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TEXT: Genesis 1:1-2
SUBJECT: Matthew Henry on Genesis 1 #2
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll move on in the study we began last week. It's called Matthew Henry on Genesis 1. The book we're using is Henry's great commentary on the whole Bible. It was published almost 300 years ago, but remains as edifying today as ever. Charles Spurgeon called it,
"First among the mighty for general usefulness".
Underline the word usefulness. The book is not as scholarly as many commentaries you can now read, but it remains wonderful useful. Reading Matthew Henry is good for the soul.
Last time we looked at what the Creation says about the Creator. Henry emphasized two things-things needed in his day, but even more in our own: (1) The Creator is God the Father Almighty. In other words, we were not made by a Higher Power, a Divine Force, or a Prime Mover. No, our Maker is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) This God has definite, namable traits. He is good, beautiful, wise, powerful, and mysterious. These invisible attributes-Paul says-are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Note the strong language he uses. The character of God is not suggested or hinted at in the creation, but unmistakably seen in it. Thus, he goes on to say, atheism, agnosticism, and idolatry are not honest mistakes, but willful sins.
Matthew Henry is so rich and full that he packed all this (and much more) into six inches of print. He did it without putting things into the text or by turning it into an elaborate allegory. No, all these things (and more) are actually in the text. If we had Henry's vision, we'd have seen them for ourselves.
Even though he's said so much already, Henry's not nearly finished. Still on verses one and two, he finds-not only the existence and attributes of God, but also a hint of.
The word, Trinity, is not in the Bible, of course, but the doctrine is there. Trinity refers to the mystery of God as One-in-Three. There is one God, the Bible says, yet it also says that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there are not three Gods, but only one God. That, in a nutshell is the doctrine:
God in Three Persons,
But where's that in Genesis? Henry says it's in the first verse,
"The Author and Cause of this great work is God. The
Hebrew word is Elohim, which bespeaks (1) the power
Of God. El signifies The Strong God-and what less
Than almighty strength could bring all things out of
Nothing? (2) The plurality of the Persons in the
Godhead. The plural name of God.which confirms
Our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, which though
Darkly intimated in the Old Testament is clearly
Revealed in the New...
The Son of God, the Eternal Word of the Father
was with Him when He made the world.O what
high thoughts this ought to form in our minds of
that Great Mediator in whose name we draw near
Most English words are made plural by adding an s. One book, two books. But in Hebrew, the ending is im. Thus, the fiery creature around the throne of God is a Seraph, but if he's joined by others, they're not Seraphs, but Seraphim. So what? So this: God's Name-here-ends in im. It is Elohim, the mighty ones! So, are there more gods than one?
No. The central doctrine in the religion of Israel is One God Only. Every Jewish boy recited the Shema, which begins,
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord your,
God, the Lord is One".
This Bible everywhere confirms this: "You shall have no other gods before Me.I am the LORD and there is none else.For all the gods of the nations are idols.An idol is nothing in the world and there is no other God but one".
Yet this God-who claims to be the Only God-first identifies Himself as Elohim which is something like "Gods".
If it stood alone, we might wonder if the scribe copying the Bible let his pen slip. But it doesn't stand alone. The same word is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. But it's not just the word, Elohim, that hints at the Trinity, but other things do too-
Genesis 1:26 has God saying,
"Let us make man in our image,
according to our likeness".
Genesis 11:7 makes the same point. When proud men dared to make a tower to heaven, God said
"Let Us go down and confuse their language".
David has no king but God. Yet one day, eavesdropping on heaven, it seems, David heard,
"The LORD say unto my Lord,
sit at my right hand till I make
your enemies your footstool".
Who is David's Lord but God? Yet God calls Someone in heaven David's Lord!
Proverbs 30 has King Agur bemoaning his ignorance compared to God's great wisdom. He says,
"Who has ascended into heaven or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who
Has bound the waters in a garment? Who has
Established all the ends of the earth? What is
His name-and what is His Son's name if you
Zechariah 2:10-11 offers another hint,
"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold I am
coming and I will dwell in your midst, says the LORD
of Hosts. Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in
that day, and they shall become My people and I will
dwell in your midst. Then you shall know that the
LORD of Hosts has sent Me to you".
In the first part of the passage, God promises to dwell with His people. But when He arrives, the people will know God has sent Him. Is God the One Sending or the One Sent? Yes He is.
Do these verses prove the Trinity? No they don't. Henry says they're but "Dark intimations". In other words, clues or hints. That's all the Old Testament does for us-it suggests the Trinity.
But when the Lord Jesus Christ is begotten by His Father and when both Father and Son pour out their Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, what was fuzzy and dark becomes clear and bright. These verses (and many others like them) made it easy for devout, Bible-believing Jews to accept the full Divinity of Jesus Christ without in any way compromising their belief in One God Only.
