This morning, as I sat down to pray (to listen, to read, to be quiet), I felt led back to the beginning, to Genesis 1. I know the story, and many of the verses bubble up from memory. (In other, honest words, I thought “ho-hum.”) Despite the familiarity, the first four words stopped me in my tracks…in awe, in wonder, in utter amazement.
First, a little history lesson. Do you know when the Children of Israel first heard the creation story found in Genesis 1 and 2? Sometime after Exodus 19! Imagine the context with me; put yourself in the story.
For 400 years, life has marched to the beat of slavery in a land called Egypt. You, and everybody in your family, have lived as the property of another. You do what he says, when he says, for however long he says, how he says to do it. If you fail to do so, you are disposed of, killed. After all, your owner has lots of slaves. And this condition of slavery is your lot in life, all you had ever known—same as your mother and father, your grandparents, your great grandparents, your great-great grandparents, your great-great-great grandparents, your great-great-great-great…well, you get the idea, for 400 years of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, your entire tribe. Slavery. And he who enslaves you talks about his gods, his powerful gods, his gods who relate to you as worthless, as inferior, as unnoticed, as disregarded, as a dispensable slave. In fact, your owner believes himself to be a son of one of those gods. And like father-like son.
One day, someone from your tribe by the name of Moses—born a slave but rescued by one of the daughters of the son of god who enslaves you—shows up. He says some God named Yahweh (this God of your greats before 400 years of slavery, but where has this God been while you languished in slavery?) has come to reclaim you and your tribe as His possession. And God demands you be handed-over! (AKA, “Pharaoh, let My people go!”) This sets off a chain of events involving harsher labor (make more bricks!) and bizarre occurences like bloody water and various swarming insects and death. In the end, the son of god relents, and Moses leads your tribe to the base of some mountain on which Yahweh will be present.
Who is this God, Yahweh? And are there more of Him, like a group of gods, like the gods of Egypt, who fight and fuss and wreak havoc, often at human’s and the earth’s expense? Where does Yahweh come from, and what is He like? What does He want from you, i.e. what sort of work will He require of you, and what will be the penalty if you do not do what He says, when He says it, how He says to do it? Have you escaped the proverbial frying pan only to find yourself in an oven? So many questions!
The answers to those questions would come—slowiy, unfolding, with twists and turns until suddenly in a few thousand years, Yahweh shows up in the flesh, given the name Yeshua, providing the definitive answers to those questions. But for now, Yahweh starts with the beginning, and, In the beginning, GOD…
who is singular, complete all within Himself
who is before all things—from the very beginning
who is not from another—not from fire or water or dust or egg or chaos or chasm
Radical. Stunning. So “other than” the other gods you have known.
In the beginning, God…
Maybe tomorrow, I will finish verse 1.