Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth; who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; who turns back the wise, and makes their knowledge foolish; who confirms the word of his servant, and fulfills the prediction of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be inhabited,” and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be rebuilt, and I will raise up their ruins”; who says to the deep, “Be dry— I will dry up your rivers”; who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose”; and who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:24-28).

I made a wonderful discovery recently while preparing a Sunday liturgy. Or maybe it was a rediscovery. Whichever, it came from reading Psalm 146, the appointed psalm for the day.

As I adapted the poem as a call to worship, I saw as if for the first time in the psalm that God the Creator is also indentified as the one who does justice, feeds the hungry, cares for the marginalized, brings freedom, lifts up the downtrodden, watches over the stranger, and defeats the wicked. The Creator is the Faithful One; the Creator is the Sovereign One who reigns forever. The Creator is worthy of all praise, which mortals are not.

I began to wonder whether other texts identifying God as Creator had such an emphasis. Indeed they do! And that’s just the beginning of how exciting the meditation of the Scriptures is on God the Creator.

First, God the Creator is the One who helps his people. The most succinct expression of this great truth is the familiar line from Psalm 124: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121 reminds us that help comes not from idols whose shrines were on hilltops in the ancient world, but from the Lord, “who made heaven and earth.” Perhaps the most sustained treatment of the Creator God as Helper is Isaiah 40-45, written by a great poet of the Exile. Here is just a taste: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth….He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless” (40:28a, 29).

Second, God the Creator is the One who claims us and calls for obedience and faithfulness. Deuteronomy 32:6 holds that honor is due God because he is our Father, who created us. The call to rest on the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments is founded on the practice of God the Creator, who was secure enough in his work to turn aside from it on the seventh day. And the prophet chided the people for their lack of community by saying: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another…?” (Malachi 2:10)

Third, God the Creator is the One who defeats idols. Second Isaiah, in the Babylonian Exile, came back to this theme over and over. Idols are made of wood, stone, and metal; they cannot save. God, on the other hand, is the only true God, who made heaven and earth, and before whom the idols of the peoples are nothing; all nations and their rulers are “a drop from a bucket” before God. No one compares with him (see especially Isaiah 40:18-26).

Indeed, the great creation narrative of Genesis 1, so often the subject of controversy these days, was written to subvert the claims to supremacy of Marduk, the national god of Babylon. No one in the ancient world doubted that a deity had made the universe. The question was which god had made it. The priests who penned Genesis 1 were asserting that the God of Israel was the Creator, who brought order to chaos and so could bring order to the chaos and confusion of exile. The claims of Marduk and his followers were false; the exiled Jews could trust in their Creator God and could turn a deaf ear to the taunts of their captors.

Fourth, God the Creator is the One who alone is to be worshiped and exalted. It would be enough said if I only took you again to Isaiah 40-45. But listen to these texts: “O Lord, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15). “Praise him, you highest heavens…. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148: 4,5). And this amazing paean of praise from Revelation, which I think of as the worship book of the Church: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:11).

It’s clear to me that so-called “creationists” or advocates of “intelligent design” who claim to revere the Bible have likely not actually read that Book. When the storytellers, psalmists, and prophets name and exalt God as Creator, they are not concerned with scientific theories. Indeed, there was no science as we know it in the ancient world. Rather, the writers are largely doing pastoral care—providing assurance, calling to account, bringing hope, subverting the claims of the nations for their idols.

The true creationists are not those who push biblical texts as scientific truth. It is instead those who worship the Creator, exalt him alone as their God, and find in him their help and hope.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham

 

 

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