Sunday, June 21, 2015

And God Saw That It Was Good

There is more than what we realize in the Bible. But so much of what it has to offer is missed because it's found in the details. It's the little things that sometimes have so much to say.

So, here's a detail. Time and time again, as Moses described God's work of creating everything, he wrote,

And God saw that it was good.

That sentence is, in fact, repeated six times. Why did Moses do that? He could have skipped that sentence completely and just ended it as he did.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

That would have been enough. But he didn't do it that way. Why?
And the answer actually isn't hard to see. Moses wanted the people of Israel to be impressed with the thought that what God had created was really good. And there was an important reason for them - and you - to see that. This morning we're going to take a look at this word 'good', God's declaration about what He had created.

So, why was God thinking that what He was doing was good? Here's one thing. Before He started, God had an idea of what it was He wanted to create, and each step of the way the results were meeting His expectations. He was like someone working on a project and liking the results. 'Yeah, that's looking good.' He was pleased, and He said so.

Then, there's this. Each day God built a piece of the creation. And at the end of each day He could see that that piece fit with the other pieces very nicely. It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. As each piece is set in place with the others you're one step closer to having a completed puzzle, one step closer to your goal. And that's good. So, God said so.

There is, however, an important difference between a puzzle and a creation. Once the puzzle is done, there's nothing more to do. But once a creation is completed, it is ready to fulfill the purpose for which it was made. As the work of each day was completed, God could see that His creation was going to fulfill His purpose. That also makes it good.

Then, there's just the aesthetics of it all, the visual appearance. Creation looked good, and so God said as much.

By repeating that one sentence, Moses drives home the point that what God was doing was good. It was very good.

There is one word that summarizes this idea of the pieces of the puzzle coming together in a harmonious and attractive way to fulfill God's purpose. And that word is 'beauty'. The notion of beauty includes all these aspects of creation coming together, ready for that purpose God intends. As God was creating, He could see the beauty of what He was making.

It was the beauty of creation that called forth God's evaluation that it was all very good. And Moses wanted the people of Israel to see that. What God had created was really good. It was beautiful.

Now, there was a reason why Moses wanted them to see that clearly. And there is a reason why I want you to see that clearly. It's because of this striking fact: creation is no longer beautiful. In fact, God's creation is now ugly.

I'm sure that you've heard the word 'corruption' before. A dictionary definition talks about integrity, the lack of integrity. And integrity is just a fancy word to say that all the pieces fit together nicely. So, when a politician says what he will do and then actually does it, it reflects integrity. But if he lies about what he will do just to get elected, he shows a lack of integrity. The pieces don't fit together. His words don't fit with his actions. Corruption.

God's creation is now corrupt. The pieces that were supposed to fit together, supposed to work together, harmoniously, for that purpose that God intended - well, now it's like dumping three or four large boxes of puzzle pieces on the table, mixing them all up, and then trying to put each of the puzzles together. That's God's creation now. It has been corrupted. The pieces aren't fitting together. So, creation isn't working the way that it is supposed to. Things are falling apart. God's creation is no longer beautiful. It is no longer good. It is ugly.

I am interested in people. So, I look around when I'm at the Giant Eagle. Sometimes, as a woman walks by, in my mind, I'll say, 'Does your husband love you?' I see some little kid completely out of control because he has been allowed to get his own way, and I think, 'What will you be like when you're eighteen?' When I see the old men shuffling along down some aisle I wonder how they are doing, dealing with life alone. And sometimes it really is quite something just to look at some of the faces to see the signs of being worn down by the ugliness of life. Then, we hear about long-time friends of ours who are divorcing, and nephews and nieces who have no idea how life works, not even which way is up.

This is just some of the ugliness. And it's not as bad as it could be. God is restraining the corruption some - and that is a mercy. But still, it's ugly. It's very ugly. What once was so beautiful is no longer. Sin has entered the picture. And it has ruined everything. There are those who will say that it’s not all that bad. That just means that they have gotten used to is.

Why am talking about this? Here's one reason: I want you to see the Gospel more clearly. I want you to see Jesus more clearly. Jesus has come to deal with the ugliness. He has come to restore the beauty of God's creation.

Consider Isaiah's prophetic description of Jesus, words that Jesus Himself quoted at the beginning of His ministry.

The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Jesus has come to restore the beauty. And what does that look like? How about things like marriages that work really well, children who are growing in their understanding of life because they are learning how to be Godly disciples of Jesus, many close friendships, the integrity of pieces that are fitting together harmoniously for God's purpose. Jesus has come to restore the beauty.

And at the heart of that work of restoration is dealing with the greatest ugliness of all: being separated from our Creator because of our sin. Jesus has dealt with that ugliness by the Cross. The stranglehold of ugliness has been broken in us. Beauty is being restored.

This is just another way of understanding what Jesus' mission is about. And have no doubt. He will accomplish that mission.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What is this but the promise of beauty forever.

There is another reason why I'm talking about this. If you can see Jesus more clearly with this theme in mind, then you will also see His Church more clearly. This theme explains who we, the Church, are. We are the beginning of a restored Creation. We are the beginning of the new beauty that Jesus is creating. In a manner of speaking, the beauty of the new heavens and new earth starts here. The work of restoration has begun in us, in all who are the people of God.

That work of restoration needs to continue in us as we, together, identify the ugliness that still clings to us. That ugliness is in us individually, and it is also in us as a group. It needs to be seen for what it is. We identify the ugliness so that, as we repent of our sins and believe the Gospel, the Spirit will remove it from us and replace it with His beauty. That is our hope, and it is something that will certainly happen.

But the work of restoration needs to go further than just us. Next time you're out among people take a look around. Consider how the people that you're seeing are afflicted by the ugliness - how there is so little true beauty. How can there be beauty in their lives if Jesus is not in their lives. We need to deal with our own ugliness by the Gospel, but we also need to help other people see that their own ugliness can be dealt with by that same Gospel.

So, what have I done this morning? I've given you another way to look at life so that you can understand it a little better. There's holiness and sinfulness, good and evil, righteousness and wickedness. And then there is also beauty and ugliness. One day there will be no pairs, only what is holy, good, righteous and beautiful. That is our hope, and that is what motivates us to live as faithful disciples of Jesus.

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