Genesis 1:4-5 John MacArthur Apr 25, 1999
As you know, we have been doing a series in the last several weeks on the subject of origins. Obviously this has alerted my mind to our society and perhaps more sensitively than it has been in the past. And I think it’s safe to say that the lie that the universe as we know it today evolved is the most sophisticated, complex and highly educated lie in existence. It has, for all intents and purposes, captivated the entire world. It is believed by the greatest mass of humanity, at least in the western world. And even though it is impossible and irrational, it is nonetheless perpetuated with great force and with great academic effort.
Modern evolutionary theory has demanded and received almost universal acceptance in the world. The theory that no one created the universe as it is, but that it came into being by chance and it progresses through constant changes, mutations and transitions upwardly from simplicity to complexity completely through a random process basically rules human thought.
And I suppose we expect those people who reject God and those people who reject the Bible, those people who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, who do not know Him, those people who love sin, those people who don’t want a moral judge or a moral law, we expect those kind of people to be happy with such a convenient explanation of the way things are. And I suppose that’s why it’s so shocking that this evolutionary lie has dominated the evangelical Christian community as well. Theologians and exegetes and Bible commentators have felt it necessary to take the simple explanation of creation in Genesis chapter 1 and basically deny it.
I was reading this afternoon a very established and well-known commentary on the book of Genesis in which that is precisely the view of the author, who says this really doesn’t mean what it says. God really didn’t mean that He did this in six days; He obviously meant something else because science has told us that couldn’t be the way it is.
Frankly it’s not easy to impose evolution on Genesis 1. It’s a very difficult task for any commentator or any exegete because there is absolutely nothing in that section of Scripture, or for that matter any other place in the Bible, to allow for such a bizarre interpretation as evolution. There is absolutely nothing in the text of Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 where you have the creation account that in any way, shape, or form describes anything evolutionary. Consequently, to impose evolution on Genesis 1 these people have to deny the simple, straightforward, unmistakable, clear, historical account of creation. And they have to reclassify that creation account as allegory, or as myth, or as legend, or as a non-literal literary poetic style.
They do that to accommodate the Bible to godless, irrational, and impossible evolution. And again I say there’s nothing in the text to make anyone conclude this is an allegory. There’s nothing in the text that is in any way poetic in the Hebrew language. There’s nothing there that sounds like myth or legend. And so they invent those things to impose godless evolution on the Scripture.
And you ask the question, “Why do they do that? Why do people who claim to be Christians do that?” Well there are several reasons.
Number one is to be accepted in academic circles. It’s very important if you’re in a university setting, if you’re in an academic setting, that you not be a creationist if you want to maintain your position, if you want your job.
Secondly, people do that because they’re ignorant of true science. They don’t really understand science, and where science can go and where it can’t go. And they have basically been deceived by science, falsely so-called.
And thirdly, I think they may be compelled the same way that Darwin was compelled, and that was by the illusion of appearance. Darwin developed his whole system on illusory observations that had nothing to do with DNA, nothing to do with genetics; nothing to do with really was going on.
So for those reasons, being intimidated by the academic community, being intimidated by false science, and being somewhat intimidated by observational illusions that have been passed down, they acquiesce and buy into the idea of evolution, which is built on the concept of uniformity. It is what we call a uniformitarian concept. That is that everything just continues the same way in this long, multi-billion year process, everything progressing at the very same rate. They observe uniformity. They observe things going at a certain pace and they extrapolate out of that that they’ve always gone at that pace and that they therefore had to have started with something very simple and pace themselves at that same speed all the way through until we arrive at today. That process they assume would have taken up to 20 billion years.
However, the Bible doesn’t allow for any such thing, any such illusion. In 2 Peter chapter 3 it tells us that mockers come and mockers say this, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, ever since antiquity, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” And those mockers, who there are basically denying the Second Coming, say nothing changes. Everything goes along in the exactly the same uniformitarian way. Nothing changes. Obviously they affirm creation, but they say since creation nothing has violated a uniformitarian process.
