The Spirit of God is hovering over the surface of this earth, the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters.
Listen, that is a major detail in the creation account, not a minor one. You have the living God superintending, being directly in charge of the entire process of creation. Welcome to Grace to You Weekend with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's clear that science has answered a lot of questions about how this world works. But has science, and particularly evolutionary theory, really figured out how the world got here in the first place?
Even some churches would say that it has. Can the book of Genesis hold up to what modern science says about origins? Consider that today on Grace to You Weekend as John MacArthur continues his study called The Battle for the Beginning.
John, before today's lesson, give us a sense once more of just how foundational this battle for the beginning is for believers. And more specifically, I'm wondering, how serious a theological error is it, say, if you believe in theistic evolution? Can someone genuinely be saved and reject a six-day creation? Yeah, someone can genuinely be saved and not even know about the six-day creation.
Someone can be saved and not believe in the six-day creation, but that's a serious sin, to know what the book of Genesis says and not to believe it. But look, let's talk about theistic evolution. Theistic evolution is an oxymoron, basically.
That's a contradictory statement. If you have God creating, you don't have evolution. So if you make up a notion and call it theistic, speaking of God, evolution, you have just confounded the reality that God created in six days and then he rested. Evolution is a long process, quote unquote, of millions and millions of years.
Here's the biggest problem with that. The biggest problem with that is you don't have death. You don't have death until you have sin by Adam and Eve. So if Adam and Eve are the products of millions of years of evolution, how could you possibly believe that when there hasn't been death?
Nothing has died. Evolution says you have the death of all kinds of species coming into other species and dying in other species in the survival of the fittest, and all kinds of beings and creatures and half-men and chromagnon men and blah, blah, and you finally get up to Adam. But you don't have death in the Bible until you have sin. So the whole notion of evolution is predicated on the idea that you have to have death prior to the account of Genesis, and yet you have no sin, and it is sin that produces death. So on its face, the whole notion of theistic evolution is a concession to science, and as I've been saying for the last few days, science can tell us anything about the miracle of creation.
It has no scientific explanation. You made an interesting point the other day that we believe that God is going to destroy and recreate the earth, and new heavens and new earth. Nobody believes that's going to take millions of years. And if the Lord can create a new heaven and a new earth in one great creative act, why would we believe that He couldn't do that to start with when He said He did that? Yeah, that's a good point, and thank you, John, for that answer. Now, friend, to show you what God's Word unequivocally says about how the universe came to be, here's John again with his series, The Battle for the Beginning. St. Augustine put it this way, with the motion of creatures, time began to run its course. It is idle to look for time before creation as if time can be found before time. If there were no motion of either a spiritual or corporeal creature by which the future moving through the present would succeed the past, there would be no time at all.
A creature could not move if it did not exist. We should therefore say that time began with creation rather than that creation began with time. Both are from God, for from Him and through Him and in Him are all things. So God created time along with everything else. How did the universe come to be what it is now?
Here's how. Verse 1, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Hebrews had no word for universe. They had a phrase for universe and the phrase for universe that the Hebrews used was the heavens and the earth. Verse 1 states the general fact. Then verse 2 to 31 breaks it down into sequence.
Let's look at day one. And the earth was formless and void and darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 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 and God called the light day and the darkness He called night and there was evening and there was morning one day.
This is just tremendous. Now as day one begins, we find the earth in a very unique condition. Three phrases are used to describe it. It was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Those three give us the condition of creation on day one.
Let's take the first one, familiar. And the earth was formless and void. It was tohu wabohu in Hebrew. Now how do you understand tohu wabohu, without form and void? Well, tohu means wilderness. It means devastated place. It means waste place. And bohu means empty.
It was an empty waste place. That makes sense. Can we learn any more about that than that? Yes we can because tohu and bohu are used together in some other passages of Scripture. Look at Jeremiah 4 23, this is very enlightening. Now here is Jeremiah and Jeremiah is really heartsick in the 23rd chapter. He's really in pain. Verse 19, my soul, my soul, I'm in anguish. This is a painful period in Jeremiah's life. Oh my heart, my heart is pounding in me. I cannot be silent.
Why? Because you have heard, oh my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war, disaster on disaster for the whole land is devastated. Suddenly my tents are devastated, my curtains in an instant. What's happening here is the destruction of Judah. And old Jeremiah borrows from Genesis 1 to verse 23, I looked on the earth and guess what? It was tohu and bohu and I looked to the heavens and they had no light.
