This is a message from pastor and teacher Bill Serjak from the Genesis series “In Beginning”
Sky, Water, and Earth
The Book of Genesis begins, “In the beginning,” but as I mentioned last week, there is no direct article in the original Hebrew, so literally it could be translated, In beginning. That difference might be significant if we think of this not as creating a time line, but as meaning that God is currently at the core or at beginning of all the universe and that our world is still being held together by God. That is not the way we are taught to think in our modern educational system: we are taught to think of the universe as eternal and infinite and not being held together by anything outside itself. It changes our conception of our world, our default thought mode of thinking, if we start to think, as the Bible says in Colos-sians, that the molecules of our world are constantly being held together by God. The world doesn’t exist on its own and would cease to exist, would melt down, if God didn’t keep holding it together. That new default mode of thinking means that God is eternal and He is all that exists eternally. Genesis tells us that God took chaos and brought order to the universe. He is now still bringing order to the universe and keeping it together. Without God, the universe would go back to its natural state of chaos. Everything in the world goes to chaos unless someone, something, or some group holds it together.
The same thing is true in our general lives. If no one holds things together, our lives go to chaos. Without effort being put into our lives, they go back to chaos. We need to make that effort, or someone needs to make it for us. The natural state of this world is chaos and that is where it will go without effort being extended to keep order; however, God has established a baseline order that doesn’t allow things to go to total chaos. That is called natural law or the natural order of things. It is the way things will operate if no one puts extra effort into it. The natural order is a pretty severe order. Some mistakenly think the natural order is sweet, gentle, and ideal but in the natural order foxes eat bunnies and bears eat most anything they want to eat. We can survive in this bottom line order, but it is very difficult.
In the seventies many thought it would be wonderful if we would all just go back and live in the natural order of things, rather than in the extended order humankind has created in the civilized world. A movie called Jeremiah Johnson pretty much destroyed that theory. It was set in the Old West and Jeremiah Johnson decided to go and live off the land high up in the Rocky Mountains. He knew a little about living under the natural law, but not nearly enough. He nearly died during his first winter. Fortunately, he ran into an old mountain man who had survived in the mountains for most of his life. He taught Jeremiah Johnson the ways of the mountains. There is a great line in the movie, where the old mountain man said, “The mountains have got their ways, Pilgrim, and you need to learn those ways if you want to survive.” He then taught Jeremiah how to survive in the natural order of the mountains and that order is a very severe one. Some think they would like to go back and live in the natural order, at least for awhile. Men seem more inclined toward this than women. Men like to live in that natural order of things, especially if they can bring in some beer and keep it cold from the outside order. Some learn the ways of the natural order and can live in it. Even if we just farm there is more to it than just putting seeds in the ground. We need to know how to keep the plants free from disease and provide good conditions for the seeds to grow.
We can’t make things grow without God putting in the seed the ability for it to grow. At the same time, we have to learn the ways of farming to make the seeds grow well. Through the dominion God has given us, we can put an additional order onto the universe, so we can make things grow well. Some try to idealize the natural order and become upset when humans try to add to the baseline natural order. Those who idealize the natural order are usually accustomed to living in a world where the order mankind has brought is pretty well established and that has made the world much safer for humans.
Many in the sixties and seventies thought they could just go back to nature and live off the goodness of the natural order. They didn’t do very well then, but even today some still try. Recently, a college dropout who became a beach bum in California decided that he loved grizzly bears and went to Alaska to film them and help protect them. When he and his girl friend disappeared, they found that they had been eaten by a grizzly bear. Alaskans are familiar with how the natural order operates and were not the least bit surprised at how they ended up. That is how the bottom line natural order operates; however, we do have the opportunity to create a more comfortable level of order in which to live. This civilized order is not a bad thing, even though some people seem to think so.
How do we go about getting to a higher level of order to make life more comfortable? In today’s passage, we see God creating a very basic order. He divided the waters above from the waters below and He divided the dry from the seas. Then He brought in vegetation. We need to notice how He did it. The first thing that happened was that somewhere in God’s mind, he envisioned what He wanted to do. Then He spoke the order into existence. We need to follow a similar plan.
My wife and I don’t have a television, but we have seen glimps¬es of this procedure followed in New Orleans this past week. Most of you have likely seen hours of news coverage, but I have seen a little of what has been happening. In it I have seen a picture of what we are studying this morning. New Orleans reverted back to chaos for a time. The order man created there was at least temporarily destroyed. I heard a report of how rescue helicopters were being fired upon and I wondered why people would do such a thing. Then I realized that there are people in our world who like to live in chaos, the world’s most basic state. They don’t like the order we have created in our world. They then do what they can to create and maintain chaos.
The first thing that needed to be done to bring order into the chaotic situation in New Orleans was for someone to first imagine such an order and then find the words to speak that order into existence. Then he had to speak into the chaos. With God, his Word contains enough power and authority that even matter obeys. When people speak it is harder to give the words power. We usually depend on the government to speak with that authority. In New Orleans, the chaos seemed so big or the local government was so weak that it was hard for someone to speak with enough authority to bring back order. They needed the word of the federal government to speak with enough authority to restore order. Probably the first order that needed to be restored was the legal authority to keep people from looting and killing each other. Now they need to rebuild the other structures of order in society. The job will be huge and there is some doubt that it can ever be restored. It is up to the leaders to speak that order and then be able to carry it out. There needs to be a lot of people who are willing to do the work required to bring order back into that area.
God did it the same way. He spoke with such authority that the whole universe came into being. He created order out of chaos and it was even a huge job for Him so much so that He needed to rest after He finished. Bringing order from chaos is always a huge job. God created the whole universe out of chaos and He does the same thing with our lives when we let Him speak His Word into our hearts. Our lives can be total chaos and when God speaks His Word into us, it brings order just as it did in Genesis.
He may begin that order in us by telling us to have a Sabbath Day, to stop and reflect on what He can do in our lives. When we worship God, that can be the beginning of restoring order in our lives. Our finances might be in total chaos and the place to begin might be to tithe. Giving a tenth of our income to Him will gradually bring order to the other ninety percent. Just as God separated the waters from the waters and the dry land from the seas, as we listen to God’s Word, it will bring order into our lives. God’s Word doesn’t always speak loudly, but usually quietly into our hearts and we need to listen so that He can bring order into our homes.
This morning we will do the simple act of taking Communion. As we take a little bit of bread and grape juice, it can help establish God’s order in our lives. It reminds us of what Jesus has done for us and, as we reflect on that, it can bring a new order into our lives, an order that is based on what God has said. Then we don’t operate our lives on the chaotic structure of serving ourselves, or just doing what comes next, but our lives become ordered by our desire to glorify and enjoy God.