But verse 5 says, “When they maintain this, when they say that everything continues the same, it escapes their notice that by the Word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” And he’s referring to creation here, through which, he says, “The world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His Word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
So these people who say everything has always continued as it was from the very beginning have forgotten that there was a time when the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, and another time when it was destroyed by being flooded. In other words, Peter is pointing to the fact that everything has not continued through a uniformitarian process since the beginning, but rather there have been two cataclysmic events…one, creation, and the other the universal global flood. There have been immense alterations in the earth as we know it. Creation itself was cataclysmic. Originally the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water…and we’ll comment more on that when we go back to Genesis. And there was a time when the entire globe was destroyed, being flooded with water, which had immense cataclysmic impact on the surface of the earth.
This earth has not gone on in a uniform kind of existence; rather two immense cataclysms have effected its current condition, one being creation itself, and the other being the Flood. Uniformitarians claim that the strata in rocks, the strata sediment, the fossils and the companion chemistry of geologic dating based on uniformity demand an earth that is billions of years old. During the early nineteenth century, the central presupposition of uniformitarianism was that the present is the key to the past. That is that everything went always the way it’s going now, popularized by James Hutton and Charles Lyle, who in turn influenced Darwin.
Uniformitarianism is the belief that the origin and development of all things can be explained exclusively in terms of the same natural laws and processes seen operating today. Uniformitarianism has been the backbone of modern historical geology and is responsible for the current widespread assumption that the earth is billions of years old. The uniformitarians insist that all geologic features and formations once attributed to geologic cataclysms can now be satisfactorily explained by ordinary processes functioning over immensely long periods of time. That’s basically their view. Scott Hulse, writing in The Collapse of Evolution, gave us that definition.
Creationists, however, have argued against that, saying that geological evidences support not uniformity but cataclysm, and in particular, the surface of the earth demonstrates massive universal hydraulic cataclysm; that is to say, cataclysm related to water. And at creation there was literally a water-engulfed earth that was reshaped cataclysmically, and at the time of the Flood there was a Flood that covered the earth, again having an immense effect on its formation. Two very outstanding theologians and scientists, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, marshalled evidence from known natural processes, including the hydro-dynamic drag of flood water, to demonstrate the necessity of a universal flood to explain the present geological structures of the earth, which cannot be explained from present slow processes. Frankly, folks, science, true science is not at all on the side of evolutionists. Widespread geologic phenomenon such as a heavy preponderance of sedimentary rocks and structures all across earth’s surface, including seashells on the tops of the highest mountains, rapid, almost sudden deposits of fossils, and extremely large and deep fossil graveyards, as well as the pressurized formation of coal and gas, all point to a watery catastrophe, not some slow natural process. And more and more recent studies are confirming this.
Scott Hulse summarizes some of this evidence – just give it to you briefly. “Creationists maintain the uniformitarian principles simply cannot account for most of the major geological features and formations. For instance, there’s the vast Tibetan plateau which consists of sedimentary deposits which are thousands of feet thick, located presently at an elevation of three miles above sea level. The Karoo formation of Africa contains an estimated 800 billion vertebrate animals. The herring fossil bed of California contains approximately one billion fish within a four-square-mile area. The uniformitarian concept is equally incapable of explaining the Columbia plateau in northwestern United States, which is an incredible lava plateau several thousand feet thick covering an area of 200 thousand square miles. Uniformitarianism also fails to offer a reasonable explanation for important geological concepts such as mountain building,” and it goes on and on, and I won’t bore you with it.
All of these things require sudden and dramatic change, rapid burial, and lithification, as it’s called, are essential to the formation and preservation of fossils. The only possible way you can have seashells on the top of mountains thousands of miles from the sea is if there was once water there.
Douglas Kelly, writing in his book Creation and Change, says, “The uniformitarian assumption that millions of years of geological work extrapolating from present, slow, natural processes would be required to explain structure such as the American Grand Canyon, for instance, is called into serious question by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington on the 18th of May, 1980. Massive energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT destroyed 400 square kilometers of forest in 6 minutes, changing the face of the mountain and digging out depths of earth and rock, leaving formations not unlike parts of the larger Grand Canyon. Recent studies of the Mount St. Helens phenomenon indicate that if attempts were made to date these structures, which were formed in 1980, on the basis of uniformitarian theory, millions of years of formation time would be necessarily postulated. Ironically, one of the centerpieces used to demonstrate uniformitarian chronology, the geologic column, on closer inspection actually witnesses to catastrophism.” And so it goes.
