Monthly Archives: March 2016

Light and Darkness

Studies in Genesis 1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face 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. (Gen 1:1-4 ESV)

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, there was darkness. From the words used in Genesis 1:1-4, creation was chaotic and dark. His first act after creating the heavens and the earth, while there was darkness, was to command the presence of light. From creating light He gave order to what was chaotic. Why would God not create with order?

We will use Scripture to understand what God is saying and implying in the first few chapters of Genesis. However, we will try to interpret the rest of Scripture based upon our understanding of Genesis, not Genesis based upon other Scripture. God uses words in Genesis to define what He has created. Thus, we are constrained to understand how the words are used in Genesis to understand how they are used in the rest of Scripture.

There are three words in Genesis 1:1-4 used also in Isaiah. They are “light,” “darkness” and “create,” which is used twice in this verse.  “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 ESV). “Darkness” is literally without light and figuratively means misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness. “Light” literally means illumination or the source of light or illumination. “Light” may also mean to learn, to know intellectually, to come to an understanding. “Create” is a verb and means to make. God created ex nihilo, out of nothing, all that is in the physical universe. He then formed from the stuff created all physical things.

I believe God set up creation in such a way as to help those created in His image to understand Him and the spiritual realm. He is not created but did create heaven or the spiritual world. Some of what we see in physical creation is a type, copy or illustration of a spiritual reality. We need to take care to not manufacture illustrations where there is none. Darkness and light have spiritual meaning as well as physical meaning

John tells us Jesus, the Word, created all there is in both the physical universe and in heaven, the spiritual realm. Only God, Himself, is uncreated.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Joh 1:1-5 ESV)

Darkness is not just a lack of light but a lack of order and understanding, that which is not conducive to life and growth. Light is not just illumination but knowledge and wisdom, intricate and defined order, that which encourages life. From the beginning of creation God worked according to a principle of love for and complete involvement in His creation throughout time and space, especially for those created in His image.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:13-17 ESV)

 

Separation

Studies in Genesis 1

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

We, in the Western world, think of evening as the end of the day and morning as the beginning. Yet, the Hebrew nation considered a day beginning at evening and ending the next evening. Passover, the Sabbath, special days, every day begins at dusk, or evening and concludes at the same time the following evening. Our question is not what meaning we place on the words “evening and morning” but how God uses the words during creation.

God uses this phrase six times in the first chapter of Genesis, almost as an exclamation for each successive day. Let us note He does not use the phrase in Genesis 2 for the end of the seventh day, the day of rest. He does not use this phrase anywhere else in Scripture with one possible exception. “The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now” (Daniel 8:26 ESV). This is a description of Daniel’s first vision of prophecy after his dreams and life illustrate his intimacy with God to an ungodly people.  This phrase speaks to what comes after Daniel in time. God worked in the past in creation, knowing the future because He knows all things.

What does God mean when He states six times “and there was evening and there was morning”? Perhaps, because He begins creation in chaos and darkness and ends the first day with the creation of light, He begins His “day” at dusk and ends His “day” with light. We know the word “evening” means dusk, or twilight, which implies some light before dark, which He calls “Night.”  We know “morning” is the beginning of a time of light, which He calls “Day.”  So we can state with some assurance that His “day,” evening and morning, are a period of time separating darkness and light.

During each “day” God creates specific things, building each new thing upon that which He previously created. During each period of time He calls a “day” He separates. Darkness from light. Water from water. Dry land from the seas. Day from night. Creatures of the seas from creatures of the air. Man from animals.

Evening is the end of a time of light while morning is the beginning of another time of light. In between evening and morning is a time of darkness called “night.”  Each of the periods of time God calls “day” ends with a period of time God calls “night” separating darkness from light and one period of time of creation from another.

Excellence of Creation

Studies in Genesis 1

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

God “saw everything he had made” and rendered judgment. “Saw” means to consider, advise, examine, study, to gaze upon for a time. “Everything” means the totality of all things. “Made” means the act of work to create and accomplish a specific, pre-planned task. From the tiniest atom to the greatest galaxy, from the largest animal to the smallest bacteria, God perceived everything He had made. Everything was first conceived in the mind of God then brought into existence through His creative power. This is His work.

