I love the creation story so much, but I think we're so familiar with it, that it has lost a great deal of its punch. Recently, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine being in the presence of someone who could speak a word and make something appear. Even the smallest thing—let alone an ocean or a sun or a redwood! I tried to imagine what it would have been like to watch Creation Week unfold, as God moved elements and formed new things with Just. His. Words.
Reading this chapter in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible gives it that extra-special punch, too. Because instead of God saying something like, "Let there be light" (which is a quite passive rendering!), the CEV has God saying, "I command!"
“I command light to shatter the darkness!”
“I command plants to spring up and trees to bud!”
“I command whales to appear in the ocean deep!”
That gives the story a very authoritative flair. It’s immediately easy to picture God as One who is “large and in charge.” Not to say that He’s boorish, but He’s definitely in control. But it also makes the contrast all the more stark when, on day six, after creating the animals, God suddenly stops commanding. He announces that He will now make human beings, and they will be like Him. And He will let them rule over the Earth. He will let them be in control. He will let them have command.
There is no doubt that God is absolutely in control of the elements. He can command anything He wants to, whenever He wants to. How much more marvelous is it, then, to know that He doesn’t command US. If He didn't care about relationships, if He didn't care about freedom or love, He could very easily command us:
“I command you to bow down to Me!”
“I command you to serve Me!”
“I command you to spend an eternity obeying my every whim!”
But God doesn’t do that. Instead, for the purposes of allowing us to enter freely into a relationship with Him, He has imposed a self-boundary on His authoritative command. He has restricted Himself, limited His own control of the universe by creating intelligent beings with freedom to choose. And, though He is able to do it if He wanted to, He will not trample on the freedom He has given us.
This is the sparkling jewel in the creation story of Genesis 1: the God who is able to control anything and everything chooses not to control us. If there was ever any greater reason to bow down and worship, I can't think of one!