(taken from The Book of Origins: Genesis Simply Explained by Philip Eveson, p. 21-23)
On Christmas Eve 1968 the crew of the spaceship Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon. In their Christmas greetings to earth, the astronauts quoted these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
This opening sentence, so simple yet so profound, sets the tone for the whole prologue. It makes us sit up and prepare for what follows. Appropriately, the subject of the first sentence of the Bible and of Genesis is God. He is the subject of nearly every sentence in this first section: ‘God said…’, ‘God saw…’, ‘God divided…’, God called…’, ‘God made…’, ‘God created…’, God set…’, ‘God blessed…’
The Bible is first and foremost revelation concerning God. From the very first verse God discloses truth about himself. The term used for ‘God’ is Elohim, the most common word in the Old Testament when referring to the deity. Like our English word ‘God’, it can be used of pagan gods, but here it is used of the one true and living God, the God who communicates and does things.
The Bible does not set out to prove God. God is bigger than any mathematical calculation or philosophical argument. The very fact of the universe bears testimony to the reality of God: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1). When Paul took the gospel to the pagan cities of the Roman empire he taught the people to turn from their worthless idols to serve the living God who made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them (cf. Acts 14:15; 17:24-31; 1 Thess. 1:8-9).
No human being is qualified to speak with certainty on the subject of origins. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding’ (Job 38:4). Only God can give authoritative information. This book of Genesis is not the result of some thoughtful person’s trying to grapple with the origin of all things and coming up with the great idea that behind everything there is a first cause, or a being above whom no greater can be conceived.
Moses could have tossed such ideas around in the Egyptian court with the wise men of his day. But the first chapter of Genesis is not Moses’ thoughts on God. Far from it! Here is God speaking through Moses. Moses is a prophet, God’s spokesman, declaring God’s Word. The verse tells us that there was a commencement to everything — to time and space and the whole universe.
Matter is not eternal, as the ancient Babylonians and Greeks thought, and as some scientists of today postulate. Everything that is in the universe had a beginning, and the universe itself had a beginning.
Before the commencement of all things God was already there. God was there when time began, when the universe began. John, in the opening words of his Gospel, has this verse of Genesis in mind when he writes concerning Jesus Christ: ‘In the beginning was the Word … he was in the beginning with God’ (John 1:1-2). By implication, we are told about God’s eternity.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psalm 90:2).
We bow in wonder and amazement at the greatness of God.