There are some other interesting indicators of a young universe. One that I find fascinating is the issue of moon dust. Before man reached the moon, it was assumed by some scientists who were committed to the paradigm involving a moon probably 3.5 billion years old that there would therefore be a very thick layer of dust on the moon. One writer, R.A. Littleton, an astronomer and consultant to the U.S. Space Program wrote this: “The lunar surface is exposed to direct sunlight, and strong ultra-violet light and x-rays can destroy the surface layers of exposed rock, and reduce them to dust at the rate of a few ten-thousandths of an inch per year. But even this minute amount could during the age of the moon be sufficient to form a layer over it several miles deep.” And so his theory was that the moon was several miles deep in dust.
Now we are told that astronaut Neil Armstrong read about this, and was very concerned that when he stepped out of the spaceship he might sink forever into a suffocating morass of deep dust. On the other hand, he found very little dust at all. If the calculations indicating the rate of dust accumulation were accurate, there was not a billion years’ worth of dust; there wasn’t even a million years’ worth of dust. There was, in fact, only a few thousand years’ worth of dust, if dust is formed in that way by ultra-violet light from the sun.
Another interesting thing is about oil gushers; when oil reservoirs are tapped by drilling, the immense pressure in the reservoir forces up the oil through a kind of spouting geyser. The great pressure that is still surrounding oil formation is thought by some geologists to testify to a young earth. A scientist by the name of Dickey and others have published the results on this matter in their research in a volume called Science. This is what they write: “Studies show that any pressure built should be dissipated, bled off into surrounding rocks within a few thousand years. The excessive pressures found within oil beds, therefore, refute the notion of their age being on the order of millions of years and argues for the youthful age, something less than ten thousand years, of the rock formation and the oil trapped in it.”
And then I really like this one. Henry Morris wrote something called Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science. And chapter six is on the subject of world population and the Bible chronology. And with painstaking detail and the aid of mathematical equations, he shows how the world population is an indication of the age of the earth. In a later work called Scientific Creationism, he shows that an extremely conservative average population growth of one-half a percent per year, which is a fourth of our present rate, but let’s, for the benefit of the doubt, split it down to just a fourth, and say that the population grows at a half percent a year. That would add up to the present population of the earth in only four thousand years. And according to biblical chronology, that’s right because four thousand years ago was the Flood.
He writes, “It begins to be glaringly evident that the human race cannot be very old. The traditional biblical chronology is infinitely more realistic than is the millions of years history of mankind assumed by the evolutionists.” He says, “If they were right, and there were millions of years, the population of the earth now would be ten to the five thousandth power. And if we eventually were able to colonize all the other worlds in the universe, and to build space cities everywhere in the inter-stellar spaces, it can be shown that a maximum of no more than ten to the one hundredth power people could be crammed into the entire known universe.”
You can look at this issue from the standpoint of honest science and have all of the affirmation you want for a young earth. Various physical chronometers, chemical measuring items used to establish the earth’s and heavens’ age, you can see real science will yield you an accurate answer if you understand this one thing: that when God created the earth, He created it as it is. He created it mature. He created it with the appearance of age.
What do I mean by that? Well, on the first day He made light and darkness. On the second day He made the heavens. On the third day He made the earth. On the fourth day He made the heavenly bodies that provide light. On the fifth day He made fish and birds. And on the sixth day He made land creatures and man. And He made them all mature, fully developed. He didn’t create seeds and cells; He didn’t send out one little cell programmed to split itself over and over again over millions of years. There were no seeds, no embryos, and there was no egg, there was a chicken full grown. He didn’t start with partial light, and partial gas, and partial electromagnetic field, and partial nuclear energy. He created a fully mature universe with the appearance of age. When Adam was made, he wasn’t an embryo, he wasn’t a newborn; he was a full-grown man. Everything was full grown, fully developed. The cataclysmic creation of the universe yielded a mature creation with the appearance and the reality of age.
