February 6, 2017
Monday, Week Five, Year I
Genesis 1:1-19;Psalm 104; Mark 6:53-56.
May the Lord be glad in His works!
In every culture parents have had to answer basic questions posed by their children: “Where did I come from?” “Why does it get dark at night?” “Who put the stars there?”
In the ages before writing, these questions were answered on a tribal basis, because adults had them too. The answers were given by the wise ones of the tribe, usually in the form of stories told around the campfire. These stories were passed down from generation to generation. They became the “folk wisdom” of the tribe.
We call these special stories “myths.” A myth is not just fiction or “something untrue.” Just the opposite. Myths are stories — admittedly fictional — which are designed to embody the deep truths a particular tribe or culture finds fundamental to understanding human life on earth. Obviously, some are better than others. But all should be taken seriously, because most contain a germ of insight common to the human race.
The Encarta World English Dictionary defines a myth as:
• a traditional story... explaining the origins of natural phenomena or aspects of human behavior • a character, story, theme, or object that embodies a particular idea or aspect of a culture • a story that has a hidden meaning, especially one that is meant to teach a lesson
The Book of Genesis is composed of myths in all the senses above. But these are a different kinds of myth. When the ancestors of the Jews were telling their stories around the campfire, God joined them and said, “Let me tell the story.” The result was a divinely-inspired myth. Still a myth, but a myth designed by God to convey the answers he himself was giving to life’s fundamental questions. Each “embodies a particular idea or aspect.” not only of Jewish culture, but of God’s explanation of the world. And what we need to look for in each is the “hidden meaning” or lesson each is intended to teach. We do not — emphatically do not — look for precise historical or biological facts. If we read the Bible like a newspaper we will misunderstand everything in it.
What Genesis 1:1-19 is telling us. essentially, is that God made the world. It isn’t just “there”; it is made. It hasn’t always existed; it was created at a point in time (more precisely, “time” began when the universe was created). And it was created by a Person. Not an ordinary person like ourselvcs. The One who gives being to all things must have a Being that is not like what we see. Nothing we see has in itself any reason or justification for its own existence. The hand in front of my face has to be explained. There is no reason why it should be there. That already tells us that the origin of creation must be in a Being so different that It doesn’t need to be explained — a Being, which, if we could see it, we would realize it could not not exist. A Being that has within itself the cause or source of its own existence because it needs no cause or source; it is Being Itself.
The modern myth of our limited Western culture is the “big bang” theory followed by evolution. Both might be true, but like the technology they came out of, they only explain the process, not the product. Children still ask, “What made the bang go ‘bang’?” And how was there anything to go “bang” in the first place? Genesis says, “In the beginning, God said....” And he “was glad in his works.”
Meditation: Do I take for granted my existence? Should I thank God for it daily?