14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.[i]
Last week we looked at the first three days of creation and learned those days were the solution to Moses’ opening statement that the earth was without form(1:2). In the first three days of creation, God formed the earth. He spoke a formless, empty world into existence by nothing but the power of his Word. Christ, the light of the world, shined his glory upon the earth as the agent of the Godhead’s creation. God the Son created the stage upon which the Trinity would act out the divine drama of redemption planned in eternity past. In day one, God formed light by shining his glory upon creation. In day four, God fills the earth with light by creating the sun, moon, and stars. The final three days of creation fill the void, the emptiness of earth and sky.
Moses wrote of the filling of creation with light twice in verses 14-18, the second telling being in reverse order from the first. The account of the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is described from the earth’s vantage point (geocentric).[ii]The creation of the rest of the universe gets only a scant nod (16,and the stars).
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. [iii]
Notice that the sun and moon are identified in verse 16 as “two great lights.” “Moses consciously avoids using their names because they are gods in the Egyptian pantheon. Moses is saying that the sun, moon, and stars are not gods, but God’s creations! He asserts Israel’s majestic monotheism over the degraded pagan polytheism of his day.”[iv]The power of these created objects comes directly from the essence of God’s powerful speech. These are no gods to be worshipped; they are servants of God’s creation. Sun, moon and stars are God’s good gifts, producing the pattern of varied seasons(14) in which we thrive (cf. Acts 14:17) and by which Israel was to mark out the year for God (15; Lev. 23:4). As signs(14) they will speak for God, not for fate (Jer. 10:2; cf. Matt. 2:9; Luke 21:25, 28), for they rule(16, 18) only as light-bearers, not as powers. In these few simple sentences the superstition as old as Babylon and as modern as a newspaper horoscope is revealed as a lie from the pit of hell.[v]
Moses’ account is earth-centered because he wrote it to God’s people about God’s covenant with them, the basis of which is that He is the sovereign Creator of all things. The pagans’ demon gods cannot create anything; they are creatures who only have the power to torture and destroy. And, as we learned in Revelation, they can only destroy what the sovereign Creator God allows them to torture and destroy for His glorious purposes. Whether God created life in other solar systems in distant galaxies has no bearing on God’s demand for covenant loyalty from his creatures on the planet earth. The Bible is about creation, fall, and redemption in and through God the Son, Messiah Jesus. As such, it contains no secret codes, no hidden information on life outside this planet, no recommendations for miracle diets, bread-baking, instructions for aroma or mineral or vitamin therapy, and no political theories apart from the absolute rule of God in Christ Jesus.
But none of that detracts from the testimonies to God’s glory in his created order of the universe. The earth maintains an axis of rotation of 23.5 degrees relative to its orbital plane, producing seasons of weather. It maintains an ideal distance from the sun of between 91,403,554 miles to 94,513,221 miles in an elliptical orbit.[vi]We experience cold and warmth, light and dark, high and low lunar-driven tides because God willed the earth into perfect orientation to its surrounding bodies to accomplish his purposes for his glory. As R. Kent Hughes writes:
God thought it and willed it, and it was! The stars were flung in their fleeing courses. The sun was set in its galaxy. The earth began to revolve around the sun— and the moon around the spinning earth— like a jeweled watch. As we saw before, this was Christ’s handiwork. The constellations speed away because Christ tells them to. The earth and moon waltz because Christ commands them to. The natural laws work because Christ ordains it. The earth was filled with rotating light. “And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day” (v. 19).[vii]
On the second day, God divided the waters by creating the sky and separating the clouds from the sea. Now on day five, God causes the sky and sea to swarm with living creatures. Moses writes:
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. [viii]
Fowl (RV, AV) or birds(ESV, RSV) are literally ‘flying things’, and can include insects (cf. Deut. 14:19, 20).[ix]God spoke condors and eagles, hummingbirds and house wrens into existence at the very same time he spoke gnats, houseflies, and mosquitoes into being. The seas, by the power of God’s Word, began to team with whales, sharks, swordfish, schools of tuna, dolphin, shrimp, coral, and plankton. Lakes and rivers came to life with trout, bass, perch, minnows, snails, and eels – all living in the right environments according to their locations and climates. Even in the 21stcentury, explorers have not discovered all the species living in the depths of the sea. The sea monsters(tannînîm) (RV, RSE), sea creatures (NKJV) or whales (ESV, AV) are especially noteworthy, since to the Canaanites this was an ominous word, standing for the powers of chaos confronting Baal in the beginning of their creation myth. To the Babylonians, the primordial sea-monster Tiamat pre-existed the gods. Here in Genesis, the great and fearsome creatures of earth and sea are just magnificent creatures (like Leviathan in Ps. 104:26; Job 41) enjoying God’s blessing with the rest (22), created and not pre-existent, morally-neutral and not evil.[x]The creatures of the sky and the waters exist because of God’s thought and at God’s pleasure: And God saw that it was good(21).[xi]