Why does Henry bring this up? It's not so much to prove the Trinity is consistent with the teaching of the Old Testament, but-as he says at the end of his quote-to make us worship and fear and love and obey and trust our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord is the perfect teacher and example. But He's more than that: He's also God. He's not a Man with a unique insight about God or who imitates God better than anyone else, but He's Emmaunel-God with us.
"Whoever has seen Me-He once
said-"has seen the Father".
The next thing Henry sees in Genesis 1:1 is the manner of creation.
"God created it, that is, He made it out of nothing.
There was not any pre-existent matter out of
Which the world was produced.No artisan can
Work unless he has something to work with. But
By the almighty power of God it is impossible
That it should be otherwise".
The quote here is a little awkward. What he's doing is offering a comparison between an artist and God. The artist can take wood or stone or paint and turn it into something good and true and beautiful. But their creativity and power-though real and wonderful-is nothing compared to the artistry and power of God who made everything out of nothing. Michaelangelo took a block of marble and turned it into David, but so what? God took a block of nothing and turned it into marble!
The great power of God in creation means He can do things for us if He wants to! When praying to God, we're not praying to Someone who's in the grip of nature as we are, but to One who's above nature and Lord of all things.
He demonstrated this throughout the Bible. Think of the sun and moon standing still at His command in the days of Joshua or the iron axehead floating in the days of Elisha or the clothes not wearing out over forty years of camping in the wilderness! In the New Testament, the Lord's personal control over nature becomes even more clear: the winds and waves obey Him, diseases leave men on His orders, the devil cringes before Him, and even death surrenders to His Lordship.
Time wears everything out-everything but God! That means trusting Him will never become obsolete! And things done for Him will never be lost,
"The world is passing away and the lusts thereof,
but he who does the will of God abides forever".
A god who made everything out of something would be wonderfully powerful, and if good, he'd be very helpful. But the Lord made everything out of nothing, which means He is eternal, almighty and worthy of unconditional trust.
"Who is God but the Lord? And who is
a Rock but our God?"
Matthew Henry next turns our attention to the time of creation or when it occurred,
"When this work was produced: In the beginning, that
is, in the beginning of time, when the clock was first
set a going. Before the beginning of time there was
nothing but that infinite Being that inhabits eternity".
Here we have a contrast: the universe begun in time will also pass with time. But God who has no beginning also has no end. This means He never was not, never needed to grow, He will never grow feeble with time, and He never will die.
This means we can trust Him forever. The word of a good man is good, but only till time takes it away from him. It does that to everyone. A rich man wants to provide for his children and their children. He leaves them a huge inheritance, but no matter how much it is, it will one day run out.
Through the mismanagement of the heirs, through circumstances beyond their control, or on the Last Day when every dollar and stock and bond and security and property will melt with fervent heat. Then what have they got? They've got nothing.
But the believer still has everything because He still has God who cannot die and whose legacy never runs out.
Henry wraps up this part of his commentary with several uses or applications. They're obvious, but worth thinking about over and over. Here they are, in brief:
Because atheism is terribly dishonest and inconsistent, we tend to get mad at people who accept it. But let's not forget to pity them too. They know there is a God and who that God is. Yet, their sins are so great that they cannot admit what they know. Thus, they're tortured all their lives long-and then they're tortured forever. If you have friends or neighbors who don't believe in God, witness to them; if you can't do that, pray for them; if you can't do that, weep for them.
Including you and everything you call your own. I believe in private property. The Bible teaches that, it seems to me. But no property is private from God! He doesn't respect or obey No Trespassing Signs. Everything you are and have belong to Him. Do you know that? And, if you do, what are you doing about it? Are you offering yourself and your things to Him? If you're not, you're not being the steward He wants you to be, but more like a squatter-claiming the property that belongs to Someone Else.
If God can make all things by the Word of His power, what's beyond that power? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"No one can stop His hand or say to Him,
`What are you doing?'"
I know you believe in the almighty power of God. But is it reflected in your prayers? Or in your faith? Or in your obedience? William Carey lived at a time when it was mighty hard for an Englishman to go to India and survive. But he saw no problem. His motto should be ours,
"Expect great things from God;
attempt great things for God".
An Almighty God can save the hardest sinner; He can cure the sickest marriage; He can make the biggest chicken in the world into a bold and daring winner of souls! Why not ask Him to do these things? They're not hard.for Him.
So why not praise Him? Why not praise Him more than you do? Or more fervently than you do? Or why not do it in public? Don't worry, you won't overdo it.
"Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
and His greatness is unsearchable.".
That's Matthew Henry on Genesis 1. May God bless His word and make us doers of it. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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