Series: In the beginning... - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 8, 2017
This is what? The Torre di Pisa - The bell tower of the Cathedral of the City of Pisa. Otherwise known as... The leaning Tower of Pisa. 183 feet tall and 17 feet off vertical.
Anyone been there?
In 1990 - they closed the tower in order to stabilize it. In 2001, the tower was declared as stable and is expected to stand for another 300 years.
The renovation also included a safety barrier.
A long time ago - before they added the safety barrier - I wandered out onto the really slippery marble “13% slopping down away from you” side.
Actual photo. Very scary palm sweating experience.
Good foundations are crucial. Unless we want our life to become some kind of unstable death defying tourist trap.
Last Sunday we began looking at the first three chapters of Genesis.
Genesis is where God lays foundations for His creation. For us. “In the beginning…”
God’s power and authority in human history - the deity and authority of Jesus - God’s love and care for His creation - for us. Understanding our own existence and purpose and destiny is tied to understanding these first three chapters of Genesis. Genesis is foundational. It is bedrock for everything that comes next.
So, we’re marinating in Genesis chapters 1 to 3.
This morning we’ve come to chapter 1 - starting at verse 3. What are the 6 days of God creating and the one day of God resting.
At a museum they have... exhibits. Stuff displayed to help us understanding things. As we go through these verses we’re going to pause and look at each day as an exhibit. Take note of what can be seen there. And then process all that for when we head out of here.
Welcome to the museum. Exhibit One. Day One of Creation.
Let’s read together: 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. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
“And” ties us back to what we looked at last Sunday. Which is online if you were unable to be with us last Sunday. Briefly backfill…
In verse one we were introduced to THE one true God Who in the beginning - before which nothing except God existed - in the beginning God created out of nothing everything that exists. What is impressive in that it’s intricate and immeasurable - all of which displays the unprocessable awesomeness of Who God is.
In verse two we were introduced to the Holy Spirit hovering over one planet in the midst of all that vast intricate immeasurableness. One planet covered in water - in chaos and surrounded by darkness. Unformed. Uninhabited. And yet over that planet - this planet - God hovers - is intimately engaged with what He will do on that planet.
Here in verse 3 God takes what is without form and begins His work of fashioning all that into an inhabited planet useful for His purposes.
Day Three: God speaks and there’s light. God sees that light is good. Meaning it’s exactly what God was going for. Light is separated out of darkness. Light is called day. Darkness is called night. There’s and evening and a morning - Day One.
One of the great questions that gets raised when we talk about the days of creation is… how long? How long were the days? What exactly are we looking at here? Evening and morning - Day One. Are we looking at 24 hour solar days or long ages of time or a combination of all that?
At the center of the discussion is the Hebrew word for “day” which is “yom”. Let’s say that together: “yom”.
“Yom” is used at least 8 different ways in Scripture - some of which are not 24 hour solar days. For example: The Day of the Lord is not a specific 24 hour day or night but a time frame.
4 of those 8 different ways that “yom” gets used - 4 of those uses are here in just the first two chapters of Genesis. Sometimes in the same verse.
In 1:14 “yom” is used both as a 12 hour period of daylight as opposed to 12 hours of night. And - same verse - verse 14 - “yom” is used for a 24 hour solar day.
In 2:4 “yom” is the entire 6 day creative period.
So, here in verse 5 is “yom” describing 24 solar hours or an indefinite period of light on the first creative day?
Some really good people have spent a lot of grey matter thinking this through. There are at least four reasonably legitimate theories that people have come up with to answer the question: “How long were the days?”
Which are important for us - as students of Scripture - and as we go through these days - to be thinking about. What exactly are we looking at here?
Four Theories: How Long Were The Days?
First: The Literal Day Theory: Which says that each day was approximately 24 solar hours long.
Meaning if God wanted to create His creation with age and all of the mechanics in place to make it work from the “get go” and if God wanted to take just 24 solar hours or so, times 6, to do that - then God being THE God - THE Creator - then God can do whatever God wants to do.
The overwhelming use of “yom” in Scripture is for a literal 24 hour solar day so if the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense.
Second: The Day-Age Theory: Which says that each day was a long period of indefinite duration. Each day is seen as symbolic rather than a literal 24 hour solar day.
The idea here is an attempt to correlate the geologic ages as we currently understand them - what appear to be billions of years of process leading up to what we see today - to correlate these ages within the 6 days in Genesis 1.
