This may be one of the most controversial chapters in the entire Bible. It’s impossible for me to approach this book and this chapter with a clean and blank slate. Given all the hours, days, and weeks I’ve poured into study of the doctrine of Creation, my approach will be biased, taking into account the sum of the sermons I’ve listened to, the books I’ve read, and the debates I’ve watched. Billions of people before me have read these words, each in their own time and with limited natural revelation available to them. I am but one droplet in these primordial waters.
Whole books have been written on this chapter alone, but in the interest of brevity, I will only go where my mind takes me in the moment.
And God said, “Let there be light.” Genesis 1:3 ESV
This is one of the most amazing verses in the entire Bible. If you consider what/whom “God” actually is, this verse becomes so heavy with wonder, emotion, and the history of all created things. This verse is what separates God from everything else in existence. This great separation can only be crossed in one direction.
As a child, when hearing my dad preach from this passage, he would always emphasize that the original Hebrew packs more power than what we read in English. God said, “Light, be,” and light was.
And God said, let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. Genesis 1:14-15
I think of how many men and women throughout the ages peered into the night sky in absolute awe. I wonder what it must have looked like to the first humans, free of the smog and light pollution of modern cities.
Envision the clearest night sky you have ever seen, but then imagine that you are naked on the African Savannah, maybe near the mouth of a cave, careful not to venture too far, for fear of the sharp teeth that lurk in the darkness.
In this exposed and vulnerable world, you look up and see shooting stars 1 and comets. You see the brilliant neon glow of the Milky Way galaxy. You see the stars like gems, as they twinkle in varying colors, sometimes blue, and other times red or purple.
Imagine the dreams you would have about these celestial bodies, as your mind weaves stories together to make sense of it all.
With nothing but the heavens for light, naked, vulnerable, and in awe; every comet, every supernova, and every meteor shower must have had a meaning and evoked strong emotion.
Even today, hospitals inexplicably find themselves with more patients on a full moon, police officers find themselves responding to more calls.
As a married man, from my personal experience, the full moon has been my wingman. Maybe it’s hormones, maybe it’s tidal forces, or a combination of the two, but these heavenly bodies influence our biology.
It is no surprise then that early man saw signs and omens in everything, and that they worshipped these unexplained phenomena and personified them.
And God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars. Genesis 1:16 ESV
What is peculiar about the monotheistic and Abrahamic religions is that rather than persons, these “great lights” are called just that… lights (ma’owr in the original Hebrew); the same thing that radiates from “lamps” (niyr in Hebrew).
Verse sixteen draws a line between the creation and the Creator, in effect saying, “Don’t worship beauty, don’t worship majesty. Those things merely point to the invisible one who made them.” They are just lights, and they are not alive like the animals, man, and God.
This is distinction between creation and creator highlights an important facet of my approach to the Bible.
It is not a science textbook – especially the account of creation in Genesis Chapter One. You will not find the secret of gravity hidden in these words. You cannot infer the movement and position of the planets. You will not find a taxonomy of species, or anything that will assist you in scientific investigation.
The purpose of verse sixteen is not for you to figure out how the first three days could have happened if the sun, moon, and stars were created on the fourth day.
This book Genesis, and the collection of books we call the Holy Bible, is meant to introduce you to “God,” a word that doesn’t yet mean all that much only one chapter into the story. But hopefully, by the end of Genesis, we will have some inkling as to who or what God is.
So God created the great sea creatures and every kind of creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21 ESV
The word for “great sea creatures” in Hebrew is tanniyn, pronounced tan·nēn’, and it’s translated in the KJV as dragon (21x), serpent (3x), whale (3x), and sea monster (1x).
This verse sticks out a bit to me because unlike the writer of Genesis, I live in a time of submarines that have taken photographs of some of these sea monsters.
For millions of years, there they lay, living in absolute darkness, 5000 meters under the sea, all horns and scales and teeth. Many species are now gone forever, that human eyes will never see. Coming into being, and leaving just as quickly, in the pitch black.
But God saw them, and in his infinite wisdom thought it good to create them.
Meditate on that for a moment…that this creature is part of God’s divine will:
As a child, if I’d watched a cartoon with creatures that looked like that, my mother would have accused me of watching something Satanic and punished me.
Whenever I see one of those photographs, the first thing that comes to my mind is: God created that.
Whatever or whoever God is, he is wholly different from you and I. Which one of us would create one of these things and call it good?
I recall the words of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
He is God, he creates the billowing smoke of volcanoes and their incinerating pyroclastic flows. He is behind every lightning bolt and clap of thunder. He is not safe, but he is good.
* * *
Featured Image Photo Credit: Florian Breuer
Meteors burning up in earth’s upper atmosphere↩