NEVER, EVER wrong and that what it teaches is NEVER, EVER wrong when it is properly understood. And for that reason, we must always let the Bible have the first word, and whatever it says we must accept it, even if that challenges our predetermined understanding of things.

You see, if you refuse to accept things in Genesis merely because they don’t make sense based on your understanding of the world, then you are going to have problems with the rest of the Bible as well. Yes, if you refuse to accept things that cannot be proven by science or history, you are going to have problems with the rest of the Bible as well. For example, what are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus was born to a virgin? Does history and science support that? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus calmed a storm with just the words of his mouth? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus walked on water? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus fed 5,000 men with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus gave sight to the blind? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus raised a man from the dead? What are you going to do when the Bible tells you that Jesus himself rose from the dead and presented himself to more than 500 people at one time?

So be careful when you get ready to toss Genesis aside because it doesn’t line up with what you have been taught about the world. Because a lot of the Bible is going to fall into that category, and particularly when we get to the stories of Jesus.

In Genesis 1 and 2, the Bible tells us that God spoke all of creation into existence with nothing but the words of his mouth and that he formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils. And knowing that it was not good for Adam to be alone, God took one of Adam’s ribs and used it as the starting point for Adam’s wife, Eve. And in Genesis 1:27 we are told that God set human beings apart from the rest of the living creatures by creating us in his own image. In that verse, the Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” And then, at the end of his creative work, the Bible tells us that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).

Genesis 3

So, Genesis 1 and 2 describe a wonderful beginning. But unfortunately, in Genesis 3, we come to a major turning point in the biblical story. A turning point that we are still feeling the ramifications of today. A turning point so dire that God had to send his Son to die in the cross in order to fix it. And that turning point is something that we refer to as the Fall. In this dreadful chapter, Moses (who was the author of the first five books of the Bible) relays the story to us of how Adam and Eve plunged the whole human race, along with the rest of God’s creation, into a sin-filled state of ruin and despair.

You see, as a result of succumbing to Satan’s temptation to disobey God and eat fruit from the ONLY tree in the garden that was off-limits to them as human beings, things went from being “very good” at the conclusion of God’s work in Genesis 1-2, to being very bad for Adam and Eve and their descendants ever since. And what the Bible makes clear, is that every problem we encounter in this world is a direct result of the events described for us in Genesis 3. We are living with the results of what took place in this chapter, and we are living in a world that is a corrupted version of the world God originally created.

Yes, according to this chapter, a curse has come upon humankind and the rest of God’s creation as well. Instead of living in a paradise overflowing with provisions, now men toil hard and sweat much as they wrestle with thorns and thistles to eke out a living on this Earth. Now, women cry out in pain as they bring babies into this world. Husbands and wives now find themselves, no longer walking in unison with one another, but with desires that are often contrary to the desires of their spouses. And now, as a result of what took place in Genesis 3, all of us will return to the dust from which the first man was created. And all of this will make us jaded and angry and self-absorbed. And that is how we will interact with one another in this world. Again, the problems we encounter in our lives are a direct result of the events described for us in Genesis 3. Yes, the Bible tells us that all the evil around us is a direct consequence of that first rebellion against God.

But, as bad as things have become in just three short chapters—human beings are now at odds with one another, at odds with their work, and at odds with God—the book of Genesis does offer a glimpse of hope here. Because in Genesis 3:15, God made a promise that gives us a hint of his plans to redeem and restore the world. In this verse, God promises that a future descendant of this first man and first woman will ultimately bring about Satan’s demise. Yes, he gives us a bit of hope, that one day, there will be a man who will fix the problems brought about the sin of the first man and woman. And as Christians, we know that God was thinking about his Son, Jesus Christ.

So right here, in the pit of despair, God holds out hope for humanity. It doesn’t change the fact that things have taken a terrible turn for the worse, but there is hope. And Jesus is the fulfillment of that hope.

Genesis 4

Well, as we turn to the next chapter, Genesis 4, we begin to see how it is all going to play out now that things have taken this terrible turn for the worse. In this chapter, we are told that Adam and Eve had two sons—Cain and Abel. And most people know the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer; Abel was a shepherd. And when it came time to make an offering to God, each these men offered God a portion of the things they had produced through their work—much like what we do today when we tithe. But the story takes a turn when we find out that while God was happy with Abel’s offering, he was not pleased with Cain’s. Now, there has been a lot of speculation over the years as to why God did not approve of Cain’s offering, but the best answer can be found in Hebrews 11:4 which tells us that the difference between the offering Abel made to God and the one Cain made to God is that Abel made his offering in faith while Cain did not. And this is important, because just two verses later, the author of Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please [God].”

