The First Things: The Days of Creation

If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to the very first chapter again, Genesis, chapter 1. One of the elders said to me, given the fact that we took two weeks to cover verses 1 and 2, that we were all going to be dead before I finished the book of Genesis. So we're going to see how far we can get tonight in Genesis 1, and we’ll pick up in verse 3.

What I'd like to do, Lord willing, is give you an overview of the creation days. There really is so much here that we could spend a tremendous amount of time in it. There was one professor of Old Testament at our seminary a few years ago who was very often assigned the course where he was to teach from Genesis to Joshua. As I recall the students told me he never got beyond Genesis 12. The entire term was spent in the first twelve chapters of Genesis. So bear with me. If even an Old Testament professor struggles like that, I struggle with attempting to do justice to this majestic passage. But if we could overview the days, the six days of creation, I think you’ll see some absolutely fantastic patterns which God has recorded for us in these revelations which have practical implications for how we live in the world today. Hear then, God's word, beginning in Genesis 1 and verse 3:

Genesis 1:3-31

Father, we thank You for this word, the word of truth. Bless it to our spiritual nourishment even as we attempt to unpack the grandest of mysteries, the creation of the world by Your hand and by Your word. We praise You, O God, for this creation which even in its fallen form takes our breath away. Help our breath now to be taken away by the sheer awesomeness of Your power and the goodness of Your will. We ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

The first two verses of Genesis brought us face to face with ultimate reality, the personal creator God of heaven and earth. The remainder of the chapter displays for us God's sovereignty in creation. Tonight I want to overview the content and the lessons of the six creation days. The next week I would like to look with you in an in-depth way at the sixth day. Since it is so important for what we understand about mankind.

Before we do so, we need to make at least one passing reference to the nature of the creation days because there has been a good deal of controversy in the last number of years, even in evangelical circles about the nature of these days. Let me say that historically the church has always viewed these days to be literal days, speaking of the same kind of days that you and I know about. But within the last 150 years, even within evangelical circles, there has been considerable difference and discussion about the nature of these days. In church history, prior to 150 years ago, you can name on one hand the folks who viewed these days other than literal days, other than six natural twenty-four hour days. Among them is the giant, Augustine. And some also include Aquinas in that group. Augustine, you remember, believed that the Apocrypha was scriptural. And there is a book in the Apocrypha called the Wisdom of Ben Sirak, often times called Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with the book of Ecclesiastes. In that book there is a phrase which asserts that God created the world instantaneously. And Augustine felt that it was his obligation to square the teaching of that apocryphal book with the scriptural account which spoke of creation being done in six days. And Augustine's response to the attempt to harmonize those two views was to argue that the world had been created instantaneously and that the six days were merely a literary device that the Lord had developed to explain the way that he had created the world. But I want you to note that that wasn't a pure literary theory. It was a desire to harmonize two views which he sought to be intention. Other than Augustine, everyone else has accepted these to be six literal days up until about 150 years ago or so.

And of course the reason that these new theories have proliferated is because of the advances of modern paleontology, modern human anthropology, or archeological anthropology that studies the origins of man, modern geology and the various other sciences. And the fact that since at least the time of Darwin, those who were geologists and other types of human sciences have believed that the world was very, very, very old. Millions and millions of years old and this did not seem to square with the account of the world being created in six days. And so evangelicals began to attempt to try and come up with some way to harmonize the accounts of the six days of creation with these vast ages which were being postulated by modern science. And there were various theories that came out, figurative interpretations of these days. First of all there was a theory, and this theory was held by a great hero of mine, Thomas Chalmers, who was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He came up with a theory called the Gap Theory. The Gap Theory postulated that there was a great vast stretch of time between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and some have even proliferated that theory to argue that there were even gaps between the days. That God created in a day and then there were millions of years and then He created another day. And that was an attempt to accommodate the days of Genesis 1 with modern theory. There are obvious weaknesses to that view and I won't go into them.

The second theory which was also popular is a theory called the Day- Age Theory. That is, basically, a theory that says the days of Genesis 1 are actually not twenty-four hour days, they are long ages or epochs and there was an attempt to accommodate those ages with the teaching of modern science. Of course the problem is the structure of the six Genesis days bears absolutely no relation to the account of the world that modern science gives. So even if you give vast ages to the six Genesis days, it does you absolutely no good in harmonizing them with modern science.

Once again, a well-meaning attempt to harmonize science and the scriptures and we can acknowledge it as a well-meaning attempt. Bible-believing people trying to harmonize it because they want all truth to harmonize with itself, both the truth of general revelation and special revelation. But it flops. It just doesn't work.

