On a side street in Seattle, one of those streets filled with artsy shops and lined with glass sculptures that look like Willy Wonka has been there, in other words, a street made just for me, we watched artisans create miracles out of blobs of molten amber glass.
They shoved the golden blobs into the furnace on the end of poles, waited for just the right temperature, and pulled them out. Quickly, before the glass could cool, they pulled and trimmed and twisted it, until we could see four legs and a neck begin to form. A long nose appeared out of nowhere, and then a mane and a tail, flowing wildly in the imagined wind. Finally, we saw the horse the artist intended from the beginning, even though all we could see at first was a lump of glass.
Sometimes, they broke a leg pulling it too far, or the mane didn’t flow the way they wanted it to, or it wouldn’t balance on those magnificent back two legs, pawing into the air. They would thrust it back into the flame, beginning again, intent on making that horse exactly as they had planned it.
We were fascinated.
Creation is fascinating. Creation out of nothing is miraculous. Creation with an intentional plan is…it’s an act of God.
At church, we’ve started working through the Bible. The Creation story is familiar to us. Like Goodnight Moon, we could recite it with little effort. If not word for word, we know the idea, and we imagine there is little more to glean from it than what we know—God created everything. The Garden of Eden was awesome. The end.
There is so much more.
Look at some of the first few words. “God said.” We never see God forming anything until humans. Always, God simply speaks, and whatever he wants to happen does.
I wish I had that power over, say, making dinner.
God’s word is enough to accomplish his intentions. This was true at Creation, and it’s equally true now. Nothing stands in the way of a God intent in creating blessing and beauty.
Then the story says, God moved. You know when you hear the words “God moved,” something is going to happen. This, too, is true today; it’s not a nice little fact of Creation alone. When God moves, something is going to happen. Something big.
“In the beginning.” These first three words of Scripture, according to Old Testament expert John Walton, have a rich meaning we don’t get from knowing the meaning of those three words individually. It’s a phrase used to talk about plays and orchestras and the reign of kings. It’s a prelude—the time leading up to the big deal that’s coming.
In this case, it leads to the reign of kings indeed—the kings God is planning to create as the crown to his work. All of creation leads up to this—it’s the soliloquy before the play starts, the overture before the curtain opens, the bridesmaids walking down the aisle before the music swells and the bride steps out.
We see God creating morning and evening, concepts of time he doesn’t require in eternity. He fashions sun and moon, the ebb and flow of tides, the barriers between sky and sea and land. He forms flowers and trees and hyenas and platypuses and walking sticks—all, it says, reproducing “according to its own kind.”
What does all this mean? It means God knows how to craft a blown glass horse. He doesn’t need time in his eternity—but we do. He doesn’t need wheat that reliably reproduces wheat, not marigolds, and cows that systematically reproduce cows, not jackals. But we do. It doesn’t matter to him if the ocean overtakes the land, but it matters to us.
God, like the craftsperson in Seattle, knew exactly what he wanted the end to look like, and he would not settle for less. He may have begun with a blob, but he always had in his mind what that blob would become.
What blows my mind is that what was in his mind was to create a universe perfectly suited to us. We were the finale he had in mind. We were the denouement of the play. We were the kings meant to begin our reign.
He was pulling and twisting and turning a chaotic, empty universe into a masterpiece—with giving it to us in mind.
The intentionality of the Creation astounds me. The beneficiaries of it outright slay me. Yes, we could get proud at the notion that the Creation is for us—and we could abuse it and use it selfishly and carelessly. We could think we must be something else if God put in so much effort to bless us.
Or we could fall on our faces in wonder and humble awe that he would do such a thing for beings who would never deserve that gift.
God still creates order out of the chaos of our universe. God still speaks; God still moves; and God still fashions order in our lives, if we choose it. Often, like Adam and Eve, we opt to be our own god, but this leads to a chaotic, formless existence, as it did before God gave us order.
Rich Mullins had a song called With the Wonder, and I wish I could quote it all for you here, but copyright. (Which I deeply respect, given I live off it.) He sings about a God who filled with world with sights and sounds and concludes—“you filled this world with wonders, and I’m filled wit the wonder your world.”
I’m filled with it, too. I’m filled with the wonder that its intentionality, its craftsmanship, came out from a Master Craftsman because he wanted to gift us with Swiss railroad-like precision, where every created thing has its purpose and plan. That we threw a spike in that perfect cog of order doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate it and work with him to re-create it.
Read Genesis 1 today. Marvel in its craft. Stand, or kneel, in awe of its intentionality. And then, thank God for his wonder-filled gift.
Jill Richardson is the pastor of Real Hope Community Church near Chicago. She is the author of six books and a national speaker, as well as a contributor to books from Dayspring, Lillenas, and Christianity Today. Jill’s doctorate in "Church Leadership in a Changing Context" is helping her with her passion—passing on a healthy, creative church and doing it with the next generation. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul), and Washington University. Her focus is on church leadership, creative preaching, immigration and refugees, women’s issues, and intergenerational leadership. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, fish tacos, oceans, cats, and Earl Grey. She believes in Jesus, grace, restoration, kindness, justice, and the Cubs. You can find her work at jillmrichardson.com.