If you found an oak tree in the Garden, and you were a botanist, you might get your little saw, and saw that little oak tree, and you might start counting rings, and you might find that according to the rings in that oak tree it was 400 years old, but it was actually one day old. It was created fully mature. And if there were some eagles flying around, they might appear to be 30 years old, but they were one day old. If there were elephants roaming around, they might have appeared to be many years old, 50, 60 years old, but the fact is they were one day old. And if there were mountains around, and you saw those mountains, you might have assumed that the mountains, and the canyons alongside of them, and the valleys, and the hills were formed by years of wind, and water, and eruptions, and earthquake, and the fact is it was all made in one day. And if you looked up into the heavens like Adam did, and you saw the incredible expanse above you, and you wondered how long they’d been there, the answer was 48 hours. It was sort of like Jesus turning water into wine and there was no process. He just turned water into wine – instant creation in a split second.
Now as we noted all through this series, evolution is impossible because nobody times nothing equaling everything is impossible. It’s not only impossible, it’s ridiculous. And there are no transitional forms, and genetics makes devolution, not evolution. An alteration in genetics can only be negative; it can only fulfill the entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, and lessen, and it can’t make anything greater. There isn’t any kind of genetic code that can make a transition. Any living thing is subject to the genetics that it has and nothing beyond that. As we have seen, honest geology cannot support an old world, or an evolving world. The fossil record doesn’t prove age, it proves cataclysm, and so it goes.
And I’m only giving you that just because I’m asking science to be honest in this situation. But with all of that background, let’s go to Genesis 1 and let’s get the straight story here.
How did the universe come to be what it is now? Here’s how: verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrews had no word for universe. They had a phrase for universe, and the phrase for universe that the Hebrews used was the heavens and the earth; it simply means the universe. In the beginning God created, br, ex nihilo, out of nothing, the universe. With no prior existing matter, and no prior existing energy, God created the entire universe.
Now, God had no origin. That’s why in Exodus 3:14, He says, “I am that I am.” He’s the eternal one. He, the eternal one, was not always the creator, but at some point in eternity, He became the creator.
Now, we asked the question last time, how did He create? And we answered it, by His word. Verse 3, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Verse 6, “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters.’” And verse 9, “And then God said, ‘Let the waters…’” and so it goes. And God created by simply speaking it into existence. That’s how He created.
And when did He create? He created in six days about six thousand years ago, maybe a little more than that, but something certainly under ten thousand and closer to six thousand.
Now, the question I didn’t answer last time was why He created. And, of course, the first answer is because He wanted to. And that’s the best and truest answer. And the next question is why did He want to? And the answer to that question is pretty obvious; He wanted to because He intended to display His glory, and creation gave Him another opportunity to put His glory on display to heavenly angels as well as to mankind, who would come to appreciate His great creative power.
In Revelation 4:11 it says, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord, and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou didst create all things and because of Thy will they existed and were created.” I told you He did it because He wanted to. He did it because He wanted to do it. And He desired to do it for the very reason that eternally in His presence He will be praised and glorified for this immense display of creative power, which puts His majesty and His nature on display. In Isaiah 43 verse 7, Isaiah 43 verse 20 He says, “I did it for My glory…I did it for My glory.”
And within this creation He made man. And to take it one step beyond, He not only did it to display His glorious great massive intelligence, massive power, massive wisdom, massive love of beauty and complexity, and yet order and systematization He’s displaying so much about His nature in the creation. But also in the creation He was given the opportunity by virtue of the creation of man to display something He would have not otherwise be able to display, and that is His grace and His mercy. And so He did it to put His glory on display, the glory of His creation, and the glory of His redemption.
You could also say that He did it in order to provide a bride for His Son. I’ve told you before – and I used to think that I had never read this anywhere, and I just, it just hit me when I was studying the Scripture that God one day said to the Son that He loved Him with a perfect love, and said, “I love You so much I want to give You a gift, and so I’m going to create and I’m going to redeem out of humanity a bride for You. And I’m going to bring that bride to glory, and that bride will be clothed in righteousness and holiness forever, and that bride will bear Your image, and that bride will worship You and adore You and serve You forever and ever. And that’s My love gift to You as a Son.” This glorious plan of God to give to His beloved, the second member of the trinity, an expression of love, of eternal, divine love by granting to Him a redeemed humanity who would reflect His glory, and serve Him and praise Him forever. What an immense thought. What a glorious thought. And that’s bound up in the purpose of God in creation.
