"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"—Gen. 1:1, 2.
God, the Creator of the universe, brought all things into existence by the Word of His power. The direct agent in creation was the Son, the Word, as declared in John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:2, and other passages. That original creation was perfect.
Some believe that all was chaos in the beginning and that the earth slowly reached a habitable condition. But we read in Isaiah 45:18 that "He created it not in vain" (i.e, void). Many scholars agree that in place of "was" we should read "became." The earth, through some terrible cataclysm (possibly connected with the fall of Lucifer) became waste and empty, enshrouded in darkness and covered with water. Over this chaotic swirling waste the energizing Spirit of God moved, or brooded, as a hen brooding over the nest from which new life is to come.
"O soul of mine, be strong!
Make this a glad new year,
And life one grand sweet song,
Some other life to cheer;
No time hast thou to dream
Or waste life's precious hour—
While borne upon life's stream,
Waste not thy manly dower.
Amid life's busy din,
O soul, think not of rest!
Great battles thou must win,
Make this new year thy best.
O soul of mine, be strong,
Let noble passion sway,
And love's triumphant song
Make glad each passing day!"
—Walter Bruce Grimes
"And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them"—Gen. 1:26, 27.
Apart from revelation, God must ever remain the Unknowable. It is true that in nature we see marvelous evidences of His power and wisdom, but it is only in the Son that He is told out in all His fulness (John 1:18). Jesus came to reveal the Father, for He alone knew Him in the reality of His Being (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). He and the Father are one in nature though distinct in person (John 14:9). In the Old Testament God is revealed as Creator. As such He is the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9) because He is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Num. 16:22). So man, as created originally in the image and likeness of God, was a son of God (Luke 3:38). But that image was marred and the likeness lost through sin, so that now it is by regeneration, a new creation, or new birth, that man becomes a member of the family of God and can look up into His face and call Him Father (Gal. 3:26; 4:6).
"Rivers to the ocean run,
Nor stop in all their coarse;
Fire ascending seeks the sun,
Both speed them to their source;
So my soul, derived from God,
Pants to view His glorious face;
Forward tends to His abode,
To rest in His embrace"
"Cam went out from the presence of the Lord,... and he builded a city"—Gen. 4:16, 17.
'To Seth also... was born a son... then began men to call upon the name of the Lord"—Gen. 4:26.
In these early chapters of Genesis, after the fall of Adam and Eve, two distinct lines of their descendants come before us: the line of Cain, the natural man, active, often brilliant and inventive, but existing without God, seeking to make the world a pleasant place in which to live, although manifesting increasing wickedness as the centuries went by. The line of Seth called upon the name of the Lord, and although never numbered among the great ones of the earth, sought, like Enoch, to walk with God, and, like Noah, to obey His voice in all things. Methuselah led right up to the year of the deluge. His grandson and household were the only ones to go through that time of judgment and through them God began a new world-order.
"To trust in man is but a thing of naught,
With Thee is mercy, Lord, with Thee is might;
To trust in Thee at all times I am taught
Is best, for what Thou plannest must be right.
My hand I place in Thine for all the year:
Thou art a refuge; what have I to fear?"
"Make thee an ark of gopher wood... and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch"—Gen. 6:14.
In the ark, built according to divine direction, we have a beautiful type of Christ. Pitched with pitch within and without, it went through the flood carrying its passengers safely over to the renewed earth—a picture of Christ bearing the judgment of God against sin and saving all who trust in Him. Note that Noah and his family did not have to hang onto spikes or some similar arrangement outside the ark. They were safe inside where the waters of judgment could not reach them. Blessed it is to be thus "in Christ Jesus," where there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
"In the refuge God provided,—
Tho' the world's destruction low'rs,—
We are safe, to Christ confided,
Everlasting life is ours.
And, ere long, when come to glory,
We shall sing a well-known strain,—
This (the never-tiring story):—
Worthy is the Lamb once slain!"
"God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged"—Gen. 8:1.
The same God who in His righteousness had judged the "world that then was" and swept the ungodly away in His indignation, kept Noah and his family in mind and brought them in safety through the flood. Peter tells us they were saved through the water. Often, as the ark floated on the crest of the waves, doubts and fears may have beset the family within, as to what the final outcome would be. But their questionings, if there were such, could not change God's love for them or alter His purpose to make Noah the head of a new race to inhabit the renewed earth.
The raven and the dove speak of the two natures in the believer. The one feeds on carrion, so never returned to the ark; but for the dove there was no rest save in the ark until the flood was assuaged. When the dove returned with the olive leaf Noah saw in it an evidence that the flood was receding. When it did not return at all he knew it was time to leave the ark..
"Though battles rage, and foes oppress,
And Satan's darts be hurled,
Above the very real distress
That haunts a stricken world,
I lift my head. Though shoulders bend
Beneath the chastening rod,
Secure I'll walk unto the end—
For I remember God.
