Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Greatness and Closeness of God


There was nothing. Imagine that for a moment. The only mentionable presence other than God we see after the beginning was darkness. Formless. Void. Let that reality steep in your mind for a moment. Deadness. Emptiness. Lifelessness. That was the state before God continued.
Then for the first time in created history, God spoke. With the exercise of only his voice, God called forth light out of nothing, and light appeared.

God's transcendence, power, and authority commanded creation into existence. The very name used to describe him in the account of creation above is Elohim, the common Hebrew name of God denoting him as mighty, powerful, and exceedingly great. It is the name that describes the kind of God who speaks and the universe is born, the name to describe a God who owns everything in creation because he spoke it into being. He is high, seated on the throne of the heavens that he spoke into existence. All created beings, including mankind, owe their allegiance to this amazing God because there is none like him; there is no other God who has such power and authority, such bigness and transcendence.

Critical Difference

After introducing this scene in Genesis 1, the author takes a moment to retell the story of creation again in chapter 2, this time with a subtle yet critical difference. In the second account we see Moses refer to God as "LORD God." This name is different from the first. This name is personal; it doesn't describe an attribute or role of God but instead calls him by his personal name: Yahweh.
When Moses uses the personal name of God, he is communicating something about him. While we see God as powerful and authoritative in Genesis 1, we see that in the same process of creating, God is personal and intimate in Genesis 2. While he is separate and holy, he is also near and able to be known. And we don't just see Moses teach us that through his personal name. We see it in the unique and intimate way God made man compared to the rest of creation.
He didn't just speak man into existence, though he absolutely could have as Elohim. Instead, God put his hands into the dirt and formed, shaped, and knitted man together with his fingers. And if that wasn't intimate enough, the Almighty lowered his head to the ground and met us face to face and breathed life into us. Can you imagine Adam's lungs inflating for the first time with the very breath of God giving him life? Do you see how intimate and close this Yahweh is as described in chapter 2?

Give Him All

It is true that as Elohim, God owns everything. All allegiance and worship is due him because he is powerful and holy, set apart from all creation as the infinitely mighty Creator. He has rights over us, and we are accountable to him. But there is this amazing truth we miss so often because our view of him stops there. Yes, because he is Elohim, wehave to give him our all. But because he is Yahweh, the God who is near and compassionate with his people, we should want to give him our all. We should want to surrender all of our rights, because this kind of God wants better things for us than we could ever dream up for ourselves! Because our God is Elohim, we must give him all our worship, but because he's Yahweh, we gladly offer it, as nothing else could make us happier.
The clearest place you see the greatness and closeness of God is in the person of Jesus Christ. Even in the story of creation, we see Jesus play an active role. According to John 1, all things were made through the power and authority of Jesus Christ---the Word of God. And the same Word would later put on flesh and come to dwell with sinful man and would pay the highest price to see us reconciled to the Father. The Word who was present from the beginning and who will return at the end is Jesus. This is the One through whom all of creation was made and the One for whom all of creation exists.
This is an excerpt from The Gospel Project for Adults Bible Study from LifeWay. The Gospel Project is an ongoing 13-week Bible study curriculum for all age groups that helps people see Scripture as one over-arching story that points to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Find out more and download one month to review free at www.gospelproject.com
Halim Suh and his wife, Angela, have three kids and live in Austin, Texas, where he is the pastor of equipping at The Austin Stone Community Church. He is the author (with Matt Carter) of two Threads studies: Creation Unraveled and Creation Restored. Halim has a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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