So, it was because of his faith that Abel was commended as righteous. And it was Cain’s lack of faith, that made his offering unacceptable to God. God's rejection of his offering caused Cain to be jealous of his brother, so angry and jealous that he murdered him. And this is the first glimpse the Bible gives us of what life is going to be like in a fallen world. Adam and Eve have already been expelled from the Garden because of their sin. And now, Cain, their first son, will be evicted from his home and become “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12 ESV).

Genesis 5-7

Well, in Genesis 5-7 we learn that years and years go by and people begin to spread all over the earth. And as much as we would like to hear good news in these chapters, what we discover is the worst news imaginable. In Genesis 6:5-6, we learn that “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5–6 ESV). And as a result of this, the Bible tells us in the remainder of Genesis 6, about God’s decision to wipe out every living thing from the face of the earth except a man named Noah and his family. In Genesis 6:13, God tells Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” And in the remainder of chapters 6 and 7, the Bible tells the story about how Noah built an ark and loaded his family on it with at least two of every kind of animal on the face of the earth, before the great flood of judgment that God brought upon humankind as judgment for their wickedness. And I want you to remember, that all of this is a result of sin—Adam’s sin, and all the sins that followed. If you ever wonder why there is so much evil in the world, wonder no more. There is evil in the world because there are sinful human beings in the world. And the salvation of Noah from God’s judgment upon this sin is a picture of God’s grace. Yes, the ark is a picture of the salvation that is available through faith in Jesus Christ.

So, chapter 7 ends, once again, on another sad note. In the final two verses of that chapter, Moses tells us that God did just what he said he was going to do,

23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. (Genesis 7:23–24 ESV)

Genesis 8-10

But, at the beginning of chapter 8, the sun comes out, and things begin to look a bit better—at least for a while. In Genesis 8:1-4, it says,

1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. (Genesis 8:1–4 ESV)

So Noah’s ordeal was coming to an end. God was ready to start over with this new family. It’s not that things were all better and that these people who remained were free from sin. Genesis 8:21 makes that clear when it says, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” But I want you to notice at the beginning of chapter 9, how after wiping the slate clean, God really is ready to start over with Noah and his family. I want you to notice how, in spite of all that has transpired since he created Adam and Eve thousands of years ago, God’s heart remains committed to the original purposes he has always had for the human race. That's right; his purposes for humanity haven’t changed at all. Look with me at Genesis 9:1. In this verse, God tells Noah and his family to:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1 ESV)

And that is the exact same thing he told Adam and Eve back in Genesis 1:28-29. Yes, God is hitting the reset button so-to-speak. His intentions for Noah and his family, are the same as they were for the first family. His heart hasn’t changed on this. God wants us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He wants us, as he says in Genesis 9:7, to “increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” And so, even after he became grieved over the condition of our hearts, and even after he says that nothing has changed with our hearts after the flood, he also tells us that nothing has changed in his heart with regard to his original purposes for the human race. Brothers and sisters, despite our sin, God still wants us to thrive on this earth as his image bearers.

And so, God makes a covenant with Noah. In verses 11-13 from Genesis 9, God says,

11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:11–13 ESV)

So God establishes this covenant with Noah and the rest of his creation, and he establishes the rainbow as a visual reminder for us and for him of these covenant promises he has made. So things are looking up.

Then, in Genesis 10, Moses tells us the story of how God began to repopulate the earth with the descendants of Noah’s three sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In Genesis 10:32 he says, “These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11

So, again, there is a bit of a hopeful feeling as you come to the end of chapter 10 and into chapter 11. God has hit the reset button. He has reissued the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and Noah’s three sons did just that. And, as we come to the end of chapter 10 and into chapter 11, there are apparently whole nations of people wandering the earth once again.

But, what we learn in chapter 11, is that just like with us, when things start going well, these people in ancient history became prideful once again and that pride led them to unite together in opposition toward God. And what we learn in chapter 11, which contains the famous story of the Tower of Babel, is that whenever prideful human beings disobey God and attempt to elevate their plans above his, he is going to intervene. Remember, God still has a plan for humanity, and he is still working out that plan—a plan to redeem them and restore them. And he will always intervene, in whatever way necessary, to see to it that his purposes are accomplished on this earth. He is not going to let human pride and disobedience stand in his way. He is going to intervene. And the way he intervened in this instance, was by causing us to speak all sorts of different languages so that his original plan that human beings spread out all over the face of the earth is achieved.2

Remember, God wanted us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. But, notice what these people say in Genesis 11:4. they say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Or lest God have his way with us.) Yes, instead of dispersing as God intended, they pridefully determined to stop where they were, in disobedience to God’s plan for them, and to build a tower and make a name for themselves—a name for themselves, not a name for God.

