Day Four: Let There Be Lights

Genesis 1:14-19 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, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 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. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

INTRODUCTION

You may recall one of the first sermons I gave in Genesis. It was from 1:2-5, it was on the first day of creation, and it was called, “Let there Be Light”. On that day, God created the first light and it came from his own Triune glory. On this day, the day described in our passage, day four, God put that light into and onto the newly created sun and the moon. Why did God do this? Why add additional sources of light? And what do these things teach us about God and his plan for the world?

To answer these questions we’ll briefly review Genesis 1:1-13 and then consider from the text the unmatched authority of God, the specific act of creation described, the purposes of God in this act of creation, the plan of God inside of which day four fits, and then the goodness of all of this.

The main thing I hope we all take away from this passage is this: God made all that has been made and he made it all good. Therefore God is king of all that has been made and so we must order our entire lives—our thoughts, words, and deeds, our affections and priorities, and our relationships and interactions—accordingly.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit of God would illuminate (pun intended) this passage for us in order that we’d draw from it all that God means his people to have.

Genesis 1:1-13 in Review

Because we’ve had some larger gaps between Genesis sermons recently I’ve needed to give longer-than-normal reviews of what we’ve already covered. Lord willing, having just come off of the last Genesis sermon gap for a while, this will be the last such review for a while. That said, consider with me once again what has already happened in Genesis.

So far in Genesis (1:1) we have seen that God created the heavens and the earth. We saw that his original creation was formless, empty, and dark (1:2). God continued working, therefore, by ordering, filling, and illuminating his creation (1:1-13).

To that end, first came light (1:3-5). God created light and determined that it would initially shine forth from his own glory—the glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit. He said “let there be light,” and there was light; good light. What’s more, God gave names to the light (“day”) and the darkness (“night”). From all of this we first saw God’s unmatched power to create, name, and assign purpose.

Then, on the second and third days, God began to form the now-illuminated-universe (1:6-10). That is, he began to bring shape and distinction to the heavens and earth. Specifically, he made and named the sky, the dry land, and the gathered waters. To these things too he assigned purpose and value and limits and they were good.

And finally, we’ve seen that on the third day God also created some of the earth’s vegetation (1:11-13). Specifically, God made “plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit.” God sovereignly made distinctions between the different kinds of vegetation, according to their kind. And all of that was good.

Kids, who made the heavens and the earth? Who made the light? Who made the waters? Who made the sky and the dry land? Who made the earth’s vegetation? And so, kids, who is king of these things? Who gets to tell us what they are and what they are for? Of course “God” is the answer to every one of those questions. Let’s praise him for that.

And that brings us to this morning’s text and the fourth day of God’s creative work.

Day Four

On the fourth day we begin to notice the divinely-inspired structure of Genesis 1 (which I explained in my last Genesis sermon). There are parallels between the first and forth days (just as there are parallels between the second and fifth, and third and sixth days of creation) which we can’t miss. I imagine this will become plain soon. First, though, consider the familiar first three words of the passage and their familiar end.

And God Said

14 And God said… 15 And it was so.

Ahh, Grace, behold once again the power of God. For the fifth time we encounter the unmatched authority of God to speak something into existence out of nothing; to, merely by the power of his word, perfectly accomplish his creative and ordering purposes.

When we encounter the first phrase (“And God said”), it does not matter what follows, for the result will always be the same (“And it was so”). Nothing is more difficult for God than anything else. For him to command a universe to be born is no harder than to command a dead leaf to fall from a tree. For him to command the defeat of the greatest army on the planet is no more difficult than commanding a baby to give up his candy. For him to command the earth to split in two no more difficult than commanding a wet tissue to be torn in half. When God says, it will always be so.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing in a lesser God. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can stay God’s hand or that he can be tamed. Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting the awe and wonder and reverence and worship due to our God for this. For our God alone, when he speaks it will always be so.

Let there Be Lights

So what did God say this time? As I mentioned in the introduction, God had already said “Let there be light”. God had already created light; he had already brought it into existence. Here, though, as I mentioned a moment ago, the structure of the passage begins to surface as we find a parallel. In this passage God created new sources of light. What was singular has now become plural. “Let there be light” has become “Let there be lights.” God originally illuminated by creating light and causing it to flow from his own glory. Here he illuminates by creating objects in the sky and putting his light in them.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights…

What exactly were these lights? We’re told just a couple of verses later.

16 And God made the two great lights- the greater [which means larger and brighter in appearance] light to rule the day [which, again describing the appearance of things, means give light in the day] and the lesser light to rule the night- and the stars.