Then there has been more recently a view of the days called a Literary View of the days or a Literary Day Theory. The most prevalent view or form of this view is called the Framework Hypothesis. And people like Meredith Cline who has been a professor of Old Testament at Westminister Seminary, and Gordon Conwell Seminary has held to this kind of view. Basically, this view says that the days of Genesis are in fact literary. They are not referring to historical twenty-four hour days, they are a literary device designed by Moses, the author of the account, in order to express spiritual truth. Again, the problem with this view is there is absolutely no textural evidence whatsoever that Moses intended this account to be taken in any other way than in historical merit. There is no textural evidence. It's the same type of writing that you would find in any historical narrative in the Old Testament. And so the only way you can get to a framework view is by importing certain assumptions about how you approach the first eleven chapters of Genesis into the text, because there is nothing in the text itself to invite you to do that kind of literary work.

There is also a view that is similar to that known as the Revelatory Day theory, and that is that the days of Genesis don't refer to the reality of creation. It was, in fact, in six days that God revealed to Moses the way that the world was made. At any rate, these are the various views that are competing for our attention within the evangelical circles. And along side of that, I would say, is the older and probably still today the dominant view which is that these are six twenty-four hour days.

Let me say just one thing about these days as we approach this kind of issue, because there's a controversy even in our own denomination about these days right now. First of all, I would suggest that we need to beware accommodation to current scientific theory in our attempts to interpret Genesis 1. There's an old saying that says "He who marries the spirit of this age, will be a widow in the next." And there have been many good men who have wed their exegesis to current scientific theories and when those scientific theories were shown to be flawed their own exegesis, or their own interpretation of scripture, also went by and by. Secondly, let me say we should resist any tendency that undercuts the historical character of this passage. It is very clear throughout the scripture that the Bible takes the creation of the world seriously as a historical event. And if it's not a historical event, there is absolutely no spiritual comfort we can take from the things that are asserted in this passage. Thirdly, we should remember that when we are looking at the creation through the eyes of Moses, we are having to look at the creation through three massive barriers.

The first barrier is the barrier of Noah's flood. You don't have to be a brilliant scholar to read Genesis 6 through 9 and tell that something changed about the way the world works from before the time of Noah to after the time of Noah. And so the world before Noah and the world after Noah are different and it would be foolish of us to read the post-Noah world into the pre-Noah world. And I can't go into it any further than that. Perhaps some of your scientific colleagues can do that, but it's clear to me from that passage that there are things that are different about the world prior to Noah's flood than obtained today. The second barrier that we have to read the creation through is of course the fall. None of us can take off our glasses as fallen human beings and study Genesis 1. We all study Genesis 1 on this side of the fall. And we should not underestimate the impact of the fall on us in understanding an unfallen world. It's ultimately impossible for a fallen being to take in accurately and comprehensively the reality of the fallen world. Finally, remember that there is the barrier of the sixth day. When Moses was describing to us Abraham's meeting with God in Ur of the Chaldees, Moses was describing what a man heard from God. When Moses was describing the first five days of creation, he was describing something that no man ever saw. Moses is not only giving us a second-hand account of a human experience, he's giving us God's account of an experience that no human ever had when he tells us about the first five days. It would be very bold to assert that we know more about the nature of those days than does Moses. And Moses clearly thinks that there are days just like our days from his passage. All of that to say, I think in light of the current fads and theories, we are better to take the passage at face value. Moses intends us to believe that God created the world in six days. It's interesting to me that Augustine struggled with the idea that it took God six days. That just seemed too long. You know, it needed to be instantaneous. We’re on the other extreme. We think well now, it's billions and billions of years. We’re up there with Carl Sagan. We’re struggling in different directions but we're struggling with the same thing. Derek Kidner reminds us of something very important about this. One of the beautiful things - and by the way, Derek Kidner doesn't believe that these are six literal days. But at the end of his commentary on Genesis, he says this. "Because Moses tells us the creation of the world takes place in six days, it cuts creation down to size." In modern science because we believe that creation or the evolution of this world, according to modern science, took place over billions and billions of years, man is what? We are a blip on the screen. The prologue of the creation of the world that we live in now takes billions and billions of years and we're just a blip on the screen. We hardly factor in at all. It makes man what? Small and insignificant. By Moses conveying to us the fact that the creation is accomplished in six days, it cuts the creation down to size and brings focus on man as the crown of God's creation so that rather than man being a blip on the screen, God gives the prologue six days and then spends the rest of the Bible from Genesis 2 through Revelation 22 telling us about His redemption of man. Man is not an inconsequential blip on God's screen. You couldn't have a more radical contrast than the view of modern science and the view of the scripture with regard to man.

