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“It Was Very Good”

Genesis 1:6-23
Bob DeGray
September 4, 2005

Key Sentence

God’s creative power and wisdom are revealed in what he has made.


Day Two: The Expanse
Day Three: Dry Land and Plants
Day Four: Lights in the Heavens
Day Five: Birds and Fish
Day Six: Animals and Man
Day Seven: Rest


        Creativity combined with excellence is rare, and extremely satisfying when you achieve it. Recently Gail, who bakes a lot of very good bread, has been trying to find a new sourdough starter and to perfect a sourdough recipe. It has been a long time since she had a sourdough starter she could rely on. So she has been nurturing starters, and has baked about five different times and had four modest failures - not inedible, but not fully risen, pretty heavy and dense. So she was discouraged, but she didn’t give up. The day before she left on this little trip to New Jersey she decided to try again with a new starter and a slightly different set of timings to try to capture a good rise. And it worked - really nice big loaves. But the point of the story is the joy with which Gail showed us these beautifully risen loaves, and the obvious satisfaction with which she said “I’m pleased”.

        Last week in beginning our Genesis series, we saw how God created all there is out of nothing, how the initial creation was unformed and unfilled, and how God began to form it by creating light on the first day. One of the things the author, Moses, noted was that ‘God saw that the light was good.’ The implication is that God was pleased at the goodness of the light - his own excellence in creativity.

        Today we have the daunting task of finishing creation week, looking at days two to seven, Genesis 1:6 to 2:3. As we do so, we will see hear that one phrase over and over: ‘And God saw that it was good’. Our goal today is to catch a little of the wonder of creation, and to see how God’s creative power and wisdom are revealed in what he has made.

Day Two: The Expanse

        We’ll take a walk through creation week, one day at a time, starting with day two. Genesis 1:6-8 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

        This is one of the most wondrous and difficult to imagine steps in the whole creation process. If you remember our description of the original creation, we said that the earth it was a large ball of unformed material, covered in a very, very large mantle of unformed liquid. In the heavens around it God provided light. Now God begins to form that unformed matter into the universe we now know. Our understanding of what he did depends on two words: expanse, ‘let there be an expanse’ and ‘sky’ ‘God called the expanse ‘sky’’ The word ‘expanse’ is the Hebrew ‘raqia’, and means a stretched out place or a stamped out surface. It is this occasional use of the verb to describe stamping out metal that led some early translators to think of a solid surface for the sky - the firmament of the King James.

        But the key thought of the word seems to be stretched - taking something and spreading it out immensely. So what was stretched out at this time? The other key word is ‘sky’, which has already been translated ‘heavens’ in verse 1: ‘God created the heavens and the earth.’ The word can be used of sky in a local sense, but it is far more often used to refer to the visible heavens. So the bottom line is that God is probably forming the whole of the heavens, including our sky and the area near the earth, but not limited to that. Instead he takes a huge amount of this created matter, separates it from what will remain earth and stretches it out into what has before this time been the unformed heavens, though possibly filled with elemental gases.

        This stretching out of the heavens is one of the most common images of creation in the Bible. Job 9:8 “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” Job 26:7 - this one is incredible. Some say Scripture has a flat earth model of the universe - but this verse clearly sees the earth hanging in space. “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.” Jeremiah 10:12 “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” So when God separated the waters above from those below he filled the heavens. The waters above were the matter that he used to seed the heavens, and the waters below were the unformed earth and it’s seas. It’s interesting that this is the only day when God didn’t say ‘it’s good’ - maybe because the process was unfinished - the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, planets, stars had not yet been fully formed. Apparently in God’s mind the heavens were not ready to be called good until those fourth day fillings took place.

Day Three: Dry Land and Plants

        So day two results in the removal of the waters above from the face of the earth, leaving an unformed ball not much different in size from the earth today. But listen to day three, verses 9 to 13: 9And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.