And, what we discovered in my original sermon from Genesis 11, so many months ago, is that we are not all that different than the people God reprimands here. The truth is, we are living in a world filled with people who are trying to make a name for themselves and are willing to do it no matter what the cost. We are living in a world where technology is advancing to the point where people trust more in our own abilities to solve the problems of this world than we do in God. And, we are living in a world, and in a church, where people still value comfort and security over God’s commands to expand his kingdom to the furthest corners of the globe. And sometimes God has to intervene and wake us up to our prideful and disobedient hearts. In Genesis 11, he did it by confusing the languages of these people who were quickly reaching a point where they could do things like make their own bricks to build their own structures, instead of using the rocks God had made. And as a result of their technological advances, they were becoming prideful and less dependent upon God—much like we are today.

So God intervened by confusing their language and dispersing them over the face of the earth to keep them from doing even worse things that might require more serious intervention. And that really was an act of God’s mercy. But it sure does feel like another a step backward. Yes, the story of the Bible so far has been one step forward two steps back, hasn’t it? Adam and Eve sinned and set the world on a bad course. Things go from bad to worse, and ultimately God starts over with Noah. And just as things seem to be on the right track again, we find out that God was telling the truth when he said, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

And then, right when we are about ready to give up on any hope for humankind, God introduces us to a man named Abram at the end of chapter 11. And while we don’t realize it at first, God has big plans for Abram—plans that will affect us all.

Genesis 12

You see, in the first three verses from Genesis 12, which is where we actually ended our previous sermon series, God tells us about his plans for this man named Abram, which are also his plans for the whole world. Let’s read these verses together before I say just a few more things and wrap up for today.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3 ESV)

Now Abram is the original name of the man we now know better as Abraham. And it is upon his family line—the line of people who will eventually become the nation of Israel—that the Bible now begins to focus. Again, where the Bible was once dealing with the story of the whole human race, now it is zeroing in on a single family within the human race. And what we begin to see in this chapter, is that God’s plan for restoring and redeeming the world—a plan he has been carrying out since Genesis 3—is going to come about by his focus on this one particular family who he will use to bless us all.

Yes, friends, God’s concern is still on the whole human race. It always has been, and it always will be. Beginning with Abraham, he raised up a people, a people of his own possession, but his intentions for those people were that they would become a kingdom of priests and holy nation who would draw the rest of the world into a relationship with him. And ultimately, it was from and through this family of people, that God would send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. He sent him to be that promised descendant of Adam and Eve who would crush the head of the serpent through his death on the cross, securing victory over sin, Satan, and death, for everyone who would repent of their sin and place their trust in him for salvation. Yes, God’s plan for all of this begins in earnest with this man named Abram. He is not just the father of the Jews, but according to the New Testament, he is the father of all who share in the faith that he had in God’s purposes and plans for the world.

Conclusion

Friends, this is another new beginning in the story. And, we have a lot more to say about Abram, or Abraham—the man at the center of this new beginning. And we’ll start doing that next week. But for now, I want you to see, how God has been working for the good of all humankind since we threw the universe into chaos back in Genesis 3. Through the family of Abraham, God has kept his promise to send a descendant of Adam and Eve to undo what they had done. And by our faith in Jesus, we have been grafted into this family and have become children of Abraham ourselves. And not only children of Abraham, but also children of God himself.

Yes, friends, what we have already covered in Genesis 1-11, is only the beginning. It is only the beginning of a story that continues to unfold in the rest of the pages of Scripture. And it is a story that is unfolding at this very moment in our own lives.

So my questions for you as we close today are: Where are you at in this story? Have you reached a point where you clearly see and believe that God has been at work undoing the damage that we have done? Have you reached a point where you understand that Jesus is his ultimate solution for all that ails us in this world? Or, are you trusting, like the people in Genesis 11, in your own plan and in your own abilities to secure you a place in this world? Are you ruled by wicked passions and thoughts and desires like the people before the flood? Where are you at today? What are you believing today?

God has made himself known to us in the pages of Scripture. And he has revealed his plan to redeem us and save us from the wicked things we have done. But, he has also told us, that Jesus is the only way into that story. So what are you believing about Jesus today? If you aren’t currently believing what the Bible tells us about Jesus, maybe it is time for your story to have a new beginning as well.

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  1. Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1:1–11:26, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 1A of The New American Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 142. ↩︎
  2. See Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9:1, 7. ↩︎