I. Christians should appreciate the significance of the total order/structure of creation.
Now having said all of that by way of introduction, let me just point your attention to the days themselves. You remember last week we said, or two weeks ago we said, the first three days show us God giving the world form. The last three days, the days four through six, show us God filling the world, bringing fullness to emptiness. And this impresses us with the fact that the creation itself is stamped with God's character.

II. God's sheer power is expressed in creation by fiat.
Look at the first day in verses 3 through 5. God's sheer power is expressed in this first day. God says, and it comes into being. You've heard the expression creation by divine fiat? That comes from the Latin word fiat and the first words in the Latin vulgate of this section of this day are fiat lux: Let there be light. God said light into being. Okay? This stresses the sheer power of God. By eight simple commands Moses says God spoke reality into being. It's an awesome thought. By eight words God spoke the entirety of the universe together. There is no question that God is bigger than this universe. He speaks it into being. He dwarfs this universe, whereas modern science gives us a universe that dwarfs us and God. Derek Kidner says, "This reality that God spoke the world into reality leaves no room for notions of a universe that is self-existent or a universe that is struggled for, or a universe that is random or a universe that is a divine emanation." We ourselves know what it is to attempt to order things. Generals attempt to order a battle. Mothers attempt to order a house, even with a toddler around. But we are frustrated by those things. God orders the creation and His ordering is sovereign and it is effectual. When He speaks order into being, it comes into being.

And I want you to note also that immediately on the first day there is an emphasis on the dividing of day and night. Look at verse 4. "God saw that the light was good and God separated the light from darkness." There is an immediate emphasis on division, on differentiation in the creation. Part of God's ordering of the creation is seen in His dividing or differentiating the creation. You’ll see that in verses 6 and 7 where he differentiates between the waters above and the waters below. You’ll also see it in verses 14 and 18 where he differentiates between the day and the night, the sun and the moon. And you’ll see this even about the Law in Leviticus, chapter 20, verse 25 where we see there the Lord again adding differentiation even into His Law. And so God makes distinctions and those distinctions, those divisions, those differentiations, are the way that He orders, the way that He structures His creation.

III. God transforms chaos to order by differentiation, division, distinction.
Look then at verses 6 through 8 and the second day. On that day God, we are told, transforms chaos to order by differentiating, by distinguishing, by dividing the waters above and the waters below. This day recounts the creation of the sky, that is the expanse, or heaven it is called. The separation of the heavenly waters from the earthly waters by the sky. Now I have no idea what he's talking about when he's talking about the heavenly waters. I have absolutely no idea. I've never seen heavenly waters, waters that are above the sky. But he speaks of God bringing a differentiation into the world, breaking apart, dividing the waters below from the waters above by the creation of the heavens, meaning the sky.

I want you to note also that already by the second day you see a six-part formula to each day and it repeats itself over and over. First of all there is an introductory word. "And God said" or "Then God said." Secondly, there is a creative word where God says, "Let there be," fill in the blank. Thirdly, there is a fulfillment word. "And it was so." Indicating that what God had spoken into being had in fact been created. Fourthly, there is a Lordship word, where God names the thing that He has created. And I want you to note at the very beginning of this narrative that God shows His Lordship in the naming of the things that He makes. That's very important when we come to the creation of man as well. Fifthly, there is a commending word in all but one of the days. And that commending word is, "and it was good." And even on the sixth day, "and it was very good," indicating that God's creation is essentially good. And then there's a concluding word which ends with a phrase that says, "and there was evening and there was morning" and then again fill in the blank, the first day, or the second day, or the third day. God transforms chaos into order by bringing this kind of structure and order into His creation.

IV. God is shown to be ultimately responsible for the earth's productive powers.
Notice then the third day. On verses 9 through 13 we see the description of God's formation of the seas and the land. And again, God is shown on this day to be ultimately responsible for the earth's productive powers. Beginning on this day, the third day, the emphasis shifts from God's ordering to God's filling the creation. But even in His filling of creation, His awesome power is seen. In this day we are told that He gives the earth power to reproduce. Notice in verse 11: "Let the earth sprout vegetation. Plants yielding seeds, fruit trees on earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them." Up to this point, apparently all of the creation has been special creation in the sense of God Himself immediately bringing it into being. Now He's going to use the earth itself to bring into being other things, like trees and plants and such. Even here though, we see that the earth's ability to produce things comes from God.