        Until this time the earth had no continents, no dry land. Now God forms the lands by gathering the seas and oceans into deep places, and allowing the underlying solid structure to appear out of the water. It’s quite likely that the waters thus gathered were stored in huge underground aquifers, like our own Edwards aquifer here in Texas. We’ll see later in Genesis how those were used to water the ground, and in the flood. Notice also that here only the dry land is called earth. We’re finding this typical: heaven is ‘the sky’ and the universe beyond, day is daytime and a 24 hour period. Earth is everything below the heavens, and it’s also the dry land.

        So now we have seas and lands, and the text tells us God saw it was good. Imagine for a minute this world’s oceans and shores: waves pounding, rocks standing. Think of the beauty of it, think of the perfect irregularity of a rocky shoreline, the perfect regularity of an ocean horizon. Do you agree with God? His creation is good.

        He then goes on, on the same day, to create the living plants. “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” Notice first, that this is all kinds of plants. The NIV does a good job translating the Hebrew words in the most general sense, because it is comprehensive; all the grasses, all the shrubs, all the trees. Notice too that each plant was to bear seeds that would allow it to reproduce ‘according to it’s kind.’ This is the Biblical reason evolution is unacceptable. Evolution presumes, without real evidence, that every plant species evolved from simpler species over millions of years. The Biblical text presumes, with good evidence, that plant species are remarkably stable. Nothing in this text prohibits great variation: the variety or roses alone is proof. But you don’t see a rose evolve into a redwood . There is stability within kinds, or scientifically, within genus or even species. Notice also that ‘producing according to their own kinds’ is a sophisticated scientific comment, considering that Gregor Mendel didn’t describe genetics until the late 1800's, and DNA wasn’t discovered until 1953. Finally, notice this is a miraculous act: God speaks, and it’s so. These plants appear at his command - no long process is needed, and there is nothing inherent in these newly formed continents that would have allowed you to predict plant life without this miraculous intervention.

        So we come again to the refrain. In fact, say it with me this time: “And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.” Consider the marvel of photosynthesis, by which plants take the light God created and turn it into living energy, growth and reproduction. Consider the variety of the plants; everything from a moss to a Sequoia; consider the adaptability of plants, which survive in the desert and thrive in the rain forest; consider the usefulness of plants which form the basis of every food chain on the planet, and are also useful for all kinds of medicines, for energy and fuel, and for most of the structures ever built in this world. God’s creative power and wisdom are shown on the third day.
Day Four: Lights in the Heavens

        Then there is day four. Verses 14 to 19 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.

        On day two God stretched out the heavens, and, we presume, put in place the stuff that was to become the sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies and other wonders. But not until the fourth day are these things completed: Lights in the expanse of the heavens to mark days, nights, seasons and years. Plainly God is now putting into motion the whole dance of the universe; our orbit around the sun, the tilt of our axis making seasons, the cycle of the moon marking months, and the daily rotation of the earth making day and night. Up to now the light, I believe, has had it’s source in God himself, but now the daylight will be marked by the cycle of sunrise and sunset.

        So God creates all this, and almost as an aside Moses adds, ‘he also made the stars.’ There are about 250,000 galaxies visible to our telescopes - and that’s only a fraction of the total. Each galaxy has about a hundred billion stars. The furthest of these galaxies may be fifteen to twenty billion light years away. I’ve been consulting on this with Doug Rask, our resident astronomer, committed to the truth of the Biblical account, and he’s convinced, based on evidence that the universe really is that big.

        So how do we explain this? How can we see light from stars that are millions of light years away when the universe is only about 6000 to 20000 years old? Creation scientists have offered a variety of answers, and none is wholly satisfactory, either to professionals or lay-people. But some things seem clear. One is that as you look at the data, it’s clear that a lot has happened out in that universe: galaxies colliding in cosmic slow motion; stars shooting out gases in light year volumes, stars seeming to be born, seeming to die - it’s all out there - you can take pictures of it with the Hubble. So we have a universe that is big and busy, doing things that take a long time to happen. The only way I, and others, can put this together is to say that from our point of view, God sped up the processes by which those things happened and by which the light that reveals them arrived in our solar system. How he did this, and whether he did it using the existing laws of general and special relativity I can’t tell you; it is one of those transformational miracles you can’t do physics across.

