The Journey: God Said and God Saw

September 10, 2017
Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a
Lindsay Small

This morning is a new beginning of sorts. Summer travel is over…kids are settled
back in school…some of you have taken your kids to college…some discovering
a new life in retirement.

But whatever your stage in life, this Sunday serves as a second ‘new year’s day’
in the church. Often called Rally Day, or Kick-Off…our old church called it
Welcome Home Sunday…this is a day when we begin anew…

And what better place to do it than right at the very beginning…our series for this
season is called “The Journey.” And we will do exactly that…journey through
scripture. Starting today in Genesis 1 and traveling through the story of the
people of God.

Along the way, we will use this metaphor of journey to take inventory on where
we are in our own spiritual life. We will walk with those who walked before us…
and they will show us the way.

We will also walk with artists who have illustrated the Journey. Through a
generous gifting from Third Reformed Church, we have artwork displayed in the
gallery to illustrate the scripture texts from each week.
And of course we want to invite you on a church-wide journey…around our
building…take a look at your passport…

So today is that day when we start the journey…after all, every journey has a
beginning…

Read Genesis 1

The first three words of the Bible are some of the most familiar words in scripture.
The words in and of themselves are familiar…but put them together in the correct
order…and you get one of the most famous prepositional phrases ever written:
In the beginning.

They are words that perhaps you have read over and over again…every time
you’ve committed to reading the Bible from cover to cover. Its nice to begin with
something familiar…

In the beginning.

We read these words and all at once we find ourselves transported back to the
garden of Eden…or at least our flannel graph version of Eden…where water,
land, and vegetation co-exist so perfectly on that light blue surface.

Or perhaps the creation story stirs more questions than answers for you…
wondering how it jives with your 10th grade science class.

And we quickly realize that we do not start at the beginning empty handed…but
with flannel graph in one hand and science textbook in another…

But I’m wondering if this morning we could put those both aside…

After all, none of these existed in ancient Israel.

We upload questions onto this text that it was never intended to answer…

Instead, the question it did intend to answer…with a huge exclamation point…
was the question of polytheism…

In other words…every tribe and nation that surrounded the Israelites believed in
a religion with many, many gods.

There were hundreds of them…in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Babylon…each had
their own set…

…each having their own dominion (vegetation, water, land, god of toenails…
there was a god for everything)…and they competed with one another for
prominence. These gods were incredibly demanding, selfish…and fickle as all
get out…

The Babylonians believed that the gods created humans, but then quickly
regretted the decision because they were too noisy.

These nations believe that gods battled, killed, and enslaved each other…and
humans were often caught in the middle.

This was the world that surrounded the Israelites…this was often the
temptation…the lure…there were times when the Israelites wanted to worship a
god of whatever it was…because everyone else was!

And so the creation account that we know was written PRIMARILY to beat back
all claims of many gods…

Because this story of creation stands in utter opposition to every other religion at
the time.

In the beginning…GOD.

One God…sovereign and powerful.

God says…and it happens.

And not just in one realm or the other…and not to compete with another or show
off in front of another.

In the beginning…God says…and it was.

The creation account in Genesis is written to declare that there is ONE GOD…
But there is another thing about this creation account. Something that sets it
above and apart from all others.

There is a repetition…a phrase that is used over and over…so simple and yet so
beautiful.

And God saw that it was good.

Seven Times.

God said…”let there be light, a dome, waters, vegetation…”

God said…and it was.

And after everything he said was…he took a step back.

The text says that he SAW what he had made…and declared it good.

Or in Hebrew…Tov.

Tov is one of the those words where the English translation only gets you so far.

Yes, good is a good translation. But when God sees that what he has made is
TOV…its bigger, deeper, and wider than our meaning of the word good.’

When you ask someone how their day is going, and they say, “good.” You get the
feeling that there is more to be had…that it could be better.

But TOV…tov is a word of completeness.

Tov means good…beautiful…delightful…working the way it was created to.

I called a friend of mine at Western Seminary this week. Our offices were
across from each other when I worked there a few years ago…and I loved
talking to her. Pam is type of person that everyone loves talking to…in part,
because she gives her affirmations in Hebrew. She says TOV…all the time.

So I said, Pam, I’m preaching on Creation. And she said, “Mmmm…Tov.”

I asked her about this word…tov. And she affirmed my inclination…when God
created the earth…he sees it and declares it tov…he finds it beautiful, lovely,
delightful…bursting with good-ness.

