This week our topic has centered on Middle Eastern creation or origin stories including the Genesis account. Although an origin story may be an ancient one or a modern one influenced by scientific discoveries, no origin story claims it was directly witnessed by a human.
So how do we determine if one account or another is authoritative? Where should Jesus’ followers rank the Biblical account? At least we should regard Genesis 1-3 as a revelation of God’s character. Here’s the opening statement in Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV):
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The image “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” shows a facet of God’s character that is peppered throughout scripture. Here’s one example:
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them aloft. (Deuteronomy 32:11 NIV)
The Hebrew word translated “hovers over” in Genesis 1:2 and in Deuteronomy 32:11 is “rachaph” meaning to hover, to brood, to be tender. This is Our Creator in his helicopter parent mode.
That same or similar concept appears in several other places (1) the cloud that accompanied Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness, (2) the Cherubim over the ark of the Covenant, (3) the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and (4) the Glory of the God of Israel.
All these descriptions point toward a highly involved and personal God – one who has given us our very being and sustains us. Failure to understand God’s hovering care can lead either to independent leaning on our own understanding or apprehensive passivity. Are you trending toward one or the other as you start today? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Look at this video of an eagle involved in her eaglet’s first flight and meditate on God’s desire for you – knowing his tender care enables you to soar above issues that may seem insurmountable.
(1) Exodus 33:9, Numbers 9:19, Numbers 10:34, Numbers 14:14, (2) Exodus 25:20, Exodus 37:9, (3) Isaiah 31:5, (4) Ezekiel 10:18-19, Ezekiel 11:22
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2
Stop and imagine this scene. Let your mind’s eye develop a picture of what this would have looked like. Place yourself in the scene to feel what it might have felt like for the earth to be formless and empty, dark and deep, with only a sense of a divine spirit existing over it all.
Yesterday, Ethan described the common thought of creation in early Mesopotamia. These creation stories in mythology pictured chaos, violence, and gods waging war to prove their strength and divinity. However, Hebrew thought introduced a new creation story where the divine spirit brought forth life, order, beauty, and goodness.
Where the world believed humans were created out of chaos, the Hebrews believed God ordered human existence. Where the world believed the divine spirit caused violence and death, inciting fear in mankind, the Hebrews believed God’s spirit animated life and offered tender loving care.
The simple invitation today is to remember the magnificent creation story. Look around as you go throughout your day and note any evidence of chaos as well as evidence of the Biblical creation story.
In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:1-3
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” I Samuel 15:22-23 NIV
To obey is better than sacrifice.
If I want to be a follower of God – then God wants, desires, and requires my heart. My NIV study Bible has a note on Psalm 4:7 that explains, “heart in Biblical language (is) the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivations, courage and action – ‘the wellspring of life’ (Prov. 4:23).” When I take this into account, then obedience to God, to His rules, to His laws, to His personal instructions to me – involves my heart, my whole being, my mind, my soul, my emotions and my actions.
What is my heart attitude when God has asked me to do something? Is it like Saul’s? When I read about Saul in I Samuel chapters 9-16 a pattern emerges. Sometimes Saul does what God asks him to do, but often he does it in a partial way, or assumes a role not his own, or he modifies the instructions given to him. It seems to me that Saul often thought, well, God said to do this, but I think doing it my way – in my own timing – is good enough.
When we look at David, we are told he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). The Lord told Samuel at David’s anointing, “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” I Samuel 16:7b. David was not perfect, he made many mistakes, but one key difference between Saul and David was that when corrected, David repented, and asked God for forgiveness and restoration. Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
Jesus often spoke of the hardened or empty hearts of the religious leaders during His ministry. Ezekiel 36:26 tells us God, “will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Micah 6:8 tells us what God desires of us, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
How is your heart toward God? Read these passages, study them, listen to what God is telling you about your heart. Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:12-13, Psalm 40:6-8, Hebrews 10:5-10, Micah 6:6-8, Ezekiel 36:24-31.
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. (1 Samuel 3:1)
Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, ”Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call you; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. (1 Samuel 3:4-5)
Again the Lord called, “Samuel!”… Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel a third time and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me,” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
(1 Samuel 3:6a and 7-9)
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak for your servant is listening.” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.”
(1 Samuel 3:10-11)
He (Samuel) was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son,” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide it from me.”… So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. (1 Samuel 3:15b-17a and 18)
While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.
(Hebrews 5:7-8) The Message Bible
Obeying was hard for me as a child, particularly as some of the people were doing the exact opposite of what they told me to do. I often heard, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say,” and, “Are you listening to me?” It seemed to me that grown-up people could do whatever they wanted, but I couldn’t. What I didn’t know then is that it takes practice to learn to listen well and obey rightly.
I read 1 Samuel 1-4 to remind me of Samuel’s birth and early history as a boy ministering at Shiloh under Eli the priest. Samuel learned to listen for Eli’s voice and respond to his call. When Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel and told him how to respond to the Lord, Samuel was ready to do so, because he had practice in listening to and obeying Eli.
I have learned much about listening, obeying and practicing over a lot of years, but each season of my life from childhood until the age I am now reminds me that I will always have to practice. Sometimes it’s people I have to listen to and do what they tell me; but always it is listening to God and how he desires me to learn and grow in loving him and loving people.
By the Holy Spirit enabling me, my heart’s desire is to say with Paul:
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:12-14) MSG
How about you? Psalm 139 reminds us how completely God knows us in our uniqueness. Where do you need to listen to God and what might you need to practice doing in obedience to him? Take some time to read Psalm 139. Ask him to show you what he desires for you. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to obey.