Genesis 1:11-13 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. 12 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. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
I really appreciated listening to John Caneday’s sermon on the feeding of the 5000. I specifically appreciated the way in which he helped us to see the much larger context of the passage.
It was also a pleasure to hear Pastor Mike and Kyle preach on different aspects of God’s heart and charge for his people regarding missions. One statement/truth/principle in particular stood out to me. It was from Kyle’s message last week. “If we lack love for God we will lack love for the people are missionaries are commissioned to evangelize and disciple. And if we lack love for the people are missionaries are commissioned to evangelize and disciple we will lack God-glorifying support for our missionaries.” I’m still not fully sure how that will end up changing my life, but I’m increasingly convinced that it will.
Kyle, missions team, we are really thankful for your long-term faithfulness in keeping missions in front of us. Our missions weeks don’t have a ton of lights and glitter—we don’t bring in big name speakers or raise thousands of dollars or have complicated programming. And yet they seem very much in line with the kind of steadiness and resolve that God-glorifying, long-term engagement in missions requires. We might not get 50 people to head to the Middle East right now (only to return broken and battered in a year or two), but we are far more likely in my opinion to have those we’ve sent and a number more over the years join them (for a lifetime of well-cared-for cross-cultural gospel engagement). It’s quite possible that you are planting seeds now that won’t reach full maturity until our kids are adults. You’re changing the air we breathe and that takes time to take full effect. Well done good and faithful servants.
Before bringing everyone back up to speed on Genesis I’d like to say one more thing in the way of introduction: you all are a strange bunch. As best as I can tell, the vast majority of those associated with Christianity in the U.S. today are interested in three things: 1) quick fixes to felt-needs, 2) a not-too-demanding means of gaining access to transcendent things like purpose, significance, hope, belonging, love and the like, and, of course, 3) conscience appeasement. In general it seems that people are not all that concerned with how they get these things (Jesus is, for some, the option de jure). It also seems that people in general are not all that concerned with living lives of consistency. As a result the typical spiritual diet often includes 1) feel-good bible passages bent to fit well into whatever else people may believe, and 2) highly-accessible sermons about already interesting things. I realize that this is an extremely broad generalization, but unfortunately it’s probably more true than not.
You all however are different. I’ve preached on some easier-to-swallow passages and books of the bible, but the ones I’ve gotten the most consistent and encouraging feedback from (stories of real conviction, repentance, and new obedience to King Jesus) seem to be the hardest passages and books. I started to notice this towards the beginning of Hosea and now it’s unmistakable at the beginning of Genesis. I know that I’m not the most charismatic person, gifted orator, or engaging preacher. I don’t have the mind of Lloyd Jones or the passion of Piper or the decades of faithfulness of MacArthur or the boom and engagement of Spurgeon. But in many ways lacking those gifts is a gift in itself. For in lacking them it’s easy for me to see that the draw to these texts and the change they are producing in you all is not a result of anything in me, but in the power of the word of God. Again, you’re all a strange bunch and I couldn’t be more thankful to God for it.
With all of that, let me pray and then officially welcome you back to Genesis.
GENESIS 1:1-10 IN REVIEW
So far in Genesis (1:1-10) we have seen that God created the heavens and the earth. Kids, who created the heavens and the earth? Who, then, is King of the heavens and the earth? If you pay attention, you’ll notice that as a theme in the creation account of Genesis.
We also saw that his original creation was formless, empty, and dark. God continued working, therefore, by ordering, filling, and illuminating his creation in order to make it habitable by man.
To that end, first came light. God declared that his own glory—the glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit—would produce visible, created light (for the sun, moon, and stars had not yet been made). 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 see God’s unmatched power to create, name, and assign purpose.
Kids, who made the light? Who, then, is King of light?
Then, on the second and third days, God began to form the now-illuminated-universe. 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. Kids, who made the sky and the seas and the dry land? Who, therefore, is king of the sky and the seas and the dry land?
Again, in all of this we see God moving the heavens and earth toward a condition suitable mankind. He was making a temple in which to dwell with his people; a place of provision and communion and worship. In all of these things we see God putting his power and might and purposes on display. In all of this we see God sovereignly moving the world toward a particular purpose. And in all of these things we see a God who is worthy of all our praise. We see a God who is greater than we could possibly imagine. We see a God who is King of all that has been made and is, therefore, entirely worthy of our obedience and allegiance.
And that brings us to another aspect of God’s third-day creative work. Look with me again at vs.11-13.
11 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. 12 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. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
I absolutely love the wisdom of God on display in this simple passage. The waters had been confined to certain divinely appointed places and therein space for plants and trees now existed. And yet, up to this point, no such plants and trees had been made. In our passage God worked to change that. He began to fill the earth.
Earlier in the day, in creating dry land, God made a place for things to grow. In this passage God created some of those things.
Let the Earth Sprout
11 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.”
For your worship, I want you to note a few things:
First, it was by his word—not by the sweat of his brow or the labor of his hands, but by his word—that God changed the world’s landscape yet again. God spoke and vegetation sprouted. Praise him for his power.
Second, there is a supernatural quickness implied in this creative act; a divine acceleration. This is not necessarily a comment on the age of the earth or the length of the Creation week, but it does seem to be a clear statement on the fact that (just like with mankind later) God was working in unusual ways at this point. Praise him for his limitless creativity and strength.
Third, the sun had not yet been created. Ordinarily, vegetation can only grow when there’s sufficient sunlight. And yet we must acknowledge that is only because God ordinarily commands them to do so. God is not bound by his ordinary means. He was the light of the plants and trees. He sustained them and provided them the photosynthetic energy that ordinarily comes from the sun. God is not bound by anything other than his good pleasure. Praise him for his unmatched glory.
Third, most scholars agree that in this context “vegetation” is a generic term made more specific by the following two types of vegetation: “plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed.” In other words, at first glance, Genesis 1:11 seems to suggest that three kinds of plants were created on the third day: vegetation, seed plants, and fruit trees. More likely, however, seed plants and fruit trees were created and collectively referred to as “vegetation”. Specifically, it seems that v.11 describes the creation of grain plants (literally “grains seeding seed”) and fruit trees (literally “trees fruitbearing fruit”). The significance of this is not yet apparent, but will be later in chapter 1, again in chapter 2, and then again in the functioning of the temple. For now, praise God for his foresight and perfect purposefulness.
Fourth, notice the supernatural and natural elements of God’s creation. Supernaturally, God spoke grain plants and fruit trees into existence. Naturally, God designed the plants and fruit trees to “self-perpetuate”. Even today these same supernatural and natural processes continue from this one word of God. I absolutely love the way Calvin captured this. “If therefore we inquire, how it happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually reproduced; no other cause will be found, but that God has once spoken, that is, has issued his eternal decree; and that the earth, and all things proceeding from it, yield obedience to the command of God, which they always hear” (Calvin, GC, 44). Praise God for his never-ending wisdom and work.
Finally, fifth, notice that God began to fill the earth by creating various vegetation “according to its kind”. In mentioning this, Moses made an important point in this passage and throughout the chapter of noting the divine nature of the distinctions and divisions within the various aspects of creation. For instance, “The different species of plant and animal life again bear testimony to God’s creative plan. The implication, though not stated, is clear: what God has distinguished and created distinct, man ought not to confuse (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9-11). Order, not chaos, is the hallmark of God’s activity. This chapter is as much concerned with the implications of God creating the world as with the how and why of creation. Modern readers tend to be preoccupied with scientific and historical questions about the origins of the world, whereas the OT in describing how our world came to be is at the same time suggesting a moral stance to be adopted toward the natural order. Things are the way they are because God made it so, and men and women should accept his decree” (Wenham, WBC, 21). In other words, God created the plants and divisions within the plants and so he is king of the plants and their divisions. Praise God for his sovereign rule and his invitation for us to come under it for our good and his glory.
Kids, who made the vegetation—the grain plants and fruit trees and the distinctions between them? Who, then, is king of the vegetation of the earth; who gets to tell us what they are, what they are for, how we are to relate to them and how they are to relate to us?
And it Was So, And it Was Good
All of this then leads us to vs.12-13 where the rhythm of creation continues.
And it was so. 12 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. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Again for your worship, notice that the creation mantra continues, “And God said…and it was so.” There is no delay and no push back. God spoke and all that he intended happened immediately. Praise God for his sovereignty.
And notice again the goodness of all that God made. There are no flaws or imperfections. There is no rebellion and there are no accidents. Nothing but what God intended was made and nothing he made was anything but good. Praise God for his efficient and unwavering goodness.
Finally, remember that all of this was, in part, intended by Moses to distinguish the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from the pagan gods of the surrounding nations. Thus, in the Genesis account “Fertility [is not the gift of the god of Baal. Rather, it] is a self-perpetuation process decreed by God, a created capacity from the true Lord of Life. There is no god Sea, just the seas that God controls. Vegetation does not result from some pagan god’s springtime ascendancy through depraved ritual. It results from the majestic Word of the sovereign Lord of creation” (Ross, CB, 110). Praise God for his uniqueness from and superiority above all other gods.
THE STRUCTURE OF GENESIS 1
Before I get to the conclusion, I want to say a quick word about the structure of Genesis 1 which will begin to become apparent in v.14. I mention this now only to prepare you well for what we’ll see in the coming weeks.
This is the simple structure:
|Day 1 – Light;
|Day 4 – Sun, Moon, and Stars;
|Day 2 – Sky and Seas;
|Day 5 – Birds and Fish;
Filling and Forming
|Day 3 – Land and Plants;
Forming and Filling
|Day 6 – Animals and People;
Filling and Forming
This is a simple structure, but in seeing it two things will happen. First, we will be better able to understand the meaning of Genesis 1. And second, by seeing its structure, we will be better able to appreciate the divine inspiration and intentionality of Genesis 1. What I mean is, in recognizing that God inspired not only the words of this chapter, but even its very form, it helps us to see that God is working in an intentional way to accomplish a particular purpose. Recognizing the structure helps us to see the divine finger print on all of this. If we have eyes to see, the parallels and the order together teach us that God had a special plan and place for mankind in the revelation of his glory.
God is the creator of all these things and so he is the king of all these things. Praise him, Grace.
For whatever reason—hopefully the result of a divinely imbedded tuning fork—I tend to experience awe most often in God’s creation. Being in the wilderness almost always brings me to a place of wonder, humility, and knowledge of the holy presence of God. In general, the more untamed, the greater effect.
Probably as a result of that, I love to imagine what it would have been like to be standing on earth while all of this was happening. And yet, because the author does not give us many details we may never know exactly what it was like at this point. Perhaps there will be a heavenly creation museum.
In the mean time, I have found the poetic language of different biblical scholars to be genuinely inspiring. In conclusion, I invite you to consider the words of one, “With the conclusion of the third day yet another color is added to God’s cosmos. To the basic white and black of day and night has been added the blue of sky and sea. Now the canvas is adorned with green. The golden-yellow sun and the reddish human being will [soon] complete this rainbow of colors” (Hamilton, NICOT, 126).
As you know, all of this would soon be washed out with the darkness of sin and death. But as you also know, a Son of Eve would later wash all of that clean with his blood. Jesus is even now working to reconcile those who would trust in him to the Father and restore all creation for his glory and our good. All authority on heaven and earth has been given to him by the Father. Over this kingdom he will rule forever and ever in perfect power and glory and goodness. Christian, rejoice and tell of this good news to anyone who will listen—God is king over all and invites you to join him in his kingdom. Non-Christian, repent and place your faith in Jesus today in order that you too might rejoice today as you are welcomed into the kingdom of God as full citizens, even as His very sons and daughters.