Everything God created in these first 25 verses of the Bible…he deems TOV…

And then after creating humanity, in verse 31…he deems it very TOV. Or Tov meod.
God created the world…and it was TOV.

This was the way it was supposed to be. Everything was tov: Creation, people,
relationships.

Everything in creation was working the way God intended. It was good and
beautiful. And God delighted in it.

But we know that something happened…

The tov people of God stopped believing God was tov. They thought they could
become like God themselves. Eventually, they stopped living a tov life. They no
longer treated all of creation as if it was tov. Quickly, creation started to unravel.
Everything tov became very un-tov.

But here is the beautiful thing: God did not give up his dream of TOV. Once
creation started to unravel, God immediately set in motion a place for its
restoration.

God’s plan is for all un-tov ways to become tov again. When creation starts to
unravel, God enters with a plan of restoration…

A friend of ours named Nathan Albert, a man so nice they named him twice, has
written on the TOV work of restoration:

One of the ways God does this restoration is through his beloved people. We
have a task in process. God has been working to make a people, a nation, a tov
community that would not only bear God’s image, but also help make all of
creation tov.

Our call as people of God is to be a community where everything is good,
beautiful, and working the way it was created to.
We are to be tov in a world that desperately needs to get a glimpse of it; of
heaven on earth.

The problem is, there are many days when I do not really believe I am tov.
Much of what I see or scroll tells me that I am not good enough…that I am not
thin enough…or pretty enough…that I am not successful enough. That I am not
enough.

I do not see the image of God, I see the not-enoughness. Perhaps you fall into
the same trap…

And in the midst of untovedness…we turn away from God, thinking that he will
not want us in our un-tov states…

And perhaps without even realizing it, we then turn towards materialism, wealth,
and false measures of success…

…and all of sudden, we’re just like those Babylonians, constructing gods that
easily tire of us.

But the message of creation is one where TOV is proclaimed over and over…
every thing that is created…

And when God gets to humans…he creates us…IN HIS IMAGE.

Verse 27, “So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

And when he had created humans, when he had created us…he took a few
steps back…And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very
good. TOV ME-OD.

The Good News, the Tov News, is that we are created in God’s image.
And because we are loved by God, his greatest work of restoration lands solely
on us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…Christ rescued us from
the un-tovness of the world and now presents us TOV in God’s sight. He
presents us as beautiful, delightful creatures…made in his image.

Because of Christ, the most tov-ness person who ever walked the earth, we are
good and beautiful in God’s sight…each and every one of us.

But the creation story does not end here…

Again, Nathan writes,

This is the impetus for living a tov life. We don’t do tov works so that we might be
accepted by God. We are accepted by God; therefore, we live a tov life.

If we try to gain God’s acceptance by living a tov life, we will become judgmental,
burnt out, give up on God because the standards are too high, or think that God
owes us because of our upstanding living. Instead, we must bathe in the fact that
God accepts us, calls us tov and because of this we live a tov life.

Paul reminds us that we are God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, a one of a
kind creation, and we have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which
God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). We have been created to do
good works, tov works; deeds that are good and beautiful.

What might God be calling you to do today? What are ways you can participate
in restoring “TOV” to all creation?

And yet, here we are…with so much turmoil around us…the questions have been
circling in my mind: how do I preach the goodness of God’s creation in the midst
of hurricanes, forest fires, and flooding?

How do I offer the TOV news of God when I know that our minds and hearts are
with those who are in the path of the hurricane at this very moment?
I don’t know.

We are reminded this morning, and so many other mornings, that the world is so
very un-tov.

God’s creation is beautiful, but at times it is obviously not working the way it was
created to.

There is injustice, crime, hate, racism, sexism, and evil. There is famine and
natural disaster, war and pollution, death and disease.

But, the Gospel tells us that the world will be made tov again. Greens will be
greener, blues will be bluer. All things will be made new. The world will be tov
again.

The book of Revelation reminds of what is to come: “Look! God’s dwelling place
is now among the people, and God will dwell with them. They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from
their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old
order of things has passed away.” (vv. 21:3-4)

Un-tov will pass away. Tov will be restored.

We know this is our future. We know this is God’s promise to us.

And so in this meantime…between creation and fulfillment…we remember…

We remember that because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection God views us
as tov. God always has and always will.

We remember that all people are good, beautiful, and can work the way God
created them to work.

We remember that we were created in God’s image to continue his work of
restoration and peace.

We remember that we each have a part to play in God’s plan to bring about a tov
creation.

And God sees his people…remembering, restoring, toving…and he sees that it is
very good.

Renee Krueger