Genesis 1:1–6, 8, 10, 12–15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25
After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:
1. List elements of the days of creation.
2. Summarize the method and design of God’s creation as presented in Genesis 1.
3. Make a plan for greater stewardship toward one aspect of God’s created resources.
How to Say It
Daily Bible Readings
Monday, Aug. 27—God the Creator (Psalm 8)
Tuesday, Aug. 28—The First Day (Genesis 1:1–5)
Wednesday, Aug. 29—The Sky (Genesis 1:6–8)
Thursday, Aug. 30—The First Harvest (Genesis 1:9–13)
Friday, Aug. 31—The Sun and Moon (Genesis 1:14–19)
Saturday, Sept. 1—The Birds and Sea Creatures (Genesis 1:20–23)
Sunday, Sept. 2—The Animals (Genesis 1:24, 25)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Why Teach This Lesson?
My daughter attended a Christian school during her early grade school years. Following our family’s relocation, she attended public school. Both schools offered field trips to observe nature. After her first public school trip, she noticed one difference: “We looked at the same things, but this time we said, ‘Isn’t nature wonderful?’ instead of ‘Isn’t God wonderful?’ ”
The apostle Paul said, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Although the fingerprints of God are all over his creation, some will choose not to acknowledge him.
Your students have a choice to make today. That choice is the same one that every human before us has faced: Will we acknowledge the existence of our creator or not?
A. The Debate over Intelligent Design
I recently spoke to a friend I had not seen for years. I knew that he had been adopted as a child, but I did not know that for several years he had been seeking his birth parents. He eventually found he had another “family” of brothers and sisters; he has developed relationships with them. His comment about this to me was, “When I found out more about where I came from, I began to understand much better who I am.” We are intuitively curious about our origins!
The book of Genesis is a book of origins, although it speaks of our origins in a much more profound way than the “origins” my friend was concerned with. As we read Genesis, several questions come to mind: Does this book provide reliable scientific data? Should believing Christians engage in scientific research and debate? Is there any room in the public classroom for the story of creation that Genesis provides?
Many people today (even some Christians) would answer no to all three questions. Others have long been engaged in the pursuit of creation science, an approach that sees Genesis as a certain guide to the origins of the universe and life itself. Creation science, however, has difficulty gaining a wide hearing in the mainline scientific community. Creation science is dismissed as being tied too closely to what is viewed as a pre-modern, superstitious, unscientific worldview.
Recently, a variation of creation science has gained notice: the theory of Intelligent Design. This effort is supported by scientists having solid academic credentials. Michael J. Behe, a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, has pointed out that many scientific investigations lead to the observation of “irreducible complexity” in natural phenomena. Behe claims that the physical characteristics of living organisms are too complex to be explained by mindless processes such as natural selection and mutation—thus the necessity of a designer.
There is no conflict between the foundational assumptions of the theory of Intelligent Design and the book of Genesis. Intelligent Design demands that we understand a master intellect behind the order of the universe, a designer or creator. This is clearly taught in Genesis.
Yet the theory of Intelligent Design by itself is unable to understand God as more than a master artisan, a superior being who turns out an amazing series of inventions from his workshop. The theory of Intelligent Design cannot lead us fully to the God of the Bible, who not only made us but also continues to have a personal relationship with his creatures. For the fullest understanding of who God is and how we can relate to him, we must turn to the Bible.
B. Lesson Background
Genesis in not merely the first book in the Bible. It stands as the first book in a five-book section of the Old Testament we call the Pentateuch or the Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). This collection was finished long before the end of the Old Testament period; it was already in use during the times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, centuries before Christ.
The overall purpose of the Pentateuch is to tell the story of the origins of the nation of Israel. With this purpose in view, we can understand that Genesis serves as an introduction to the great events of nation-birthing found in Exodus. Genesis provides us with the place to start: the beginning, with God’s creation of the heaven and the earth. What better place to start could there be?
