First Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:2
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.
3 God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was evening and there was morning, one day.
6 God said, “Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” There was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land “earth,” and the gathering together of the waters he called “seas.” God saw that it was good. 11 God said, “Let the earth yield grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with its seed in it, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 The earth yielded grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with its seed in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of sky to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of sky to give light to the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of sky.” 21 God created the large sea creatures, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.
26 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 sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food. 30 To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
31 God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
1 The heavens and the earth were finished, and all their vast array.:2 On the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
World English Bible
Unlike our modern view of creation through modern technology like space based telescopes, ancient people saw God’s work as poor laborers: farmers, herdsmen, sailors, traders, etc. When they considered the activities of God, they looked from the outer edges (the horizon) to his work in their midst.
What did the cosmos look like to these people? The sky provided the farthest view. Ancient people believed that, like a blue-hued bowl, the sky protected the earth from excessive rain. And it provided a canvas to hang the stars at night. And, at some unknown point, the sky and earth met. They held the clouds were really doors that allowed the water through the solid sky dome to reach the earth below. Rivers, lakes, and seas caught and held the waters on the earth. Essentially, these peoples saw the universe as a water environment, interrupted by a “bubble” formed by the sky (and upside down bowl) sitting on earth (a plate that supported the sky “bowl”). Both the sky and earth were solid walls that, if broken, would flood the world into watery death.
In the creation of the cosmos, the writer described two primary events: the breathe of the Spirit across the waters and the creation of light and darkness.
Through the Spirit, God intervened in the watery chaos, asserted control, and created order. On the surface, this view might differ from the orthodox belief that God created the universe “ex nihilo” (out of nothing). But the ancient people of the land and sea were not philosopher/theologians. Their concern was the primacy of God, which the creation story asserted. God was in charge. The notion of creation out of nothing was a development of that world view.
After God took control, he created time. The writer of the story saw this symbolically as the creation of light and dark. Notice day and night on the first day came before the creation of the sun and the moon (creation on the fourth day). Indeed, God had to create time in order to create the moral universe, the opportunity for free choice. Thus, he created time before he could call that time (i.e., “the first day”) “good.”
In the following five days, God created the physical universe within the confines of the moral universe. Time was a “space” for the Creator’s free choice. And each movement of creation (each day) was capped by the pronouncement of God: “It is good.” God’s eternal Word said creation was moral.
Creation progressed upward, as it built inward. The heavens and earth, lights in the sky, plants and animals, wild and domestic animals. Finally, on the sixth day, after God called his creation “good,” he made humanity in his image and likeness. Then he blessed them with the mission of dominance over creation. With God’s image and his mission, humanity was to share in divine power. Like God, they were to exercise their choices in a moral universe. And declared humanity “very good.” This creation that shared in the ability to choose good was the height of goodness.
Then God rested.
God gave us his Spirit, even at the point of our creation. He gave us the gift of time and the power of choice, along with physical existence. He still calls us to choose the good. And to rest in him.
Reflect on the awesome gift of creation and the awesome power moral choice gives you. How have you used them to praise God? How have you used them to rest in God?