Genesis 1, Psalm 121
And There was Evening, and There was Morning--the First Day.
(Sounds Backwards doesn't it!)
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 NIV
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 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 between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day.
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning--the fifth day.
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said,
"Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them,
"Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground- -everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Brothers and sisters in Christ:
There are many things that could be said about this first chapter of the book of Genesis, its beauty, its historicity and its poetic complexity. The more commentaries I review, the more complex the arguements. In no time it is hard to see this scripture as the Word of God to us.
This evening I plan to keep the controversial aspects of its chapters to a minimum, because frankly, controversy, doubt, and often intelllectual gymnasics do little to help us in our walk of faith.
So this evening, my attitude to these sciptures are simple. They are history given to us in inspired narrative or story form. What that means will become self evident as we look at the text over the next number o weeks. What it means before anything else is that God, in inspiring it the way that he did intends to say something very clearly to us. And just one of the messages that he wants to speak to us he says six times in this opening chapter. This message is probably one of the most Calvinistic verses in the entire bible. Most of us, however, have read over it again and again, thinking nothing of it.
The verse which is repeated six times in this chapter - in verse 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31 is this "And there was evening and there was morning the first, (second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth ) day."
Most commentators simply regard this phrase as a way of dividing a piece of poetry into six different verses, or they regard it as a way of describing the seperate consecutive stages of creation, whether they be 24 hour periods are ages or eons.
But listen to the particular wording of this verse "And there was evening and there was morning the first day."
I don't know about you, but my days go a little differently.
My morning starts at about 7:30AM, with a nasty buzzer that tells me that my dreams are over, its time to get out of my slumber and get my butt into gear. Its time to have a shower, a shave, get dressed, eat, communicate with Judy and the kids about what is happening today, all with the intent of preparing for a days's work. Of course my day is work, sometimes even before that buzzard goes, I'm laying in bed, planning my day, thinking of all the things that I have to do and if I don't do them, they won't get done. WORK, its important, it is indispensible, I've got to do it. And then I go through the day, you can replace whatever your work is for mine, mine is reflecting, visiting, planning, writing, reading, preparing lessons, agenda's, R+D (Research and Developement, not Rest and Dreaming) of sermons, driving, administering, you name it, its in the "etc" clause of my contract. Squeeze in lunch overtop of a book.
Somewhere between 4:30 and 6 I drive home, grab a supper; try to "be there" in more than body for my family, get maybe even a little rest so that I might go back to work to a meeting, another visit, there to make decisions, talk about faith and life and the Lord, pray, go home with a whole list in my mind of things that I should have done but didn't do, and still have to do or they just won't get done.
And I get home, if I'm lucky, by 9:30PM, if things didn't go quite as quickly as planned, maybe midnight. I get home, look at the clock, sigh, brush my teeth, go to bed - so that tomorrow I will be refreshed again for work! If these sound like run-on sentences, its because I have run-on days!
At the end of all that I might say... And there was morning and there was evening on an average day. That's the way my days go, morning till evening, in fact, after evening, I shut down, I go to sleep, I forget, neglect, slumber, am in oblivian to, not accomplishing anything, wasting my time on cutting the ZZZZs. I must be a type "A" personality more than I thought. Sleep is wasting time. But I know I must sleep so that I might be able to work.
Everything is focused on the work that happens from morning till evening, even my sleep.
But in Genesus 1, we read about God working and at the end of the descriptions of the work done, we read: "And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day!"
"And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day!"
Why did God inspire Moses to describe the dyanmics of his work day this way?
Where we would start with morning and work till evening, it appears that God starts with evening and finishes up in the morning.
What, if anything, is God saying to us through this repeated line in Genesis chapter 1? What is he saying to us by the order of these words?
Commentaries don't often ask the question. Most of them simply see the phrase a a way of distinquishing one verse of Genesis 1 poetry from another verse, obviously they have that function. Others get into long discussions about the length of the days, so described, a discussion which in all aspects is determined by speculation, or other infromation that comes from outside of the passage at hand.
