The Order and Structure of Creation, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #25)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 1:31 – 2:2 which reads: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.“

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible edited by theologian R.C. Sproul: “This concluding summary statement underscores that the Creator perfectly executed His will. The creation cycle was completed on the sixth day and God rested on the seventh, providing man with a model for the cycle of labor and rest. No mention is made of “evening and morning” here, perhaps because the Sabbath ordinance continues and man is exhorted to participate in it, and to look forward to the eternal redemptive sabbath rest.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Martin Luther. He said: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Order and Structure of Creation (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

I have suggested, on the basis of the toledot structure, that Genesis 1 is an introduction. As such, its function is to briefly answer the question, Where did the world come from? It does so in thirty-four verses, and virtually every reader comes away from that section wanting to know more. However, it is clear that the writer does not intend to give us the detail we would like to have. His purpose is merely to show that the entire cosmos is created, and that it is God who is the source. The brevity of the material has led to tremendous controversy even among those who claim to take the Bible as a document inspired by God. There is not enough time to sort out all of the issues; therefore, we will merely make several observations.

As we look at Genesis 1, we see a carefully laid out process of creation, though it is expressed in very broad brush strokes. This process consists of seven stages, the last stage being completion, the Sabbath rest of God.

These stages are portrayed as seven days, a description that has created much controversy. On the one hand, we have a text that seems to give a very explicit time frame. On the other hand, we have scientific data that seems to show that the universe is much older than a literal seven-day creation would allow. A variety of approaches have been taken in an attempt to resolve this disparity.

One group dismisses the Genesis account as purely mythological, or perhaps, at best, poetry. According to those who hold this view, the account is to be viewed as a “prescientific” attempt to explain the origin of the world. If one follows this view, the entire account can be dismissed as a poetic way of saying that God created the universe, and the “days” are mere literary devices used by the writer to give structure.

Another view notes that the Hebrew word for “day” can also mean an extended period of time. Those who hold this view look at the various physical phenomena used to date the universe, such as its vastness and the amount of time it would take for the light from distant galaxies to reach us. Taking these and other factors into account, they propose a long period of development that would allow God to use various tools, such as evolution, to produce the world we have today.

A third group argues that we should take the account as a straightforward presentation. Those who hold this view observe that the word day with a number as used elsewhere in the Old Testament refers only to a literal day. They argue that all of the methods used to measure the age of the universe are based on various assumptions, which may or may not be valid. Moreover, the Bible suggests that the universe was fully functioning from the beginning of its creation, which implies that it already had an appearance of age, just as Adam had the appearance of a mature man the moment he was created. Another argument used is the statement that God rested on the seventh day, which is difficult to fit into a long chronology.

The problem we have to address is that God is beyond space-time and thus not limited by our criteria. Would God be dishonest to create a fully functioning finished product if in doing so there was an “appearance of age”? On the other hand, when we look at the heavens and see how great the cosmos is, must we limit its history to a few thousand years? Then again, must God be restricted to using “natural” physical cause-and-effect processes such as evolution in the creation process? Unfortunately, even in Christian circles, there has been much name-calling as we have tried to evaluate these complex issues. While these questions are very relevant to the study of this book, they are not issues that can be resolved here.

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