Well, I hadn’t read that anywhere until I discovered – a little discouraging – a twelfth century writer, Richard of St. Victor in his classic De Trinitate; he captures the gist of this tremendous truth. He teaches that the infinite God the Father so loved God the equally infinite Son that He brought into being ex nihilo a finite material world, to be peopled with creatures in the likeness of His Son in order that as the Son’s bride they could share in the beatitude of the divine life in a way appropriate to finite creatures in God’s personal image. To provide a beautiful bride for His Son, the eternal Father created an entire universe, and in it a world which previously had no existence whatsoever, as the nursery and the home in which the bride would be reared. Such a stupendous gift from the Father to the Son required an absolute creation out of nothing. That’s what he taught, and he was right.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. By the way, “in the beginning” launches a previous non-existent reality: time. It didn’t exist until God created it. At a certain point in eternity, God spoke the universe into existence, including time. Time, as well as space and matter, is a creature and servant of God, who made them.
Time is God’s creature. And time provided the proper framework for creation, day one through day six. Time is not absolute, space is not absolute, and matter is not absolute. And time, and space, and matter as we know them will be uncreated. Before the material realm existed, before there was matter in space, there couldn’t be time.
St. Augustine put it this way: “With the motion of creatures, time began to run its course. It is idle to look for time before creation as if time can be found before time. If there were no motion of either a spiritual or corporeal creature by which the future by which the future moving through the present would succeed the past, there would be no time at all. A creature could not move if it did not exist. We should therefore say that time began with creation rather than that creation began with time. Both are from God, for from Him and through Him and in Him are all things.”
So God created time, along with everything else. Verse 1 states the general fact. Then verse 2 to 31 breaks it down into sequence. Let’s look at day one. This is really exciting.
Here we are in day one. Verse 2, “And the earth was formless and void and darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness and God called the light day and the darkness He called night, and there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Or day one, if you like; this is just tremendous.
Now, as day one begins, we find the earth in a very unique condition. Three phrases are used to describe it. It was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Those three give us the condition of creation on day one.
Let’s take the first one, familiar. “And the earth was formless and void.” Now, by the way, whenever in Hebrew the subject comes before the verb, it is intended to emphasize something new about it. A Hebrew might translate this like this, “As to the earth, it was formless and void.” You have this new planet and as to this new planet which is the focus, and you have a geocentric saga of redemption from here on out till the recreation of the new heavens and the new earth, as to this earth, this new thing, it was tohu wa bohu in Hebrew.
Now, how do you understand tohu wa bohu, form and void, without form and void? Well, I kind of know what the Christian commentators say, so I went back and got the Jewish commentator, Umberto Cassuto. And I want to know, what do the Hebrews think of this? What do the Jewish scholars think about this, and how did they define the etymology of these words?
Tohu means wilderness. It means devastated place. It means waste place. And bohu means empty. It was an empty waste place. That makes sense. It was an empty waste place – hmm. Could we learn anymore about that than that? Yes, we can, because tohu and bohu are used together in some other passages of Scripture. Look at Jeremiah 4:23, this is very enlightening. Now, here is Jeremiah, and Jeremiah is really heartsick in the twenty-third chapter because he is, he’s really in pain. In verse 19, “My soul, my soul, I’m in anguish.” This is a painful period in Jeremiah’s life. “Oh my heart, my heart is pounding in me, I cannot be silent.” Why? “Because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war, disaster on disaster, for the whole land is devastated. Suddenly my tents are devastated, my curtains in an instant.” What’s happening here is the destruction of Judah; the destruction of Judah. And old Jeremiah borrows from Genesis 1 too, verse 23, “I looked on the earth and guess what, it was tohu and bohu. And I looked to the heavens, and they had no light.” He borrows the very language of Genesis to describe the condition of Judah under the devastating destruction that was brought upon it by its Gentile conqueror.