        But as I thought and prayed and looked at these pictures last week, I began to sense a little bit of why he might have done all this. The scriptures say ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’ God knew from eternity past that man would fall, go his own way, develop the sciences he has now, and use them to try to explain away the creator. But the depth and the wonder, the size and complexity of this universe is such that modern science can’t fully explain it. In fact, used properly, science becomes a tool to allow us to taste the wisdom and creativity of God. He put it all out there so that we would wonder. In another direction, the complexity of life, and life processes, the workings of the cell, the development of organisms, the depth and wonder of these smallest parts of creation also brings us awe. Doug Rask will tell you how he went from an atheist to a theist at the eyepiece of a telescope. My own daughter Bethany, who was an evolutionary biology student at U of H, says that seeing biological processes has often brought her to praise the wonder of God’s designs.

        So how time passed in the far reaches of the universe I can’t say. But why it did? Scripture says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” God’s creative power and wisdom are revealed in what he has made. Verse 18 “God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.”

Day Five: Birds and Fish

        Day five - Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.

        On the second day God separated the waters below from the heavens. Now he populates both with the first animals. The text calls them living creatures, literally living souls. This soulishness seems to be a key difference between animals and plants, especially when you notice these animals are ‘created’, that word which speaks of what only God can do, and highlights unique moments in the creation account. The first animals specifically mentioned are ‘the great sea creatures’, a rather unpoetic translation of Hebrew ‘tannin’, ‘whales’ or ‘sea monsters’. In other contexts it is translated ‘dragons’. The term may include modern sea creatures, and possibly the dinosaurs that lived in the waters of the pre-flood world. The legends of dragons and sea-monsters may in part be memories of those early creatures.

        The intent of this day is apparently to create every inhabitant of the water and all birds, creatures who, like the plants, were made to reproduce after their own kinds. Once again, this clear word of the Lord stands against any attempt to embrace evolution. God plainly designed and created them, and fixed boundaries on their genetics so that while natural selection can perfectly explain the kind of variations Darwin saw on the Galapagos islands, it cannot explain the variation between a finch and a fish. Pity the poor evolutionist, who is supposed to project cause and effect back to an original single celled creature. First he can’t explain the development of that single cell, and second he can’t explain or find evidence for the transitions from, say, a cell to a bird, with eyes, wings and lungs. Both the cell and the bird are complex puzzles of carefully designed pieces and processes, and the cell and the bird won’t work without all the pieces in place. I mentioned before that Bethany majored in biology at U of H. She found some very interesting things in that course of study. First, the closer she was to hard science: cell biology, developmental biology, or neurology, the less her textbooks said about evolution. It was the soft sciences, especially sociology that presumed evolution and based conclusions on it. Second, those biology texts had a regular habit of drifting into the language of design.

        They used phrases like ‘this system is designed’ to do such and such. Despite their evolutionary bias, text book writers can’t help but see design in the systems they study. Now I’m sure most would say evolution itself designed these things - but their terms speak volumes. So, day five, sea creatures and birds. And when God declares this segment of creation good, these living creatures, he also blesses them and instructs them to increase in number, to fill the water and the sky. It may be that God didn’t initially make an abundance of these creatures, maybe only a pair, and from that pair were to come the whole species. Evening, morning. Fifth day.

Day Six: Animals and Man

        Day six- this is the big one. Verses 24 to 31 “And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." 29Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 31God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.

