Based on the book Seven Words of Worship: The Key to Lifetime of Experiencing God by Mike Harland and Stan Moser
Text: Psalm 139:13-16
We are continuing this week in our series on the Seven Words of Worship, a study from Lifeway focused on the idea of having a lifetime of experiencing God, rather than scattered moments here and there in our week or life. We focused last week on the idea that we are worshippers. It is who and what we are. That is the introduction to the series. For each of the next seven weeks – including this morning – we will look at one of seven different words that speak clearly to the idea of worship that is so central to our faith.
I mentioned last week that worship is what we do because it is what we are. We are designed for worship from the DNA out. It is built into us, and there is no way for us to escape our role of worship. We are going to worship something or someone. It might be a celebrity, a magazine cover, a sport, a possession, a dream, money, ourselves, or one of the many gods or goddesses that humanity has contrived over our existence. Better than any of those things, however, we could and should choose to worship God. By God, I mean, the one, true, living God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who manifested Himself in a burning bush to Moses and through the plagues and miracles to Egypt, and who revealed Himself most thoroughly through the work of God the Son on the cross.
God introduces himself to us this way: “In the beginning, God created the heaves and the earth.” We learn a number of very important things about God from just this one sentence that begins the account of Genesis. First, we learn that there was a beginning. There was a time, if you can call it that, before us and our universe existed. The universe is not endless in both directions. There is a finite point that delineates a beginning, and the Bible goes on to clearly state elsewhere that there is a finite point that will delineate an end. But the most important thing is not that there was a beginning, the most important thing is that Someone was there for it.
Genesis says, “In the beginning, God.” In Hebrew, it is “bereshit bara Elohim.” God was there. But God was not just a passive observer to events. He did not just watch from the sidelines as some big band exploded into the chaotic yet orderly beauty that evolved into our universe. No, God was not passive at all. He was very much active. “Bereshit bara Elohim” is actually the full phrase, “In the beginning, God created.” Not, in the beginning God watched unfold. Not in the beginning, God set in motion. Not in the beginning God set off the watch. No, in the beginning God created.
And not satisfied with that, Moses made sure that no doubt remained about just what it was that God created. “Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim et haeretz.” In the beginning God created hashamayim – the heavens – and haeretz – the earth. From Moses’ perspective, there was nothing else. Heavens and earth encompassed everything that there is to be seen, heard, felt, touched, tasted, smelled, or known. God was there at the beginning, and God accomplished all of it.
I am not an avid artist like our Kathy Bennett. When I set out to draw or doodle, I have a very small set of standard choices from which I choose what I will draw or doodle. If I am drawing, it is almost always a landscape scene of grass, sky, sun, and a tree. Lately, I have started adding a flower and a bench. That’s what I draw when I have multiple colors. If I’m left with just a pencil, I almost always at least begin with the characters used in Greek and Hebrew. Sometimes I will repeat them multiple times. And that’s pretty much the extent of my artwork. I was very proud when I was drawing with chalk on a chalkboard with Aubrey this week, and I brainstormed the idea of drawing a house. It was something new and different. Thrill of thrills!
But I do know this about art: one doesn’t begin work on the material or canvas without an idea or plan about what the finished work is intended to be. Michelangelo described his skill with a chisel and marble as simply taking away the excess. Easy to do when it is clear what lies underneath. A jeweler might study a raw diamond for years before deciding which cuts to make in order to create the most brilliant diamond or set of diamonds out of the rough stone. The cuts have to be very precise, or the whole job will come to naught and the diamond will be ruined. If you are going to create something, the creation begins with a thought, an idea, a purpose for which the thing created will serve to complete, express, or accomplish.
When God was there at the beginning, what was there is called, tohu vabohu. In Hebrew, the “and” is expressed by adding a “v” sound to the beginning of the word. So, here, God is there with tohu and bohu. Tohu expresses the idea of confusion, formlessness, or even unreality. Bohu expresses the idea of emptiness. So English translators say that the earth was formless and void. It had no shape, and it had no content. It was a blank slate out of which God could bring anything, as Michelangelo before a heft of marble or Monet in front of a blank sheet of canvas.
But God did not just bring any old thing out of the formlessness and emptiness that was present at the beginning. Moses recounts how in six days God brought the earth and the heavens into existence out of the words of his mouth. Chaos was subdued. Emptiness was filled. Confusion was set aside. Order reigned, and with it came the beauty, the love, and this – the purpose – that God ordained from the beginning when only emptiness and confusion were present. Before God created in the beginning, God had purpose and meaning of what He wanted to create.
