God Changed Chaos Into Cosmos
There were five stages in the great change.
Step one: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep” (v.2). Immediately God looks away from the heavens and describes for us the raw state of the newly created earth. Moses, the scribe of God, tells us that the earth was formless and empty – the words rhyme in Hebrew, tohu and bohu – and that there was a world-wide ocean covering the earth, “darkness was over the surface of the deep.” No birds, nor animals, nor human beings could live on the planet while it remained in that state. There was no one but God alone who could change the earth, and so God set to and began to work on this formless, watery mass of unorganized material, – this trackless waste – this chaos without boundaries. How can we picture such darkness? Like being on a raft in the middle of the Irish Sea on a stormy pitch black night. That is the scene set before us here, God’s first stage in creating the earth was to make a scene of primitive disorder in which and over which he was going to display his mastery. He’s now about to turn this chaos into a cosmos. So what is the next step in the transformation?
Step two: The Holy Spirit of God comes forth from God; “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Though the word for ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same in Hebrew yet in every case where this phrase is found in the Bible it refers to God’s Spirit and not to the wind of God. This is the first mention of the Spirit in the Bible and he is there above the chaos but locked into it. God is not nervous because of the total darkness and the deep. He fashioned them; he is their Lord. They are not rivals or enemies to God to be shunned and destroyed. Upon this darkness and in these depths God works; when the Son of God became incarnate he too pitched his tent in the darkness of the world. Jesus came into the closest proximity with a fallen world, where men crucify other men, without himself being contaminated by it. So into this sinless chaos the Spirit of God came like the winds which move over the surface of this dark ocean. Over every black wave the Spirit of God was there sustaining and mastering its every movement. He was preserving and nurturing it like a great eagle hovering above its nest, controlling and protecting and drawing forth the life of its young. The explanation of everything that follows in Genesis one is this presence and work of this Spirit of God.
Step three: we are told, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God addresses what is formless and empty chaos. He speaks, and there is instantaneous transformation. He commands; all things obey him! He says just two words in Hebrew; “Be light!” and there was light from one end of the universe to the other. How would men describe something like that? I came across something called the inflation theory which was first propounded in 1979 by a young particle physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His name is Alan Guth and he had gone along to a lecture on the origin of the universe. It had been given by another scientist, Robert Dicke and Guth was gripped by what he heard that day. Dicke described various theories as to what happened at the very beginning of the universe. I don’t believe that these men profess to be Christians; they are certainly famous scientists. What Guth believes in his inflation theory has been stated like this – remember I am asking how men would describe what the Bible describes in Genesis 1:2; “A fraction of a moment after the dawn of creation, the universe underwent a sudden dramatic expansion. It inflated – in effect ran away with itself, doubling in size every 10 to the power of 34 seconds. The whole episode may have lasted no more than 10 to the power of 30 seconds – that’s one million million million million millionth of a second – but it changed the universe” (Bill Bryson, “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” Doubleday, 2003, p.14). So that is how men without God gravely describe the first moment of the origin of the universe.
What does Scripture say? On ten occasions in this chapter we are told that God spoke. Here is the first occasion when God imposed his will upon the dark void. Spontaneously and immediately this ‘light’ – whatever it was – was formed. God had said, “let there be light,” and there was light. There was just a flash of the will of God and a universe sprang into being. There was light; instantly there was gravity, and electromagnetism, and nuclear forces, and elementary particles, protons, electrons, neutrons, all in one cracking moment. We are advancing in this dynamic narrative, and suddenly are being introduced to an unimaginably vast universe all perfectly arrayed for the creation of the stars and the galaxies. You remember how John in chapter one of his gospel follows his claim that without the Son of God nothing was made that was created? It says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (Jn. 1:4&5).
Step four: then we are told, “And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness” (v.4). This word ‘and’ comes into this verse twice; in other words we are seeing sequence and order. God surveyed what he had done and he judged it, “Good!” And on seven occasions we are going to meet this word of approval in this chapter, climaxing with God concluding, “Very good!” You see that we have no hint anywhere in the Bible that the nonphysical stuff – ethereal stuff, spirit life, non-substance – call it what you will – are the goodies, while matter and physical life are the baddies. God looks at the heaving ocean and the light and the darkness and he passes an ethical judgment on it all that it is good. Then God divided the light from the darkness, and on five occasions in this chapter God separates such things as night and day, and land from sea, and the firmament from the ocean. God is expressing his authority over the world he has made. It is going to be exactly as he designed it.
