31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
These words are not spoken by David at the height of his power or Solomon in all his wealth. They are not spoken by those who look over fresh mown fields at the end of the harvest when bounty abounds. They are spoken by and for and to a people who have seen the destruction of war and been marched across the desert into exile.
For a people living in a foreign land after their nation has been destroyed, this is a remarkable confession. Imagine the Syrians in refugee camps and strange town across the border from a homeland that has collapsed into death and destruction. Imagine families whose memories of desolation and grief are far from extinguished. In Psalm 137 we hear the poet lament: “By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. 2On the willows there we hung up our harps. 3For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? In the book of Nehemiah, we hear a prayer of grief over the desolation of Jerusalem more than 50 years after the event. In Isaiah we hear words that compare the return from exile as something surpassing the Exodus. Yet in this narrative at the beginning of Genesis, compiled in that foreign land, comes the profound confession that light and darkness, earth and sky and all their creatures – even humans themselves – are good. Very good.
Life is good. The creation around us is good. It is not a simple statement; it is a confession of faith made by those who have seen the darkness.
Life is good. That whole fabric of life in and around us is good. The warmth of the sun, the brilliance of the night sky, the orderly change of the seasons, the cycles of sun and moon and stars, the plants of the earth, the cattle of the fields, the wild creatures of the hills, the birds of the air, the mysterious depths of the seas, it is all good. Chocolate and dancing and music and sexuality. The fruit of the vine, the sweetness of the fig, the laughter of children. Our embodiedness. It’s all good.
There are stories to come in Genesis about what has happened to God’s good Garden, even the threat that the world will fall back into the chaos of the primal seas because of human corruption. But God rescues his world. Noah and his family and all the creatures of the earth are placed in a treasure box and floated to safety. When the dry land appears, so does a bow in the sky. Though we corrupt and abuse God’s good world, though chaos threatens, God will not allow the world to fall back into chaos. God will continue to bless and sustain. It is a remarkable confession for those who have seen their nation fall.
Macbeth may declare that life is but “a tale told by an idiot, full of storm and fury, signifying nothing,” but Israel does not surrender to despair. Despite what humans may do and what tragedies may befall, despite our warrings and bloodshed, our greeds and idolatries, our tears and miseries, the world is a good gift of a good God.
Our createdness is good. Noble. Beautiful. Wondrous. It is good to be, to think, to feel, to touch and be touched, to sing, to weep, to love and be loved. It is good to be, to see the sunrise and bask in a sunset, to walk the beach with the waves lapping at your feet, to hear the laughter of children and to kiss their tears, to bring a smile with a gift or a random act of kindness. It is good to work, to labor in the fields, to come home weary at the end of the day. It is good to create, to play, to worship, to explore – it’s all good. Even in the darkest days. It is good to ache and grieve – for only those who feel and love can suffer.
This confession that the world is good is a powerful word. It gives birth to both faith and love. It lights our path. It opens us to the future. It opens us to one another. We care for the earth not just because it has been assigned to us, and for others not just because it is commanded; we care for all because this world, all its people and creatures and seas and lands, is a good thing.