These lights, of course, are the sun, moon, and stars. In addition to light being an emanation of Triune glory, light would now come from heavenly fireballs (stars) and a huge celestial mirror (moon). God made these things and so they belong to them. They would “rule” but only according to the sovereign decree of God. All of this means, then, that they are not to be worshiped as many were in Moses’ day. “What folly it was to follow the astrological charts of the Babylonians or to look at the sun god of the Egyptians, thinking that the answers to destiny were there. Rather, Israel, [along with all of us] must trust in the personal God who created all these stars and planets by his Word and must give no credence or respect to the gods of the pagans” (Ross, CB, 111).

Kids, who made the stars and the moon? Who, then, is the king of the stars and the moon? Who gets to determine what they are? Who gets to determine what they are for? God alone made them and, therefore, God alone is king of them and gets to determine these things about them.

The Purpose of God

But why did God do this? What was God’s reason for this new work of created illumination? What were the purposes of the sun, moon, and stars? Why not simply continue to provide light from himself (as he will do again in the new heavens and earth)? In vs.14-15 we find three of God’s purposes for creating these new lights. Listen to that passage again and see if you can identify them.

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, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

Why did God make these new lights? According to this passage God did so in order to: (1) separate the day from the night, (2) identify signs, seasons, days, and years, and (3) give light to the earth. Let’s quickly consider what each of these mean.

First, God made the sun, moon, and stars in order to “separate the day from the night.” If you look back to v.4 you’ll see that he originally created light to separate darkness from light. Here we see that he created the heavenly luminaries as a means of continuing that separation as well as further clarifying the distinction (one light, the sun, signifies day and another, the moon, signifies night). We also see that here God created a natural means of accomplishing something he’d done supernaturally before. This mingling of natural and supernatural continues to be a significant theme in God’s creative work.

Second, God created the sun, moon, and stars to identify signs, seasons, days, and years (Lev. 23:4). What does that mean? It means that God had a purpose beyond the first moments of creation for these heavenly bodies. He declared here that the universe was not to be short-lived. He also declared here, which we’ll see in greater detail as we work through Genesis, that there would be a long-play rhythm of creation…which would include a weekly day of rest, recurring periods of worship, sacrifice, celebration, restoration, atonement, harvest, remembrance , and much more.

That much is clear…that through the rotation of the earth on its axis and its orbit around the sun, the world would know a rhythm of days, seasons, and years. But what signs is this referring to? In creating the heavenly bodies God was also creating instruments of awe. Through the sun, moon, and stars God would later cause the sun to stand still as a means of demonstrating his supremacy over every earthly army (Joshua 10:13), lead the magi to Jesus (Matthew 2:2), demonstrate the evil of the crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:45), and bring terror upon the earth during the time of the tribulation (Mark 13:25). These bodies that God made on day four of creation would be used until the end of time as signs of his power and might upon the earth.

And third, God created the lights in the sky to give light to the earth. This is what v.16 means when it describes the sun and moon as ruling over the day and night respectively. Simply put, God’s original light was for the entire universe; while this specific light—the light of the sun and moon—was meant to provide a particular light for the earth.

Beyond the immediate answers provided in this text, by creating light (first in v.3 and again here in v.14) God created an eternal observable means of teaching his people about sin and righteousness, life and death, good and evil. Because of these creative acts God determined that light will forever be attached to the glory, purity, and goodness of God, and that darkness will forever be attached to sins’ ugliness, lies, and evil. To this end, every time we see light we are meant to acknowledge God as God, marvel at his holiness, confess our sins, and believe in God’s promises of everlasting life in Jesus. God’s people wouldn’t understand all of this for many centuries to come, but it is here that God planted the seeds that the cross of Jesus brought to harvest.

Kids, who created the separation between day and night? Who created the signs, seasons, days, and years? Who attached light to the sun, moon, and stars? And who made light to represent glory, purity, and goodness? Who, then, is king of these things?

The Plan of God

So far from this passage we’ve considered the power of God to create as well as the specific lights-making act of God’s creation and his specific purposes for them. There are two more key ideas in this passage that I want to draw your attention to before we close. The first is something that I’ve mentioned before and something I’ll certainly mention again: Nothing God did in creation was accidental or random. Everything was according to his perfect plan. One small way in which we see this shows up back in the beginning of our first verse, v.14.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens…

The fact that God’s creation was according to God’s plan is seen in many ways. But I want to point out one in particular. It is perhaps one of the most simple. But it is also perhaps one of the most awe inspiring (for me at least). One way in which we can recognize the plan of God is through the subtle phrase, “in the expanse”. How so? How can we see the intentionality, the plan, of God in this phrase? Let me do my best to explain.

When I come to a passage like this my mind begins to kick into high gear. I begin to mentally gather everything I know about the world in which we live; how it works and how it all fits together. My mind begins to attempt to reverse engineer creation in order to try to make sense of what God did in the beginning. There once was nothing outside of the godhead. There was no time, no space, and no created thing. And then God determined, for his glory, to create; to make; to bring into existence. But how does one do that? Where do you begin? And how do you get from there to here?

