New Creation and the House of God

It has been too long since I've started writing again. I recently was asked to lead the men's prayer breakfast and Bible study that we have monthly at our church, and that has sparked a bit of inspiration that I've been lacking for some time now, so I plan to share my notes from this study four parts. The focus of the study is Genesis 1:1-5 and verses 26-28. Each post will connect to the theme of new creation and the house of God.

Genesis 1:1-5, 26-28 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 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. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day... 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.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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.”

To give a little background about myself for those who may not know, I grew up in a diverse Protestant background. When I was young, I went to a Methodist church, then a non-denominational church, and all the while I was going to a Baptist school. What I find interesting looking back at those times - and there could be many reasons for what I am about to say (most of them due to my own faults) - is that it probably wasn’t until my late teens to early twenties that I can remember understanding that the stories in the Old Testament were actually much richer than I had realized, and that they happened and were revealed for good reason and according to God’s wisdom.

When I was a kid, I knew of events in the Old Testament like creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Moses and Egypt, David and Goliath, and Daniel and the Lion’s Den. These and a few others were really popular in Sunday school. But we mostly read the stories of Jesus from the New Testament, and I just thought of Old Testament stories as completely separate from each other, almost like a random collection of stories that all just had common morale along the lines of, “You had better side with God if you want to turn out all right.”

Of course, that is a really important truth to know, especially for young children. But as I grew older, and especially after I started college, I began to hear others ask some hard questions about Christianity. I’m honestly grateful for that time, because I think it was God’s providence that led me to ask my own questions, by which His grace has caused me to grow in knowledge and assurance of His trustworthy promises.

All of that is a bit of a prelude to why I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the very beginnings of the Bible, one of those stories I mentioned that I was told as a kid but now realize has layers to it that always cause me to go back and appreciate the weightiness and freshness of God’s word and plan in history.

One of the hard questions I encountered was, "why God created things the way He did?" Christians typically know that God didn’t need to create, although there is nothing wrong with His decision to create since it pleased Him to do so. But given that He chose to create, I’ve had people ask me why I think God decided to create the way He did, because it seems He could have created many other ways. And while we could always just say, “Well, it is what pleased Him” - and on some level, all questions of why God does what He does bottoms out with this answer (although I think there is more we can say about it, that is another story) - I think there is something else Christians can offer to those people who ask us about this.

For instance, a part of my answer to the question of why God created the way He did was that I think God was setting a pattern for imitation and life for the images of Himself that He knew that He would create: we men and women. Now obviously, we can’t create out of nothing, and we don’t have life in ourselves, but there are analogous actions and life we can have that mimic God’s, and I’ll mention a few of them in my next posts.

Before I do that, I want us to start by thinking about what creation itself is to God: what was the intention for creating the heavens and the earth in the beginning? A reason I want to do that is that God Himself describes how He thinks of or treats His own creation of heaven and earth, so it would be useful to consider why God reveals these truths to us. Let’s turn to a few Scriptures.

Isaiah 40:21-22 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.
Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.

Now, when I think about the house of the Lord in the Old Testament, I usually think about the temple, as that is the place where God dwelled among the Israelites. In 2 Samuel 7, for instance, the Lord communicates to the prophet Nathan His desire that a house be built for Him to dwell in, since He had been moving about in the tabernacle for His dwelling. Later, in 2 Chronicles 3:1, we see the fulfillment of God’s desire when the Chronicler writes, “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah,” this house referring to the temple that God’s glory filled once it was completed (chapter 7), just as His glory filled the completed tabernacle in Exodus 40. In other words, God moved into His house.

But the above passages in Isaiah show that creation itself is regarded as God’s house. Reverend Michael Morales, wrote the following about this connection between creation in Genesis 1 and the tabernacle and temple:

“Approaching the biblical account of creation, there are various indications that such a parallel between cosmos and temple (or tabernacle) is in view. For example, the Spirit or “Wind of God’ as a phrase appears in Genesis 1:2 for the construction of the cosmos and in Exodus 31:3 and 35:31 for the construction of the tabernacle. Moreover, the Spirit’s endowment of Bezalel, the chief artisan of the tabernacle, is described in terms of wisdom, understanding and knowledge (Exodus 31:3), the same attributes by which God is said to have fashioned the cosmos (Proverbs 3:19-20). Other creation terminology shared with the tabernacle includes the word light or lamp in Genesis 1:14-15, which always in the Pentateuch designates the lamps of the tabernacle...
...Elsewhere in the Bible, creation is likened to a tent pitched by God (Psalm 104; Job 9:8, Isaiah 40:22) or to a house God has established, with pillars, windows and doors (Job 26:11; Genesis 7:11; Psalm 78:23)…
...there is an analogical relationship between creation and tabernacle: again, the cosmos is a large temple; the temple is a small cosmos.” (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? Chapter 2)

When God created the heavens and the earth, He was creating a house. What are implications that we can draw from this? That will be the focus of my next posts.

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