He borrows the very language of Genesis to describe the condition of Judah under the devastating destruction that was brought upon it by its Gentile conqueror. Further says I...I looked on the mountains and they were quaking and the hills moved to and fro, just total devastation. I looked and behold, there was no man and all the birds of the heavens had fled. And I looked and behold, what was once a fruitful land had become an empty place. There's that word, a wilderness.
And all its cities were pulled down before the Lord for His fierce anger. You know what he's seeing here? He's seeing a land devastated by a foreign army, a land smoldering, burning, a land where the birds have fled away from the smoke and the devastation, a land where there's nobody left, they've been slaughtered or they've been taken into captivity.
So tohu and bohu, Jeremiah helps us understand that. He borrows the language of Genesis to describe a wasted, devastated place without any inhabitants. It's lost its former beauty. It doesn't have any form.
It doesn't have any beauty. It is desolate and it is empty of inhabitants due to slaughter and flight. The same phrase is used in Isaiah also, chapter 34 and verse 11. He talks about the judgment of God coming on the nations here.
Isaiah speaking in verse 1 of 34, O nations here, listen, O peoples, let everybody in the earth hear. The Lord's indignation is against the nations, His wrath. And so he talks about the devastation that's going to come when the judgment of God falls on the nations of the world. And in verse 11, he talks about some things that are going to happen to the animals and so forth. And then in verse 11, the middle of the verse, he shall stretch over it the line of desolation, the line of tohu and the plumb line of emptiness of bohu. It's going to be a desolate place and it's going to be empty of inhabitants. Devastation and depopulation without shape and form and without inhabitant.
Secondly, we further get a description. Verse 1 says, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the reason for that is that God hadn't created light. And up to this point, throughout all of eternity, there was no created light. Everything was darkness. The earth then in this shapeless to some degree and in uninhabited form is engulfed in total absolute darkness. Darkness was spread over everything, that's what it says, over the surface of and it doesn't say the earth, but of the deep.
Well that's interesting. That introduces another component here. What is this primordial deep? Deep is a synonym used in Scripture for the sea.
In fact, look later in verse 2. Darkness is over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was also moving over the surface of the waters. And here God through the Holy Spirit defines the deep as water. The word deep is used as a synonym for the sea.
So what do we have here? We have the earth engulfed in darkness which in touching the surface of the earth touches the surface of water. The entire surface of the earth is water, it's a deep, it's a sea surrounded by universal darkness. That is referred to also in Psalm 104 verses 5 and 6, He established the earth upon its foundations, thou didst cover it with the deep as with a garment, like a cloak that covers you, the garment of the earth was water. And it says the waters were standing above the mountains. The unformed earth was literally covered with water.
In a sense, this is...this is like a potter who wishing to fashion a beautiful vessel and then to fill it to be used, first takes a lump of clay and places it on the wheel to mold and fit it to His purpose. So God first gets the raw material and it is a mix of elements covered with water existing in universal darkness, this before He begins to shape it. And this, by the way, I think is what Peter, 2 Peter 3, 5 meant, the earth was formed out of water. The earth was formed out of water and by water. And, of course, that being the flood. Proverbs 8, 27 says He drew a circle over the face of the deep.
First thing, the matter became spherical. So God had this ball of elements that would constitute the earth when He shaped it, engulfed in water. And the third commentary on the state of the earth on day one is most notable, the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
I love this word moving. It's the word hovering, hovering over this unformed and lifeless material, engulfed in water and steeped in darkness was hovering the Spirit of God, Ruach Elohim, God the Spirit. And this indicates superintending divine care and supervision. Job 33, 4 says, the Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. This word hovering is a beautiful word. If you want to compare its use to give you an analogy, you can go to Deuteronomy 32, 11.
Just write it down for the moment and you will find there that it's used to describe young eaglets in a nest and young eaglets not capable of feeding themselves, not capable of defending themselves or fending for themselves, unable to survive, unable to live, unable to develop and grow, utterly dependent on the care of parents who hover over them, providing food and protection and warmth so they can survive and live and grow and develop. That's precisely the imagery here because the same Hebrew word is used of the Holy Spirit hovering over this undeveloped, unformed, lifeless mass of matter in space, covered by water engulfed in darkness and the Spirit of God is hovering over the surface of this earth, the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters. Listen, that is a major detail in the creation account, not a minor one. It demonstrates for one thing that the biblical world view of God is that He is directly involved in His creation. His hand is never lifted from the elements and the working of the material order.