Third: The Literal-Day-With-Gaps Theory: Which says that each day is a literal 24 hour solar day. But, each of these 24 hour “creative” days comes after an indefinite - probably really long period of time - in which the events previously described were completed.
Fourth: The Revelatory Day Theory: Which says that the days of creation are not actual days of creation at all but days of revelation which God is using to help us understand who He is as the God and creator of what exists.
How many of you see #1 - the literal day theory as representing where you’re at? #2 - Day-Age? #3? #4?
If you want my opinion - which you didn’t ask for - but you’re going to get anyway. I lean towards theory number one - 6 literal 24 hour solar days. But I have questions.
So, how long were the days? Well… we really don’t know. Does it matter? Well… Yes. But we need to be careful not to lose the forest for the trees.
(cartoon) “I just had a big debate with some evolution-pushing atheists and I hit ’em hard with the ‘What, Where, When, and How’ of creation!” “Did you tell them about the ‘Who’ of creation?”
God has preserved this account for us as an invitation to explore what He’s done so that we draw closer to Him. Even in the discussion about the length of days what God is intending for us to understand in all that is more about Who He is and what it means for us to live in relationship with God our creator.
Which we need to keep in mind as we move through these exhibits. Who and what the displays are helping us to understand.
Let’s move on to exhibit number two - Day Two. Read with me at verse 6: And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The Hebrews understood heaven as being one of three different places. Heaven meaning THE heaven - think angels and the throne room of God. Heaven #2 meaning everything outside of our atmosphere - uncountable stars and billions plus galaxies and beyond. Heaven #3 meaning what surrounds earth - atmosphere. What we’re looking at here.
God calls the expanse - the place where the clouds are - Heaven.
“Expanse” translates the Hebrew word “raqia” - which to the Hebrews was an extended surface - like a large flat plate. It’s like God slips this plate into the waters that are covering the earth - and then God raises the plate - lifting some water up and leaving some water down.
Water up “heaven” is atmosphere with humidity and clouds. Below is whatever water is left over covering the earth.
Evening and morning and we’re done with day two.
Next exhibit: Read with me at verse 9: And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
We get what we’re seeing here. Yes? Water below the expanse of heaven - atmosphere - becomes seas and oceans. Dry land appearing - continents and islands. Mountains and valleys - probably also rivers and lakes. All of which God pronounces as “good.”
Good meaning that it pleases God. It’s acceptable to Him.
Sometimes when we build things - or we got some kind of project around the house - when we finish and step back and look at what we’ve done we realize our limitations. Just saying.
What God is creating here is exactly what God wants to create.
God speaks again and there’s vegetation on the earth - plants and trees - that reproduce after their own kind with seeds and fruit.
Creation is no longer about inanimate things like dirt and water but about living things.
God is specific. Those things that are living reproduce - plants and trees - reproduce after their own kind.
“Kind” translates a Hebrew word that has the idea of that which resembles itself.
A tomato seed doesn’t reproduce a palm tree and voila suddenly we have a new species of living things. Tomatoes reproduce tomatoes that look like tomatoes because they are tomatoes and palm trees reproduce palm trees that look like palm trees because they are palm trees.
Again, we’re told that God looks at what He’s created and it’s good.
Evening and morning - end of the day three exhibit.
Next exhibit - verse 14: 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. 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. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
What it seems we’re being shown is God’s completing His work of creation of the heavens #2 - meaning space - sun, moon, stars. The emphasis here is on function. To separate is what each of these lights does.
Function number one is to provide signs.
Signs also has to do with faith and judgment and prophecy. Signs that point to what God is doing and call us to respond. Wise men being led by a star to Bethlehem and so on.
Function number two is to distinguish seasons, days, and years - seasonal changes. Changes that effect breeding and migration. What has a huge effect on agriculture and just about everything we humans do.
Function number three is to give light upon the earth. Light is essential for life.
To rule means that these light are up there functioning according to God’s authority - representing God and His purposes - having dominion - during the day or during the night.
God looks at what He’s created and says that it’s good - acceptable - pleasing. It all is exactly the way God desires for it to be.
Evening and morning - end of the Day Four exhibit.
Day Five - verse 20: And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living 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. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
God creates swarms of living creatures in the sea - small - large. God creates the birds in the heavens. Living creatures that reproduce after their own kinds. Fish reproduce fish. Birds reproduce birds.
