Parasha Beresheet – In The Beginning
Foundations For A Successful Life In This World Followed By Eternal Life In The World-To-Come
Of the millions of books ever written, the Bible is the greatest book. It is unique. It is special. It is the most valuable of all books. It is the most beneficial of all books.
Every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, every word can be trusted because all Scripture is God-breathed. It is divinely inspired. That means God oversaw the Bible’s creation, so that it is accurate, reliable, faithful and true.
The Bible is able to make us wise for salvation. And once we are saved, it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible contains excellent promises – all of which will be fulfilled. It revives us when we are weary, strengthens us when we are weak, comforts us when we are afflicted, gives us a heavenly perspective, enabling us to be optimistic in the midst of our trials. It brings joy to our hearts. It is sweeter than honey, more desirable than silver and gold; and practicing it brings great reward!
To understand this most beneficial of books, we must understand Genesis, especially the earliest chapters of Genesis. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. However, very important things happened before God created the heavens and the Earth.
Before the beginning, the Father and the Son enjoyed an eternal relationship with each other characterized by love and glory.
Before the beginning, the heavenly host was made.
Before the beginning, following the leadership of the greatest of the angels, a third of them rebelled against the High King of Heaven, and His Son, King Messiah.
Before the beginning, God knew that mankind would join the rebellion of the fallen angels and would need to be saved from that traitorous and fatal sin. So, God made a plan to redeem a chosen remnant of human beings. That plan involved the Son of God’s incarnation, sacrificial death and resurrection.
Before the beginning, the names of those chosen human beings were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, the book belonging to the Messiah who sacrificed Himself for us.
Before the beginning, God prepared a kingdom for His chosen ones to inherit.
In the beginning God: God is Elohim, a masculine plural noun. This is a hint of the singular yet plural nature of God that is progressively revealed in the Bible.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And here’s how He created the universe and everything in it. He started with a dark, formless Earth which was covered with water. 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. And the Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Trinity, was hovering over those dark waters. Just as a bird sits on her nest, hovering over her eggs and chicks, the Holy Spirit was bringing the presence and power and wisdom of God to His creation.
The Earth was formless and empty. God brought form and filling to that which was formless and empty. He did so by speaking. God the Father spoke and the Son of God carried out what the Father had spoken.
The first thing He said: “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day. Darkness preceded light. Night preceded day. Therefore our days begin in the evening when night begins.
God continued speaking, bringing order to His creation and filling His creation. He made the sky and separated the water under the sky from the water above it. He separated the land from the waters under the sky and created the seas.
He created many kinds of vegetation which were able to reproduce according to their kinds, to fill the land. How many kinds of plants? About 390,000.
He made the sun, moon and stars to fill the sky with beauty, and to separate the day from the night, and to give light on the Earth, and to serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years. How many stars did God make? We think there are about 200 billion galaxies – but it could be 10 times that number. And we think the average galaxy has 100 billion stars. That’s a lot of stars.
How long would it take to count the stars in just the Milky Way Galaxy at a rate of one star per second? There are approximately 200 billion stars in our galaxy, which means it would take 200 billion seconds, or 55 million hours, or 2.3 million days, or 6,341 years. God created a lot of stars. He has an amazing amount of power and wisdom.
God made the fish and sea creatures to fill the seas; the birds to fill the sky; animals and insects to fill the land. All told, millions of species of living things. An amazing intelligence is evident.
Finally, God made man, the highest of His creation, made in His image, to rule everything else. We are introduced to the creation of man with these words: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness: Notice the plurals, “us” and “our.” God is not speaking to the angels since we are made in the image of God, not in the image of the angels. And this is more than a plural of majesty.
We are being allowed to overhear a conversation from the Singular-Yet-Plural God; a conversation between God the Father and God the Son regarding the creation of man in the image of God.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God endowed man with the God-like abilities to think, reason, speak, choose, will, design, be creative, be artistic, order the world, rule the other creatures. He enabled us to have a relationship with God and reproduce others made with those same abilities. Because of these things, every human being is very gifted, very special, very precious.
He created humanity with two genders – male and female. Men are different from women at the cellular level. Women are different from men. Men are to remain different from women and women are to remain different from men. We are to uphold, enjoy and celebrate these differences.
God created the universe and everything in it in 6 literal 24-hour days, and then on the seventh day He rested, blessed it and made it holy. What a blessing to be able to rest and worship the Creator and Redeemer on this special day.