One of the first things I think of is the fact that certain things are dependent on other things. That is, it is self-evidently true that certain things in creation cannot exist without other things. Indeed, the universe as we now know it is so finely tuned that in almost every case we can identify ways in which everything is dependent on something else. There is nothing in our universe that doesn’t need something outside of itself to survive. What’s more, there seems to be a necessary order within creation. Before leaves we need trees. Before trees we need dry earth, before dry earth we need an earth. You get the idea. And so my first attempt to make sense of things makes me wonder if God’s creation plan was to follow an exact order. Perhaps he simply numbered off everything he would make in a specific order and then got to work. In fact, that’s exactly what we have in the phrase “in the expanse”. That’s why I brought this up. For the sun to work (as God designed it), it needed an expanse. God needed to create the expanse (the sky) first, in order that the sun would have a place to hang. It fits. It’s neat. God’s plan in this is clear.

But here’s where it gets even better and even more worshipful (for me at least). It’s not that simple. While many things must be created in a particular order, other things are different. Many other things must exist simultaneously. That is, many created things are not only dependent on something else, but interdependent with something else. For instance, people need plants to convert carbon-dioxide into oxygen and plants need people to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. And so, perhaps, rather than 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc., God’s plan was more like 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6.

But here’s where it gets even better and more worshipful still. It’s not that simple either. God is not bound by any of this. For instance, we can see from v.4 that the original, created light was supernatural. Because it came directly from God it did not need a certain atmosphere or any of the other things sunlight needs. I love that because God designed us this way, we are able to recognize and even replicate some aspects of God’s plan. But I love even more that there are other aspects of God’s plan that are far too complicated, marvelous, and miraculous for us to grasp—is awesome.

Who planned out the creation of the universe, kids? Who, then, is king of the creation plan? Be amazed, Grace. Stand in fear and awe and obedience.

And it Was Good

The power of God, the specific creation of God, the purpose of God, and the plan of God. Finally, then, let’s consider one last aspect of this passage: the goodness of God’s creation.

In vs.14-15 we read of God’s decree that certain things would happen for God’s purposes. In vs. 16-18a we find out that God’s decrees were perfectly carried out; and it was truly so. That is, Moses tells us what God intended to do in the first two verses and then described the perfect completion of them in the next three.

The question confronting us once again is this: was it good? 14-18 tell us that what God intended came to pass, but what of it? Lots of things that I want to come to pass do in fact come to pass, but that doesn’t make them good. Lots of times we want things one day that we don’t the next. Lots of times we think that something will be good only to get it and find out that we’ve miscalculated. Lots of times things we think are good when we’re young, we realize were pretty foolish as we mature.

God made the sun, moon, and stars. He made them for his own purposes. And he made them according to his larger plan. But having done so, what was the verdict? It was, of course, the same verdict that always comes down upon the work of God.

And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day

I do not know of a period in Western history, since the rise of Christianity in its early centuries, in which society has worked as quickly and successfully to de-tether reality from God as ours is today. Our culture is working feverishly to understand the world around us apart from God. It is truly shocking how much success the powers of this age are having at redefining (in their own eyes) what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false, what things are and what they are not.

That, once again, is why I believe our time in Genesis is so critical. That, once again, is why I believe the right heading of Genesis is the phrase you’ve seen on the PowerPoint each week: Our Place in God’s Plan. We must, if we are to honor God by living in his world as it truly is, accept the words of the one who made this world as the one true authority concerning the world; and accept that they are good; truly good; really good. To take one step away from this is to take one step away from goodness, beauty, truth, and life. To step toward it, though, is to join the heavens in declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19).

CONCLUSION

In the introduction I said this: The main thing I hope we all take away from this passage is this: God made all that has been made and he made it good. Therefore God is king of all that has been made and so we must order our entire lives—our thoughts, words, and deeds, our affections and priorities, and our relationships and interactions—accordingly. Above all this means prayerfully, humbly, and continually measuring our lives against the truths we find here. It means asking ourselves whether or not this is how we’re looking at God and the world he made. To have understood this passage well, for this sermon to have landed well, means we are a bit closer to knowing how to do that.

And yet, to understand the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—well means understanding that we’ve already fallen short of this standard. And it means understanding that we do not possess the will or strength to do so. But knowing the gospel well also means knowing that there is One who has already done so perfectly on our behalf. There is One person alone who has completely and perfectly lived as the Father intended and that person is Jesus Christ. Let us look to him in faith, therefore, as our standard, sacrifice, and strength. Let us give ourselves to understanding the world as God has made it, living in light of it, and hoping in the grace of God for every part of it. We need both the knowledge of the will of God and the good news of the grace of God in Jesus, the true light of the world; the one in whom there is no darkness at all.