        You’ll ask me ‘can God do all this in a day’? Do I really believe this was a single 24 hour period? And I ask in return ‘if he can make everything from nothing, why shouldn’t he be able to make many things, instantaneously? Why should it take any longer than it takes him to speak the words?’ Unless you’re looking for a purely naturalistic explanation, which we have long since decided we’re not, then a day is a perfectly reasonable time for a transformational miracle to happen.
        So on the sixth day God continues to fill his creation, with “livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." ‘Livestock’ probably refers to all domesticated animals, from cattle to sheep to camels, while ‘wild animals’ includes other mammals such as lions or elephants, and probably also the large extinct animals - dinosaurs. ‘Creatures that move along the ground’ would then refer to all the other countless smaller creatures, especially insects, but also amphibians and smaller reptiles and even the small mammals. And notice that even though the day is not yet over, the refrain is there: God saw that it was good.

        And you have to agree with him, don’t you? Whether you look at a horse or an anaconda, a lion or an otter, a dog or a dinosaur, you see something designed and created to function perfectly, and almost always beautiful as well. And when you study these animals, and systems by which they develop and reproduce and see and breath, you have to agree - this is good stuff God has done. It’s a shame that evolutionary philosophy has stolen that wonder from so many.

        Finally, on the same day, God makes man. The key here is that phrase “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” The plural is interesting of course. Who was God talking to? We’ve already seen that both the Spirit and the Son were involved in this creative process. Here, God the Father voices the agreement the three of them had to make humankind. This fascinating kind of exchange withing the Godhead appears in a number of other places in the Old Testament and is referred to in the New Testament, and it seems clear that this is a first or second glancing encounter with the doctrine of the Trinity - one God eternally existing in three persons.

        So God makes man in his image. What does that mean? Part of it is certainly the eternal nature of man. Scripture teaches that once created, conceived, individual humans are eternal. But it’s more than that: there are many aspects of human nature not shared by the animals that we do share with God, such as moral consciousness, abstract thought, and the understanding of beauty. But the thing that really stands out is the ability man has to communicate and form relationships. We’ll see later that the relationship man can have with animals is not enough - people are designed for relationships of love with God and each other. And this reflect God’s image. Didn’t we just say that God, though one, is three persons? The Father, Son and Spirit have communicated and loved each other since before there was time.

        God makes us in his image, and in this summary it simply says that he made us male and female. We’ll see in chapter 2 that there was more to be said. And having made them, he blessed them, in almost the same way he had the animals. "Be fruitful and increase in number.” Then he added a new thing, dominion: fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature." Man was to be above the animals, and yet lower than God - his steward over creation. Some have criticized this, saying it justifies the abuse of creation - but the context, especially chapter 2, shows man taking care of what God had made.

        Finally, God makes it clear that the plants are to be the source of food for both man and animals “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” and food for the animals as well. It seems almost certain that man as created was vegetarian - the rich variety of grains and fruits and foods available to him would easily have satisfied all his needs. It also seems the created animals were vegetarian as well, which tells us that major changes happened at the fall and the flood.

        So on this last creative day God filled the earth and made man to be it’s steward. It’s no surprise that this day has the refrain, but I want you to notice one key word - the word very - Hebrew meod, greatly. Now that man has been made as the completion of God’s creative process, God sees it as greatly good. Say it with me, verse 31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.” ‘You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’ How can we not know that if we have eyes in our head, or even the simple ability to read Genesis 1.

Day Seven: Rest

        So we’ve seen six days of creation. The first three verses of chapter 2 tell us about the seventh day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

        Was God tired? No, God was finished. The miraculous transformational process that set creation on it’s present course was completed, and God essentially stood back to watch the laws he had set in place work themselves out. Not that he would no longer be involved - he would be very much involved. But he did cease from the daily transformations, and to some extent from this seventh day on we could expect the universe to normally function according to natural law: the pattern was set.

        So God rested, not to regain strength - he rested to enjoy all that he had made. And that rest became a model for us. We should set our hearts to rejoice in all that he has made in his wisdom and power, and even more than that we should rejoice in the one who made it and in the Son he sent. That’s why chapter one is here, so that we will be able to affirm with heart, soul, and strength ‘God’s work is very good.’