Saturday, September 24, 2011

Meditations on Genesis 1:3-4

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. [Gen 1:3-4]
After hearing about the fun times had by two friends, I decided to pick up Bible journaling. One friend was going through the Gospel of John, but I decided to start at the very beginning - namely, Genesis. I've been trying to do it Matthew Henry style: not only going verse by verse, but phrase by phrase, and writing down not how the verse relates to me personally, but rather how it fits into the larger context of scripture. As I went into the beginning of creation, there were two things I noticed: 1) light is created in verse 3 on the first day, yet the sun and moon are not made until verse 16, on the fourth day; 2) God only identifies the light as being good (verse 4), yet the darkness is not included.

The question, of course, is where did that light come from, and what was it?

One can't help but conclude, if the sun is not created until verses 14 to 18, then this cannot be a natural light. If so, then what is it? It can only be the Divine Light of God, the same Light which Paul describes in an epistle:
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. [2 Corinthians 4:6]
Remember that previous to this, the world was described as "without form and void," and "darkness was over the face of the deep" (v. 2). Yet even in the midst of this darkness, God was present, for we are told in the same verse that God the Holy Spirit was "hovering over the face of the waters." If God was present, why then was there darkness? Is God not light, in which there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5)? It is hard to imagine the Person of the Holy Spirit hovering over the dark void and yet no light to be seen at all. How can divinity exist in darkness without light of any kind?

The answer is simple, at least in the sense that we may return to the previous quotation of Paul: the Light, which is revealed in verse 3, is God making His presence known. God was letting it be known, not only for the formless creation, but for the benefit of those who would be reading Genesis for years to come, that in the midst of the darkness He was present. That He had not made Himself known is irrelevant - He was still there. Darkness must never be seen as the weakness of God, but merely the absence of God. Not absence in the sense that He is not present, for it is clear here that God is present even the darkness - rather, it is the absence of the knowledge of His presence. There are many times in our lives when we find ourselves in great darkness, and it feels like God is not present - yet it is clear, from the very beginning, that God is still present even in the greatest of darkness.

What follows next is plain in the text: God commands for there to be light, light is revealed, and it is said that God saw the light as being good. He then separates the light from the darkness. Many things can be seen from this:

1) The light is good because it comes directly from God, and as God is a perfect Creator it stands to reason that all He creates would be perfect.

2) The darkness is not said to be good because darkness, by its very nature, acts contrary to light. God will later call the sun and moon, natural night and day, equally good because natural night serves good purposes - it is at night that bats and various insects are able to function and find food. Yet spiritual darkness has no good purpose, and the absence of God is the greatest evil that can be devised.

3) God separates the light from the darkness for two-fold reasons:

a) God is in control of good and evil. Not that God is Himself the author of sin, but that sin and evil cannot usurp or thwart God's will. That an evil man may believe himself to be in complete control of his destiny is only an example of his own total foolishness. To his brothers Joseph said, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20). To King Sennacherib the Lord says, "Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins" (2 Kings 19:25), and likewise to the king of Assyria, "Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?" (Isa 10:15). God is able to separate light from darkness because it is He who is truly in command, and the darkness has neither ability nor power over Him. Hence the words of the apostle John: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).

b) Light and darkness are opposed to each other, and cannot coexist. The apostle Paul rightfully asks "what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Cor 6:14). Where there is light, there is no darkness; where there is no light, there is only darkness. God's separation of light and darkness signifies that, in His eyes, there is no middle ground. He would make this abundantly clear through the prophet Isaiah with the words: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isa 5:20).

There is one final aspect to these passages: they are an early Messianic shadow. The prophet Isaiah foretold "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Isa 9:2), which was fulfilled by Christ (Matt 4:16). The apostle John wrote that Christ, that Light, is He through Whom we have seen "glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14), and it is He who has made God known (John 1:18). Christ came to a world shrouded in spiritual darkness, revealing the presence of God and bringing in the Light once again. Yet with light comes conflict with darkness, which hates that light which extinguishes it. "This is the judgment," Christ said, "the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil" (John 3:19). To His brothers, the Lord said, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil" (John 7:7). The world is by nature darkness, and is by nature working in darkness, and thus hates that light which exposes its evil works for what they really are (John 3:20).

There will, however, come a time when light will truly triumph over darkness. It is said that the celestial city, the bride of Christ, will have "no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev 21:23). It is likewise said "there will be no night there" (Rev 21:25), for the light of God will never be extinguished. For now, however, "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:8), and until Christ returns we who "were darkness" must "walk as children of light" (Eph 5:8), and preach the Gospel so that those still living in darkness may turn "to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18). Amen.