It further says, “I looked on the mountains and they were quaking, and the hills moved to and fro,” just total devastation. “I looked, and behold there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled, and I looked and behold, what was once a fruitful land had become an empty place.” There’s that word, a wilderness. “And all its cities were pulled down before the Lord for His fierce anger.”
You know what he’s seeing here? He’s seeing a land devastated by a foreign army, a land smoldering, burning, a land where the birds have fled away from the smoke and the devastation, a land where there’s nobody left, they’ve been slaughtered, or they’ve been taken into captivity. So tohu and bohu, Jeremiah helps us understand that. He borrows the language of Genesis to describe a wasted, devastated place without any inhabitants. It’s lost its former beauty. It doesn’t have any form. It doesn’t have any beauty. It is desolate and it is empty of inhabitants due to slaughter and flight.
The same phrase is used in Isaiah also, chapter 34 and verse 11. He talks about the judgment of God coming on the nations here. Isaiah speaking in verse 1 of 34, “O nations hear, listen, O peoples, let everybody in the earth hear, the Lord’s indignation is against the nations, His wrath,” and so he talks about the devastation that’s going to come when the judgment of God falls on the nations of the world. And in verse 11 he talks about some things that are going to happen to the animals and so forth, and then in verse 11, the middle of the verse, “He shall stretch over it the line of desolation,” the line of tohu, “and the plumb line of emptiness,” of bohu. It’s going to be a desolate place and it’s going to be empty of inhabitants.
Now, these words have to do with a waste place, a desolated place without inhabitants; devastation and depopulation, without shape and form, and without inhabitant. So when you see the words tohu and bohu in Genesis, it’s not some tricky technicality that you’re seeing there; it’s just the word for devastation and emptiness. It was a waste place and there was no life there. That’s exactly what it means. Maybe the best way to say it would be the earth was unfinished as to its shape, and unpopulated. That’s exactly what it means, and that’s understandable when day one started.
The material was there. There was time, and there was space, and there was matter, but it was unformed, and unpopulated. The original created elements mentioned in verse 1: time, in the beginning; the heavens, matter – or the heavens, space, and the earth – matter. God created them, God spoke them into existence; but yet they were undifferentiated, unseparated, unorganized, and uninhabited. God had not yet shaped them, and God had not populated the cosmos. So you have the raw materials mentioned in verse 1: time, space, matter. They are described, first of all, as unfinished as to shape, and unpopulated as to inhabitant.
Secondly, we further get a description. Verse 1 says, “Darkness was over the surface of the deep,” and the reason for that is that God hadn’t created light. And up to this point, throughout all of eternity there was no created light; no created light. Everything was darkness.
The earth then in this shapeless, to some degree, and in uninhabited form, is engulfed in total, absolute darkness. There was no light at all, darkness was spread over everything. That’s what it says, “over the surface of,” and it doesn’t say “the earth,” but of “the deep.” Well that’s interesting; that introduces another component here. What is this primordial deep?
Deep is a synonym used in Scripture for the sea; in fact, look later in verse 2. Darkness is over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was also moving over the surface of the waters, and here God through the Holy Spirit defines the deep as water. The word “deep” is used as a synonym for the sea. You can see that, for example, in Isaiah 51:9 and 10.
So what do we have here? We have the earth engulfed in darkness, which in touching the surface of the earth touches the surface of water. So the earth is covered with water. The entire surface of the earth is water; it’s a deep, it’s a sea, it’s a global, primordial ocean, surrounded by universal darkness. That is referred to also in Psalm 104, verses 5 and 6: He “established the earth upon its foundations…Thou didst cover it with the deep, as with a garment.” Like a cloak that covers you, the garment of the earth was water, and it says the waters were standing above the mountains. The unformed earth was literally covered with water.
In a sense, this is like a potter, who wishing to fashion a beautiful vessel and then to fill it to be used, first takes a lump of clay and places it on the wheel to mold and fit it to his purpose. So God first gets the raw material, and it is a mix of elements covered with water existing in universal darkness – this before He begins to shape it. And this, by the way, I think is what Peter, 2 Peter 3:5, meant: “The earth was formed out of water.” The earth was formed out of water, “and by water,” of course, that being the Flood.
