Moses chose the word create to describe how God made the world in Genesis 1:1, rendered bara (pronounced ba-RAH)1 in Hebrew. It means to “create, shape, form”.2 It denotes the bringing into existence things that didn’t exist in the first place. The word “bara also implies internal creation in the mind of God. What He imagined and created inside His mind, He spoke into existence.”3 Creation made His thoughts visible and audible. “The verb ‘bara’ occurs about 50 times in the Old Testament. As often noted, deity is always either the subject or the implied subject (in passiv constructions) of the verb. It can therefore be confidently asserted that the activity is inherently a divine activity and not one that humans can perform or participate in.”4 In the creation narrative, at first there was nothing at all. Then God created all things that exist in heaven and on earth. He created without using pre-existing matter. He who is outside of space, time and matter created everything out of nothing.
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3), and the Psalmist tells us “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:6,9). The creation story shows complex intelligence with creative power at work, that created intricately complex species with increasing complexity.
This special word used for the creative power of God is also found later in Genesis. He created the great sea creatures (1:21), and man in His own image (1:28, 5:1). But later He chose to destroy man by flood when sin increased upon the earth (6:7).
Throughout Scripture, God’s creative act out of nothing is mentioned in several places. In Numbers, God’s sovereignty enabled Him to break into history and create something entirely new by allowing the earth to open up and bury Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families (Numbers 16:1-33). He sent His Spirit to create anew the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30). David called on God to create in him a new heart and mind from the old heart that lusted after Bathsheba (Psalm 51:10). He is the one that creates disaster (Isaiah 45:7). God envisioned He would create a Jerusalem that is more delightful after the captivity (Isaiah 65:17).
The creative pictures of the beginning and the end speak about His immense power to create and change a dismal outlook and bring something entirely new and original into the world. The creative acts of God remind us that we must also be intentionally creative and productive in our lives and not be idle (Genesis 1:31, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). This can help us to have a productive and happy life, and leave the world in a better shape than we found it. As the world toils in pain; (Romans 8:22), through pollution, global warming and deadly pestilences that bring havoc to the human race, we can only look to God to create something entirely new. His creative feats in the past give us hope to look beyond the often dark times of the present to a glorious future. Ultimately, He will destroy sin and sinners (Revelation 20:14), including exploitive capitalism (Revelation 11:18), and recreate the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwell; where we can live in eternal bliss with the Prince of peace (Revelation 21:1-4; Isaiah 9:6).
Simon Davidson is a lecturer at Sonoma Adventist College seminary, Papua New Guinea.
3. An insight that Minister Barrie Abel shared with me and Pastor Wemin Kiri and Minister Henao Mea at the theology faculty office at Sonoma Adventist College on Thursday, 24/2/22.