Postcards: "...and God saw that it was good..."
Following the description of each of the first days in Genesis chapter one (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21) we read that ‘God saw that everything was good,’ yet surely this is a little strange? After all, God is holy (Ps 99:9, Is 6:3, 1 Pet 1:15-16), so isn’t it obvious that everything would be good? Before answering this question as to why we read, ‘God saw that everything was good’, we remind ourselves of God’s holiness.
God is the Holy One; He is other-world perfection breaking into space and time in such a way that we are able to catch a glimpse of His sheer perfection without being consumed. We are not alone and whilst God is absolute holiness (absolute purity and perfection) we also find that holiness is not exclusive as God reaches out to draw us to Him and, in doing so, away from the destructive dysfunctional nature of evil. For us (as scripture continually reveals) holiness is being set apart as special and it is only God who can make us holy – who brings us back to our true identity in Him. Therefore in relation to man the basic idea behind holiness is not a simple separation from something, but a positive encounter and commitment to someone – to God (Ps 34:8, Ps 37:4-6 Heb 10:22) who loves us with an everlasting love. The sacrificial nature of this love is clearly seen in Jesus Christ.
The Son of God was birthed into this world in order to show us what a true relationship with a heavenly Father was like. Through His deep abiding relationship with the Father, Jesus destroyed the work of Satan, showed us what a true relationship with God is all about, revealed the authority and power of the Kingdom of God, healed the sick and raised the dead. He then stood in our place, giving His life so that we could receive forgiveness and reconciliation if we placed our trust in Him. Through the work of Christ alone (Eph 2:8) we are now part of God’s family and in a deep and abiding fellowship with our heavenly Father (John 5:19) as we engage with the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Having briefly touched upon this incredible picture of holiness, love and generosity let’s now turn to look at what is being conveyed to us in the words, “God saw that it was good.”
In the Bible the word ‘good’ is much more than a moral goodness. Goodness (in the bible) refers to that which is living and functioning the right way and therefore speaks of being rooted in a covenant relationship with God because all things were created to relate to God. In relating to God the right way (through Christ) we are able to begin to live as God intended us to live, in fellowship with our heavenly Father and in doing so we find peace and security. This peace and security is not the absence of trouble but the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives bringing security, blessing and a balanced mind and emotions. Think of it this way…
If a small boy or girl is out alone on a dark and windy night they may feel uncomfortable at being alone and in a sense their thoughts could be captivated by what is going on around them and ‘consuming’ them with fear. Yet if a parent walks with the child then the child’s thoughts and emotions are freed up and they are no longer consumed by anxiety and fear
Peace, security and covenant living are not about the absence of trouble – they are all about the presence of a person who helps us function/live the right way. Jesus came so that we could have life in all its fullness - with God. God wants to be with us and His presence makes a difference if we are open to Him. For example, think of the panic in the minds and hearts of the disciples on one occasion when they were caught out in a storm (Luke 8:24: “we are going to drown”). Then think about how they would have felt after engaging with Jesus and seeing what He could do (Lk 8:24-25) and we get the idea of the peace and security God can bring.
We can all exhibit a certain amount of goodness (e.g. helping build hospitals and support those who are suffering) because we retain something of what it means to be made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), this being part of our spiritual DNA so to speak. However, due to sin (Rom 6:23) we are flawed and rebellious, evidenced in a world where there are always wars going on and where millions starve to death whilst millions of others suffer from obesity through eating too much. Yet God has not given up on us.
God’s heart has always been involved in the world right from the beginning as can be seen in why He creates the world (Jer 33:25), and in how He places man in a garden called Eden which means ‘delight.’ Think of how soon-to-be parents lovingly prepare a room for a forthcoming child, and we get the idea. There is great delight in preparing the room. God delighted in preparing a world for the arrival of man.
There is a big difference between a builder who builds someone a house as part of a business contract and a lover who builds a home for a loved one. The builder sees the finished work as professional and good in that everything is in place. The lover sees that everything is perfectly in place and put together for the loved one. Think of the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, the sound of crystal clear water in a fast-flowing stream or the fragrance of beautiful flowers or newly cooked bread and remember that this world has been created for us and we are here to be loved.
Everything we need for our relationship with God and for life is freely given by Him (James 1:17) yet the way we corrupt the world reveals man’s rebellious fallen nature and refusal to acknowledge God as we ‘stain’ our own lives. Yet God still seeks to encourage us to live the right way.
That which is good is that which is right and fitting for covenant-relationship, whilst that which is evil is a corruption of something which was originally good, and therefore like a squatter in God’s universe.
In Gen 4:7 God encourages Cain to live the right way, yet Cain lives outside the covenant and is corrupted by his own thinking (Gen 4:8ff) and in his actions we see that our thinking never remains static and often bears a horrific harvest of destruction. Adam must have suffered greatly at seeing the fruit of sin in the life of his son yet our heavenly Father was going to suffer much more through witnessing the frenzied trial, torture and death of His innocent Son as He then judged Him as the sin-bearer. In this awesome picture of love, grace and mercy we see God triumphing over evil, whilst in the weakness of the flesh (2 Cor 8:9, Col 2:9-10, Phil 2:5-7).
Use your God-given imagination…
We now turn to look at the description of a nation who half-heartedly acknowledged God whilst continuing to go her own way despite being challenged. Think of the heart of a loving Father who sees the pain and suffering of sin and partial judgement which He allows because cares…
“Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.” Isaiah 1:5-7
Now compare the above words with the following words to a nation that is open to and empowered by God and ask yourself which you would rather be like…
“…Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow…” Isaiah 35:3-7
Ultimately it was Jesus who took the effect of our sin into His body, who underwent our beatings and who suffered an agonizing death – Jesus, the Holy One hanging on a cross in nothing but our bruises and His underpants so that we could come home to covenant-goodness in Him. He truly is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) – the Shepherd of the Covenant who was also the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29).
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:4-7.
Finally read Eph 2:10 and in the place of ‘good works’ put ‘function according to the blessing and freedom of covenant living’ - or, to put it more simply, put in ‘to live as his son or daughter’ which is what God intended for us to be right from the beginning. After the creation of the seventh day we do not read “and God saw that it was good” because it is a continuing day that ultimately points to the eternal life that is ours through Christ - an everlasting life (1 John 5:13).
In overall conclusion let’s remember that God is not out to eliminate our true self or to destroy us in any way. Instead he is out to remove what we have become by way of the world as He brings us back into covenant living. His purpose is to redirect self into the fullness of our salvation, whereby we have well-adjusted and balanced minds that are nurtured by the author of life who wants to be known as being like a true father (Ps 103:13, 2 Cor 6:18). Be blessed!