3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Imagine having a front-row courtside seat at the creation of earth. The stage is completely dark. You cannot see the empty and formless earth. You cannot see anything at all. But suddenly, crashing into your senses like a giant shockwave, there is intense, glorious light shining down upon the chaotic landscape. Being a 21st-century person, you look around for the source of this intense burst of photons, but you cannot see any flood lights, no neon signs, no giant LEDs. There is no sun. No moon. No stars. And yet, glorious light bathes the entire scene around you. How is this possible? It defies the laws of physics you have lived with your entire life under the sun.
Before we discuss the light, we need to tackle the basic question of how to interpret the story of creation Moses set out for us. For the better part of two millennia, Christians who believe the Bible to be inerrant, historically accurate, and completely true have differed over how to interpret the six days of creation. As we noted last week, Genesis is not a textbook of theology. It is a collection of narrative accounts, or stories arranged by theme from which we can draw a theology of God, man, creation, sin, judgment, and redemption (and many other topics as well). Those who believe God created the cosmos in six 24-hour solar days include John Calvin, William Henry Thornwell, and Louis Berkhof. Other conservative scholars do not limit God’s creative work to the 144 hours contained in six solar days. They include Augustine and Aquinas, the Puritan William Ames, the great nineteenth-century defenders of orthodoxy Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield, and prominent twentieth-century defenders of the faith such as J. Gresham Machen, J. Oliver Buswell, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Meredith Kline, and Francis Schaeffer.
Godly scholars who have given their lives over to the study and teaching of scriptures have differed over how to interpret the story of creation. Yet, none of them differed on the truth of God’s Word or that Genesis is a historical and factual book. None of these teachers have differed over the historicity of Adam and Eve as special creations of God who literally plunged themselves and all mankind into a state of sin and judgment. A 24-solar-hour six day view of creation is NOT a litmus test for orthodoxy. There are numerous conservative views of the six days of creation that do not strike at the vitals of the Christian faith. That should make us cautious and humble in our judgment of teachings that differ from the one you chose to hold after your own careful study.
By the way, reading one book with one view point and adopting it as your own because it seems reasonable to you at the time is not really serious study an issue. Thank God for your interest and desire to learn! But, at best, you are taking in someone else’s study and settling on their view. To truly study any issue is to read widely and deeply on that subject and weigh any number of viewpoints to reach your own careful conclusion. Be wary of authors who quote secondary source material as primary sources. That is, when you read someone telling you what Luther’s view was, make sure the author is quoting from Luther and not another author purporting to represent Luther’s works. That is sloppy scholarship.
There are at least six views of the six days, namely: 1) the twenty-four-hour solar day view (creation took place in 144 hours); 2) the punctuated activity view (the twenty-four-hour days of creation activity were separated by indefinite periods); 3) the gap view (there is a gap between verses 1 and 2, wherein a primeval rebellion took place; and the creation week is a remaking of the earth after the rebellion; Barnhouse believed this period explained the dinosaur fossil record); 4) the day-age view (which understands the days as corresponding to geological ages); 5) the framework view (the days are a literary structuring device to convey the truth of creation, but are not consecutive days); and 6) the analogical day view (the days are God’s workdays, not literal 24-solar-hour days).Like the differing views on understanding the book of Revelation, only one view can be correct, but finding your take on creation must be undertaken with humility and generosity for those who differ. Every view has its theological and exegetical pros and cons.
There are some teachers who note Moses’ writing style is so artfully arranged that he clearly doesn’t intend for this passage to be read as literal, historical fact. At best, Moses is giving us a poetic framework by which we can appreciate the fact of creation without knowing the chronological details. It’s certainly true this is majestic language arranged with beautiful symmetry. The passage breaks down into two parts: the first three days describe God’s formingthe earth; the second set of three days describe God’s fillingthe earth. Each day in the first set corresponds to a day in the second set.
