3 Ways God Saves You from Drowning—the Second Day of Creation
My son was two years old at the time. We were in our neighbor’s yard, standing next to their swimming pool. He stepped into the water and fell like a stone. For a split second (though time slows in these situations, and it seemed much longer), he didn’t struggle or try to get out—he simply sat on the bottom of the pool. I reached down instantly and hauled him out. I was much more disturbed than he was, and shocked at how quickly and silently a little child could drown.
God’s church is always in danger of drowning.
God’s church is always in danger of drowning—suffocating in the waters of outward persecution and inward materialism and temptation. This applies to us as a body, and this applies to us individually. But we need not fear, for our Savior—from the very beginning—showed how he can deliver us from the chaotic suffocating waters in whatever form they come.
In Genesis 1:6-8, we read about God’s work on the second day:
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
The “expanse” (raqia) separates the water that made up the original formless, empty, lifeless, black, and watery chaos (1:1-2). It creates a horizontal space between water that is above and water that is below. And God called it “Heaven” (shamayim), which is the very common Hebrew word for the place, both seen and unseen, that is far above the surface of the earth.
Raqia, thus, is a sturdy barrier that God stretches out above the earth. And when we put this with its name, shamayim, “heaven” or “sky,” we see that on Day Two God made the sky, a powerful spacious barrier that holds apart water that is down from water that is up.
What, though, is the water that is above? Proverbs 8:27-28, a very beautiful picture of creation spoken by “Wisdom” personified, tells us:
“I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep.”
The “waters below” are the oceans, and the “waters above” are the clouds.
What a magnificent picture that God paints before our eyes! First, we see creation: formless, lifeless, lightless, empty, and watery. This is the raw material. On Day One God floods creation with light. And periods of light will alternate with periods of darkness to make “day and night.” Yet, although creation is no longer black, it is still a formless watery chaos. On Day Two God builds structure, a firmament-expanse, a sky which separates water below from water that is above. There is now light and space, God’s home for his image-bearers is beginning to take shape!
Though I have no doubt that Moses describes real physical events, I am equally certain that he is describing tremendous theological truths. Let us consider Day Two from three vantage points:
1. Israel in Egypt—God provides a space to breathe and live.
At the beginning of Exodus, Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for four centuries and was facing extinction. The Egyptians drowned their newborn boys in the Nile (Exod. 1:22), thus drowning the future nation latent in them. Metaphorically and literally, Egypt was suffocating Israel.
On the Second Day, God showed that he controls the waters, and that he had and could separate the waters to provide a space to breathe and live. God could stretch out a firmament to shield them from the drowning waters, a safe vault (KJV), an expanse in which to breathe. And God did that for Moses as he sheltered him from the waters in his little water-proofed papyrus basket (literally a miniature “ark,” a miniature of that which saved Noah and his family from the flood). And God did that by holding back the waters of the Red Sea, the great barrier between Egyptian slavery-death, and the delightful freedom of the Promised Land. By showing drowning Israel the second day of creation, God showed them that he could deliver them. Instead of being drowned by their enemies, their enemies were themselves drowned by the hand of God (Exod. 15:4).
2. Jesus and the New Testament—God saves his people from drowning.
The Israelites were never a seafaring nation. The ocean—seething, stormy, uncharted, unpredictable, chaotic, and calamitous—became for Israel a metaphor for “the devil’s playground.” When Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Gerasenes in order to heal “Legion,” infested with a swarm of maniacal demons, the “furious squall” was the devil personified, throwing his all at Christ to prevent him at all costs from freeing his choicest slave. The waters of Galilee threatened to drown the apostles—in whom the future church lay latent (Eph. 2:20) and the Savior himself. The apostles howled, “Save us! We’re going to drown!” The Savior simply spoke: “Quiet! Be Still!” and the sea was instantly calmed and quelled. It was no match for the Word, the God who made the seas in the first place, and who spread out an expanse in which his image-bearers could breathe and live. The demons failed to drown the church; instead they themselves were drowned (Luke 8:33).
Likewise, when Jesus walked on water he showed that he was the great Creator of the Second Day. He rules the waters. They cannot drown him or his people; instead, he “walks all over them" (see Isa. 51:23).
Similarly, the exciting last chapters of Acts: Paul sails with the life-giving gospel from Judea to Rome, the beating heart of the gentile world. The whole Mediterranean rises up to destroy and drown him, and to drown the worldwide church that lies latent in the message that he will bring (Gal. 1:15-16). The Lord shields Paul through the storms and carries him safely to Italy’s sandy shores. Paul’s mission was really the Lord’s mission, and nothing will prevent Him from creating an expanse of life and breath for the nations.
3. The Church today—God rescues us from suffocating.
The history of the church is one astonishing deliverance tale after another. At every moment she is threatened to be engulfed and drowned by the floods of persecution, internal explosion, anti-God philosophy, apathy, and materialism. Yet the Lord who said on Day Two, “Let there be a firmament-expanse between the waters to separate water from water,” continues to provide breathing space and life for his church.
What about you? Are you suffocating? Drowning in your troubles and your sins? He said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. He said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters!” and there was an expanse. He will rescue you out of the waters. Nota bene! He will rescue you out of the waters. Until we die, the waters will seethe and foam up to our necks, threatening at any moment to suffocate us. Sometimes we gulp seawater and splutter and gasp. He will bring you through. And you will find that the very waters that threatened to asphyxiate you, will in his hands fix, strengthen, purge, and purify you.
Praise Jesus, Mighty God of the second day of creation!
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.