The Filling of the Earth
Reading Genesis 1:11-25
I have just returned from two weeks holiday, I had my camera with me and like most here this morning, made frequent use of it – lots of Photographs! Something to look at to remind me. A pictorial record of my two weeks away in 2012. Looking for some grand scene
Imagine the picture you could have taken if you had been there when God began to create.
What a picture! Well, probably not, there was no light and there was nothing to see because the earth was formless, empty, dark, and watery.
Imagine that a picture is taken at the beginning of each new day. For us this would mean at sunrise, but the day begins in Genesis at sunset – So the evening and the morning were the first day. Etc.. What will the photograph show? Nothing that we would recognize. We know a day has come and gone because God tells us a day has come and gone, but it is nothing we would recognize. Why do I say this? Because there is no sunrise or sunset, no full or waning moon, no twinkling stars, and no means of distinguishing light from darkness – at least not until after the fourth day.
Do you see the mystery and the majesty of the beginning? But more than that, do you see the mystery and the majesty of creation’s God? He followed a plan. He made everything according to a certain order. An order that glorifies Him and shows His might and wisdom and goodness.
Now this morning we move on in our consideration of the story of creation – to look at the filling of the earth.
What we find is that the Lord God made everything. The sky did not give birth to the world. The world did not beget the sea. The sea did not form creatures great and small. They all were made by God. They all are the result of His handiwork.
Not a title that I would have chosen prior to this sermon, I have always thought it the language of cults and God deniers – but there is a sense in which it is legitimate to use the title, for a study of the third day shows us a picture of “mother earth.”
Gen.1:11-12 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good..
There is a change in the language of God here – previously He has said – Let there be – (v3, 6, 9).
Look at v11 God uses the word ‘Let’ but it’s not a command that brings something into existence – Let the earth bring forth – what? The seed-bearing plants, the trees that bear fruit with seed in it, the flowers, the plants, and the shrubs.
Let the earth bring forth – as made by God, the land has reproductive powers, the land has the power to produce plants. All it needs is God’s permission and God’s command. This is something God has built in to this part of His creation. Fertility is a created capacity.
“Let the land produce vegetation.” “Let the land be fruitful.” “Let the land do what I created it to do.” That is what we see in v11-12. Genesis identifies plants that are self-propagating. Genesis mentions trees that reproduce themselves. The plants and the trees contain within themselves the means to be fruitful and increase in number.
Do you see why I call the land “mother earth”? Because, like a mother, she bears life. But not on her own. Never on her own. Only at the command of God. Only when God gives permission.
With this in mind, think about biblical famines. Of the seven years of famine in Egypt during the time of Joseph or the famine in Israel at the time of Ahab and Elijah. Why was there a famine? God withdrew His permission for the land to produce.
So, on the third day of creation, at the command of God, mother earth produces vegetation.
Why do you think Genesis makes such a big point of this? Think of the original audience: the children of Israel, at the time of Moses, coming from the bondage of Egypt and on their way to the Promised land. Remember that the Egyptians and the Canaanites gave to their gods the credit for their crops – Baal was the god to whom the Egyptians and Canaanites cried and prayed for rain and sunshine and crops and harvests.
The idolatry of Baal was in the land Israel left and was also in the land to which Israel came. The temptation was always there for the children of Israel to worship Baal, to cry out to Baal, to make an idol out of Baal. Remember the golden calf that Israel built at the foot of Mount Sinai? This was an image of Baal. Remember King Ahab and the prophets and priests of Baal and the contest on Mount Carmel?
Do you see what Genesis 1 is doing? Genesis 1 is making a declaration against Baal and its worship. The land does this on its own by the command of God and the permission of God. Therefore, Baal is not a god. Therefore, Baal is not worthy of honour and worship and praise and prayer.
Baal’s turn to be declared false. Don’t worship Baal. Instead, worship God because it is He Who commands the land to produce.
Genesis 1 is an attack against man’s idols and man’s idolatry. We can turn anything and everything into a god. Egypt was this way. Canaan was this way. Israel was this way.
And, we are this way too. Except our god or goddess of fertility is no longer Baal or Astarte. Who does the modern farmer credit for the fruitful earth? Himself and his hard work. The ground produces crops because I plant and water and fertilize and cultivate. Or, I have food and clothing and a home and can provide for my children because of my hard work, my brains, my talents and abilities.
Forgetting what Paul said, So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Cor.3:7).
Forgetting what the psalmist says, that it is God Who He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, (Ps.104:14).
There are those today who worship the earth itself. They speak in hushed, almost reverent, terms about nature and mother earth – not realizing or forgetting that fertility is a created capacity.
No, we don’t bow before Baal anymore. Rather, the providing idol we worship before is our hard work or an entitlement mentality or the welfare state or the earth itself.
The Filling of the Heavens
Day four brings us to the filling of the heavens – God’s creation of all things is geocentric – earth centred, the earth is the focus point, God is making all things for the benefit of man – So, we are looking at the filling of the sky from the perspective of the earth. We are looking at the sky that man is under. The sky that is over the earth. The sky that man observes. The sky that man so often wants to worship.