Do not think of the “work” God does as what we are used to doing. God’s work is not something He does out of obligation or to fulfill a duty. His work is essential to His eternal character and being. It is what He does because it is who He is. When He created the physical universe, something out of nothing, it was according to an eternal plan which fit His eternal character.

After He examines and knows all He has done God renders judgment. “Behold, it was very good.”  “Behold” means to see but with the express intent of holding up for judgment and consideration. “Very” means vehemently, with the greatest stress and force. It is a mighty work, incomparable to anything else done by any other, lesser being. “Good” means pleasant and agreeable, excellent according to the highest measure and standard, rich and valuable. According to God’s judgment creation, all creation, meets God’s standard of excellence. There is no standard higher. Creation is perfect.

Perfect does not mean complete. Nor does God’s immutable character, that He is unchangeable, mean He does not act. God is complete and perfect, yet acts.

We must take care in the words used to not leave a wrong impression or lead in a wrong direction. We do not understand “perfect,” lowering to our own standards that which God has done. Even the most intelligent and creative, the cleverest and most passionate person, fails to measure up to God’s eternal standard. We will not know perfection or completion until we are in His presence. Until then we can only examine, study and maybe speculate about the beginnings of creation revealed in general revelation and accept His special revelation about His work and Himself.

General and Special Revelation

Studies in Genesis 1

And it was so. (Genesis 1:30 ESV)

God makes Himself known to those seeking to know Him. We must look at the evidence of God’s work in creation. More importantly, we must listen to what He says in Scripture.

God shows Himself in general and in special revelation. Revelation is an act of God where He partially shows Himself to those given the ability to see Him and to know, both intellectually and intimately, truth. However, He has hidden Himself because of sin, covering Himself in mystery. Yet all people, created in His image, are given the tools needed to know God. Sin does not destroy the given image of God but does corrupt the vessel containing the image. Man is corrupted, unwilling and unable to know Him but still having the image of God which drives them toward Him.

General revelation is God showing Himself through nature, history and the individual’s conscience. God’s creation shows His work and the intricacy and intelligence of His mind and heart. History shows the direction of God’s continued involvement in the lives of those He created in His image. Conscience directs the attention of the individual toward Him and His moral law. Yet, sin has corrupted Man’s desire to see God in nature, history and especially in conscience. We hate Him therefore we want to not see Him in anything.

In special revelation God speaks specific truths about Himself none could or would know unless He decides to tell. He reveals Himself and His eternal characteristics we could not otherwise know. He tells us about Himself though Scripture. Yet, there are many statements in Scripture which are not about Him but about creation, history and the individuals created in His image.

Genesis chapter one is special revelation. Had He said nothing we could surmise, from studying creation, God’s existence. God tells us creation operates according to the laws of nature He devised and put in place. Creation works the way He wants it to work. Our place is to study creation to know Him. We do not get to ignore the evidence of general revelation simply because it does not fit our idea of special revelation. Nor do we get to ignore special revelation because it does not seem to fit general revelation.

An illustration, even an imperfect illustration, is in order. An event happened in the mid-20th century known as the Holocaust. There is substantial evidence the Holocaust occurred and those who deny it happened are not viewed as having all their reasoning abilities in place. I lived in Europe in the 1960’s when I was a child, yet old enough to see and remember the evidence of what had happened 20 years earlier. I was not part of it but saw the evidence. I stood on the concrete slabs and peered into the ovens. I saw the pictures and read the words. You could say I was exposed to the general revelation of the Holocaust.

I know a man who, when he was a child, lived in the Lodz ghetto, went in a cattle car with a hundred others to Auschwitz where he and his father were separated and sent to Dachau. They were liberated and he came to the United States. He was there. I have helped him publish six books on the Holocaust. He and thousands of other survivors give first-hand accounts, special revelation, about the Holocaust. Will their first-hand accounts cease to have value or tell the truth after they are dead?

God does not die so His special revelation is of eternal consequence. God tells us about Himself because He only knows Himself. God tells us what happened in Genesis 1 because He only was there. We must carefully and prayerfully study His words and study creation. More important is our desire to know God intimately.