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Creation’s Story (7)

R W Cargill, St Monans


It is now time to return to Genesis 1 to consider some of the details of this remarkable chapter. It’s worth reading it again just now, if you haven’t done so recently. Here is what God has revealed about the beginning, what we believe actually happened.

Hebrews 11.3 says that "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God". It does not say, "We understand how…", for we do not understand how. God has not revealed this to us, and even if He had, we might not have been able to comprehend it. But we do understand that He did it, for He has told us so. By faith we understand, because faith is our response to the revelation of God, a solid rock foundation. There is much speculation about how it happened, but that is largely the shifting sand of human reasoning and research based upon present day evidence which might be totally irrelevant to the conditions of the beginning. Such speculation has no place in Genesis 1.

Some Days

There have been many debates about what a "day" was in Genesis 1 – particularly what did the word mean, or how long was each "day". Some have suggested that the days were days of revelation to Moses as he wrote about it. Others have used 2 Peter 3.8 to "prove" that each day lasted for a thousand years. (That verse has no such meaning or application. It is simply telling us that measurement of time is totally irrelevant for God.) Alternatively, since we read about the "day of grace", the "day of the Lord", etc., the days could be (long) periods of undefined duration. Certainly the word day does sometimes have that meaning. But as we shall see, these ideas did not at all help to solve the problems which were thought to exist in relation to creation.

More legitimately, interesting spiritual lessons have been taken from the day by day creation activities, for example to parallel the work of God in the new creation (as in Eph 2.10). Light dawns, life begins, fruit is produced, and so on. Also these days have been viewed as a picture or type of the dispensations of God’s dealings with men throughout all of this world’s history, moving on ultimately to the day of eternal rest.

So what was a creation day in Genesis 1? It was simply a day, the most common measurement of time recognisable by all people everywhere throughout history. Before clocks and calendars arrived, the duration of hours, or even years, was not always recognisable by everyone, but the regularity of "evening and morning" could hardly be missed. God chose this well known fundamental unit of time in which to perform His different acts of creation.

This simplest and most obvious definition of a creation "day" (and simplest explanations are always best!) is confirmed by a comment made in Exodus 20.11, about Israel’s Sabbath, a day of the normal week to follow six similar days: "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day". Consistency requires the word "day" to mean the same throughout the section. We would also have to look at the use of the word in all the early chapters of Genesis, and be consistent. For example, within ch.1 we read about the night and the day (v.5), and seasons, days, and years (v.14). Also, what are "the days of [Adam’s] life" (3.17), or the "forty days", "hundred and fifty days", etc. of the flood (7.17,24)? It would be difficult, even absurd, to make them mean something other than what is obvious.

Some Difficulties

The main reason why it was thought necessary to interpret a "day" to mean something else was to make long periods of time available for geological history which, in the nineteenth century, was (and still is) being insisted upon as factual and indisputable. No problem existed with a "day" before that. But attempts to "extend" the day still did not fit in with the requirements of the accepted geological record, again causing more problems than they tried to solve, something akin to the Gap Theory which we dismissed earlier. We shall see in a later part of this series that geological history is best accounted for by the effects of the great flood of Genesis 7. It is never a good idea to interpret the words of Scripture to fit in with man’s ideas which are foreign to Scripture, and which are liable to change anyway.

Another difficulty for some people was that it just seemed to be too short a time for all that to happen! Even yet, you can detect the ridicule when they say, "You surely don’t believe that the world was made in six days!". Actually we do, without apology! Notice two things about this.

First, God could have done it all in an instant if He had so wished. We need time to do things: evolutionists postulate millions of years. But He did not, He is the Almighty. He gives us a progressive unfolding of His power and wisdom in an orderly way, a day at a time, to teach us about Himself. His method of teaching is always "precept upon precept; line upon line" (Is 28.10). This is also how He wants us to live our lives depending on Him - a day at a time.

Second, there is a very popular theory called the Big Bang, in which it is proposed that all the matter in the universe was made in a fraction of a second from one small speck of something in a huge explosion. It is strange that not a question is asked, not an eyebrow raised, at the idea of all the material of this immense universe appearing in just a tiny fraction of a second! A totally different mindset is applied to creation in six days by the word of God.

The Big Bang theory is popular for obvious reasons, but it is based upon very tenuous reasoning and huge extrapolations. It starts from some astronomical observations which suggest a presently expanding universe, projected back in time to when it began expanding, when it was proposed to be just a really tiny speck. It is calculated that this was billions of years ago, with no changes occurring during all that time. Where the original speck came from is not explained, nor how an explosion could suddenly just happen with no energy to drive it, nor how this explosion made something useful when every other explosion we know of destroys things! The logic of the theory is missing. Many will admit, "We do not understand it, but we believe it happened". Those who trust in the infallible Word of God can be infinitely more confident, even in the logic of it, when we say, "By faith we understand…". In conclusion, the term "Big Bang" would more correctly apply to the end of everything, not the beginning, according to 2 Peter 3.10.

Something Definite

As you read through Genesis 1 (again), the general picture is clear to you, as it was to the devout reader of the Scriptures in early Jewish times, in New Testament days, in the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, in fact through all previous centuries, BC and AD, and to most people throughout the world today. The way the chapter was written enabled it to be understood by everyone, long before a scientific language had been invented, and before a scientific age brought up its objections and posed its questions and criticisms. The chapter was written not to teach science or logic, but to teach about God and His greatness, yet it is totally consistent with real scientific fact and logic.

Creation was a progressive set of sovereign acts by God to prepare a world fit for man to live in, to prepare a stage upon which, to reuse a well-known metaphor, the great drama of redemption would be enacted. Each day brought the objective nearer. From empty chaos God produced an environment which was ideal for the man He had in mind, to live a full and fulfilling life in fellowship with Himself. By the seventh day it was finished, and God rested in fellowship with the man He had created. It was "very good".

The activities of the Creator on each day are different, as "he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps 33.9), but certain phrases are repeated again and again - "And God said", "and it was so", "it was good". These show us the continuous connection between God’s purpose, His power, and His pleasure, themes which will unfold throughout Scripture and, by matchless grace, include us.

To be continued.


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