On day three, God brought forth dry ground out of the waters and covered it with vegetation. Now, on day six, he fills the earth with land creatures.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.[xii]
Moses lists generic categories intended to cover all the land animals, great and small. Three categories of land creatures are described in these two verses. Livestock means primarily large quadrupeds which are domesticated. Creeping things(lit., “creeping [or crawling] thing”) designate the legless creatures such as lizards and snakes. The third category, the beasts of the earth(or, “every kind of wild animal”), is simply the Hebrew word for “living thing.” Like the plants, all living creatures—terrestrial, celestial, and aquatic—are created according to kind. They are created to be self-propagating. The Creator makes creators.[xiii]
We must never forget that the mind of God created all of this. So, when we contemplate the heavens, we learn something of God. “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19: 2). Track the Hubble telescope images across the galaxies and learn something of him. Peer into the microscope and see the complexity of the human cell. Ponder the atom and quarks and leptons and learn the minuteness of God’s design.
When God wanted to display his power and wisdom to Job, he pointed to his creation and creatures. He even invited Job to contemplate a large flightless bird with a tiny brain:
“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, /but are they the pinions and plumage of love? /14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth /and lets them be warmed on the ground, 15 forgetting that a foot may crush them /and that the wild beast may trample them. / 16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; /though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, / 17 because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding. / 18 When she rouses herself to flee, /she laughs at the horse and his rider. [xiv]
God takes pleasure in his creation of even the things that seem pointless to us! Would you think to create a giant, pea-brained, flightless bird just because you love to watch her run? God did. He takes joy in the ostrich. We too are intended to take joy in God’s great creation – not as worshippers of the material realm, but as worshippers of the Creator who spoke it all into being. And he spoke it all into being to form an environment for human beings to live in perfect fellowship with their Creator.
“God had formed the world in three days, and now in three parallel days he …filled it with the light of the sun and moon and stars and trees and plants and creatures of the deep and the winged creatures of the sky and a zoo of wondrous earth-treading beasts. Creation was full and ready for its ultimate fullness with the creation of man. Here the narrative slows down during the sixth day (like slow motion), because it is here with the creation of man that we come to the apex of the narrative.”[xv]
CREATION OF MAN
The narrative shifts from third person to first person pleural indicating something special is taking place. “26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”[xvi]This is the first divine dialogue in scripture. Since no other creature or thing is said to be in the image of God, this dialogue can only be God speaking to himself, not to angels and not to the earth or any other creature. This is no pleural of majesty used by royalty because the point of the text is not God’s majesty. This is the pleural of divine deliberation – God speaking among his persons.
The reference to “the Spirit of God” in 1: 2, hovering over the waters, demonstrates a co-participant in creation. And the New Testament gives the full meaning …when it teaches the radical involvement of Christ in creation (cf. John 1: 1-3; 1 Corinthians 8: 6; Colossians 1: 15-18; Hebrews 1: 1-3; Revelation 4: 11).[xvii]
The first poem in scripture appears at this point. It consists of three lines with three repetitions of the verb createdand emphasizes that man’s creation is the high point of God’s creativity. Think about this: even if you were to travel across the whole of the universe, witnessing the birth and death of stars, the formation of planets and black holes consuming all the mass around them, nothing in your journey would equal the moment in time when Adam was created in God’s own image to rule as God’s priest upon this wonderous planet earth. Adam and all his children are eternal creatures. The universe and all its stars and planets may fade away; but mankind cannot cease to exist. Those who remain in Adam’s sin will ultimately exist as hideous, hopeless creatures turned eternally inward upon themselves apart from the goodness of God. But they will never cease to exist.
