In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . .
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began to consider how our “frame” for the biblical story influences our reading of Scripture. For example, if our frame begins with Genesis 3, the entrance of sin and death into the world, then we’ll read the rest of the Bible as being mainly a story of how God overcomes the problem of sin. But if our frame is wider, then we’ll see more in Scripture than we had seen before. Sin, death, and life after death will continue to matter greatly, but we’ll understand the meaning and purpose of our lives more broadly.
God is not just in the business of getting human beings to heaven when we die. Rather, God wants the world he created and its inhabitants to flourish.
I would suggest that we should choose as our frame for the biblical story that which God has provided in Scripture. Our opening frame should be the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2. Our closing frame should be the final two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22.
These four chapters focus on creation, the original creation and the new creation. Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Revelation 21:1 states, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’” If we frame the biblical story with these verses and what follows, we will understand just how much God cares for his creation, including but not only human beings. In Genesis 1, after creating heaven, earth, the heavenly bodies, plants, animals, fish, and finally human beings, God “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). In Revelation 21, there is a new heaven and a new earth, but not an immaterial, otherworldly realm of souls. Rather, the new creation is still some kind of physical creation, which, like the first creation, is good.
The New Jerusalem takes central place in the second creation. Into this holy city the “kings of the earth . . . bring their splendor” (Rev 21:24). “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought in” to the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:26). Though the precise meaning of these verses is elusive, they do suggest that, in some way, the goodness of the first creation will continue into the new creation.
The more we take seriously the Bible’s own frame, the more we will understand that this world matters, not just to us, but to God. God is not just in the business of getting human beings to heaven when we die. Rather, God wants the world he created and its inhabitants to flourish as much as possible, though sin makes this more difficult than God had intended. In tomorrow’s devotion, we’ll consider how a wide biblical frame leads to a different way of living for us. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Does the fact that God cares deeply about the physical world make a difference in your faith? In your living?
How could your work today be a reflection of God’s care for creation?
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of this world. Though we have messed it up in many ways, this world still reflects your creativity and goodness. Thank you for the beauty of creation and for the way the world provides for our needs.
Help us, Lord, to live as if this world really mattered to you. Even as we realize that life is not merely physical, may we take seriously our participation in the material world. May what we do in this world with our bodies make a difference. May we participate in your work in the world each day, honoring you in all we do. Amen.