Now Moses zooms in on the creation of man, informing us that the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Man is made from the elements of the Earth, but he is more than just an organization of elements. He also has a non-material, non-physical part, his spirit. We need to nurture our physical life and we need to nurture our spirit.
The Lord planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man he had formed. The man’s responsibility was to take care of the garden.
In the middle of the garden were two special trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God is alive and eternal, and He made it possible for those made in His image to live forever with Him by creating the Tree of Life. Eating from Tree of Life results in eternal life. The knowledge that we can live forever with the eternal God prevents us from thinking that life will come to an end and therefore is ultimately meaningless. The knowledge that we can live forever with God helps keep us sane and happy and moral.
The Tree of Life also teaches us that eternal life is not part of the nature of man. We have to do something to live forever. If we don’t we will die. I don’t believe that human beings are born with an immortal soul that will live forever.
Adam was physically mature but morally immature. He was given a very precious gift – free will, but he needed to learn how to use his will. He needed to learn what is good and what is evil, and choose what is good and reject what is evil. As part of his moral education, the Lord commanded Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he did, the consequences would be catastrophic.
As Adam passed by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and chose to obey the Lord’s command to not eat from it, Adam would learn that obeying the Word of God is the essence of good, and disobeying the Word of God is the essence of evil. If Adam disobeyed God and ate from the tree, he would also learn good and evil – but from the perspective of falling into evil and experiencing the harm that evil brings – which is, of course, what happened.
The animals were made male and female. Adam had been made alone. It was time for Adam to have a helper who was suitable for him. So the Lord God caused him to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
This is the first marriage. From it, we learn the principles for a successful, God-honoring marriage.
Marriage is between a man and a woman.
Adam and Eve were equally yoked. They shared the same faith. They believed the same things. They were committed to the same truths.
Although God made us male and female, and therefore sexual beings, Adam and Eve did not engage in sexual activity before marriage. Sex is reserved for marriage. Sex is designed by God to help us bond with the opposite sex, remain in a life-long covenant relationship with our mate, and reproduce others who share the image of God. Therefore sexual activity before marriage or outside marriage goes against God’s design. It violates God’s purposes. It undermines the marriage covenant.
For a God-honoring marriage, a man and a woman need to leave their parents. They need to become independent from their mother and father.
For a successful marriage, a man and a woman must become one flesh. They need to come together physically, sexually, spiritually, emotionally, financially.
Chapter 3 teaches us about the Fall of Man; and the curse; and the first prophecy of redemption from the Fall through the Messiah; and God’s provision of a temporary, limited atonement – until the Redeemer arrived.
Satan had access to Earth and possessed the body of a serpent and tempted Eve. He caused her to doubt God’s goodness. He insinuated that God wanted to keep her in a state of ignorance. That was why He forbid her from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, that was a lie.
Satan undermined her faith in the reliability of the Word of God by telling her that she would not die if she ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge when the Lord had made it clear that she would die.
And Satan tempted her by using her desire to become wise: when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Eve yielded to the temptation. And then she gave some of the fruit to her husband, and he ate it. This one act of disobedience brought sin, misery and death to mankind, and to the world.
Immediately things changed. Adam and Eve felt wrong about being naked and sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Their relationship to God changed. Instead of coming to God when they heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, they hid from Him among the trees. That alienation from God was passed on to all of their descendants. That is now the human condition – alienated from God, estranged from God, avoiding God, hiding from God.
There were consequences for this rebellion. The Lord punished the serpent, and the Adversary who was speaking through the snake, and Adam and Eve with punishments that fit their crimes – loss of limbs and humiliation for the snake; a promise of final defeat for the Devil through the Messiah: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. The Messiah would defeat the Adversary and undo all the damage Satan had caused; but in the process the Messiah would be wounded – a reference to Messiah’s death. This is the first Messianic prophecy and the main theme of the rest of the Bible – salvation through the Messiah.
The Lord punished Eve by promising her pain in childbirth. In spite of that, she would desire her husband, who would rule over her.
Adam was punished by the Earth being cursed. Life would now be a struggle. He would have to work hard and then, he would die and his body would return to the Earth from which it was taken.
