When we read Genesis 1, we are not just reading the words. Let’s look at the familiar words again. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and the Spirit hovered over the darkness of the deep. Then God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.” And we know the rest. God made land, and animals and birds and... you know. But when we look at these words, we see “created” as meaning, “There was nothing and God created something.” But that’s not what it says. It says God created the heavens and the earth, and then it immediately talks about the earth as already existing. And other stuff, too—water, darkness and the Spirit. Before the creation of Genesis 1 even begins, there’s already something there.1
Sure, it’s a mess—a terrible mess called “void” or “chaos.” But how did that mess get there? Did God make it? “Dang, I forgot to clean up the universe this week. Well, I’d better get to it…?” Actually, we have a clue in Psalm 74: 12-17. There, the old poet Asaph mentions an ancient battle, and then discusses creation in Genesis 1 as God’s cleanup. In this battle, happening before Genesis 1, the good guy is God—of course. The bad guy is this guy named Leviathan with his friend the Waters, AKA Yom, the Sea. Who are these guys? They are powerful spiritual beings, often described as dragons, and they messed up the world.2 So what’s going on in Genesis 1? The beginning of the Bible is an amazing aftermath of a terrible battle between powerful spiritual creatures which devastated the earth. All that is left is chaos. But God could command order out of this chaos with just a word. And who is God impressing? The other powerful spiritual beings who may not be on God’s level, but they are enough of peers that God wants to impress them.
And impress them he does. He separates the powerful enemy, water, and puts it totally under His command. He limits the powerful enemy, darkness, so that it’s opposite, light, has authority. Then he places both the light and the darkness under the authority of other powerful spiritual beings called the Sun and the Moon. God’s enemies are subdued. The angels swoon. Wow. This guy is amazing. Is there anything he can’t do?
He flexes his muscle of creativity and makes birds and plants and sea creatures and animals to an almost infinite variety. This is also quite impressive. The spiritual beings ooh and aah. They clap their hands. What a performer!
Now it comes to the climax. God had taken this messy battlefield and created out of it a paradise of color and variety. Disney couldn’t have done better. So now we reach the ultimate: Who’s going to be in charge of all this? Everything God had made up to this point, he placed in charge of someone else. What about the creatures of the earth? It must be someone powerful. Someone famous. Someone almost the equal of God himself.
And God made humanity—male and female. And he told them that they were in charge. The audience is stunned. This isn’t what they expected. What about power? What about fame? These humans were wimps, and completely insignificant! They don’t live for long, and can get killed if you look at them funny. They are completely dependent on each other, and have to have children to perpetuate their power after they die. How could God even make such weak creatures, let alone place them in charge of the earth? The angels were looking for Captain Marvel, and they got Billy Batson—or better, Curious George!
This isn’t a climax, it’s an anticlimax. The movers and shakers of the universe are disappointed. But, strangely, there is clapping in the background. Someone is impressed. Who is it? My goodness, it is God himself. He looked at everything he made and thought he did a marvelous job! He just loves it. And humanity at the top of it, he tells everyone, what a stroke of genius!
The court looks at each other. They may find little to be impressed with, but they clap along.
After a bit, though, they realize God’s insight. They were thinking that a powerful, significant universe-player would have to rule such a magnificent world. But they finally realized God’s masterpiece. Humanity, in all its frailty, in all of its weakness, in all of its insignificance—to make them rulers of a world of marvels is stunning.
To take the weakest, and make them the strongest. To take dirt from the earth and make it a great power to be reckoned with. This was not the Milli Vanilli act the angels all thought it was—it was Dave Gilmour, BB King and Jimmy Page all rolled into one!
Art at its finest. Sublime, yet evocative.
- There is no evidence in the Bible for a young earth. In Genesis 1, the creation of humanity—the beginning point of the young earth countdown—happens at some long, but unknown time after the six day creation of Genesis 1.
- The Dragon Yom comes from a Canaanite myth where Baal destroys the chaos-dragon Yom. The center verse of Psalm 74 takes the same story, but places Yahweh in Baal’s place. So does this mean that the Bible teaches that the pagan myths are real? Probably not, but the ideas of many of them are. This is the lesson of the reality of the Iliad.