John Calvin in his commenatary at least notices the difference of the order, rather than morning till evening, evening till morning, noticing that the Jews started measuring their day in the evening. But he goes on to indicate that regardless of the order, it makes no great difference. What is meant is a certain period of time, one of the stages of creation.
But listen to this passage, this verse, God's days. When evening came, he started working. By his word he created, taking empty darkness, creating light and seperating light from darkness. Controling the photons of the universe obviously took immense power. When he was done, he called the light day, and the darkness night, and then it was morning and it was good. The word "good" here has connotations of completion, blessing, wellbeing.
When evening came again, he started his work, massive projects of dividing the waters, creating seas and skies, and when he had finished, it was morning, complete and good.
The next evening he started on land, and vegetation, and fruits, the biological marvels of our world, and when morning came it was good.
The next evening, it was animals, the final evening man. Each morning he looked upon his work and saw with the satisifaction of an artist, a creator, that it was good. And with the completion of his work came blessing - blessing on all that he had made, shaped formed, created.
The picture that we get from this repeated verse is that God worked through the night, evening till morning, so that his creation might celelbrate his work during the day.
Through the night he worked, so that we might celebrate the day.
In a quiet but powerful way, God is saying something to each of us, something about the order of our salvation, something about the order of the days, the months, the years of our lives.
First he is saying something that is a very concistant theme throughout the scriptures, that he worked, while we did nothing so that we might be blessed.
That is the picture of Genesis One. God did it all for the first 6 days, He did incredible creative wonders, so that when his creative work was completed, we might be blessed and be told to multiply. Everything was ours to rule and enjoy, and when God saw all that he had made, it was very good. That is not only true for creation, it is also true for our salvation.
The scriptures are very clear. When we were in the darkness of sin, ignorant of God, calloused to his call, unable to respond because were were in the sleep of death, God having chosen us from before the creation of the world and loved us as his own was at work, creating the circumstances of our lives so that we might learn to listen, working, nudging us by his spirit, enableing us to hear his word. When we finally came into the light of salvation, we celebrated what God had done for us. It was like the lights were suddenly turned on! In truth, God had worked through our darkness till the light of the morning, till we awoke from our deathly slumber and we were ready to recieve his love and light.
How many of us, if we look at our lives, can say no other: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." As we look back at our lives, we can only stand amazed at what he has done to regenerate our stony hearts and wash us clean to make us his bride. Our only response can be worship and praise because he worked in the darkness of our night, now we are not our own but we belong to him, body and soul in life and in death. God worked while we could do nothing, so that when the morning came, we could see his love and embrace him.
This verse is also true for the very rythme of our lives.
We so often think that the heart of life, the heart of our activities are the things that we do ourselves from day to day. The things that happen between morning and evening - they are the things that are so very important. And so often we lay awake at nights thinking of all the things that we have to do tomorrow, all our reponsibilities, all the things that cause us to worry. And we forget the nature of the Lord's work day, from evening till morning, he works, he who neither slumbers nor sleeps goes to work while we must lay down our heads to rest.
"And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day!"
What a blessing this truth is!
As I lay down my head to rest, I can ask myself : "What is God at work at tonight?" "What good things is he doing in the hearts of his people?" "What is he doing in places where I can do nothing?"
As parents, when we lay awake at night wondering what our children who have moved away are doing, when we can do nothing for them. When we can't express our love for them. When we can't support them. We can ask ourselves: "What is God doing through the night shift with our children as we lay down our heads and worries in sleep?"
For me, this passage makes a profound difference in my mornings. When I awake in the morning, the new day need not be filled with remembering all the things that we had to do! Instead, there can be a sense of wonder: "Lord, what did you do last night about the concerns that I have? Lord, what did you do for those I minister to, those I love? Now that the day has once again begun, where can I fit it with what you have been doing before I awoke, so that I can be a co- worker with You in the work that you have already begun? Mornings turn into celebrations of a new day. Worries turn to wonder, planning to watching to see what God has been up to. God has been at work, we celebrate the benefites.
Do you hear this repetition in the very first chapter to the Bible?
Psalm 121 NIV