A little over a year ago, while I was in India, I read a magazine article about a cricket hero in that land. And the title of the article was The Light At The Beginning Of The Tunnel.
Immediately I knew: sermon series.
And so, a year later, series idea has become series reality.
A series with that title has to begin at the beginning, with the bible’s first verb, God’s first word, and creation’s first day: Let there be light.
By way of a history lesson that reinforced the idea that Genesis 1 can’t mean to us what it didn’t mean to them (its first hearers and readers), the message landed at this bottom line:
God has authority over uncertainty.
There are also a number of other phrases that lend strong support to the message.
And then there was one I only thought of afterwards and then distributed on social media: Genesis 1 is a theological smackdown disguised as a creation account.
Read below and you’ll see what I mean.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this or not, but the phrase the light at the end of the tunnel is really such a sad, depressing use of language. It’s just a depressing concept. And that’s even BEFORE the joke that often accompanies it: . . . is just the light of an oncoming train. But back to the saying the light at the end of the tunnel . . . do you realize what it implies? That life is a tunnel – or a season of life is a tunnel – and that tunnel is dark, forboding, murky, uncertain, sad, and most of all you are alone. The best you can do is grope along, hands on the wall, hoping you don’t step onto or into anything dangerous or disgusting. You’re in almost total darkness, hoping for some kind of small illumination and some clarity but until then you are on your own. Light at end of tunnel.
But the good news is that the message of Scripture and the message of faith is significantly different from that. Instead of picturing life as this thing you struggle through with assistance or illumination, as something in which you are destined to wander around in the dark, oh the bible FROM THE VERY BEGINNING – and I mean BEGINNING! – gives us a much different picture. So we’re going to spend some time looking at the very first words of the library, Genesis 1, and in order for that to make even a little sense, you have to know something youprobly didn’t know before.
Because like I’ve told you before, every book in the bible had a life before it was collected into the bible. Every one, including Genesis. And the Jews who wrote & compiled Genesis well over 3000 years ago were surrounded by neighbors. These are ppl whose names you may have heard: Canaanites, Jebusites, Hittites, Babs, Egyptians, etc. All these people: a) had their own religions, usually with a multiplicity of gods; b) had their own creation stories. Stories the Jews themselves had heard. And get this: the common thread in all those OTHER creation stories was a great primordial battle between the good gods and bad gods. That creation was the result – almost collateral damage– of this great war between Good & Evil, forces that were almost equal. The most famous was theEnumaElish (AV)in which the Bab god Marduk challenges Tiamat to combat and destroys her. He then disembowels her, ripping her corpse into two halves with which he fashions the earth and the skies.Marduk then creates the calendar, organizes the planets and stars, and regulates the moon, the sun, and weather. Welcome to the world! The result ofMarduk ripping Tiamat in half!
So to understand Gen 1, you have to know THAT. Because Genesis 1 can’t mean to us what it didn’t mean to them (its first audience). And in that light, it is written to answer, rebuke, and expose the folly of the Babylonian, Marduk ripping in half creation story AND the superiority of the one true God (the Lord!) to all of that. It’s a great big Oh yeah?! That’s absurd! to the competing religions. Let us show you how it really happened.
(Heh — it’s a theological smackdown disguised as a creation account.)
With all that, Genesis opens up w/ 4 words: In the beginning God which raises obvious question: beginning of WHAT? Of God? Of creation? Of time? Of the book of Genesis? We DON’T KNOW for sure . . . probly of creation. Because as mind blowing as this is God has no beginning. So four words in, and our minds are gone. Then the rest of 1:1: created the heavens and the earth, which suggests the “beginning” here is likely the beginning of God’s creative act. Next, look at 1:2a:
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,
Uh oh. If you’re familiar with Marduk et al, those words like “darkness, formless, empty” are ominous, sinister, frightening. Just like this music! (PLAY Jaws theme) Oh no! Because in every competing religion THAT’S WHAT COMES NEXT! Darkness rises up, all powerful, and challenges whatever is good.
But not here. Look at 1:2b:
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Oh! Everything changes. The spirit of the Lord hovers beside the darkness, clearly not scared of it, obviously reigning it in. So instead of some great battleground, it is clear from the beginning that even darkness, even the uncertainty it implies, is under God’s domain. The darkness here is just a tool, a prop, to elevate the glory, goodness, and power of God. Uncertainty is just a foil to highlight the one who is Lord over it. Again, this is revolutionary, unprecedented thinking in Genesis’ day. The Jews knew those other stories and they knew immediately: this is saying something completely different.