What does God do? God fills the sky with the sun, moon, and stars. God “set them” in the expanse of the sky. Notice why: to separate the day from the night, to mark seasons and days and years, to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, to separate light from darkness (Gen.1:14,16,17).
Think again about that camera taking pictures of the creation – Until day four, a picture of this earth was not something we could possibly recognize. Until day four, day and night were not clearly delineated from one another. There was nothing to mark days and seasons and years. Light was already in existence, but this light was not yet shining upon the earth.
Day four completes what began on day two. On day two God made the sky. On day four, God fills the sky. Which helps to explain something odd about the creation of the sky in day two: this is the only thing about which Genesis does not say, “And God saw that it was good.” The sky was incomplete on day two. Once it was complete, then God pronounces it to be good.
Genesis 1 makes clear that the sun and the moon and the stars are not god. They can’t be god. Because they were created. Because they did not always exist. The sun, moon, and stars were set into the sky to serve the earth and NOT to be served by the earth!
Did you notice, the sun and moon are not even named. They are simply identified as a “greater light” and a “lesser light.” As for the stars, they are mentioned as a mere afterthought (Gen.1:16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.). The message: these things do not control the fate of man.
Therefore, we don’t worship and serve the sun, moon, and stars. Rather, the One to be served is He Who made the sun, moon, and stars. We never worship the creation; rather, we worship the Creator.
The Filling of the Water, Sky, and Land
Now we come to days five and day six of creation. God now fills the water, the sky, and the land with birds, fish, and animals.
Notice a couple of things. First, God fills them in the order in which they were made. God first made the water, then the sky, then the dry ground. So, God first makes the fish, then the birds, and then the animals.
Second, notice the close parallels between the three. All are created “according to their kind” (Gen.1:21,24-25). Although there are swarms of new creatures, they don’t appear in unordered chaos. Each has its own place in the created pattern. And, each is judged by the Creator to be good (Gen.1:21,25).
Third, on the fifth day, a new element enters the picture – a divine blessing. This benediction is extended to fish and birds. God wants them to be fruitful, to increase in number, to fill the water and the sky.
Fourth, did you notice that two times God said, “Let the land produce …” (Gen.1:11, 24)? The first time, given God’s permission and command, the land produced vegetation. Meaning it is the land, not Baal, that is responsible for fertility. The second time, God commanded the land to produce living creatures. Then we are told that God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, (Gen.1:25). The land was commanded to “produce” but instead God “made.” The land on its own cannot create anything with the breath of life; only God can do this. Think of what this says to Darwin and all evolutionists.
Another warning against idolatry. Many nations believed the great sea creatures and various animals to be gods. They aren’t. They are created beings.
The Priority of God
Instead of talking about the creation, let us now talk about creation’s God. What does Genesis 1 tell us? That God alone is God and nothing else is. There are no rivals to God’s sovereignty. We see this in six different ways in Genesis 1.
In the beginning God (Gen.1:1). God – not mother earth, not the sun, not sea creatures, not bulls and bears. God. And God alone.
God names the various parts of His creation. – it is the greater who names the lesser.
God delegates responsibility and authority. On day four, God appoints the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night (Gen 1:16). He Who is greater delegates to that which is lesser. So, God is greater than the sun and moon. On day six, God gives man dominion over all the earth and the animals. Meaning that God is superior to man and meaning that man must not worship any creature for he is superior to everything else.
God blessed all of His creation – the lesser is always blessed by the greater (Heb.7:7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Everyone agrees that a person who gives a blessing is greater than the one who receives the blessing. ). Therefore, God is greater than them all.
God exercised His sovereignty by imposing restrictions on the created order. Four times, God ordered various life-forms to reproduce “after their kind” (Gen 1:11,21,24,25). Do you know what this rules out? This rules out any possibility of evolution from a one-cell creature to man. There is no migration from one species to another. There can be no migration from one species to another. Because God has made it this way. God is the Maker and the Creator. God, not chance, not evolution, has made each and every life-form.
God alone determines the value of all things. It is God Who tells us what is good and what is evil. Seven times, God uses the word “good” to judge what He made (Gen 1:4, 9, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). It is God Who sets the standards. What God calls “good” is good, and we are not permitted to substitute another standard.
I have said a lot of things. What I want you to remember, though, is that it is God, all God.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Hebrew word for “God” is plural. There is one God but He is plural. Telling us what? That the Creator God we worship will be revealed in the rest of the Bible as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Sweep down though the centuries and you come to the greatest revelation of all – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
To where does all this revelation lead? – Back to God! The bringing back the repentant sinner – you and I back into relationship with our God!
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved
A day comes when God will once again declare part of His creation Good – Well done, good and faithful servant; Matt.25:21
It is this God, this triune God, that we worship and praise for all that He has made.