His presence is there, superintending, hovering over that. This is the antithesis of this philosophical deism that says God is like the originator of the creation, He wound it up and then walked away from it. Or theological dualism which sees a gap between a good God and Spirit and a bad world and matter. But rather you have the living God superintending, brooding over, hovering over the waters, being directly in charge of the entire process of creation. As you go through the Bible, you will find that the Spirit of God is the source of all life. By His Spirit, He ordered the heavens, it says in Job 26.
Psalm 33, the breath of God is in me and many other Scriptures. By the Word of the heavens...by the Word of the Lord, rather, Psalm 33, 6, the heavens were made and all their hosts and by the ruach of His mouth, the Spirit of His mouth, many other Scriptures. So the Spirit of God provides the energy to shape and organize and bring life.
This is the work of God. First thing that happens creatively after the original material is in verse 3, day one, then God said, let there be light and there was light. Now scientists can fuss and fume and fuddle and muddle around for decades and centuries trying to figure out where light came from and all you need is one verse.
There was no light. God said, let there be light and there was light. The one who is uncreated light, brought into existence, created light.
The one, according to 1 Timothy 6, 16, who dwells in unapproachable light, commanded created light to exist in the place where there was only darkness and light came into existence. Again Douglas Kelley says, the speaking into existence of the created light is the first of a series of three separations accomplished by the Creator which were essential to making the chaos into a cosmos. On day one, light separates day and night. On day two, the firmament separates the upper waters from the earth, constituting an atmosphere or breathing space. On day three, the waters below the heavens are collected into seas and thus separated from the dry land.
These three separations show the mighty hand of God shaping and organizing the dark watery mass in the direction of a beautiful garden, a fit and lovely dwelling place for plants, animals and mankind. With the creation of light, there was established a cyclical succession of days and nights, periods of light and periods of darkness. As we shall see looking here in verse 5, called the light day and he called the darkness night and you have the cycle of night and day. That means the earth immediately began rotating on its axis and there was a source of light on one side of the earth corresponding to the sun which wasn't created until later and there was darkness on the other side of the earth as well. God created light and there was light simply because God told it to exist.
Oh God, I guess like a man who came to arrange various things that were scattered in confusion in some dark room before he does anything else, turns on the light. In verse 4, God saw that the light was good. Now that statement gets repeated in verse 10, verse 12, verse 18, verse 21, verse 25 and verse 31. Everything that God created was good, right? Everything that God created was good. In the end of it, verse 31, He sums it up, and God saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good. Now the works of the Creator could only be good, so that doesn't surprise us at all.
Everything He made was good. Now God...when God says it was good, that's pretty high standard. God Himself is the original standard of what is good and He said it is good...it is good.
The standard of goodness is not outside of Himself. And in verse 5 He gave them names. He called the light day and the darkness He called night. And so it was and so it has always been since the first day there has been light and there has been darkness. There has been day and there has been night. And that constant cycle of light and darkness, day and night, has defined the character of this universe and this earth since day one. And verse 5 says, And there was evening and there was morning one day. When daylight passed, the period allotted to darkness came and it was called evening. And when night passed, the period allotted to light came and it was called morning. And with that comment, the Bible indicates the completion of the first day ever.
And on that day, what was created? Light...light. You say, but how could there be light without the sun? I don't know.
If it said so, I would know. But you certainly don't believe that God couldn't create light but could create the sun to give light. That's a pretty spectacular first day, isn't it? Just in case somebody might think this was some evolutionary process, emphatically says verse 5, And there was evening and there was morning one day. That's a literal translation of the Hebrew. Not one billion years.
One day. One cycle of light and dark evening and morning, and creation is launched. That's John MacArthur on Grace to You Weekend. John is chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary in the Los Angeles area. Today he showed you the personal role God had in creation. It's part of John's study, The Battle for the Beginning. Now, friend, even suggesting that evolution is false will make you stand out at your school or your workplace or almost anywhere you go.
How should you answer the skeptics? John's book, The Battle for the Beginning, based on this current study, can help you know what to say. Get your copy today. To order, call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. The softcover book is reasonably priced and shipping is free, and you can order a copy for yourself, maybe a few to give away to people who you know have questions about creation.
Call us at 800-55-GRACE or order online when you visit gty.org. Also, if you want to review John's current series, download all 12 messages free of charge. The Battle for the Beginning and 3,500 other messages from John are all available free at gty.org. And when you're online, make sure to catch up on the Grace To You blog. It features practical articles from John and our staff addressing issues that affect your life and your church. The blog is available free of charge at gty.org.
And if you benefited from a particular article, please let us know in the comment section. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You weekend staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today, and make sure you're here next week when John shows you how the creation account leads to a deeper understanding of God's glory and will enhance your worship. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You weekend.
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