What were being shown is not a process that happens over long periods of time. It happens on Day Five. Swarms and kinds are not small numbers of individual pairs. God creating only one pair of turtle doves to get things started.
God looks and says it’s all good. Absolute perfection - everything is exactly what God wanted to create.
God - through His blessing - communicates the capacity to reproduce in the extreme.
Meaning that by the end of Day Five the earth is a fully functioning ecosystem filled with vegetation and swarming with wildlife in the sea and in the air.
Evening and morning. End of exhibit five.
Let’s pause there.
This first part of the Day Six exhibit is a lot like Day Five - except now God is creating living creatures that lumber and creep over the earth.
Livestock - the wording in Hebrew - is domesticated animals - cows and camels and so on. And also it can mean larger animals as well.
Creeping things are the smaller land animals - which can include reptiles, insects, worms.
Beasts of the earth are freely roaming wild animals. Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my.
Reproduction is according to its kind.
Again we’re told that God saw that it was good. Everything God desired to create He created exactly as He desired to create it.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 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.
(cartoon) “The theory voted most likely to tick off everyone… ‘Oh, look, Honey, the Darwins are here. Better get another apple.’”
There are three main theories about how we all got here.
Theory Number One: Evolution.
Darwin theorized what? Generally speaking - and admittedly this is way oversimplifying what Darwin suggested - that the beginnings and development of what we see around us was all by a process of evolution - a process of division and mutation - that ultimately resulted in the variety of life we see around us today.
Meaning that all living organisms arose from one simple, living cell. The origin of that cell is traced to either a combination of chemical and protein elements or some crystal - all of which is based on the idea of spontaneous generation.
Theory Number Two: Theistic Evolution - assumes what science tells us about evolutionary geology and biology are both valid and authoritative and also that the Bible is the revealed Word of God. Meaning that Theistic Evolution is an attempt to harmonize the two - current scientific understanding and Scripture.
Meaning that God ordered and directed the evolutionary process - either by giving it an initial push and stepping back or after getting it started God is continuing to tweek it along the way.
Theory Number Three: Special Creation - asserts that God - through a series of supernatural acts - produced the earth and all the life forms on it - including Adam and family - in a relatively brief period of time - probably 6 literal 24 hour solar “yom” days - not ages or days with gaps.
Meaning that what we’re being shown here is not symbolic but historical - to be taken literally.
Which - understandably - some good people will object to. As there are objections to the other two theories.
We all need a dose of humility. God does not need to be constrained by our current understanding of geology and biology. Human scientific understanding is limited - changes - tends to be fallible. Our understanding of Scripture is in process.
However - what we’re being shown here is not a long process taking place over indefinite periods of time or God giving things an initial push and then maybe tweeking things along the way. What we’re being shown here is that God created life that reproduce themselves and only themselves. Period. We’re being shown God uniquely created man. Singular event not process.
The point of thinking through all that - how we got here - is to marinate more deeply on the astounding reality of what we’re being shown here about God and our relationship with Him.
God says, “Let Us make man in our image…”
Us is plural. Emphasis being that the entirety of the Triune God - Father, Son, Spirit - is purposefully engaged and represented in what is taking place here in a way that He is not engaged in in any of His other creative acts.
Man - male and female - is created in God’s own image and likeness. Meaning what?
Each of us is like God. We see. We hear. We feel. We reason. We choose. And yet, each of us is not like God. Man dies. God does not. Man is seen. God is not. Man is limited in our knowledge and power and so on. God is not.
Image means that somehow who we are represents Who God is. Likeness is more than physical. It’s spiritual - mental.
Our best understanding of that is this: Man uniquely bears the spiritual, intellectual, and moral likeness of God Who has created and breathed life into us.
God uniquely creates us in His image and likeness and then gives to us purpose. Be fruitful and multiply. Fill and subdue. Have Dominion.
Multiply - fill up the earth peoples. Bring the earth under subjection to your authority. Have dominion. “Top of the food chain baby!”
No other living creature is given that purpose. Mankind is unique.
Each of us as the image and likeness of God - Each of us and all of us are Gods’ representatives on His earth. We are stewards of His creation. The original environmentalists. Filling and multiplying and dominioning all to bring glory to the Triune God our creator. That’s what the image and likeness of God is uniquely created to do.