Proverbs 8:27 says, “He drew a circle over the face of the deep.” First thing, the matter became spherical. So God had this ball of elements that would constitute the earth when He shaped it, engulfed in water.
And the third commentary on the state of the earth on day one is most notable: “The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” I love this word “moving,” it’s the word “hovering.” Hovering over this unformed and lifeless material, engulfed in water, and steeped in darkness, was hovering the Spirit of God, ruach elohim, God the Spirit. And this indicates superintending divine care and supervision. Job 33:4 says, “The ruach elohim,” the Spirit of God, “has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
This word “hovering” is a beautiful word. If you want to compare its use to give you an analogy, you can go to Deuteronomy 32:11, just write it down for the moment, and you will find there that it’s used to describe young eaglets in a nest, and young eaglets not capable of feeding themselves, not capable of defending themselves or fending for themselves. Unable to survive, unable to live, unable to develop and grow. utterly dependent on the care of parents who hover over them, providing food and protection and warmth, so they can survive, and live and grow and develop. And that’s precisely the imagery here, because the same Hebrew word is used of the Holy Spirit hovering over this undeveloped, unformed, lifeless mass of matter in space, covered by water, engulfed in darkness. And the Spirit of God is hovering over the surface of this earth, the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters.
Listen – that is a major detail in the creation account and not a minor one. It demonstrates, for one thing, that the biblical worldview of God is that He is directly involved in His creation. His hand is never lifted from the elements and the working of the material order. His presence is there superintending, hovering over that. This is the antithesis of this philosophical deism that says God is like the originator of the creation, He wound it up and then walked away from it, or theological dualism, which sees a gap between a good God and spirit and a bad world and matter. But rather you have the living God superintending, brooding over, hovering over the waters, being directly in charge of the entire process of creation. You go through the Bible, you will find that the Spirit of God is the source of all life. “By His Spirit He ordered the heavens,” it says in Job 26. Psalm 33, as we noted a week ago, “the breath of God is in me,” and many other Scriptures. “By the word of the heavens, by the word of the Lord,” rather, Psalm 33:6, “the heavens were made and all their hosts, and by the ruach of His mouth,” the Spirit of His mouth – and many other Scriptures. So the Spirit of God provides the energy to shape, and organize, and bring life; this is the work of God.
The first thing that happens creatively after the original material is in verse 3, day one. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Now, scientists can fuss, and fume, and fuddle, and muddle around for decades and centuries trying to figure out where light came from, and all you need is one verse. There was no light, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The one who is uncreated light brought into existence created light, the one according to 1 Timothy 6:16 who dwells in unapproachable light commanded created light to exist in the place where there was only darkness, and light came into existence.
Again, Douglas Kelly says, “The speaking into existence of the created light is the first of a series of three separations accomplished by the creator which were essential to making the chaos into a cosmos. On day one, light separates day and night. On day two, the firmament separates the upper waters from the earth, constituting an atmosphere or breathing space. On day three, the waters below the heavens are collected into seas, and thus separated from the dry land. These three separations show the mighty hand of God shaping and organizing the dark, watery mass in the direction of a beautiful garden, a fit and lovely dwelling place for plants, animals and mankind.”
And with the creation of light, there was established a cyclical succession of days and nights, periods of light and periods of darkness. As we shall see looking here in verse 5, He called the light day and He called the darkness night, and you have the cycle of night and day. That means the earth immediately began rotating on its axis, and there was a source of light on one side of the earth corresponding to the sun, which wasn’t created until later, and there was darkness on the other side of the earth as well. God created light and there was light, simply because God told it to exist. Or God, I guess like a man who came to arrange various things that were scattered in confusion in some dark room, before he does anything else, turns on the light.
In verse 4, “God saw that the light was good.” God saw that the light was good. Now, that statement gets repeated in verse 10, verse 12, verse 18, verse 21, verse 25 and verse 31. Everything that God created was good, right? Everything that God created was good. And the end of it, verse 31, He sums it up, “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Now, the works of the creator could only be good, so that doesn’t surprise us at all. Everything He made was good.