Included in this account is the creation of the first man and woman. They are the ancestors of all people, not just the nation of Israel. The tragedy of Genesis is that humanity rebelled against its creator. Sin flourished. Later, the story focuses on Abraham, father of the nation of Israel, because God planned to use one of his descendants (Jesus) to redeem humanity from the bondage of sin.
And so we begin the greatest story ever told. It is the drama of human origins and humanity’s eventual deliverance from its self-caused alienation from the creator of the universe. The stage could be no bigger, the stakes no higher.
I. God at the Beginning (Genesis 1:1, 2)
Where did God come from? You will not find the answer in Genesis. God is uncreated, separate and apart from any created thing. The existence of an uncreated creator is the reason there can be anything instead of nothing. The universe is not self-explanatory. It exists because God upholds it by his powerful word (see Hebrews 1:3).
Visual for Lesson 1
Start a discussion by pointing to this visual as you ask, “Why is it important to acknowledge this truth?”
A. Beginning, God, Heaven, Earth (v. 1)
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The opening of Genesis has no comment on God other than to place him at the beginning. However far back in time we can imagine, God was there! This is an understated, yet striking, testimony to God’s eternality: In the beginning, God.
The text sketches God’s creation in broad terms. The use of the heavens and the earth together may refer simply to the totality of the physical universe. Some think, however, that heavens as used here refers to the realm of God and the created angelic beings. That is a domain not normally accessible to humans.
What Do You Think?
What should our acceptance of the fact that God created the world mean in our lives on a day-to-day basis?
B. Earth, Darkness, Spirit, Waters (v. 2)
2. 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.
At this point in creation, the future home of humanity is characterized four ways. First, it is formless or unfinished; God has yet to mold it into final state. Second, it is empty; the living creatures that will inhabit it have yet to be created. Third, it is dark; this is not a limiting factor for God (see Psalm 139:12), but the condition must be changed in order for earth to be a suitable habitation for humans. Fourth, it is watery; there is no solid ground to stand upon. This too is a condition that must be modified in order to give human life a chance for survival.
The text notes the presence of the Spirit of God. This is not a separate being from God of verse 1. God’s ability to be present is not limited by conditions that allow for his presence. This is an indirect affirmation of the doctrine of God’s omnipresence (his presence everywhere).
While this spiritual presence of God is not referred to as the Holy Spirit, the concept is there in part. Holiness refers to more than moral purity. The Bible also understands being holy as being separate. At this point, God clearly is separate from his creation. The created world is not part of God, and he is not part of the created world. They are distinct.
What Do You Think?
How has your belief in God as creator helped you in the difficult times of life?
II. Creation, Days 1–3 (Genesis 1:3–6, 8, 10, 12, 13)
The work proceeds in an orderly fashion. God does not leave the world void and uninhabitable. He has a plan that leads to the final creation of human beings in his image.
This part of Genesis does not describe any creative method of God beyond speaking. The mechanics of this are not revealed to us in any scientific way. We must believe that the word of God is powerful and creative (see Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:2-3). In the New Testament, this creative Word of God is identified with his Son (see John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3).
A. First Day of Creation (vv. 3–5)
3–5. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he 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.
God’s first day of creation concerns not living creatures but light. It is difficult to conceive of life without light, for it is a necessary component of life as we generally understand it. If there were no light, it would be a blind universe.
What Do You Think?
How can the ancient recurring phrase And God said speak to our lives today?
Notice that darkness is not created. Light is separated from darkness, but there is no sense of God “making darkness.” This is because darkness has no real existence. It is simply an absence, a lack of light. Darkness is a “without.” This is why darkness is an apt metaphor for moral evil and sin, which is living “without God” (our moral light).
Verse 5 establishes the pattern for the days of creation. Each section ends with the statement there was evening, and there was morning—the … day, indicating a creative cycle has been completed. This is also the source of the Bible way of reckoning days. For most of the Jews of Bible times, the new day does not begin at sunrise but at sundown, because that signals the end of the old day.
