Meditations on “God of Transformation”: 1: Let there be light
Gen 1:1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
There is a theme that runs through the Bible that has come to my attention and which will form the basis of this particular series of studies – that God is a God of transformation, that He comes to bring change. Now as I have observed church life over the years, I conclude that so often there is a form of unbelief that prevails that looks at the present and is not in faith for it to change, certainly not for the good, but that flies in the face of the testimony of Scripture. My hope is that as we progress through these studies my faith and yours will be released in a new measure to break free from the shackles of materialism that says we live in a closed system where nothing can change, only the furniture get moved around!
The appropriate place to begin is at the beginning and, in the first three verses of Genesis 1 above, we see the very first recorded transformation taking place. Now I suspect that these words are so familiar to us that we have perhaps taken them for granted and fail to see the wonder behind them.
The opening statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, makes a bald statement but without explanation. It may also be a summary of what follows. Now it is what follows that I think we so often take for granted and give little thought to: “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep.” The planet we call earth was a mass of rock covered by water, and dark. Here’s my question: why? God could have said, “Go!” and the whole earth as we know it could have come into being in an instant, but He didn’t; He reveals it in stages. Why? Because God seems committed to doing things in logical stages – you see it throughout history – and therefore we see it in the Creation narrative of Genesis 1.
The first sentence doesn’t even take us back as far as the scientist’s ‘Big Bang’ for we are presented with an Earth that exists but as a formless mass. It is into this that we find God’s first creative declaration, “Let there be light.” When God says it, it is done. He could have said, “Let there be a compete earth”, but He didn’t. Why? I suggest the answer includes that thought that He wants us to think about the stages and ponder on them. We’re doing that purely in respect of the first one, the bringing of light.
But what is light? Depending where you search you will come up with various answers varying from the less technical to the highly technical. For instance, “Light is the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. Light is what allows us to understand the world we live in.” That explains what it does. But then, “Light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which ranges from radio waves to gamma rays. It is the very narrow range of electromagnetic radiation that our eyes can actually see.” Then “visible light is carried by a fundamental particle or energy packet called photons,” and “light involves fluctuations of electric and magnetic fields, which can transport energy from one location to another.” So it’s all about energy. Where does this energy come from? God, because God is energy. That’s not quite what the Bible says for the nearest you will get is Jesus saying, “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24). My definition (which still leaves lots of questions) is that the Spirit is energy or power with personality. In any of the heavenly visions in Scripture, light seems to emanate from the throne or the very presence of God.
When God said, “Let there be light,” this may be the very first time the divine expressed Himself in material form (accepting that light particles or waves operate in the material existence. Isn’t it interesting that when God’s presence filled first the completed Tabernacle (Ex 40:34,35) and then the completed Temple (1 Kings 8:11) it came as an incredibly bright light in the cloud, that we call the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is simply an incredibly bright light. When Jesus was revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration his clothes shone with incredible light (Lk 9:29).
How amazing that the primary manifestation of God the Spirit is in the form of incredibly bright light, and when He speaks into the dark and formless world it comes as light. The fact that the sun, moon and starts don’t appear until v.14 either means that they did not become visible until later because of the vapour covering the earth or because God is making the point that He is the originating source of life, not the light from the sun etc. I suggest both can be true but when considering meaning, the latter takes on significance. There are few plants that can live without light. We human beings wilt without light. Light is fundamental to life and without it life can rarely exist (but see creatures in the depths of the oceans as an exception). Light in increasing forms translates energy into heat and without that heat we cannot live. Thus from the outset it is like God is saying, “Let there be here in this material world the means to sustain ‘life’.”
A study of the word ‘life’ in the Bible opens up massive areas for consideration but ultimately that is what we are all about – living beings and we live because God has turned His energy into light which in turn enables life in this material world. God is thus both the source of life and the sustainer of life – spiritual AND physical!
Can we appreciate light so that it stirs praise and thanks in us? When the sun comes out and brings life to nature, when the moon and stars shine ay night reminding us of the enormity of this universe and reminding us, so the scientists tell us, of millions of other universes, all created by our God. And when a rainbow appears with the spectrum that together makes up white light, and the clouds create shadows and shades of light, let’s marvel at it and give thanks to the Lord of all things, the Creature not only of what we know but infinitely more.