Creation & Catastrophe


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)

Every story has a beginning but this is the beginning of not the greatest story every told, but the beginning of THE story, the story in which every other story is a subplot or simply an echo. The story begins with God, all creation begins with God who created everything. This is a radical statement today in our culture, to put forward that we live in a created universe means there is a creator. It means that there is a higher power and authority, that perhaps, we may not have final authority on our lives. This statement was a radical statement in the ancient world as well where there was often the belief the heavens and earth had always been in some form. It is actually the next statement that was truly shocking to the ancient Israelites.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Gen 1:2)

The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. We must understand that many ancient peoples believed the gods came out of the primordial seas. For the ancient Israelites, having been slaves in Egypt for 400 years they would have been deeply influenced by the mythology of their captors. As the people of Israel sat at the base of Mt Sinai, and Moses communicated God's word to them, the fact that they who had been slaves were now to be the people of the almighty God, hearing that this God who was calling them created everything and then hovered over the waters, they would have been shocked. Their God was setting himself up as the God over all gods. The one who did not emerge from the turmoil of the primordial sea, He was over it.

The story continues, describing the remainder of creation over the remainder of Genesis 1. What we see in these verses is a carefully crafted piece of literature that lays out the three dominions of creation (days 1 - 3) paralleled by the creatures that would fill those dominions (days 4-6) with the climax of creation being the creation of mankind. (As a side note, the interpretation of the 7 days of creation has been, and continues to be an contentious issue with passionate advocates on both ends of the spectrum and many points in between. For an overview of the main positions, I recommend "The Epic of Eden" pp 95-103. It is from this book that I have drawn many of my key points)

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

Of first importance to understand is that not only is all of creation created in an intentional and orderly manner but mankind is created on purpose!

In many of the creation narratives from the ancient world, mankind was created by the gods because they were too lazy to take care of themselves. In most cases, mankind proved to be difficult to control or simple too disruptive, in some cases, mankind simply rebelled against the god. In the case of the Babylonian creation narrative, man created when Marduk killed the evil god Kingu and his blood was mixed with clay to form man. Now imagine being told you're whole life you were the result of a chaotic battle of the gods and you were simply formed from the blood of a demon-god. Instead, you are now told you were actually pinnacle of a planned, ordered creation, and that you were not just the result of a battle but purposely made and not just made, but made in the image of the almighty God.


Like every story however, this one did not go as planned. Very quickly we see that a catastrophe hits, a catastrophe that will dog the characters of the story until the very end, a catastrophe that we are still caught in today.

Adam and Eve lived in Eden, in harmony with God, each other and all of creation. They lived with only a single prohibition, not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Anyone who has children knows all too well we still carry the inclinations of our original parents. At times it seems the only way to get a child to do something is to prohibit it. Sure enough, a serpent finds its way into the garden and engages Eve in conversation.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

"You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:1-5)
The serpent plants the seed of doubt and Eve takes the bait. She takes the fruit, sees it is pleasing to the eye and shares it to Adam (who is not blameless but was apparently there the whole time) with this act of disobedience, their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. For the first time, they felt shame, their relation with each other was now invaded by shame. Even worse, their shame caused them to hide from God and subsequently caused them to be expelled from the garden. The place that had been created for them now, had a cherubim set to guard it from them.

This one choice changed the course of history and set the whole of humanity on a course towards disaster. God takes this act of disobedience seriously. Some might think it cruel that God would punish but a single act of disobedience but He had to. He had created a perfect place and it could not be inhabited by imperfect people. Sin has consequences and God began to lay out those consequences.

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Gen 3:16)

Eve was first to learn her fate.The most obvious consequence would be the pain of child birth. Now Eve who was to be the source of life could only experience the joy of new life through incredible pain. Eve was called to be the mother, grand mother, great grandmother of all mankind. She was to have been the matriarch of the human race, a mother of a family without dysfunction or dispute and now that was all broken.

The latter part of v16 though where we see the curse echo throughout every day. The desire Eve will have for her husband is one that was part of the creation. When they were created they were created as co-regents and together where to be stewards of creation. In harmony they would continue the creative work God had instilled in them but now neither of them could fulfill their designed, they would both fall short but the desire for the way things should be would still be there. Further, Adam was the physically stronger one and combined with Eve's desire for home and family, would result in an unbalanced relationship. Eve, and her daughter's over the generations, would continue to desire the complete relationship they were designed for and yet would be subject to the stronger partner, who was just as broken.

It was not only Eve that would face the consequences of sin however

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:17-19)

Adam was just as guilty and he too would feel the weight of the curse and sin. While Eve will feel the curse much more the relational realm, Adam will feel it vocationally. One thing that is lost in translation is that the word for ground is adamah. Adam and the adamah were made to work together. Man and creation were to be partners in work. Just as Adam and Eve were created for each other, so too were Adam and the ground created for each other and to bring the best out of each other. Now instead of being partners they would struggle.

Perhaps the worst of it however, is the term "sweat of your brow" is not simply about having to work hard but in the ancient world was a way to talk about anxiety. Not only would the ground no longer cooperate with Adam and work with him, it would now cause him great anxiety. Adam would never know for sure if the ground would produce enough for him and his family. He would never have the security of his work being enough. Worst of all, in the end he who was created to work with the land would be nothing more than fertilizer.

So where does this leave us?

1) You and I were created on purpose. We are not accidents.

2) We and all of creation were created for each other and to care and and provided for each other.

3) We were created for relationship with each other. Life was not meant to be lived alone. We were created by a relational God to have a relationship with Him and with others.

4) The catastrophe broke us. It broke creation. It broke our relationships with God and with each other.

5) The we are still in the midst of the catastrophe. We are characters in the story and the story isn't finished yet. We cannot rescue ourselves from the Fall, we need to be saved.

Next: Covenant