In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The word 'genesis' means 'origin'. The book of Genesis then is the story of the beginning...of everything. The beginning of creation, the beginning of man, the beginning of God's relationship with man, and the beginning of sin. All of it can be found in this book. It's fitting then that Moses who we believe wrote Genesis (cf. John 5:46) starts with the above statement. It seems simple enough, but it holds great import for the Christian faith. It tells us that in the beginning God already existed. Before even time or space came into existence, God was. This means that God is not bound by anything but His nature and (because of His nature) the promises He chooses to make.
This verse also lays the foundation for our relationship to God. He is creator; we are the created. At a fundamental level this affects how we relate to Him. The fact that he created us means that He is entitled to all that we are. Everything we are belongs to Him, and He has the right to do with us as He pleases. Consider Romans 9:20-21:
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
Romans 9 is a difficult passage to understand. People interpret it differently. But at the very least it supports the truth that as creator God has the right to do with us as he pleases. He owes us nothing. He is bound by no law or principle on how He should treat us. He is bound only by His own character.
This week as I was reading for one of my seminary classes I came across a quote from George Muller, one of the great Christians of the nineteenth century, that embodies this well. Muller's life was touched by tragedy quite a few times. He buried two wives, an infant son, and his only child to reach adulthood (a daughter named Lydia). Upon the death of his second wife, Muller wrote the following in his journal:
It pleased God to take to Himself my beloved wife, after he had left her to me twenty-three years and six weeks. By the grace of God I am not merely perfectly satisfied with this dispensation, but I kiss the hand which administered the stroke, and I look again for the fulfillment of that word in this instance, that 'in all things God works for the good to those who love Him' (Romans 8:28).*
Though he had served God faithfully his whole life and brought much glory to his name, I find in Muller's words not even a hint of the modern idea that God somehow owes him something. He knew that the joy He experienced with His wife was a gift from God. That it had been a gift for more than twenty-three years, and that God had the right to take it away.
Unfortunately, our words are often tainted with the sense of entitlement that Muller's lacked. Like a little child clinging to his favorite toy, we look into the face of our maker and scream "Mine!" We cling to what God has given us by His grace and claim that we have a right to keep it. Whether it is the life of a loved one, financial security, or health, we somehow think that God owes it to us, that we have earned it by our good life. In reality, God owes us nothing. He never could owe us anything. No. The simple truth is that you and I don't deserve any of the blessings we have. God has given them to us out of His free grace
Stop and take a moment to consider the preciousness of God's love for you. How glorious it is to consider that a God who has every right to do with us as He pleases should take joy in forgiving us our sins and lifting us up and seating us in the heavenly places with His Son Jesus. What a gracious God we serve!
For further reading...
- Psalm 8: What is man that you are mindful of Him?
- John 1:1-3 & Colossians 1:16-17: In God, Jesus created all things.
- Isaiah 40: Consider God's greatness!
* p. 219 of George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer.