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In the Beginning God Created! - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Genesis 1

  • 2005-04-17 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons


Well it's our great joy tonight to return to Genesis 1 and to the amazing creative power of our great God. Charles Boyle was the fourth Earl of Orrery, Orrery, excuse me. I'll get the pronunciation right, it's O-R-R-E-R-Y, Orrery, my wife's going to laugh at me now, Orrery. Orrery would be a better pronunciation. Charles Boyle was a devoted Christian and a brilliant thinker. He hired a watchmaker to create a working, moving model of our solar system. It's still called by the name that I cannot pronounce. As the story goes, Charles Boyle showed the model to a scientist, an acquaintance of his who was also an atheist. The scientist was very impressed. He inquired as to who had made this moving, working model of the solar system. Boyle responded, "No one did, it just happened."

There's a principle in philosophy named after Boyle's observation. It's a theorem that says if the model of a system, if the model of a system requires intelligent design, then the system itself requires at least as much intelligence. For example, when you see a child's simple drawing, what conclusions do you reach about its creator? Obviously, that it was a very young child or someone pretending to draw like a young child.

But what happens if you examine a much more complex creation like the space shuttle for example? The complexity of the system displays the intelligence of the designer. We are examining the universe itself, and there is no more complex system in existence. Therefore, its creation demands the greatest mind in existence, and of course it's the infinite mind of our omnipotent God.

We're looking at this great chapter in Genesis 1. Let me just remind you of the key issue, and that is, we're looking at literal 24-hour days as we skim through this great chapter for a number of reasons. It's the most common use of the Hebrew word for day. In Exodus 20:11, it says God created in six days. And when it's used in the plural like this in the Old Testament, it always refers to ordinary days. Morning and evening indicates a literal day night cycle throughout the Old Testament without an exception. The Hebrew word for day, "yom", with a cardinal number never refers to anything but a literal day, in other words, first day, second day, third day - always literal days. The same language is used for the first three days as the last four days. We know that after the sun is created we're talking about solar days. And so there's no reason to believe the first three are any different.

Hebrew has a word if Moses had intended to say "age" or indefinite period of time. Hebrew has such a word, and he chose not to use it, but to use the word that would most naturally be understood as a literal day. And finally, God uses the creative week as a pattern of man's cycle of work and rest.

And so we're talking about six days, six days very much like you and I experience, but six dramatic days at the beginning of time. The only eyewitness was God Himself, and in Genesis 1, we're getting a historical account of what happened during the world's first week.

Last time we examined the events of the first two days, and let me just remind you what we discovered. Day one, in verses 1 - 5, we saw that God created time, space, matter and light. God spoke these things into existence on day one. Henry Morris in his great commentary The Genesis Record writes, "Genesis 1:1 can legitimately and incisively be paraphrased as following: The transcendent, omnipotent Godhead called into existence the space mass time universe."

In verse 2 of Genesis 1, we discover that the entire planet at this time on day one was covered by a vast, primordial ocean. And this formless, empty, global ocean was shrouded in absolute, total, black darkness. But in verse 3, God speaks into existence not light holders, but light itself. In verse 4, He separates the light from the darkness. How did He do that? Verse 5 explains. God calls the light day and the darkness night. That's how He separated light and darkness. He assigned each to a different part of the day. The creation of light began the measurement of time by the passing of day and night. This is all day one, one literal day.

Day two, we discovered God created a breathable atmosphere around the earth. There's already day and night, but the entire earth is one great ocean. And God, between the waters below as they're called and the waters above, created something the Bible calls an expanse. We discovered that in the original language, that implies a thin, protective layer that's best understood as the earth's breathable atmosphere. In verse 8, God calls this expanse heaven. So on the second day, God made an expanse of breathable gases between the water below and the water above so that this earth could sustain life.

That brings us to where we left off last time, and that is day three. As day three begins, the world is still a vast, shoreless ocean. And as this day begins, it begins with a third act of division. You remember on day one, God divided the light and the darkness. On day two, He divided the waters below from the waters above. And on day three, He divides the dry land from the seas. God again speaks, notice verse 9, "Then God said, 'Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear'; and it was so."

So on day three, God separates water from dry land. Again, notice God speaks by divine "theot". He says let the waters below the heaven be gathered into one place. And then a moment of time - the waters that completely inundate the entire surface of the earth at this point gather into their own place. In other words, God assigns a specific place for the seas. This is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, but the one I love is in Job. Turn to Job 38. Job of course, the events of Job described some of the earliest events in record in the Bible. Job 38:8, the Lord is speaking to Job you remember out of the whirlwind and He says this.

"… who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop'?"

You know, just recently we had demonstrated for us the power, that's the immense power that's contained in the ocean as we saw those tsunamis, just a little bit of water come inland on those coastal areas over in Asia. But God, by speaking the word, gathered all of the oceans into their place, the place that He had assigned for them.

And He said, "Let the dry land appear; and it was so." There are two miracles of creation here. The first is the jutting up of the land from beneath the surface of this global ocean, and the second is that the land was apparently immediately dry. In a moment of time, the land that had for two days been covered by a great ocean with the violence of a swimmer forcing his way to the surface of the water, thrusts itself toward the sky. Dry land appears.

What was the shape of the land? Well it may have been a single continent. Many geologists have concluded that the existing continents were once a single massive land mass that broke apart. Some believe that those were broken apart at the time of the flood, but it may also have been that a number of continents burst out of the water. Notice that in verse 9, excuse me verse 10, God called the gathering of the waters "seas". Notice the word "seas" is plural. That suggests that the water was contained in several distinct, but interconnected basins, just as they are today.

You know, the ocean is really a remarkable thing. We don't understand much about it even today. More than seventy percent of the surface of the earth is ocean. And the earth's oceans contain ninety-seven percent of all the water that's on the earth, and most of the rest of that is contained in the ice in the icecaps. The encyclopedia says, "the sea helps keep the earth's climate healthful by regulating the air temperature and by supplying the moisture for rainfall. If there were no ocean, life could not exist on our planet."

And God spoke the world with its sea into existence, and on this great day three, He speaks and the dry land juts up from beneath the ocean. Whatever this land mass looked like, it was probably different than today because of the trauma of the flood and all that it would have caused. Notice verse 10, "God [caused the], called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good."

Still on the same day, notice what happens in verse 11.

Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.

That phrase in verse 11, "let the earth sprout vegetation", is sort of a general summary. All vegetation appeared. You'll notice that he uses three nouns – vegetation, plants and trees. Some such as Henry Morris have seen these as the three main categories of plant life. They say the first is grass, that is, all spreading, ground covering vegetation. The second is herbs, or bushes and shrubs. And the third is trees, all woody plants including fruit-bearing trees.

But I don't think that's the best way to see this and nor did the translators of the New American Standard. The verb and the first noun seem to refer to vegetation generally. Literally, we could translate it this way, "Let the earth vegetate with vegetation." It's just a general summary of God's command. Then the next two nouns provide two comprehensive categories of all vegetation upon the earth. They're plants and trees. The reason I think this is so is when this recurs in verses 29 and 30, he only mentions these two categories - plants and trees.

I want you to notice though, and I've read those verses, verses 11 - 13, the emphasis on the fact that all plants and trees produce after their kind. Ten times in Genesis 1 that phrase occurs, after its kind, after their kind. Now, we don't know exactly the significance of the expression kind. It's certainly not identical to the man-made classification systems that we have today, but what it clearly means is that each kind, whatever kind meant or means, it only reproduced after its kind. No species had the capacity to become a different kind, which is absolutely contradictory to modern evolutionary theory, a macroevolution theory that says one species can become over time through adaptation a different species, as if Moses through the inspiration of the Spirit anticipated that.

Notice that every plant and every tree was created with its own unique seed. Each seed was preprogrammed with its own DNA, with its own genetic building instructions. And it reproduces, and it still does today, after its kind. You plant a crabapple tree in your backyard and you don't get a pear tree, you get a crabapple tree. And from the seeds that fall from whatever you plant, you get the same kind of plant. That's how God created it originally.

Macarthur in his book The Battle for the Beginning says,

Of all the days of Genesis 1, this third day brought about the most dramatic changes in the way the earth looked. At the beginning of the day, the face of the earth was covered with water. By the end of the day, it was a paradise of green-covered earth decorated with all hues of various flowers and trees set in the midst of a spectacular blue ocean. No wonder God saw that it was good. [That's day three.]

That brings us to one of my favorite days, day four. God created the luminaries - the sun, the moon, and the stars. You know there's a very interesting parallel when you compare the first three days of creation with the second three. Day one, you remember light was one of the things created. Day two, you had the atmosphere and the sea. And day three, you had the dry land. When you look at the next days: 4, 5, and 6, they basically correspond to these days. Day four, you have the luminaries. That light is now going to be contained in light-giving or light-reflecting fixtures. Day five, you have the atmosphere peopled with birds, and you have the sea peopled with fish. Day three was the dry land, so day six you have land creatures and man. God is first forming then filling the earth that He created.

In terms of sheer magnitude, the acts of day four are by far the most spectacular. The other five days seem to be confined for the most part to the planet on which we live. But on day four, God spoke into existence all the planets and stars that exist in the universe. Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host." This is absolutely mindboggling, and I hope to give you a sense of just how awed you should be every time you look up into the night sky or every time you see the sun during the day.

Notice verse 14, day four now.

… [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 for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. [Now notice here we have lights, literally light-bearers or luminaries. And notice that He assigned these luminaries three purposes. You see them repeated twice.] In verse 15, you see they're to give light. In verse 16, they're to divide the day from the night. And in verse 14, we're told they're to serve as signs or signals. Of what? Well, the determination of years, seasons, and days. Verse 16, God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.

Here in this verse, Moses divides the heavens into two groups. Two great lights, that is, those that appear the largest to us and have the most influence on the light, day night cycles and seasons that influence our lives, and then all the others, those that appear small to us, the stars also. Let's take a look at these two great lights. I'm always fascinated by looking into the heavens, and I trust you will be too as we consider exactly what God did.

Take, for example, the moon that God says is there to give light and to govern the night. The moon is about a quarter the size of the earth. If it were placed on the U.S., it would extend from San Francisco to Cleveland. The same side of the moon constantly faces the earth, and if you could be on the side facing the sun or the side away from the sun, you would find that the surface temperature of the moon varies widely. In the sunlight, it can be as hot as 215 degrees Fahrenheit. In the darkness, on the dark side of the moon, it can be as cold as minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit.

The moon completes a full orbit around the earth in 27 days, 7 hours and 43 minutes - always, always the same. It travels at 2,300 miles per hour. And in a month's time, it travels almost 1.5 million miles, every month that you and I live. It has virtually no atmosphere. On its surface, if you're standing facing the sun, the sky appears black.

And of course, the key issue with our moon is the tides. Our tides are produced by the moon's gravitational pull. The earth, with the gravitational pull of the moon, bulges both toward and away from the moon. So the side that faces the moon directly and the opposite side bulge at that point produces the high tides, high tides in alignment with the moon on both sides of the earth. And as the earth rotates, those bulges move across the surface of the earth, and that's why in a day's time, you have two high tides and two low tides. What a magnificent vessel, reflecting the brilliance of the sun, the lesser of the two great lights that determine our lives, that govern our lives by God's omnipotent power.

The second great light is our sun. You can see here the size of the sun relative to the earth. It's absolutely staggering to think how large the sun is. The sun is 93 million miles away from the earth. That means it takes the sun's light, travelling at 186,000 miles a second, eight and a half minutes to reach the earth. So the light of the sun that you see at any moment actually left the sun eight and a half minutes before. If the sun was the size of a bowling ball, the earth would be the side of a poppy seed. Two great lights, determined by God to give light to separate the night from the day and to govern the change of days and seasons and years.

What amazes me back in the Genesis account is at the end of verse 16, Moses just throws in something that's almost a throwaway phrase. He says "and He made the stars also." You know, I think it's fascinating when you think about that. So many of the pagan religions worship the stars as gods and it's almost like Moses wants to say listen, the stars are no big deal, God made them too. But the stars are absolutely incredible to contemplate.

The earth revolves around our sun. In fact, the earth as we stand here today, is hurling through space at the speed of 66,000 miles an hour. Every moment of every day of our lives, the earth is hurling through space at 66,000 miles an hour. For the earth to complete its complete rotation around the sun takes 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 9.54 seconds. No wonder we have so much trouble with our calendar.

Our sun, and our entire solar system, is on the outskirts of what scientists call the Milky Way galaxy, and is constantly (our solar system, not only are we rotating around the sun, but our entire solar system is) rotating around the galaxy. We're on the outer bands of the Milky Way galaxy hurling, as I said, through space.

Astronomers have calculated that as the sun and our solar system orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy, it would take the solar system about 226 million years to complete a single orbit of the Milky Way's galactic center. And our entire galaxy is also hurling through space. Just the Milky Way galaxy that we're a small fraction of a part of may contain 100 billion stars it has been estimated. Studies of distance space with optical and radio telescopes indicate that there may be 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, 100 billion galaxies like the galaxy that we're a part of.

Some estimates of the number of stars, and this is obviously somebody's wild guess, is 10 billion trillion. Our sun is the nearest star to earth, but you need to know that our sun is a medium size star. The largest stars have a diameter of about a billion miles is what some scientists have estimated, a diameter of close to a billion miles, a thousand times bigger than our sun. And in one day with one breath, our God spoke every single one into existence.

The sheer magnitude of the universe is staggering. In fact, it's led some to say that the universe must be billions of years old because we see the light from stars that are billions of light years away, and it would've taken that light those billions of years to have reached the earth. That's not really a problem for the God who spoke them into existence in a moment. He could have very easily at the same time created the light stream to span the distance. Amazing.

God intends that we be amazed and that we be staggered by the monumental creation that in a single day He spoke into existence. I urged you last week, and I urge you again this week as you go outside tonight, if the clouds don't prohibit you seeing the stars, you go out and you look up in the sky. You get some feel for the magnitude of God's creative power that in a single moment, one day at the beginning of time, He spoke it all into existence.

I want us to turn to one passage that specifically draws application for us. Turn to Isaiah 40. Isaiah 40, let's begin in verse 12. In verse 11, we're told that God is going to gather His flock into His arms like lambs and carry them in His bosom, but just in case we mistake this gentle Shepherd for lacking in power, Isaiah turns and begins to concentrate on the incredible power of our God. Notice what he says in verse 12. This God who's going to carry us like a shepherd in His arms is the very One

Who … measured [out] the waters in the hollow of His hand. … [He] measured the oceans in the hollow of His hand, … [He] marked off the heavens by the span, … [He] calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and … [He] weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales. Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD? [These are obviously a series of questions intended to be rhetorical. Obviously, no one but God has done this.] Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? … who taught Him in the path of justice and taught him knowledge and informed him of the way of understanding?" [And again, God wants His people to get some idea of His sheer force and immensity. And so, He compares Himself to the gods of the nations around them, the gods of the nations around them of course are confined to some little temple, confined to some statue standing in that temple.] And God says to, He says with whom will you compare Me?

"Behold, the nations are like a drop from the bucket, … [they] are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; (verse 15) Behold, He lifts them up as the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering." [Listen, you can't give God anything He needs, and if you were trying to give Him something, you couldn't manage the sheer size of what would be required. All the nations are as nothing before Him. They're regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless, void.]

"To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering Selects a tree that['s] … not [going to] rot; He … [prepares] for himself a skillful craftsman To prepare an idol that will not totter," [it won't fall over]. How ridiculous to compare the omnipotent God of the universe with some man-made statue!

"Do you not know [verse 21]? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?" [We're talking about the One] "… who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, … spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He … reduces rulers to nothing, … [He] makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, Scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, But He merely blows on them, and they wither, And the storm carries them away like stubble. "To whom then [God says], will you liken Me that I should be his equal?"

And here we go, watch verse 26, God says listen, you want to know what I'm like? You want to get some sense of My power?

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads [them forth leads] forth their host by number, [watch this], and He calls them all by name; [Ten billion trillion, and He has a name for every one of them.] Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one … is missing. [In other words, nothing happens to a single star in the vast reaches of the universe outside of the management of God Himself.]

So what's the practical application of this for us? Isaiah's got it, look at the next verse. So "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God"? [You ever been tempted to say similar words to God? You ever been tempted to say, "where's God"? I mean, how could this happen to me? And what's going on in my life? And what's God doing? This isn't fair, this isn't right, the justice due me is escaping the notice of God. How could He treat me like this? I mean look at how I've served Him faithfully, look at what I've done for Him, look at who I am? This is what the children of Israel were, how they were responding.]

Verse 28, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. [And] His understanding is inscrutable." [Listen folks. Look around you, look at the creation, look at the power of God displayed. Look at the stars that, not a single one has anything happened outside of His omnipotent control. And get a grip, He's in charge of your life too. He's still God, He's still in control. Nothing happens in your life outside of His control, and you can trust Him.]

Not only can you trust Him, but notice in verse 29, I'm sorry the end of verse 28, "His understanding is inscrutable." [Listen, God has a plan, and it's the best plan. You may never be able to understand it, I may never be able to understand it, but the God who planned the universe, the God who spoke it into existence has a plan.]

Verse 29, and "He gives strength…." Think about this, the God who manages the universe, the God who spoke on day four and the sun and the moon and the entire universe of stars was created – that God gives strength to the weary. "And to Him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble bad[ly], yet those who wait for the LORD …" this is a favorite Old Testament expression, to wait for the LORD, what does that mean? It means you do everything you're supposed to do, you fulfill all the obligations Scripture lays on you, and then you wait for God to act. You anticipate God to do what He said He would do. You wait for Him. You do everything you're supposed to do, this isn't a call for laziness. But there are times when we exhaust the end of our resources, and there's nothing else we can do, and we wait. We wait for God to act.

And those who do, "Will gain new strength …", I love this. They will gain new strength, literally they will exchange their strength. This is, I've mentioned this before, this is one of the earliest lessons I had in Hebrew class. The expression is they will exchange their strength. In other words, you can trade in your weak, puny strength when you find yourself in the middle of circumstances you can't control, you don't know what to do, you're at the end of yourself, you can trade your weak strength, and you can see it transformed into the strength of the omnipotent Creator who in a moment spoke the universe into existence. "They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."

You know, I come back to this chapter time after time because it answers the issues of our lives so deeply. It speaks to the practical application of the power of God. And I trust the next time you're tempted to feel sorry for yourself, to doubt and distrust God and what is He doing, and why is this happening to me and my family, walk outside at night and look up at the stars and remember who it is you're dealing with.

Let's pray together.

Father, all we can do is fall down and worship You as we contemplate Your amazing power. Lord, it staggers our mind to think of the magnitude of this universe in which we live, and we don't really know all that's there, but just what we do know, just Lord what You enable us to see through telescopes and through investigation, boggles our minds. To think that we're wandering at 66,000 miles through space on this tiny speck of dust and that somehow for some reason we can never imagine, You chose to set Your love on us.

Lord, help us to trust You, help us to put our lives, our futures, our eternity in Your hand knowing that You are God and there is no one else.

I pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Systematic Theology