God looks at everything He’s created - the whole ecosystem and cosmos - all of what is living - including us - and our unique creation and relationship with Him and in this world as His representatives - and God says... “Behold, it was very good.”
Behold is a Hebrew word that means “wake up and smell the coffee.” “Very good” meaning abundant - exceedingly - immensely good.
Hang on to that. Mankind - each of us - you are not the product of random forces which somehow have developed complexity which may or may not have been tweeked by God along the way. You are a purposeful specific act of our Creator God who has made you to be in His image and given to you the unique role of bringing glory to Him. In God’s eyes you are very good.
Evening and morning. What? Evening and morning. End of Day Six.
Day Seven. Read with me at chapter 2: Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work that he had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.
Can you imagine not having anything left to do? Some of you are sitting here looking at me but your mind is on all the things you have to do this afternoon.
Exhibit Seven tells us that when God was finished He rested. Meaning that everything God had set out to do, He’d done. So, God rested. God didn’t rest because He was tired from all His creating. He rested because He was finished.
Exhibit Seven tells us that God blessed the Seventh Day and made holy. He set it apart as unique - because on that day God rested.
Day Seven is unique.
Day Seven begins unique. Except on Day One when we’re introduced to the Creation Narrative - and even then when God goes to work - every day of God’s creative work begins with “And God said...”
Day Seven begins with a description. We’re told that God is finished and that on the Seventh Day God rested.
Seven - used as a number in Scripture - identifies something as finished or complete. Rest translates the Hebrew word “Sabbath” - meaning to cease - desist - rest. Meaning stop.
Later on in history God is going to tie seventh day Sabbath rest to Jewish ceremonial Law. What will have deep meaning for His people. But here we’re being introduced to the roots of Sabbath rest as a because of God’s completed work.
Day Seven is unique in how it begins.
And Day Seven is unique in how it ends. Because it doesn’t.
And Day Seven is unique in relationship - who’s with God. Every living thing has been created. Including us - male and female - image of God - multiplying and dominioning - stewards of God - resting with God in His finished work.
We’re together? Rest is something that God’s creation - mankind included - we area created to experience with God forever. Resting with God in the goodness of God’s completed work.
Processing all that…
We know - because we live and breathe and do life - that that relationship of rest has been broken by our sin. We do not experience the goodness of what God has created and the relationship with Him that we are created for. Far from it.
There’s another finishing point in history. Yes?
John 19:30: When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
“It is finished” in Greek is actually only one word: “tetelestai” - which comes from the verb “teleo” - which has the idea of arriving at a goal - reaching the end. There is nothing more to be done.
Jesus’ statement is the summary of where history has been going. Jesus’ “tetelestai” is Jesus’ emphatic declaration that the debt of sin has been canceled - completely satisfied. That debt paid - Jesus willingly bowed His head and gave up His spirit. The work of the Son is finished.
The writer of Hebrews tells us: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods’ rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9,10)
Jesus is our Sabbath rest. The fulfillment of what the ceremonial Sabbath foreshadows. The restoration of what God opened up to us on Day Seven. (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Hebrews 4:9-11)
Jesus Who invites us: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Thinking about us. The problem is that way too often we struggle to believe that it really is finished. To see ourselves as God sees us - very good - being created His image - given great purpose - invited to rest in what He has done as our Creator and Savior.
So many times we’re walking around through our lives as if the debt hasn’t been paid. We’re thinking that God isn’t really pleased with us. That our relationship is still broken. That we’re still guilty and that somehow we have to do some incredible spiritual thing to please God.
We get caught up in thinking that we’re worthless and who really cares about us. We drag around with us the guilt for stuff we’ve done - our failures as parents and just plain people. The lies about ourselves that we’ve bought into. The anger that we can’t seem to let go of. The bitterness. The lust that keeps pulling us down.
Way too often we’re living defeated - depressed - unable to conquer what beats us down and tears us apart. Feeling abandoned and guilty and worthless. We come to end of ourselves and we’ve got nothing.
But, hear the word of Jesus - our Sabbath rest: “It is finished.”
The exhibits of creation point to Who God is - who we are - what it means to live in relationship with Him. Which isn’t about us.
Hear this - if you hear nothing else this morning - hear this: The only way to live life as we have been created to live life - as God’s image bearers - with God’s purpose - in relationship with Him - is to rest our lives in Him - to daily choose to trust in the sufficiency of His completed work.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.