“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
As a child, these words gave me great comfort. I didn’t know God, rarely went to church, and didn’t own a Bible until I was ten. Despite all this, I always had a longing in my heart to know (1) if there was a God, and (2) if my life had meaning. I found out the answers to both of these questions when I was 19, but I will save that story for another day.
So we look at the opening statement of Genesis. Which of the five basic questions of every news story (Who? What? When? Where? How? and Why?) does this sentence answer? It answers the first three:
What? Created the heavens and the earth
When? In the beginning
Also, the simple subject-verb statement is: God created. Now there are a slough of questions we could ask about this gem, but I prefer to continue with the five basics.
Question number four (Where?) is more tricky, because we don’t have the means to measure the place where God exists, so we can’t pinpoint a specific place there. But after reading the entire chapter we discover that “where ever” that place is we are there. It reminds me of those signs in the mall or at a rest stop that pinpoint your location on a map: You Are Here o. And we are.
Now you ask: How did God do it? We don't know. We can't do what God did, but we can manipulate what He made. You see, God did something indescribable. . . .but He tells us what He did in words we can understand. God could have written a book in a heavenly language and in an indecipherable script so we would never know. Instead God used men to write down unimaginable events in simple words. This act of communicating with us says a lot about Him. He wants us to know and understand who He is, that He is, and who we are. (It is a precious gift that God reveals Himself to us, so we in turn may know Him.)
So far, we have just looked at the first verse, but Genesis is bursting with the revelation of God and His understanding of construction through the use of mathematical words. For example, when I taught math at a Private School, I would print a copy of the first chapter of Genesis for each student, and ask them to look for mathematical terms. Once each student had highlighted the mathematical terms he/she found, we would discuss each term and what it meant.
After the discussion of their finds, I would include a few they missed. I discovered the first chapter is replete with arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, geography, mechanics, time, space, distance and more. Some are obvious, simple terms and ideas, but there are many more complex ideas to be mined from this first chapter.
For the thinkers, I will give you an example from Genesis 1 verses 6 & 7: (The rest of you may skip down to the paragraph that begins: "We can understand. . .).
"Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. 7.God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so."
In many translations, the word separate is translated as divide. Simple arithmetic. It's like a child who is given an candy bar to split between himself and his sister. All kids know how to divide candy. God took a single (one) group of waters and He divided it into two groups of waters.
But wait, there’s more! What is an expanse? God created and put an expanse between the two groups of waters. Now there are three items (excluding God and His instruments of creation): the waters above, the waters below, and an expanse between them. (The expanse here is = measurable solid. (1) )
But in addition to those three items, we have the other mathematical terms, separate (divide)and between. This simple verse contains the numbers or terms one, divide, two, solid (that can be measured), and three. All ideas that a child can understand. If you explore the terms
liquid (waters), measure, and between, the ideas become more complicated. (Something to do in your spare time?)
We can understand that God did something amazing, complicated, and difficult to explain, but He gave us a simple explanation. What He did surpasses the bounds of our understanding, but He told us about it in words even a child can understand - our words. All the universe from the greatest measure to the smallest particle. . .He created. How He did it is beyond comprehension, but He reveals it to us in words we can understand.
The last question is Why? Why did God create? Only God really knows. Why did He tell us about it? We can't begin to guess – but there are clues throughout the Bible and they all point to His desire to have a relationship with each of us.
Whether or not you believe in God, creation, or the Bible – I hope you are curious! There are answers. I hope you read along, whether you agree or not, as I share my experience in knowing and getting to know God with my heart and my mind.
(1) Strong's Concordance
Next time: The Significance of Easter: Resurrection vs. Reincarnation