Step five: finally we are told, “God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” (v.5). You are aware of how important names were to the Hebrews. My name ‘Geoffrey’ is without significance; it was one that my parents considered attractive for their own reasons. It has no meaning in itself, but in the Old Testament the names of men and women reflected their individual characters and personalities. Elijah’s name meant, “My God is Jehovah.” Long before there were any men and women God gave names to the light and darkness. It is a mark of his ownership and authority. It may well be that the grammar of the fifth verse encourages us to understand that God actually called to the light “Day!” and to the darkness he called “Night!” A Christian prisoner lies in his prison cell unaware of when he is to be released. The dreary months and years roll by, but at the first light of each dawn he can cry in his defiance, “Day!” This is the day that the Lord has made. He is the Lord of this day, not man. And when the dusk gathers and another long night begins he can cry, “Night!” knowing that the night is not darkness to God.
This was Day One in the unfolding of creation. It concludes with the refrain that is first found here and which runs right through this chapter, “And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” (v.5). This embraces the entire period of darkness and of light. Day One began with the entrance of light and it ends with the departure of darkness. Day Two begins with the sunrise.
WHAT IS TO BE OUR RESPONSE TO THE CREATION?
i] Let us admire the handiwork of the God who created our world.
Since God designed and made it all you would expect to see evidences of his wise handiwork everywhere, and we do. Consider the way God fixed the exact distance of the earth from the sun; it is just the distance it must be to support life. If the earth were further from the sun, the planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle. If the earth were closer to the sun, the planet would be too hot for a stable water cycle. We are alive today because of that.
The air we are breathing at this moment has the correct mixture of gases: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, .93% Argon, .035% carbon dioxide and .035% other gases. If the atmosphere had 25% oxygen or more, spontaneous fires would break out because oxygen is flammable. If the atmosphere had 15% oxygen or less, we would suffocate. If the atmosphere had more carbon dioxide, the earth would become warmer. If the atmosphere had less carbon dioxide, plants would starve.
Or again consider the tilt of earth’s axis (23.5 degrees) which gives us our moderate seasons. If the tilt was greater – for example, Uranus has a 98 degree tilt – such a tilt on earth would cause periodic continental flooding and long periods of darkness. If the earth’s tilt were less – for example, the planet Venus has no tilt then that lack of tilt would cause equatorial areas to grow much hotter and the ice caps to expand.
Again the proximity of moon is exactly where it should be. If it were a fifth of the distance away, tides would completely submerge continents twice a day. If there were no moon, the earth would wobble, as the planet Mars wobbles. The moon stabilizes the earth.
The rate of the earth’s rotation is exactly right. If it were a tenth of the present rate, plant life would burn during the day and freeze at night. If it were faster, wind velocities would rise to catastrophic levels. For example, the planet Jupiter has a 10-hour rotation period and thousand mph winds.
The thickness of the earth’s crust is correct. If the crust was thicker, or thinner the oxygen content would either be too small or too great. If the crust was thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would be tumultuous.
The water vapour level in the atmosphere is exactly as it has to be. If the water vapour level was greater, a runaway greenhouse effect would develop. If water vapour level were less, rainfall would be too meagre for advanced life on the land.
The colour of the sun is correct. If the sun was more red, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient. If the sun was more blue, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient.
The force of gravity is exactly right. If this constant force were just a bit stronger or weaker, we wouldn’t have life as we know it. This is because the existence of stars depends on the gravitational constant, and without stars, there would obviously be no sun, no light, and no heat. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. If this speed were a little more or less, then the stars would be either too bright or too dim, and life as we know it would be greatly altered. We imagine God turning from one area to another ticking them all off according to his plan, distances of earth from sun and earth from moon . . . the composition of the atmosphere . . . the thickness of the crust of the earth . . . the colour of the sun . . . the actual speed of light . . . the tilt of the earth . . . the rate of its rotation . . . the time it takes to move around the sun. Here is the planning of a personal God and his wonderful accomplishment.