Now God – when God says it was good, that’s a pretty high standard. God Himself is the original standard of what is good, and He said it is good; it is good. The standard of goodness is not outside of Himself.
Long ago a man named Novatian captures this point in a third century statement on God. Listen to what he wrote in the third century, obviously translated into English: “What could you possibly say, then, that would be worthy of Him? He is more sublime than all sublimity, higher than all heights, deeper than all depth, clearer than all light, brighter than all brilliance, more splendid than all splendor, stronger than all strength, mightier than all might, more beautiful than all beauty, truer than all truth, more enduring than all endurance, greater than all majesty, more powerful than all power, richer than all riches, wiser than all wisdom, kinder than all kindness, better than all goodness, juster than all justice, more merciful than all mercy. Every kind of virtue must of necessity be less than He, who is the God and source of everything.” What a great statement.
The incomparable goodness of God demands that all light, dry land, seas, various kinds of animal life, everything there was, was good; was good. The reason it’s bad is not because of God, but because of the Fall, and the rebellion of man, the corruption of His totally good creation. But it started out good. And verse 4 says, “And God separated the light from the darkness.” That’s why Isaiah 45:7 says, “God is the one forming light and creating darkness.” This starts the cycle of days. He separates the light from the darkness. He created the light, but didn’t destroy the darkness. It was never His desire as the creator that there be perpetual light, not at all; but that both darkness and light would operate consecutively, and that was good. And that they would operate consecutively for given periods in an unchanging cyclical order. He made it so because it suited His creative plan. It suited His plan to have the earth revolving, to have light and to have dark.
And in verse 5 He gave them names. “He called the light day, and the darkness He called night.” And so it was, and so it has always been. Since the first day there has been light and there has been darkness. There has been day and there has been night. And that constant cycle of light and darkness, day and night, has defined the character of this universe and this earth since day one. And verse 5 says, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” When daylight passed, the period allotted to darkness came, and it was called evening; and when night passed, the period allotted to light came, and it was called morning; and with that comment, the Bible indicates the completion of the first day ever. And on that day what was created? Light. Light.
You say, “But how could there be light without the sun?” I don’t know. If it said so I would know. But you certainly don’t believe that God couldn’t create light, but could create the sun to give light.
That’s a pretty spectacular first day, isn’t it? Just in case something might think this was some evolutionary process, emphatically, says verse 5, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” That’s a literal translation of the Hebrew. Not one billion years, one day. One cycle of light and dark, evening and morning, and creation is launched. I can’t wait till we get to day two next week.
The English poet by the name of John Dryden with great imagination wrote a song for St. Cecilia’s day; he wrote it, I think, in about 1687. And this song, magnificent song about creation was later put to music by George Frederick Handel. I will leave the music aside and just read you the lyrics. This is what John Dryden wrote with great imagination about creation.
“When nature underneath a heap of jarring atoms lay, and could not heave her head, the tuneful voice was heard from high, ‘Arise, ye more than dead.’ Then cold and hot and moist and dry in order to their stations leap, and music’s power obey. From harmony, from heavenly harmony this universal frame began, from harmony to harmony through all the compass of the notes it ran, the diapason closing full in man. As from the power of sacred lays, the spheres began to move, and sung the great creator’s praise to all the blessed above. So when the last and dreadful hour this crumbling pageant shall devour, the trumpet shall be heard on high, the dead shall live, the living die, and music shall untune the sky.”
Brilliant stuff, but that’s how it’ll go. This glorious creation, corrupted by the Fall, will some day in its corruption find its uncreation, and then will be created a new heaven and a new earth, never forever to know corruption. We’ve lived here, and bless God, we’ll live there.
Father, we thank You for the power of Your Word, for its clarity. We thank You for this straightforward accounting of how it all started on day one, just a relatively few thousand years ago when You spoke light into existence, and took the first step toward the universe and the earth as we know it now. We give You all the praise. You are our creator. You have made everything that has been made and without You has nothing been made that is made. We thank You for creating, and for that purpose of creating in order that You might give man a world to live in, that You might choose from Him a bride for Your Son to bring to glory. We thank You for that great overwhelming purpose for creation. We thank You that You’ve made us a part of it. We’re filled with awe and praise, and we thank You for our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.