The two sets of the creative order represent the solution to the statement in verse two that the earth was without form and void. In the first set of three days, God forms the earth. In the second he deals with the emptiness by creating life (plants, animals, humans). The pairing of days is amazing as both literature and as an account of God’s artfulness in creating this world. “On day one the light was created. On the corresponding day four there came the sun and moon to rule the light. On day two God created the expanse that he called the sky, separating the waters above from the waters below. And on the parallel day five God filled the sky and waters with fowl and fish. On day three God separated the water and dry land and created vegetation. On the matching day six God filled the land with animal life and created man to rule over it all.”
On days three and six the correspondence is highlighted by the double repetitions of “God said” and of “it was good”— creating a formal link between the final days of forming and filling the earth. God’s work in these verses is often a work of separation: 4b, “God separated the light from the darkness”.“…these opening chapters of Genesis provide a contrast between a separation that is wholesome and a separation that is malignant. In creation there is separation toward order: light from darkness, waters above from waters below, day from night, woman from man. In sin and trespass there is a separation toward disorder: man and woman from God; man from woman; man from the soil; man from a garden.”
Some scholars even see a numerical structure beyond the seven days representing God’s number of perfection. “The words “God” (Elohim), “heavens” (samayim), and “earth” (eretz), which are the three nouns of the opening verse, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” are repeated in this creation account in multiples of seven. “God” occurs thirty-five times (5 x 7), “heavens” twenty-one times (3 x 7), and “earth” twenty-one times. In addition to this, in the Hebrew …the first verse has seven words, and the second fourteen words. The seventh paragraph (the seventh day) has three sentences, each of which has seven words, and contains in the middle the phrase, ‘the seventh day.’”It’s almost as if the author received a first-class education in the royal court of Egypt.
There is a definite framework to God’s creative activity and Moses’ account reads as if it were poetry. But neither of those facts, in an of themselves, give us permission to read this account as non-literal. This text is not Hebrew poetry, but narrative prose written as factual history. That is how every other text in scripture that looks back on the Genesis creation account treats it (cf. Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 40:26; Jonah 1:9; Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 4:11). It is not intended to be an exhaustive account, being only one page long. But it is intended to be read as a broad-stroked painting of God’s real, historical creation of the cosmos in real space-time.
As Derik Kidner writes in his commentary:
…the march of the days is too majestic a progress to carry no implication of ordered sequence; it also seems over-subtle to adopt a view of the passage which discounts one of the primary impressions it makes on the ordinary reader. …The language is that of every day, describing things by their appearance; the outlines of the story are bold, free of distracting exceptions and qualifications, free also to group together matters that belong together (so that trees, for example, anticipate their chronological place in order to be classified with vegetation), to achieve a grand design in which the demands now of time-sequence, now of subject-matter, control the presentation, and the whole reveals the Creator and his preparing a place for us.
Moses’ hearers would not have understood this to be a myth or an allegory since they didn’t have 21st-century seminary professors selling them new interpretations to make them feel smarter than the average bear. They would have understood it as intended, to debunk the pagan creation myths of Egypt and the surrounding cultures with which they came into contact. Each day in God’s creation history attacks one of the demon gods of paganism. Day one dismissed the gods of light and darkness. On day two, the demon gods of sky and sea are debunked. Day three destroys the fantasy of earth gods and sky gods. Day four shows the gods of sun, moon, and stars to be false. Days five and six banish the false belief of gods among the animal kingdom. Finally, day six makes clear that man is a created being made in God’s image. All that Israel heard was written in the Hebrew tense of narrative history. It was impossible for them to hear this account as one of geological ages. It is a combination of ignorance and arrogance, a desire to combine human observation with divine revelation, to imagine God “directly referenced the shifting scientific paradigms of the last hundred years.”
The question seems to be whether the Israelites would have understood the days of creation as literal 24-hour periods. The ESV translation of Genesis contains the word “day” 125 times in 115 verses. The vast majority of these passages refer to a literal 24-hour time period or have the sense of “up to this very day” (35:20), or a definite period of days (“the days of weeping” 50:4; “the days to come” 49:1). Additionally, every other appearance of yom designated with an ordinal number (e.g. “1stday”) in scripture is translated to refer to a literal, 24-hour day. So, there is solid evidence to conclude Moses intended the days of creation to be taken literally.