B. Second Day of Creation (vv. 6, 8)
6, 8. And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.… God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Older versions use the word firmament in place of expanse. In either case, what the text is describing is the separation of “ground waters” (rivers, lakes, oceans) from “sky waters” (clouds). This is an essential step in transforming the watery void (v. 2) into a place fit for human habitation.
Furnishing a New World
America’s space probes to Mars early in this century revealed a barren world. Mars had water on it sometime in the ancient past, although not as much as on the primeval Earth that Genesis describes. Nevertheless, a Florida company called 4Frontiers Corporation has announced plans to establish a high-tech human colony on Mars by the year 2025.
The company plans to begin by developing a replica of the proposed Mars settlement here on Earth and charging admission to tourists (see www.sliceofscifi.com and www.4frontiers.com). Backers say it is necessary to colonize Mars in case disease or a collision with an asteroid should wipe out the human race or if we happen to make Earth uninhabitable through war or pollution.
The 4Frontiers plan sounds only slightly like God’s activity in preparing the Earth for human habitation. There are significant differences: God’s presence was everywhere in his creation; he had a plan that could see beyond the next 20 years; and he had the power to make his plan work regardless of whatever technical difficulties there were to overcome.
It is good to remember that we humans are creatures, not the creator. In this light we should frame even our most grandiose plans with appropriate humility. —C. R. B.
C. Third Day of Creation (vv. 10, 12, 13)
10. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
The organization of the earth continues. Now the waters are no longer allowed to dominate, but are confined to appropriate areas. This allows for dry land, a prerequisite for plant life.
What Do You Think?
When God looked at his creation, he said that it was good. How should that influence our attitude toward this world and toward our work?
12, 13. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Various kinds of plant life appear. This continues the preparation of the earth for human habitation, for now there is renewable sustenance for humankind and for the necessary animals.
The author notes a remarkable thing about the vegetation: it produces seed after its own kind. In other words, the seed from an apple produces apple trees, not watermelons. Modern science has explained the mechanics of this, but it was very mysterious to people in the ancient world. If we pause to consider the consistency of this pattern, it is still remarkable today. God makes plant life that is capable of reproduction, and therefore that plant life is not dependent upon his direct creative action for each succeeding generation.
III. Creation, Days 4–6 (Genesis 1:14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25)
The author now moves on to describe the creation of the patterns of the earth in relation to other heavenly bodies.
D. Fourth Day of Creation (vv. 14, 15, 19)
14, 15, 19. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.… And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
The author’s interest is not in astrophysics or the possibility of space travel. Rather, he is explaining how days and seasons came into being, thus allowing for the growing cycles that result in crop production from the plant life (food) that came in day three.
What Do You Think?
Separating night from day, seas from dry land, etc., establishes certain boundaries. What significance does (or should) that fact have on your life?
It is astounding for us to contemplate the perfection and intricacy of God’s system! Consider that water can exist in its liquid form only within a very narrow temperature range, namely from 32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a tiny slice of the range of temperatures found in our solar system, from the inferno of the sun (27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core) to the temperature of absolute zero of the outer planets (approaching –459 degrees Fahrenheit).
Yet, because of the precise distance that the earth is positioned from the sun as well as various other factors, water is able to remain liquid over most of our planet. There could be no life as we know it without this precious liquid. Modern scientific knowledge does not negate the majesty of these verses, but only makes them more astounding.
NASA’s Deep Impact space probe of 2005 was made to collide intentionally with the comet Tempel 1. The mission’s purpose was to create a cloud of comet debris that could be photographed and analyzed by the mother craft orbiting the comet. The debris cloud gave scientists clues about how the solar system was formed at the time of creation that Genesis tells us about.