And so Moses makes it clear that unlike the people in his day who worshipped the earth, people in our day worship the earth, with the new age there are people out there that are worshipping mother earth. Moses makes it clear that mother earth in and of herself does not have the power to procreate. Only God gives the earth the power to bring into being other things. And so even in this word we see Moses showing God's sovereignty over the earth. On the fourth day we see that God is sovereign over the markers that order our lives. There the sun and the moon are created. And isn't it interesting? In Moses’ day the sun and moon were worshipped. People worshipped the sun and the moon. And you can understand why. The sun and the moon ordered the lives of everyone. There are no wonderful lights and electricity. When the sun went down that was it. Work was over for the day. Candle power was all you had. The sun and the moon ordered life. They ordered the seasons and so there were people who worshipped them. But again, in Genesis 1, verses 14 through 19 on the fourth day it's made clear that the sun and the moon are not God's to be worshipped. In fact, they are God's gift to us to order our lives. They are not powers over us. They’re simply markers. God uses three words. They are signs, they are for seasons and these signs and seasons are there to order and structure. They govern only in the sense of providing markers for us, not in the sense of being powers over us. They are signs, they are seasons and they separate the day from the night. My favorite phrase on the fourth day is the phrase, "He made the stars also." Only a sovereign God could make the stars also. We know how many billions of stars there are out there. And Haydn gets this just right, by the way, in The Creation. If you've ever sung Haydn's Creation, he goes on and on about the creation of the sun and the moon and you sing over and over and over about the creation of the sun and moon and the very last few bars of the song, "He made the stars also." And that's it. Now if I had made the stars, you’d be hearing about it from now until eternity. But God throws it off in a phrase. And by the way, the Hebrew uses only one word, "stars also." The sovereignty of God is displayed even in that phrase. In a few sentences Derek Kidner says, "The lie is given to a superstition as old as Babylon and as modern as the newspaper horoscope." There are always have been people that believe that the heavenly bodies control our lives.

V. God is sovereign over the most powerful of earthly forces - sea and sea-monsters.
The fourth day of creation teaches that God controls the heavenly bodies and they are simply His servants. They are not independent powers, vying for control over the world." The fifth day teaches us about the creation of the sea creatures out of the sea. And again it shows that God is sovereign over the most powerful earthly forces. The powerful sea creatures are only God's creation. The Babylonians believe that Tiamat, the god of the sea, existed before all the gods and vied against the gods of Babylon for control of the world. But there are no rival gods in the sea, according to the fifth day of Moses.

No, all the creatures of the sea are merely the creation of God. And it's also interesting what a reassuring thing this is. The sea is a terrifying force in the ancient world. It's still a terrifying force to us. You can't watch the news without seeing advertisement for this new apocalyptic movie about the end of the world when the asteroid hits the earth, and what's the scene that they show over and over to terrify you and try to rope you in? They show you a tidal wave higher than the Empire State Building coming in to swoop down and destroy whatever that is, New York City or something else like that. And it does. It absolutely scares you to look at that thing. The sea frightens us and this passage is telling us that everything that is in the sea is merely a creature of God. God is in absolute control over it.

It's also interesting that because the sea is not some sort of a rival god against the Lord, we can worship God at peace. The worshipper who believes that there are multiple gods can never be at peace because even while you’re worshipping one god, there may be other gods in the background plotting against you and your God. The worshipper can never be sure whether there is peace in serving God because there are always unknown quantities. But according to the fifth day, God created everything that's there. It's all His servant.

VI. God indicates that man is the pinnacle of His creation and vests him with His own image.
And then comes the sixth day. Genesis 1, 24 through 31 there again we see the distinction that all the creatures are created after their kind, but man is created after God's image, "In our image." The creatures after their kind. Man in our image. And again over and over in these days of creation, God's creation is characterized by distinction. He brings distinction between light and darkness, day and night, land and sea. He brings dominion. There is order in His creation. Man on the sixth day is placed over the creation as God's servant. There is diversity in God's creation. All manner of things are brought into being. There is dependability in God's creation. There are no rival Gods out there in God's creation lurking around the nearest tree to attack the believer and there is delight in God's creation. It is all pronounced very good. You cannot read the six days of creation and come away believing that the creation itself is evil, that matter is evil or even that the human body is evil. Everything that is brought into being by God in these six days are good and that is designed to teach us that the basic problem that we have is not that we are material beings or that we have bodies. The basic problem that we have will be talked about later and that is we have rebelled against God. It's not that we have bodies that is our problem. There's so many world religions that teach that. Our problem is to get out of the body. If we can just get out of the body, then we’ll be spiritual. That's not the view of Genesis at all because the body and matter and the creation itself are essentially good. That's a brief overview of what God does in the six days of creation. When we come back next time we’ll look specifically at the sixth day to see the lessons that are there for us. Let's look to the Lord in prayer.

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for the truth of Your word. We thank You that it stands firm even against the slanders and the misunderstandings of men. We pray that You would apply it to our hearts that we might have trust in You and You would enlighten us even as we continue to study it. May we ponder the truth of this great chapter more and more for in it are the very foundations of our faith. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.



© First Presbyterian Church.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.