However, the number of times yom is translated as a 24-hour day does not consider the context of the particular passages cited. The context of this passage is different from any other passage in scripture because it is describing the creation of all things, including space-time itself. This leads some conservative scholars to believe Moses is using yom as an analogy. Gods “workdays” are analogous to our earthly days but are not literal 24-hour periods of time. The analogous days proponents argue these are not 24-hour days “because: 1) the first three days couldn’t have been solar because God made the sun and moon on the fourth day, and 2) the seventh day has no end. The phrase “and there was evening and there was morning” does not appear with day seven (see 2: 2, 3).”
Personally, the two most defensible views of creation are the literal solar day view and the analogous day view. Neither view is interested in accommodating the observations of evolutionary theory and both seek to bring the best reading to the text as God’s revelation. At the end of the day, what both approaches maintain is that Genesis is the literal history of what God did when he created the heavens and the earth. He created in six “days” (whether his analogous days, or literal 24-hour solar days); he did it in the order described; and Moses wrote it in a majestic, beautifully-arranged style that is our history.
LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
That brings us to the only verses we have time left to examine this morning, verses 3-5. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
His only tool was his word, the revelation of his will – his speech. Nothing more and nothing less. As John tells us, that Word was Christ himself, the Divine Logos. In creating everything through his word, God’s thought shaped itself exactly to the least cell and atom, even to the last quark and lepton. There is such intimacy and immediacy in his knowledge, in willing of creation into existence, that we might say he knows each aspect of creation by experience. He knows it because it proceeds from his very essence.
The Egyptian gods of light and darkness are obliterated by Moses’ account. For the first three days light shone from a source other than the sun. You may recall from our recent study of Revelation that the Bible begins with light but no sun and ends the same way(Rev. 22:5; see also, 21:23):
And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever”
One commentator says of these verses:
It will perhaps strike the reader of this story as unusual that its author affirms the existence of light (and a day for that matter) without the existence of the sun, which is still three “days” away. The creation of light anticipates the creation of sunlight. Eventually the task of separating the light from the darkness will be assigned to the heavenly luminaries (v. 18). It is unnecessary to explain such a claim as reflecting scientific ignorance. What the author states is that God caused the light to shine from a source other than the sun for the first three “days.”
Light and darkness is our first PICTURE (type) in the Genesis account. They are literal, actual, historical things. But they also represent something God wants to teach us about Jesus. How can I possibly say something thatunliteral? Am I making some terrible mistake by ‘spiritualizing’the text? The Apostle John doesn’t think so. This is God’s revelation of creation given by the apostle John. John says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Light is a picture of who Jesus is and what He came to do. John tells us in his great sermon, 1stJohn, that God is light(1 Jn. 1:5)John goes on in the opening of his Gospel to say:
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,and his own peopledid not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John builds his account of the Gospel around the creation theme of light and dark. Nicodemus comes to Jesus (the true light of men) in the dark of night (Jn. 3:1-15). Judas leaves Jesus and goes out into the darkness to betray him (Jn. 13:30). The first fact of God’s creation is that He speaks light into the darkness, separates the two states and calls the light good.
The first act of creation is God the Son lighting up the empty stage upon which he himself will play out the great drama of redemption. How can there be light without stars? Because God the Son IS the light of the world. Not only John, but Paul also takes up this theme in numerous places. He told the Ephesians his calling was “to preach …the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things….”
As you cannot escape Messiah Jesus in Revelation at the end of all earthly history, you cannot escape him at the beginning of all creation. He is the light shining in the darkness that cannot be overcome. He is the very point of all creation, that he might be the firstborn among many (Rom. 8:29) who trust into his perfect life as their righteousness and his sacrificial death as the payment for their sins. If you are trusting into Christ alone, you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life.
Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, a city of great spiritual darkness:
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Jn 1:1-5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Hughes23. Kindle Edition. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 59: “we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis.”
Id., 24-25. Kindle Edition.
Hughes, 25. Kindle Edition.
Hughes, 26. Kindle Edition.
The Holy Bible: English standard version.2001 (Jn 1:9-13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.