"It was a dark and stormy night." That famous opening line spawned the Bulwer-Lytton contest rewarding writers for crafting the worst opening lines (in the literary sense, not "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?").
A good opening line catches the reader's attention, setting the scene for the book or introducing the main character. Like the release of a catapult, it flings the reader into a great adventure or, like the initial thrust of ski poles, propels the inquirer on a rapid slide to the depths of a canyon of understanding a complex idea or issue.
Suppose there were a contest for best opening line, such as "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," by Dickens. Were profundity the deciding factor, all trophies would be awarded to the bible's "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1).
Like a fragrant flower, that line blossoms into 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,173 verses, and 774,746 words of literary luxuriousness. Within those 10 words live the answers to life's most profound and necessary questions, the responses to the human heart's most desperate cries, and the bookends of existence itself.
Genesis 1:1 introduces the main character--God--without apology or explanation. The pervasive theme of the entire bible is the person and plan of God, the source of all existence through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5). The fruitless search for the birth of the universe and the descent of man can cease by accepting those infallible first 10 words of scripture.
The stage for all activity--human, animal, stellar, subatomic, spiritual, good, and evil--is "the heavens and the earth." That encompasses everywhere we can go or hope to go. It accounts for the infinitely fascinating design of the smallest particles and the largest galaxies, including the inviolable laws that govern physics and personal relationships. Read Job chapters 38-40 and be convicted: God the Creator is the ultimate Stage Manager!
Shakespeare was close when he wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women are merely players." This globe is God's arena of activity, and we are called to follow His direction, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). Lest we miss our cues, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). God, not man, is the audience we seek to please. It is up to us to study our lines (1 Timothy 2:15) and work hard (Colossians 1:9, 10).
If a book doesn't fulfill expectations or answer questions stimulated by the opening line, it fails. The bible does not answer all our questions, for "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). The Bible doesn't satisfy all our curiosities, but reveals all we need to know (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:3).
Because of the truth compacted in Genesis 1:1, we know:
Where we came from (Genesis 1:26, 27)
The purpose and constituents of marriage (Genesis 1:28)
The purpose of life (Psalm 86:9)
The origin and destruction of evil (Genesis 3; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 20:10)
The state of man after death (John 5:28, 29)
The end of the world (Revelation 21)
A good opening line demands an effective closing line. The all-powerful, ineffable Creator of Genesis 1:1 gently summarizes 774,746 words in this 12-word closing line: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Revelation 22:21).
Alan is a freelance devotional writer for Lifestyles Over 50 and the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also the Peer-less Reviewer (General Editor) for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy in Catasauqua, PA, a Christian homeschool academy. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology.
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