Study Guide: The Song of Creation

Sunday April 19, 2015 | Vanessa Williams

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Many people face a “crisis of faith” when it comes to understanding the story of creation as told in Genesis 1. When read as a chronological account of events and compared to modern-day science, it’s often reduced to an angrily defended “matter of faith.” But the creation story is not a scientific journal – it’s a beautifully poetic account of a good God and His love for us!

Extended Summary:

The story of creation from Genesis 1 is often seen as an opposing view to science – an alternative chronological account of events that must be vehemently defended or rejected. Sadly, this causes us to miss the beauty of the Biblical narrative, which was not written as a chronological account of events at all.

One of the things that many people get “hung up” on is that God created the world in 6 days according to the biblical narrative, while science tells us it took billions of years. But ironically, before science suggested the world took longer than 6 days to create, people got “hung up” for the opposite reason – they wondered why they should believe in a God who needed 6 days and couldn’t create things in an instant! In either case, the issue isn’t the chronological accuracy of the narrative, it’s that people are interpreting poetic language in a literal sense.

In ancient Mesopotamia there were many gods and goddesses. They were seen as rulers over a certain geographic area or a certain aspect of life, and often needed to be appeased. These people also had many different stories of how things came to be, including the world, and their gods and goddesses. These stories of origin and creation are known as “cosmology”. The words that we know today as Genesis, Chapter 1, boldly confronted all other cosmologies at once, right from the first sentence where it speaks of there being only one God – not many gods and goddesses – and that this God didn’t need to be created. In order to be understood in the ancient near-east (where none of the cosmologies of the day had a literal timeframe), this cosmology was written in a poetic style. Therefore we must move beyond hearing it as God’s “scientific process” of creation, and discover something more profound – that we have an amazing God who is filled with love for all of His creation.

The ancients understood the poetic structure. For example, in the narrative, days 1, 2, and 3 talk of God creating spaces (light/dark; sea/sky; land), then days 4, 5, and 6 mirror them, this time describing how God filled those spaces (sun/stars; fish/birds; animals/people). The poetic structure starts each day with “God said,” and ends with, “it was morning, and it was evening…” These poetic refrains indicate theological importance, not chronological time.

Also, notice that the poetic structure changes when God talks about creating mankind “in our image” – the narrative changes cadence, and switches from third-person to first-person. This poetically emphasizes us being chosen to be God’s image-bearers on this earth, simply because he loves us. And it’s at this point that God looks over all he has done, and proclaims “it is VERY good.”

Reflection Questions:

  1. How can I become excited and curious about creation again? How can I see the world with child-like eyes of wonder?
  2. How can I free up some time to get more education about the world around us and nature?
  3. Where could I make some small, simple changes in my routines that would make me a better steward of God’s creation?
  4. Am I willing to search for something that interests me but is new to me in regards to being a good steward of God’s creation, and start doing it?
  5. How will I bring God into my experience of His creation’s beauty so I can enjoy it with Him? How can I be an image-bearer of God on earth as I was intended to be?