At his creation, Adam existed in perfect righteousness. He had perfect right-standing and perfect fellowship with his Creator. Adam’s righteousness, like his eternal soul, was part of God’s image – a part of God’s image lost in Adam’s fall. But righteousness was not the whole of God’s image in man. Man was also given the ability to think and communicate rationally with his Creator in order that they might have fellowship (James 3:9). Man was created with a sense of morality, having God’s law written upon his heart (Rom. 1:18 – 2:11). Man does not lose God’s image in Adam’s rebellion. But the image must be renewed … after the image of him that created him(Col. 3:10; cf. Eph. 4:24; 5:1, 3).[xviii]
Because Adam and Eve were created as rational, communicating image-bearers, God could speak to them and they could understand him and obey him and receive his blessing as moral, spiritual beings. “28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [xix]The dominion over all creatures is not the content but the consequence of the divine image. Because man is rational, moral creature, he is fit to rule as God’s vice-regent of creation. In sad contrast to perfect Adam and Eve, our sinful human record of exploiting what is at our mercy proves the unfitness of fallen beings to govern, as we ourselves, in our unregenerate state, are ungoverned (9:2).[xx]
That God viewed his image-bearers as royal rulers over his creation caused astonishment to King David. In Psalm 8 he sang:
3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, / the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, / 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, / and the son of man that you care for him? / 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings / and crowned him with glory and honor. / 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; / you have put all things under his feet, / 7 all sheep and oxen, / and also the beasts of the field, / 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, / whatever passes along the paths of the seas. / 9 O Lord, our Lord, / how majestic is your name in all the earth![xxi]
These realities about the Imago Dei tell us the spiritual potential of humanity is immense. “Image-bearers can hear God’s word and ride it to untold spiritual heights. Image-bearers are innately regal beings meant to rule over all creation.”[xxii]Humans are the created offspring of God, with real possibilities of eternal sonship. There Adam and Eve stood, the height of God’s good creation, — the royalty of creation in a state of spiritual, social, and ecological perfection. God had given every seed-bearing plant and fruit-bearing tree for food (cf. vv. 29, 30). They were at peace with God and nature. And God was able to proclaim that the whole of his creation, with humanity over it, was 31 …very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. [xxiii]The entirety of creation was not simply good, but very good.
Sadly, we will see Adam and Eve rebel against God’s goodness, plunging themselves and all of us their children into a state of sin and judgment. The perfection of Eden is but a frayed and faded shadow of its primordial glory. Mankind is empty of life with the Creator and the earth groans for liberation from man’s sinful usurpation of an ever-depleting planet. Where, then, is our hope this side of Eden? Our hope is in Messiah Jesus who lit up the earth with his glory and designed the world as the stage upon which God would act out the drama of redemption for fallen man and groaning creation.
When the time was right, by entering into his own creation as a human born of woman, born under the law, he came 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [xxiv]He came to be the final and perfect Adam who could not and did not sin. So, Paul would write to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:22), “22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”[xxv]To those who trust into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial death of the risen and ascended Messiah Jesus, Paul promises restoration to that place where heaven and earth, man and God are reunited:
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. [xxvi]
[iv]Hughes, 31-32. Kindle Edition.
[v]Kidner, op. cit.
[vii]Hughes, 33. Kindle Edition.
[xv]Hughes, 35-36. Kindle Edition.
[xvii]Hughes, 36. Kindle Edition.
[xxi]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 8:3–9.
[xxii]Hughes, 38. Kindle Edition.
[xxiii]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:31.
[xxiv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 4:4–5.
[xxv]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 15:22.
[xxvi]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 15:45–49.