The Lord was tough with Adam and Eve, but He was also merciful. Instead of their own inadequate efforts to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, He made garments of skin for them and clothed them. Animals were killed, their blood was shed and their skins were used to provide a better covering.
But the garments of skin were more than physical covering. They provided spiritual covering. A spiritual exchange of life took place when the animals died. The innocent animals received the sin of Adam and Eve and died. Adam and Eve received the life of the animals and were able to live.
This temporary and partial atonement covered Adam and Eve and all of the righteous until the arrival of the Messiah, whose life and death and resurrection made full, final, perfect and eternal atonement possible – for the righteous of all the ages.
Adam and Eve were not fit to live forever in their ruined condition. And the Lord knew that they or their descendants would be tempted to eat from the Tree of Life in their fallen state – which would be a nightmare. So the Lord exiled Adam and Eve from Eden and stationed angels at the eastern entrance of Eden to prevent anyone from returning to Eden and eating from the Tree of Life.
The good news is that those who end their part in the great rebellion against God and believe the Good News and transfer their loyalties to the Father and Son will be allowed to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in Paradise!
In chapter 4, we see the consequences of the Fall. Cain and Abel were born to Adam and Eve. Abel was a shepherd. Abel understood the truths given to his parents by God in Eden. He sacrificed some of the first and best animals from his flock. His offering had the blood of innocent animals and provided the exchange of life that resulted in atonement. Both Abel and his sacrifices were accepted by God.
Cain, however, ignored the truths of Eden. He was a farmer and offered the Lord fruit of the ground – a convenient but bloodless offering. Both Cain and his offering were rejected by the Lord, and Cain became angry and depressed. The Lord warned Cain if he didn’t turn from the direction he was headed, he would be overpowered by sin, which was like a dangerous animal trying to kill him. Instead of acting on the Lord’s warning, Cain gave into his hatred and killed his brother.
The Lord punished the man who grew things by exiling him from his land, and promising him that wherever he might try to grow things, the ground would be cursed.
Over the next several generations, humanity multiplied. Advancements took place in the arts and sciences – in building, in raising animals, in music and poetry and metallurgy. We advanced technologically but the majority worsened morally and spiritually. The one man-one woman principle of marriage was ignored. Men began having more than one wife. People became more violent. Lamech bragged to his two wives about getting into a fight and killing his opponent. Meanwhile, a smaller number of people who came through Seth and Enosh remained faithful to God.
In chapter 5, Moses gives us truths about the 10 generations between Adam and Noah. Life-spans before the Flood were much longer than ours. All these people lived a long time. They all had children. They all were affected by the Fall. They were all dominated by death. They all died.
Two men between Adam and Noah stand out: Methuselah and Enoch – Methuselah, because he lived the longest – 969 years. Nevertheless, he still died, because death dominated humanity.
However, Enoch had a different experience. He walked with God. He lived in such a way that he was close to the Creator. Instead of dying, the Lord took the man who walked with Him. That reveals that there is place where the faithful remnant who walk with God will be taken to. Heaven is real, my friends.
In chapter 6, Moses teaches us that the “sons of God” had sexual relationships with women. If these sons of God were fallen angels, and I think they were, this was a terrible transgression (see 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6). If the “sons of God” were people, it means that the descendants of Seth, the righteous remnant who had been serving the Lord, married the descendants of Cain who were rebelling against God. Either way, the result of this union wasn’t good. The n’feeleem – the “fallen ones” were alive in those days. They were either demi-god-like people (think Hercules) who came from the union of fallen angels and women; or the fallen ones were ordinary people, but tyrants who fell on those they oppressed.
By the tenth generation from Adam, humanity was almost completely corrupt. So much rebellion against God and His ways, so much violence pervaded the world that the Lord was sorry He made us. He decided to end this situation by destroying humanity with a world-wide flood and starting over. Not all of humanity would be destroyed. There was a faithful remnant – Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives. With them humanity could repopulate the Earth while waiting for the arrival of the Seed of the Woman, the Redeemer, the Messiah.
Lord God, Your book, the Bible, is the greatest of books, the most valuable of books, the most beneficial of books. It is able to make us wise for salvation, and once we are saved, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so we can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Help us build our lives on these foundational truths found in this book of beginnings so we can have successful lives in this world, followed by eternal life in the World-To-Come.
And help us be confident about these truths and teach them to others so that they can have successful lives in this world, followed by eternal life in the World-To-Come. Amen?