What are the chances of one planet having these parameters which are all necessary for life-support (and there are hundreds more) just by chance or by luck? The odds are infinitesimal, like an explosion in a junk yard causing the creation of a Boeing 707. A great Designer has set the earth in its place in preparation for the creation of man. This is a God who is incredibly wise and intelligent and wonderfully kind as well.
Ten years ago in a debate at the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Birmingham University Professor Peter Atkins, the Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, argued that science had ruled out belief in God. The newspapers reported this and one correspondent wrote in this letter, “Sir – Professor Peter Atkins’ diatribe (report, Sept. 11), which included the claim that it is impossible to believe in God and be a ‘true scientist’, contrasts interestingly with the following quotation: ‘The religious feeling of the scientist takes the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law – which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.’ The source of these words? Some scientist by the name of Albert Einstein. Prof. Atkins may have heard of him.” (Daily Telegraph, 11 Sept. 1996). Let us admire God’s handiwork.
ii] Let us enjoy his creation.
God made it not only for his own good pleasure, and his praise, but he made it for his people. God made all of this for us in a very real sense of the word. Paul can say, “All things are ours.” He gave it to us and he has told us to have dominion over the world and enjoy it. Now, you know what the devil wants to do. The enemy of our souls plans to get you thinking negatively about God. Satan wants to get you thinking that God is not a good God. I want to say with all of the emotion of my soul that the mighty Creator of Genesis 1 is good. God is a kind and loving God. God made the world for his glory and also for your good. For his praise, but for his people’s delight.
I want to give you three words in Scripture as a sword of the Spirit to resist the devil’s attacks on the beautiful character of God. I want to live by these words myself, because their truth will help us all. You understand how sin begins to gain the mastery over us when we think negatively about God. The serpent spoke to Eve in the garden and he immediately put God in the worst possible light: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?‘” (Gen. 3:1) What a harsh and mean-spirited God he was made out to be, keeping all that fruit for himself! It was a lie; God had said they could eat from all of the trees of the garden with the exception of one only, but that lie is still believed today. “We don’t want to go to church because it would take away all our fun and we would be loaded with a lot of guilt and moralism.” Let me give you these three swords to kill that serpent:
i] Psalm 37, verse 4; “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Isn’t that breathtaking? The desires of your heart. Not what you need he will provide for you; we know that God fulfils our needs every day; “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,” we sing, but to those whose delight is to know and love and serve the living God the Lord says he will give us our heart’s desire. How loving and magnificent a God he is. Let me give you another verse.
ii] Psalm 84, verse 11. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Did you hear that? No good thing whatsoever. If it will make you more like Jesus Christ, more useful as a Christian, wholesome, loving, contented and joyful then God says ask him for such favour and honour. He bestows it; help yourself; “I love you, I made it for you,” God says. God loves you men and women. I believe that I have all the authority of God to assure you of that today, that he has blessed you through your lives with all the things you love most. God wants for you what you would want for yourself if you had enough sense to ask for it. God is such a good God. God says, “Help yourself to blessedness.” The Lord God is a sun and a shield. The Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing will he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. He is not talking about a sinless walk but a person who wants to honour God in their lives. Let me give you a third verse;
iii] In I Timothy chapter 6, and verse 17 it tells us of the “God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Why did he make so vast and extraordinary a universe? For our enjoyment, the New Testament says. God has made you to enjoy this winter day, and the sight of the snow on the Welsh mountains. God has made you to enjoy the sound of the seagulls, the dolphins in the bay. They are all yours; God made them for your enjoyment. Sometimes we think because we’re Christians such delights are illegal, but when God made it, he said, “It is good.” If it is good for God then it can satisfy our conscience, and the same God made our Sunday lunch of roast lamb, and that is the reason why we pray and thank him for the meal before we eat it. God is such a generous God. He’s a wonderful God. He is a glorious God. What a privilege to know him.
iii] Let us glory in God’s creation.