And even though the flesh should fail,
And faint this heart should grow,
When fears confound, and doubts assail,
Still am I safe, I know—
As safe, when floundering in clods
As clothed with dignity—
For I am Christ's, and Christ is God's,
And GOD remembers me."
"And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done"—Gen. 8:20, 21.
The Lord smelled a savor of rest" (literal rendering) because it spoke to Him of the work of His beloved Son. It was not that God found any delight in the sacrifice of a lamb out of the flock, or, as some have blasphemously suggested, that Jehovah was supposed to enjoy the fragrance of roasting meat. But He looked forward with glad appreciation to what His Son was to accomplish on Calvary. In view of this, He made a covenant with Noah, declaring that He "would not again curse the ground for man's sake." He knew that man is unimprovable so far as bis natural heart is concerned. It is only evil and that continually. But in the work of the cross all this was to be dealt with (Rom. 8:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:21).
"No blood, no altar now,
The sacrifice is o'er!
No flame, no smoke, ascends on high,
The lamb is slain no more:
But richer blood has flow'd from nobler veins.
To purge the soul from guilt, and cleanse the
"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing"—Gen 12:1, 2.
Note the expression "had said" It was before, not after, he left Ur of the Chaldees that this word came to Abram. He was commanded to leave not only his country, but also all his kindred, to go to a land which God would show to him. It is evident that, in the beginning, there was not sufficient faith or understanding to enable him to act upon this, so he allowed his father, Terah, to take the lead, and as a family they left the land of their nativity and went on to Haran, where they remained until after Terah's death, when the original instruction he had received was remembered and acted upon, and Abraham led the way to the land of Canaan.
"Dear Lord, go with me as I travel on my way,
Help me to think no ill from day to day.
Teach me to smile through tears, and to employ
A kindly word or deed—that joy
May linger near some soul
Who strives to sing, tho' billows roll.
If on the mountain, or the sunny lea,
O'er carefree trails, or on the sea,
I need Thy Presence with me everywhere,
Stay near, dear Lord—this is my prayer."
"And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left"—Gen. 13:8, 9.
Abraham could afford to be generous with his earthly-minded nephew because his heart was set on that "city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). Toward this he looked, and all earthly inheritance or temporal possessions seemed very insignificant in comparison with it.
Only as we see a better world above our heads, can we put this world beneath our feet. It was this which enabled Abraham to preserve the pilgrim character to the end and so to relinquish to Lot that which the younger man desired. Nothing so frees the soul from the bondage of covetousness as the knowledge of God and the appreciation of what He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). Abraham had a very real understanding of eternal verities and values, and so could appraise aright the passing things of time and sense.
" 'Tis the treasure I've found in His love
That has made me a pilgrim below;
And 'tis there, when I reach Him above,
As I'm known, all His fulness I'll know.
And Saviour, 'tis Thee from on high
I await till the time Thou shalt come
To take him Thou hast led by Thine eye,
To Thyself in Thy heavenly Home."
—J. N. Darby.
"And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God"—Gen. 17:7, 8.
God's covenants are of two kinds: some are conditional upon man's response to His commandments; others are unconditional because He makes a promise in sovereign grace which He determines to carry out whatever the nature of the response on man's part may be. His promise to give the land of Palestine to Abraham was of this latter character, also the promise to make of him a great nation. There can be no possibility of failure in regard to both of these parts of the covenant. Therefore it is called an everlasting covenant. It is sovereign grace acting for the blessing of those who have done nothing to earn such wondrous favor. In this respect, it is like God's salvation, which is altogether by grace and made good to all who believe.
"Mine by covenant, mine for ever,
Mine by oath, and mine by blood.
Mine—nor time the bond shall sever,
Mine as an unchanging God.
Oh, how sweet to call Thee mine!"
"After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Manure: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan"—Gen. 23:19.
That grave in the land of Canaan was the only piece of ground that Abraham actually possessed, although God had given it all to him by promise. He buried Sarah there in the certainty of resurrection when all that God had pledged will be his. In the meantime he was content to remain as a stranger and a pilgrim, for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. Every time he gazed upon, or thought of that lonely grave in Machpelah, he must have recalled the words that God had spoken, and so he looked on in faith to their fulfilment in due time, and thus he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. He had dared to believe God when he was notified that in him and his seed all nations should be blessed. In the same faith he laid away the body of his beloved life-partner, assured that some day he would behold their children dwelling in peace in that land and enjoying all that God had promised. Later he himself was buried in the same tomb. They will rise together at the first resurrection.
"When the weary ones we love
Enter on their rest above,
When the words of love and cheer
Fall no longer on our ear,
Hush! be every murmur dumb
It is only TILL HE COME!"
—E. H. Bickersteth.