In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
[Genesis 1:1 ESV]
It was a common idea in the past that God created the heavens and the earth at the beginning and then, as it were, sat back and watched his creation evolve. In such a view of creation God was likened to a watchmaker, who having made a beautifully engineered watch simply wound it up and set it going. But such a view of God and creation places God outside his creation and not involved within in it – can this be true?
To attempt to tackle this question we need to consider what it is that creates in God and indeed in ourselves because we often talk about people as being creative. What really drives us in life to do things, to make things, to change things, whether it is the simplest everyday task or a major activity? Surely it is our determination, our drive, our desire our love!
We may not think about it this way but it is love that creates in our lives just as God creates from Love. Over the centuries many people have put forward the idea that God created the world out of nothing. But Emanuel Swedenborg saw it differently, commenting that God created the universe, not out of nothing, but out of Himself [Divine Love and Wisdom 285] and he summarised the concept that love creates in God with these words:
The universe as a whole and in every detail was created out of Divine Love,
by means of Divine Wisdom.
Now reflect for a moment on some activity or project in your life that you wanted to achieve. Did it start well? How did it continue? Did it achieve what you had hoped for in the beginning?
Sometimes we start something new with a real desire or love to see it through. But as time progresses we start to lose interest in it and finally we stop our involvement with it because our heart isn’t in it anymore.
Such experiences may show us that not only do we need love to create some new activity in our lives we also need love to sustain that activity. Love is needed to create but love is also needed to sustain.
When we turn to the Bible to see how God sustains his creation we can find many examples, although the word sustain is not frequently used by translators except notably in the New International Version as in these quotations:
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
[Psalm 55:22 NIV]
My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.
[Psalm 89:21 NIV]
Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
[Psalm 119:116Â NIV]
But the idea of God continually sustaining his creation can also be found expressed in similar words like uphold, preserve, support, carry and bear.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.
[Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV]
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
[Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV]
In our modern day world we have begun to get used to the idea of sustainability, the concept that the resources we regularly use should have the capacity to endure and not become exhausted. This concept implies the long term stewardship, management and maintenance of these resources by mankind so that they can continue to be used without damaging environmental and ecological side effects. A very good example is the use of wood from sustainably managed forests – a process promoted by the international Forest Stewardship Council which ensures that wood sources are preserved despite ever increasing demand.
Sustainable forests are first created by planting and then as the trees mature and are felled new ones are planted to take their place in such a way that the forest is preserved and trees for logging are perpetually available.
A similar process can be seen to take place in our bodies where human cells continually die but are replaced by new ones to maintain and preserve the person. Some cells apparently die in as few as 5 days, others last 100 days or more and some for years. It is also thought that the human skeleton is replaced every 10 years or so.
We can perhaps use both of these examples to get some idea as to how God is Creator and Sustainer not a God who just creates and walks away but one who, from Love, is continually creating, re-creating and sustaining all he creates.
Here are two further quotations from Emanuel Swedenborg:
These properties of the divine love were the reason the universe was created, and are the reason it is preserved in existence.
A thorough scrutiny and examination of these three essentials of the Divine Love can lead us to see that they were the reason for creation. The first essential, loving others outside of himself, was a cause.
The second essential, wishing to be one with them, was also a cause.
The third essential, devoting oneself to their happiness, was also a cause, as is clear from the heaven of angels, which has been provided for every human being who receives the love of God; all there are made happy by God alone. These three essentials of God’s love are also the reason why the universe is preserved, because preservation is perpetual creation, just as remaining in existence is a perpetual coming into existence; and the Divine Love is from eternity to eternity the same. So as it was in the creation of the world, such too it remains in the created world.
[True Christian Religion 46:3 extracts]
The Divine from itself and through that which proceeds from itself created all things, so it sustains all things; also sustaining is perpetual creation, as subsistence is perpetual existence.
[Apocalypse Explained 1215:4 Extract]