A. W. Tozer famously said that what comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. In my view, if you want to cultivate better thinking about God, there’s no better place to start than the creation account in the book of Genesis. One scholar said it this way: “If we possessed a Bible without Genesis, we would have a ‘house of cards’ without foundation or mortar. We cannot ensure the continuing fruit of our spiritual heritage if we do not give place to its roots.”
Genesis—and the creation account specifically—helps us to understand how God is revealing himself to us throughout the rest of our Bibles. Here are four important realities that passage teaches.
1. Creation reveals a God who is not like us.
In the beginning, the Bible reveals a God who is not a created being, a figment of our imaginations, or a durable crutch we invent in difficult times. Genesis reveals an all-powerful God without beginning and end, who is other than his creation, who created something out of nothing. It gives me comfort to know there’s a God who is above the messiness and who is driving history toward a conclusion. It’s comforting to know someone besides me is in charge, that I’m not the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.
Sometimes we act like we want a God we can reduce to our size, a God who overlooks our flaws and blesses our indiscretions. We want a God we can shape and shift. But is this really what we want? A God who is limited by our limitations, a God who is subject to our fears and captive to our whims? When we whisper desperate prayers in the night, when we plead with God at the bedside of a loved one, when we pray over our children, we’re praying to a God we need to be big, a God we can trust is managing the world we can’t control. Down deep in our souls, we don’t want the cheap plastic gods of our age but an all-powerful God who is bigger than the problems we face and can defeat the things that haunt us.
2. Creation reveals a God of order and beauty.
Too often we read Genesis as a didactic dictionary instead of stepping back and beholding the way God has ordered the world. Sandra Richter (following many Old Testament scholars) observes the intentional form-and-fill parallels of the days of creation:
When we pray over our children, we’re praying to a God we need to be big, a God we can trust is managing the world we can’t control.
- Day and night (day 1) with the sun and moon to fill and rule them (day 4).
- Waters above and below (day 2) with birds and fish to fill and rule them (day 5).
- Land and vegetation (day 3) with land mammals to fill and rule them (day 6).
Ruling over all three spheres of creation are God’s unique human creatures, fashioned in his image (Gen. 1:26). But humans ultimately rule under the rule of God, who occupies the seventh day and rests. The point of this scheme is to show us that God is not a God of chaos or division but a God of beauty, unity, and order.
3. Creation reveals a God who is personal.
Genesis describes a God who didn’t just fashion the world and leave it alone, but who wants to be known. God is not distant. He speaks. He’s a Creator who made people for fellowship with him. He’s seen walking in perfect communion with Adam and Eve, and he’s ultimately revealed to us in the person of Jesus.
There is a God who cries out, “Those who seek me diligently find me” (Prov. 8:17). He is a Father who sent his Son to be rejected and raised up on a Roman cross so that we could be reconciled to the One who made us. Softly and tenderly, the hymn writer reminds us, Jesus is calling for you.
This is ultimately the aim of studying Genesis: to help you know and be known by God, to stir in your heart affections for the One who made you. In a world gone mad, we can know and see that God is our “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
4. Creation reveals a God of the beginning and the end.
To the prophet Isaiah, God declares, “Behold, I am doing a new thing” (Isa. 43:19). Genesis doesn’t just tell us how the world began, but it also points forward to how the world will end. As we open the first pages of our Bibles, we should believe that the God of creation is also the God of new creation.
Genesis describes a God who didn’t just fashion the world and leave it alone, but who wants to be known.
Understanding Genesis in this way helps us to see that some of the most recognizable features of Eden show up throughout the rest of Scripture. Consider a few examples. The river that runs through the garden shows up in the vision of heaven we find in Psalm 46:4 (“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God”) and ultimately in Revelation, where John’s vision describes the New Jerusalem. The tree of life from Eden becomes a disfigured and cursed cross upon which the Son of God offers life to those who believe, and then it shows up in the New Jerusalem as a source of health and life (Rev. 22:2). Eden is a temple where God dwells in harmony with his people. Then relationships broken by sin are mediated in lesser temples throughout Israel’s story, and when Jesus offers the once-for-all sacrifice, the indwelling Spirit of God makes God’s people his new temple. One day, redeemed sinners will live in perfect fellowship as God will dwell with his people again.
Everything that lies in between Eden’s gate and the New Jerusalem, the bulk of our Bibles, is in essence a huge rescue plan. In fact, we could summarize the plot line of the Bible into one cosmic question, “How do we get Adam back into the garden?” In Genesis 3, humanity was driven out; in Revelation 21–22, they are welcomed home.
Welcomed home! What a wonderful thought. Dear Christian, I invite you to study creation, to study Genesis. The point is not another exercise in knowing useless trivia but to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word, to know and understand more about our Creator, ourselves, and our world, so ultimately to join with the rest of creation in worshiping our great God.
This article is adapted from The Characters of Creation: The Men, Women, Creatures, and Serpent Present at the Beginning of the World by Daniel Darling (Moody Press, June 2022).