There is intent behind anything that is made. One of the classic arguments against evolution is the intricacy of the world. Car parts don’t create and assemble themselves of their own free will. They are set together carefully with purpose and dignity, carefully arranged so as to perfectly perform their precise function in the whole. As we all know, when one part of a car works improperly, the whole thing is thrown out of whack if not entirely laid aside, useless. So it is with the creation that God made. It is clearly the work of intelligence, not mindless chance. Anyone with eyes open can see that. Everything works together so intricately and so well. This is true of our individual bodies, as our various organs function as different systems together to allow us to live. It is also true of our communities and relationships, which form an intricate network of emotions and connections. It is true of our interactions with the earth and even beyond it. What we do matters to the rest of the whole. We are intricate parts in a whole marvelous system that God foreknew before He spoke those majestic words, “Let there be light.”
In the formlessness and emptiness of the tohu and bohu, there was plan, intent, and purpose. God already possessed those before a single word of creation was spoken. Think how powerful that is! There is purpose, intent, and meaning behind everything that we see, experience, and sense. There is a designer, and that designer has a specific use in mind for everything he created. And everything includes you and me.
David expresses it best in Psalm 139, verses 13-16, which we read earlier and I will read again now:
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Each one of us, as David realized of himself, was carefully woven and knitted together in our mother’s wombs. God actively made us exactly as He desired for us to be so that we can fit perfectly into His marvelous plan for the world and the universe, the plan he already knew while it was still formless and void. In that darkness and emptiness before even light was known, God knew you full well. All of our days were seen clearly, when none of them had yet come to pass. When it was not even clear what day or night were. God knew. He saw. He planned. He executed. He created. He created for you, and for me.
God created you particularly for the needs that need to be met right now, in this place. Your abilities, skills, expertise, challenges, and disadvantages – every detail of what makes you, you – it all was clearly purposed in the darkness and void that was the beginning. God intended. And God created. You and I, though that creation, we have a purpose. We have a meaning. We have a job. We are uniquely designed for the task that God perceived and created in His mind in Genesis 1:1. And there is no substitute for you. There is no replacement. There are no repair parts. You are necessary, needed, indispensable for the creation that God has unleashed. The world cannot be the world without you doing exactly what God designed and purposed for you to do.
Paul taught us in numerous places in his letters that God goes even further for those who believe on Him and are saved from the awfulness of sin and death. Through His Spirit, we are recreated into something even more than the original design. In the recreation into new creatures, we are further gifted with specific spiritual gifts needed for the working of the church and the expansion of the kingdom of God. God foresaw these, too, and planned in advance for us to accomplish the very good works that need to be done, as Paul wrote the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:10. So we are preachers and teachers and we are encouragers and exhorters. We are discerners and interpreters. We are evangelists and servants. We are prophets and leaders. We all have our tasks to do, and no one else will do them for us, no one else can do them for us. They were planned for you and me individually and especially.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and in that creation, God planned for you and for me. God designed. God purposed. God ordained each day. This is what we get because God is the creator, who knew what he was going to accomplish and bring out of that formless and void chaos before he started doing anything.
And so create is the first word of worship. It is the first key to a lifetime of experiencing God. Recognizing that God actively created, not passively waiting for things to happen with no control or expectation or plan. He planned carefully and then worked diligently to bring the world and all that is in it – you and me included – into being. God did not create recklessly. He created purposefully. Our lives are full of a God-given purpose. It is in identifying and living that purpose that we will be most content and fulfilled. And we will do that only as we stand close to God and follow His heart, allowing it to guide our own.
Worship is not a one-time event. It is not what you do or get through in order to get to the preaching. Worship is not about songs, singing or music. Worship is about attributing to God all that he is due. And since we are His purposed creation, we ourselves are due to him. Worship is about giving God ourselves as living sacrifices, as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. It is about living God-ordered and God-directed lives. And worship begins when we recognize the importance of God’s acting to create. Not just the creation in Genesis 1:1, but the creation He did anew when He restored and redeemed my heart and your heart.
Or perhaps he has not yet formed you into a new creature. Perhaps today you still stand lost, confused, full of sin and chaos, wondering whether there is a God and whether such a God might care for you. Well, there is, and He does. He cares deeply about you. He created you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He loves you. And wants to restore and recreate you into something more than you are. He wants to gift you with incredible gifts so that you might serve him. He wants to show you the purpose he planned for you when there was nothing but formlessness and chaotic emptiness. Will you surrender to him today?
Today we celebrate God our creator, and we remind ourselves that God is always working to create in us the new creation, the new kingdom that is working and building towards the day when this whole earth and heavens give way for the new creation that is even now being made ready for us who have been redeemed and recreated by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ.
You see, because God created and continues to create in us, we worship.