“Let there be light” are the first spoken words recorded in the Bible.
Those four words in Genesis 1:3, “Let there be light,” are like a flash of lightning following this description of the origin of the universe: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:1,2 ESV) Those words set the stage for the rest of the Bible.
Let’s revisit this familiar story, a true story. But today, here on the Front Porch Swing, let’s not read for evidence to prove how God created the universe or how long it took. Let’s focus on the who behind creation.
“In the beginning, God…” Before time began, before the first tick of the cosmic clock and before the first moment in history, God existed.
“God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything in this wonderful and immeasurable universe had a beginning and a creator.
“The earth was without form and void…” The focus is on planet earth, this home that God was preparing for human beings. “Without form” suggests unfinished, without structure. “Void” suggests unfilled or empty – something was still lacking.
“and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The author of Genesis is setting the stage for the bolt of lightning in verse 3. Darkness is a void, the absence of something- light.
“And the Spirit of God was hovering over…” The work wasn’t finished. The earth existed, but it was not suitable for life in this “not yet finished” state. Everything is waiting for the Great Architect to finish the job. Here is the way Isaiah described it: “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:18, ESV)
Are you ready for the next big event in the narrative? Over this unfinished construction project – this pervasive darkness and this silent void – we hear the first spoken words in Scripture: “Let there be light!” (Fill the void with light! Finish the unfinished! Make everything good!) and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God 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.” (Genesis 1:3–5, ESV)
The remainder of Genesis 1 and 2 describe how God prepares the earth for plants and animals, but especially for men and women to manage and enjoy.
The narrative takes a dark turn in chapter 3. Disobedience resulted in eviction from paradise. Everything was damaged, seemingly beyond repair. A perpetual partial eclipse enveloped the earth and life became a dreary shadowland with occasional sunbreaks.
Certainly 2020 has felt that way, hasn’t it? Covid19 stealthily lurks on every surface, and a spirit of anarchy seems to be spreading across the globe. But, we anticipate a new vaccine and a happier new year in 2021.
That pretty much describes human history. Epochs of rebellion against God and the resulting harvests of discipline have been followed by bursts of light and hope.
Consider Noah, a righteous living in a spiritually and morally dark time. His story is like a point of light. Forty dark days of torrential rain in the belly of the great ship, followed by colorful sunlit prisms and the first rainbow, must have been amazing. God promised Noah that sunrise would follow sunset and summer follow springtime throughout time.
Moses’ eyes and heart were captured by the light in a burning bush. The ninth, in a series of ten plagues, brought three days of darkness so deep it could be felt. Have you ever felt darkness? I know you can’t see darkness, but standing in a dark cave with all lights turned off and all lanterns extinguished is eerie. I have heard it described as “you can almost feel it.” Israel also encountered the living God when the mountain burned with fire and flashes of lightning. It was as if God once again said, “Let there be light.”
The rest of Scripture is punctuated with references to light overcoming darkness.
Isaiah predicted that the birth of Jesus would bring light into the spiritual darkness of the nations: “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:1–2, ESV)
Isaiah added, “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:5–7, ESV)
Speaking of Israel, God said, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6, ESV)
Zechariah spoke these words after proclaiming that his new born son would be called John: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”” (Luke 1:76–79, ESV)
Simeon, running the final lap of his life and holding the 40 day-old baby Jesus in his arms prayed, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32, ESV)
The apostle John echoes Genesis 1:1 when he begins his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:1–9, ESV)
John also quotes Jesus, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”” (John 3:19–21, ESV)
Jesus, himself, emphatically declared, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12; 12:46))
Today, we live in a shadowland. Once again, the light is becoming very dim. It feels like evil is winning. In fact, Paul refers to the battle between good and evil – between light and darkness – as “This present darkness” (Eph. 6:11)
Another Advent season is here. Advent is all about light coming into the world, and Christmas is a season filled with light. As we celebrate Jesus’ first advent, let’s anticipate his second when he will return to earth to eradicate sin and darkness forever. Let’s take a moment to bask in the next advent of light, as John describes it in the book of Revelation.
“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,” (Revelation 21:23–24, ESV)
“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5, ESV)
This advent season, let us sing and shout, “Let there be light!”