Professor John Murray visited California for the first time and one day he was taken to a valley and hillside where there was forest of the giant redwoods, the sequoia trees. He was led across to them in wonder; “Aren’t they grand?” he said, again and again. John Murray was glorying in his Lord’s handiwork. Here is the journal of a Christian writing about a walk through God’s creation which he took a few weeks ago in the Quantock hills. He writes, “I shall remember Saturday 20 January 2006. What it was like elsewhere I do not know, but in west Somerset it was the perfect winter’s day. A great surge of happiness ran through me as I set off for my walk in the hills and coombs. It had been sunny the afternoon before but blustery. Now all was still and the sun was majestic in the cerulean sky, summoning his court. And they came! I swear a multitude of things had happened since the day before. In my garden were irises, peeping through the foliage, and japonica had just appeared, and winter jasmine and its coeval, honeysuckle. I found the first snowdrop in the churchyard. Then I spotted a whole ancient grave covered in these touching tiny white bells, harbingers of a mass of flowers which in company and succession cover this hallowed ground throughout the late winter and spring, with yellow, white and purple crocuses, aconites, primroses – my favourite flower for its colour and endurance, as it was Disraeli’s – and regiments of varied daffodils. Oh, the daffodil! The sun has brought out the first of these perfect flowers in the garden, a brave, minute spark of pale yellow perfection, catching an imperceptible puff of wind and dancing gravely.
“It is wondrous how quickly nature responds to the first gesture of warmth from the long-absent sun. You can almost feel the earth, thawing fast, stir with subterranean energy and begin to heave with growth. In the first big field I cross, a young mare, still in her winter wrappings, is rolling over the ground with joy. At the bottom, by the stream, appears from nowhere and nothing a cloud of gnats, released from months of confinement – or perhaps just born, I do not know – and they, too, whizz about with delight in the sunbeams. Best of all, above my head, a dense flock of seabirds gives an aerial display . . . a sudden flash of silver-white as they expose their bellies, then vanish as they turn on the wing. Perfect formation; exultation to be alive and warming; wheeling and swooping and darting, changing direction, following their invisible air marshal’s commands, and with no mundane purpose to their magical manoeuvres save to give and receive pleasure in the act. It is a dance, as surely as the rhythmic motions of my little daffodil.
“The sun is still low on the horizon, though it is noon, immensely bright, dazzling to the eyes. I plan my walk so that it is mostly at my back, and bathing what I see in solar power, picking out every minute detail of the winter scene. The colours are light straw and dove grey, the palest of olive, washed-out seashore greens, watery limestone, the highlights picked out by the deep evergreens of the woods. There is glitter everywhere, multitudes of tiny pinpoints of light, each struggling to reflect the maximum of the sun’s rays. . .
“Suddenly, I become aware that I am being watched. A dozen very young, woolly and densely black bullocks, with shiny wet noses, and big, interested and lovable brown eyes, have crowded round the gap in the hedge at my back, and are looking at what I am doing. They are still, silent; I can hear their heavy breathing. Inquisitive creatures, aren’t they? Bored, perhaps, with their bovine existence. I feel a comradely regard for these handsome young fellows, enjoying the sun as I am, glad to be living, the execution sheds of carnivorous humanity unknown on the horizon. I turn to get a better look at them, perhaps to do a quick sketch. But my sudden movement alarms them – timid creatures only a few months old – and they scatter clumsily, bumping and banging each other as they spread for safety
“I resume my tramp through the leaves, and rejoice at the stillness of it all. . . What’s this – bees? Can’t be. But it is – making for the wintry flowers on the honeysuckle. Nature snatches the good days and is grateful. I say a prayer of thanks for a grand winter walk.” (P. Johnson, “A Winter’s Day Walk in the Quantocks”, The Spectator, 4 February 2006).
The Prayer Meeting 3 September 2021
Why bother coming to the prayer meeting? In the pecking order of many congregations, it is somewhere below the much-lamented evening service. In the priorities of too many Christians, it seems to have little value. It’s the one we can afford to miss. It’s the one to which we don’t, or maybe wouldn’t, take our […]
Faith in Suffering Times 6 August 2021
If you would strengthen your faith to suffer great and hard things, study much the book of the Revelation, which is a standing cordial for the relief of the saints, in anti-christian times; and study and read and commend to your children, the Book of Martyrs, where you have examples to the life of the […]