It’s time for the annual Scriptural re-boot in the yearly cycle of Torah readings. We’re going back to the end of eternity past. Or to say that another way, we’re beginning at the end of pre-creation past. Our starting point is the starting point; Genesis1:1. Bereishit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz. These first seven words in the Hebrew Bible give us a summary statement of when God began to create. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a topic sentence that introduces the whole creation account that follows (1:2-31). And since there is no beginning or ending with God this is not the beginning of all things. What this beginning refers to has to be defined from the context. And the context here is the establishment of our world and beyond as we know it.
Why did the Spirit of God empower Moses to give this cosmology to the Israelites? Basically, He did it to encourage them to trust and obey Yahweh as they were wandering in the wilderness while in route to Canaan to take possession of their Promised Land. He wanted to prepare the Israelites for their ordained future by informing them of their theological past. Through Moses, the main point the LORD emphasized, is that the same God who created Israel also created the universe! The point being, He is the sovereign and ultimate authority and therefore He is worthy of unquestioned covenant loyalty. The same God who brought order, fullness, and rest to the material world is also fully capable of doing the same thing in the spiritual world of His people. That’s the why, in terms of authorial intent.
We now come to the what in this verse; what does it say and what does it mean? And here we just want to quickly touch on three key words: Bereishit, Bara, and Elohim. Bereishit means “beginning,” but by itself, it tells us nothing as to when the beginning was. It simply refers to the first phase of a step. But again from the context, this is speaking of the beginning of the universe as we now know it.
The verb bara, translated “created,” always describes the divine activity of fashioning something new, fresh, and perfect. It can be used to describe creation out of nothing (cf. Gen. 1:27), and it can describe the forming of something in the sense of reforming or renewing something that already existed (Ps. 51:10; Isa. 43:15, 65:17).
The Hebrew word translated “God” (Elohim) is a plural noun. The plurality adds intensification to the name El. In this context the name Elohim represents the Creator’s transcendent relationship to His creation. It also indicates majesty and stresses God’s sovereignty and incomparability – He is the “God of gods.” It emphasizes the fact that the God referred to here is the fullness of deity, the only true God. And while Elohim, in and of itself, does not prove that God is a Triunity, it does leave the door open for later biblical revelation that develops the concept of a plurality in the Godhead.
Now when we put the whole thing together, this verse is critically important because it contradicts six popular philosophies: 1) Atheism – because God does exist. 2) Pantheism -because God is distinct from His creation. 3) Polytheism – because “created” is singular in the text. (This is in direct contrast to the creation accounts in other ancient Near Eastern cultures). 4) Radical Materialism (the idea that matter is eternal) – because matter had a supernatural origin. 5) Naturalism – because creation took place when someone outside nature created. 6) Fatalism—because a personal God freely chose to create. God did not need to create the universe; He chose to create it. Why, because God is love. All that He does is the expression of His nature, and His nature is to love. And love is best expressed toward something or someone else, so God created the world and people as an expression of His love.
Which brings us to a big picture life application principle we can glean from the book of Genesis as a whole: Only through trust in God and obedience to God can we enjoy a personal relationship with God and realize our own fulfillment as human beings.
Genesis reveals that God originally intended people to have an intimate relationship with their Creator. God made man as a special creation (2:7). He made man with special care (2:7). He made man in His own image (1:26-27). And He consistently demonstrated concern for man’s welfare (3:9).
But not only that; after God’s relationship with Adam was broken by the Fall (ch. 3), God took the initiative to re-establish the relationship with man that He had created man to enjoy. He provided atonement for man’s sin until He would finally remove it.
But not only that; those who now possess spiritual salvation, were chosen by God before His creation of the world to be “in” Messiah in the sense that Messiah is the representative of the one who is chosen (Eph. 1:3-4). This means that salvation comes to such an individual when they trust that Jesus is who He said He is (Divine Messiah), and did what He came to do (Sacrificial Sin-Bearing). And that is not something to be afraid of; rather it is something for believers to rejoice in.
It’s always a blessing when we’re given a fresh start with the opportunity to begin again. Today as the repeated cycle of Torah study portions resumes from the beginning, let’s reconnect to a practice of trust and obedience that’s characterized by courageous dependence on God’s grace resources for living in a way that truly nurtures our relationship with the One who brought all things into being (cf. John 1:1-3).