However, Marina Bai, a Russian astrologer, brought a lawsuit for $300 million against NASA to compensate her for what she called her “moral sufferings.” Bai claimed that the experiment deformed her horoscope and violated her life and spiritual values. Bai said that the comet was important to her life because her grandfather had wooed her grandmother by showing her the comet.
While the astrologer’s claims can appropriately be ridiculed as silly, her belief in the power of heavenly bodies to control human destiny is a common one today. Even some Christians have an unwarranted, unholy respect for this pseudo-science. Genesis establishes that God put the heavenly bodies in their places as signs of his power, to give light to his creation, and to establish the seasons by which the earth brings forth our food. Other interpretations go beyond (or against) what Scripture teaches. —C. R. B.
E. Fifth Day of Creation (vv. 20, 22, 23)
20. And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”
On the fifth day God begins to supply the earth with animal life. This day is devoted to “nonland” creatures: birds and aquatic life. Today, we have developed the capabilities to fly and to live underwater. But for most of history, neither of those was feasible.
Thus the birds and aquatic life are creatures that ancient people understand to be fundamentally different from humans. To appreciate these marvels is to begin to understand the wonder of God’s created world that permeates this beautiful Genesis account.
22, 23. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
At the time of the writing of Genesis, the total human population of the earth was a tiny fraction of what it is today. Even so, the rivers and oceans of Genesis are full of fish, and the skies are full of a marvelous variety of birds. The few urban varieties of birds that most people are familiar with today are but a small fraction of the avian creatures.
The Lewis and Clark expedition explored the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. some 200 years ago. On that expedition the explorers observed such a heavy migration of salmon that it seemed as if one could walk across the river on the backs of the fish! This abundance now has been reduced, but we can still appreciate God’s original provision for the earth.
F. Sixth Day of Creation (v. 25)
25. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
God’s last stage of preparation of the earth for the coming of humanity is to create land animals. The term livestock has the meaning of range animals that eat plant life. Later, the author differentiates between domesticated and wild animals of this class (Genesis 3:14).
The creatures that move along the ground are probably reptiles and small rodents. Such animals are later considered unclean and generally forbidden as a food source for the Israelites (see Acts 10:12–14, where Peter objects to eating “anything impure or unclean”).
The stage is now fully set for the creation of men and women. This will be covered in next week’s lesson.
Violin players are taught from the first day of lessons that their violins must be tuned every time they play. The longer the violinist waits to retune, the worse the instrument sounds. After Adam and Eve’s disobedience, creation ended up being “out of tune” because of sin. The one who created our earth and its heavens intends to return and “retune” it according to his perfect will.
Paul teaches that all creation is anticipating the revelation of God’s ultimate purpose (see Romans 8:19–23). Paul even says that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” as it waits for its creator (Romans 8:22). The one who created will re-create, and there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). What a glorious day that will be! Then sin will be no more, and “he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
As wonderful as this promise is, however, we do not know when God’s re-creation of the universe will be. It could be tomorrow. It could be 10,000 years from now. Until that day, this present universe is what we have. Although it is marred by human sin, it retains the pattern and intention of the master designer.
That fact should bring praise to our lips. When science discovers some new intricacy or complexity in nature, we should marvel. When we see the vivid colors of the sunrise on a stately peak, we should stop to ponder the artistry of the maker. When we hear the roar of the ocean, Genesis 1 should come to mind again. When we are high in the mountains on a clear night and see the uncountable stars in all their majesty, we should stand in awe of their creator, for “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).
Thought to Remember
It was God who created.
Mighty and loving creator, the all-wise and all-powerful God, may we stand in awe of your master design and plan for the universe. May we live daily in appreciation of the marvels of your creation, our world, which exists and is sustained through the power of your Word? In Jesus’ name, amen.
Nickelson, Ronald L. ; Underwood, Jonathan: New International Version Standard Lesson Commentary : 2007-2008. Cincinnati : Standard Publishing, 2007, S. 15