And he pitched his tent having Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he builded an altar. Genesis 12:8.
Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself; it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others. Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two. The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him. Rush is wrong every time; there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are not three stages in spiritual life—worship, waiting and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs, we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of Our Lord. He was unhasting and unresting. It is a discipline, we cannot get into it all at once.
‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.’ Genesis 1:2 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Psalm 8:1–9
The matter out of which the beauty, order and variety we now observe were framed, was at first all in confusion. The earth, the water, the deep, were one mixed mass and darkness covered the whole. The earth was without form—without a determinate form, a crude mass—and void—that is, empty, unfurnished, destitute of ornaments and inhabitants and incapable of receiving any till God was pleased to put forth his mighty power and arrange everything according to his wise plan. The wisdom of man, who would fain account for everything, has endeavoured to guess by what steps the Almighty proceeded in this work; many conjectures of this sort have been started, but they are all vain and trifling, no better than waking dreams; nay, they are presumptions. The Lord pours contempt upon such proud reasoners in his sublime questions to Job (chapter 38) and intimates that his counsel is far above, out of our sight [Psalm 10:5]. It is enough for us that things were thus in the beginning, and if we endeavour [to understand] this darkness and confusion and then compare it with the creation as it now appears, so as to say with humble admiration, ‘What has God wrought?’ and to be affected with his greatness and goodness, then we have the true philosophy. All besides is vanity and food for pride.
FOR MEDITATION: I have been witness to a great and important revolution this morning, which took place while the greatest part of the world was asleep. A while ago, darkness reigned. Had a man dropped for the first time into our world, he might have thought himself banished into a hopeless dungeon. How could he expect light to rise out of such a state? And when he saw the first glimmering of dawn in the east, how could he promise himself that it was the forerunner of such a glorious sun as has since risen! Such strangers once were we. Darkness, gross darkness, covered us: how confined were our views! And even the things which were within our reach we could not distinguish. Little did we then think what a glorious day we were appointed to see.… We knew not that there was a Sun of righteousness, and that he would dawn and rise in shine upon our hearts.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ Genesis 1:1 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Job 38:4–18
God created. God created by an immediate act of almighty power. Creatures can make, that is form one thing from another, but to give being to the first principles of things belongs to God alone. And this, in a strict and proper sense, was the work of creation. Other things were produced and disposed afterwards in the several days. When God would remind his people of his power to help them under the greatest difficulties—when he would silence the vain reasonings of their unbelief, which is so ready to say, ‘How can these things be?’—he often puts them in mind of this first revelation of his Almighty Arm (Isaiah 44:24; Jeremiah 31:35; Isaiah 51:12–13; Jeremiah 5:22). And though we have a general conviction of his power, we are too apt to fail in a right application of it to our particular cases and should therefore often consider what he hath wrought.
The heaven and the earth: that is, the visible world with all their furniture and inhabitants (Genesis 2:1). Let us humbly enquire into some of the reasons for which he created all things by his good pleasure. In general they were created for the display of his glory to intelligent creatures by the order, beauty, variety and grandeur of his works, as I have already hinted, and for the effusion of his goodness in giving life and a suitable perfection to different orders of beings. In particular he formed the earth as a theatre to display the riches of his glorious grace in the salvation of a people chosen to himself in Christ before the foundation of the world. He formed the visible heavens with an immediate reference to the benefit of the earth, particularly of man for whom the earth was made. Under the term heaven, we may likewise understand that glorious state in which he makes himself known as the fountain of happiness and joy to his angels and redeemed people. This kingdom was prepared for them from the beginning (Matthew 25:34).
FOR MEDITATION: Believers, this God is our God. How miserable are they who have no part in him.
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ Genesis 1:1 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Isaiah 42:1–7
God. Who can describe him! Guess at him by his works—but alas, we know them not. If I was qualified to speak at large of the magnitude, the motions, the regularities and order of the heavenly bodies, many of which, taken singly, are probably hundreds or thousands of times larger than the globe we live on—if I could help you to judge of their immense distances from each other and from us—if, to come lower, I could assist you to number the sand upon the seashore and the drops of water in the ocean, every one of which is as much the effect of divine power and the object of his providential care as the sun in the firmament—if I could give you a view of that great family in heaven and earth from the highest angel to the meanest worm, which all derive their being from him and could not subsist a single moment without him—this might give some assistance to help you to conceive of his greatness, his wisdom and goodness. The consideration of those things is very useful in its proper place to those who have leisure and abilities for it, but these are not the direct subjects of the gospel ministry. Such knowledge of God as is attainable from his works will neither break a hard heart nor heal a wounded conscience. I will rather speak of him as he has revealed himself in Scripture in a way more suited to sinners—the Lord Jehovah: Father, Word and Holy Spirit. The God who in the fullness of time was in Christ reconciling sinners to himself—he in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The work of creation is ascribed to each of the glorious three: to the Word or Son (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16); to the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:24–25 compared with 1:16). Let us always keep in view the God of the Scriptures as the Three One—the Covenant God whose glory and grace is revealed to sinners in the person of Jesus Christ.
FOR MEDITATION: Although he is ‘the high and lofty One’ who inhabits eternity, he promises also to dwell with him who is ‘of a contrite and humble spirit’ (Isaiah 57:15).
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ Genesis 1:1 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Proverbs 8:22–31
In the beginning. As Adam was created on the sixth day, and the year of life assigned in which his son Seth was born, and so on in the life of each of his descendants, … it is pretty certain that the birth of Christ took place about 4,000 years after the creation—that is, to us, about 5,770 years ago was the commencement of time which Moses speaks of. What then was before this beginning? I answer, the same that shall be when all these things have an end: eternity. This is too great a thought for our feeble minds to grasp. We are lost indeed when we consider eternity with respect to the future as having no end, but it is harder to conceive of it by looking back, as having had no beginning. Before anything was made that was made, God was supremely happy and glorious in himself and would have been forever if neither heaven or earth had been created, but when he pleased, he manifested his power in producing creatures to whom and in whom he might communicate and display his goodness. If a thought arises in our minds of wonder that through a whole eternity it should not please God thus to manifest himself till within a few thousand years ago, we should charge such a thought to the darkness and weakness of our minds. Supposing the beginning had been not 5,000 but 5,000 million years ago—there would have been room for the same objection, for even then there would have been an eternity before the beginning, the same as there is now. We submit then to the wisdom, will and word of God: in the beginning he created.
FOR MEDITATION: ‘He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:10, NIV).