And then it happens in 1:3:
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Oh how great is that?! Because it makes you ask: who is he talking to? There is no one, no thing, nada yet. Are these words of the Big Bang? Is that how loud God’s voice is? I don’t know! But beyond that unanswerable question, look what 1:3 does: what God says, is. There is no gap between his desire and his outcome. This is absolutely breathtaking it its brevity. God rarely speaks in full sentences and less so in paragraphs and now we know why! SAYS/IS. Desire = Outcome. No Gap involved! BAM. The bible’s first VERB. God’s first WORD. Creation’s first DAY. And it’s all about light. Not at the end. From the beginning. Then 1:4-5 complete the thought:
4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
And when you know history and when you see brevity, you just love love love what’s going on. The darkness here is not some evil force challenging God on equal terms. Creation is not the collateral damage of GOD-ON-GOD conflict. God doesn’t persuade creation into existence; he commands it so! It doesn’t come from struggle; it comes from declaration. Because darkness is here that sense of uncertainty, a bit of confusion, somehow allowed by God but very much under his control. And get this: in Genesis’ world creation is less ZAPPING something out of nothing and more bringing ORDER OUT OF CHAOS. Structure out of uncertainty. God ASSEMBLES as he creates . . . and he gives it all coherence, design, & purpose. His first words were NOT: “Let there be stuff!” The stuff, apparently was already there. His first words were “Let there be light!” because in Genesis’ telling he had to bring order out of chaos and bring illumination into the darkness. Here’s where it lands us as this series begins: God has authority over uncertainty. From the beginning of time he has been the light at the beginning of the tunnel. Uncertainty isn’t God’s enemy. It’s his instrument. It’s true of creation itself, on the MACRO level.
And that no-drama authority, that serene assurance that his light from the beginning brings clarity to confusion, is true on the mirco level as well. Because what God accomplishes on the grandest of stages in Genesis 1, he weaves into the fabric of every day life, for you and for me on the micro level. Because I don’ know, but I suspect some of you are headed straight into a tunnel full of uncertainty, loaded with confusion, and you’re approaching it with the mistaken sense that you’re alone and that darkness is powerful. Nope. God has authority over uncertainty.
Someone here will be graduating next month. College, high school, grad school; others, pre-school, and still others, from Trump U. You feel like the future is full of uncertainty. WHAT’S NEXT? Guess what? God has authority over uncertainty.
Someone else is in the early stages of divorce. You never thought it would happen to you, it was always only something that happened to others, but here you are. Lawyers, PIs, agreements, disagreements, tears, and broken plates. And you’re asking this question you NEVER thought you’d have to ask: WHAT’S NEXT? Can I afford it? Will I be loved again? What about the kids? Uncertainty abounds. Guess what? God has authority over uncertainty.
And then someone else got the diagnosis NO ONE wants to get. The C word. And all the uncertainty! What’s the prognosis? Treatment plan? Time left? Side effects? And a lot of times, the disease is NOTHING compared to the not knowing. Guess what? God has authority over uncertainty.
And then I know more than a few of you are facing job loss. And that job was so much a part of your identity and you’re at the age where re-entry into the market is challenging, and you’re feeling you’ve been displaced, outplaced, REPLACED. And it’s a non-stop, WHAT’S NEXT? Guess what? .God has authority over uncertainty. It’s his instrument to prepare you, to repurpose you. What is true of creation is true of you: God’s got this. God’s got you. Not cliché. Genesis 1 truth.
And then I know: spring of 2016, so many of you are full of uncertainty about the Presidential election. “Oh my goodness! Nobody likes anybody running! What are we gonna do, what are we gonna do, what’s gonna happen?” Guess what? God has authority even over THIS American uncertainty.
Lord, I remember a place of incredible uncertainty. Senior year of high school, where should I go to college? Stay in Texas and try to be a pro tennis player or go to NJ & try to be smart? What do I do what do I do what do I do? I’d pray and I’d hear New Jersey. So I’d give God a second chance. New Jersey. So I’d be like, “Lord, have you BEEN to New Jersey?” He’d be like, “it’s the darkness, I know, but it’s MY DARKNESS.” So I began that tunnel. And guess what? I didn’t LOVE it? (Hey, what state is GS in?) But guess what else? In spite of the uncertainty, in spite of it not being all frivolity, it’s where I met Julie, it’s where I heard a call to ministry, it’s where I learned to write and think . . . all three pretty important things.
Oh I love how Genesis 1 tells us that God didn’t have to WIN his authority over the darkness. He has it. He has it by his very nature, by his design. He is so in control of things that he relinquishes control. He gives us freedom. Which we rarely handle well. But that’s not God’s fault. It’s God’s gift. We have an emotionally secure God who won’t be co-dependent with us! And you can tweet that out!
See, as you’re journeying with me on this, it’s pretty clear that Genesis 1 isn’t designed to answer the HOW & WHEN of creation but much more the WHY. It’s not a science book. But I will say that the evil of evolutionism (not evolution but implications many have drawn from it that you can call evolutionism) is that it makes the human race merely a collection of cells, devoid of purpose. From goo to you. And that robs man of his dignity. Your dignity is in your design, a design that’s been there from the beginning. Because the God who starts things out by bringing clarity out of confusion and order out chaos and purpose out of uncertainty will do the same thing in your life and in mine. IT’S WHY HE MADE US! God has authority over uncertainty.
Because he is a LET THERE BE LIGHT kind of God, because there is not gap between his desire and his outcome, because he harnesses ambiguity and turns it into purpose, you are on purpose. Genesis 1:3 shows that God is not with you. Don’t pray that he will be. He’s not beside you. Don’t pray that he will be. He is completely surrounding you – in front, behind, above, below. Enveloping you in his light. Punching holes in the darkness that IS your current uncertainty. Because not only will he have the LAST WORD, he had the FIRST WORD as well. And it was, and remains, your light. God has authority over uncertainty.
e I learned to write and to think. BAM. Three sorta important things. I might have thought I was entering that tunnel (The Lincoln Tunnel!) on my own, but I wasn’t. REFRAIN & there was lig