Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the beginning – God blows our minds.

One of my absolute favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 1:1. There is so much packed in those ten little words. You could spend a life time pondering their meaning and significance and still leave great depths unexplored. At the risk of giving away a little bit of what we have planned for April 9th, allow me to share.

First off, you need to know who wrote this book. The Bible specifically states that it was Moses. You don’t get to his story until Exodus, but there you learn that he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Now since the Bible was written by men, a lot of the juicy details get left out. Women would have included all the nitty-gritty details about what this life was like, but as it is, we have a few dots to connect.

We can assume that being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter entailed some level of privilege, and obviously education was part of this privilege. How else would he have known how to write?

He was probably trained to be familiar with court documentation and the proper formats for recording and transmitting royal information. And there is evidence within his writing to support this, but we will get back to that.

Moses begins this book with the Hebrew bera’ sheet. It literally means “In the beginning,” but even here we can learn so much more if we stop to ask a couple of questions. Whose beginning? The beginning of what? God is eternal so obviously it can’t be his. So it must be the beginning of this great new creation. It seems like a “well, duh!” statement, but this is one of those things we really need to get sunk deep into our heads. Because if we don’t we will have a tendency to read the rest of this book like it is a book about God, but it’s not. It’s a book about us inspired by God. (Thank You, Abraham Joshua Heschel, for teaching me this.)

God is bigger than any one book, even one he inspired. He cannot be contained with a leather cover and gold embossing, no matter how pretty. He is infinite and that alone is amazing and worthy of our worship – and we are still on the first word!

Now check this out. This is the first recorded statement of linear time, an idea we take for granted. Until now humanity thought of time as something cyclic, a never ending hamster wheel we could never escape. No single event, no single person held any real significance because it was all going to happen over again on the next rotation, but to declare there is a beginning presupposes there must be an end.

With this one word our lives can be significant because there is an end – an end that is the culmination of all history, the sum of all human existence leading to something greater. How cool is that? We are significant!

Moses continues with my favorite Hebrew words ba’rah. A fabulous word, because it has a dual meaning. It is when one word is able to encompass complementary aspects of a single event. In our Bibles it is translated “created” but it also means to “cut out.” It means God brought the good things into being while cutting out the possibility of anything that didn’t align with his vision of what this world was to be. His creation was only what he desired and nothing he did not, because he’s just that good.

The next word is Elohim, or God in your Bible. Literally this means Gods, a plural form. Now there has been a lot of speculation why Moses would chose to use this form, but many scholars agree that he was merely writing as court scribes would. In those days a writer would express the greatness of a king or ruler by referring to him in a plural form, making it known to all who were reading this document that this is not only God, he is a great God, more of a God than can be contained in a trifling title like God. He is more! More amazing, more glorious, more powerful than you can begin to grasp.

All of this and we haven’t even got to what he was creating!

Okay, so I am a bit of a geek, but when you recognize the artistry and beauty of how God crafted this word for us. The economy of words, the layers and depth of meaning, the sheer wonder of what is being said, the Bible takes on a depth of beauty that cannot be denied. It is why the Bible is worthy of study and why we miss so much when we just read through in prescribed dosages without trying to experience the grandeur of its message. And even more it is our story, every bit of it, written with us in the heart and mind of the One who inspired it. How amazing is that?

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