Chapter One: Beginnings
In the beginning…
Every Christian biography should begin with the words “In the beginning God..” Our Bible begins with these words and, on reflection, it could begin with no others. How else would anything ‘begin’? The gospel according to John mirrors Genesis and expands it;
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. [John 1:1-3] …
It is the only explanation for everything; without Him there is nothing. It is the only explanation for anything; without him was not anything. That’s a question that atheistic cosmologists refuse to ask; ‘why is there anything?’ It was said of such cosmologists, by a fellow cosmologist, that they are “often in error but never in doubt”. Ask them ‘how?’ and you will hear the most extraordinary explanations of quantum theory and oscillating super-strings expressed with absolute certainty. Ask them ‘why?’ and there is no answer. Their calculations take us to the first micro-seconds of the cosmos but only revelation can take us back to the beginning where God already was.
For the child of God this truth is both humbling and exhilarating. In comparison to the vastnesses of the cosmos the human race is totally insignificant; if those cosmologists are right, just star-litter. Sometimes our confident knowledge blinds us to more profound realities. 3000 years ago a shepherd boy lay on his back and looked up;
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [Ps 8:3-5]
a daily delight
The Bible’s timeline too is overwhelming. God’s ‘mindfulness’ of man is not some sudden thought pressed upon Him by the unexpected pains of the human race. Before anything was, we were in His thoughts. The Bible captures this sense sometimes in plain words and sometimes in amazing imagery. The book of Proverbs takes us back to the beginnings and we hear the ‘testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy’. He is conscious that He belongs to His Father, before any creative acts have occurred;
the LORD possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. [Prov 8:22]
The extraordinary testimony continues as the creation is about to be brought into being;
then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, [Prov 8:30]
What a wonderful picture this is of Father and Son ‘daily, delighting in each other’s company’ and ‘eternity ringing with joy’; Father and Son in perfect fellowship. God, the only self-sufficient Being, needing nothing outside Himself; needing no heaven, no creation. Perfectly at home and fulfilled in Himself.
Consider then the wonder of this continuing testimony;
and my delights were with the sons of men. [Prov 8:31]
That is to say that…
Before ever the earth was, when there were no depths, no fountains abounding with water, no mountains… while as yet he had not made the earth… his delights were with the sons of men.
I have loved you
He loved us long before He made us. He delighted over us; can you hear the excited anticipation? Oh, what a heart-break we have been to Him. What glorious plans He had for us; what a bitter disappointment we have been. This is no isolated text, John captures another for us in his record of Christ’s prayer;
(thou) hast loved them, as thou hast loved me… thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. [John 17:23,24].
As they say, “do the math(s)”. If ‘He has loved us as He loved Him’, and ‘He has loved Him from before the foundation of the world’, how long has He loved us?
Our failures have not taken Him by surprise nor changed His love for us. The Old Testament comes to the end of its record of failure after failure with a simple word of testimony from God to His own people; I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet you say… [Mal 1:2] His world has conspired together against Him and against His Christ. [Ps 2:2] and yet His testimony is unchanged; I have loved you.
the second chance
It is from this unchanged and unchanging love that all those ‘agains’ come. To a prodigal world God has reached out again and again. The book is full of them. The word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time… [Jonah 3:1] So He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. [Jer 18:4] And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward [2 Kings 19:30] And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. [2 Chronicles 33:13] and we hear it again in the words of those who have His love shed abroad in their hearts; My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. [Gal 4:19] While there is God there is hope, because where there is God there exists the possibility of a new beginning.
So we will discover it with Abraham.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him…[Joshua 24:2,3]
This is Abraham’s story. Not a very promising background is it? Far off in a pagan land, serving other gods; many of us had our beginnings in such places, and God took us and led us… Perhaps, as you read, you feel yourself to be in such a place now, with nothing to offer and under the rule of alien powers. You feel that God may do something with others but not with you. The English have a pessimistic old saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear”. Don’t be discouraged; God can! From your impossible situation, God can take you and lead you. Your future is not determined by your past experiences but by today’s response to God. Where God is, there is always scope for a new beginning.
They say that every journey must begin with a first step, but the pilgrim does not mark the beginning of his journey with his own first step. In one way or another he senses a divine imperative. He may not use the exact words but, if you look under the skin, his testimony will always start at the same point.. “In the beginning God..”