"Let There Be Light": 6 Things You Need to Know about the Light God Gives You
Human beings have a natural love for light. It is no wonder, for light and all it represents was the very first thing that God introduced into his creation.
The first two verses of the Bible proclaim, “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). Creation was a structureless, lifeless, lightless, and watery chaos. And the Spirit of God hovered like a mother bird over the chaos. He loved the chaos, cared for the chaos, and was about to develop the chaos over a period of six days. Remember that we shouldn’t, strictly speaking, talk of “six days of creation,” for creation was achieved in a moment. Rather, Genesis 1 describes six days of God enlightening, ordering, filling, and enlivening his creation. This is day one:
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he 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 (Gen. 1:3-5).
1. God spoke light into existence.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3). Witness first the power of God: he speaks, things happen. In other words, what God wills happens. As Basil of Caesarea explained in his sermons on Genesis 1: “The divine will and the first impetus of divine intelligence are the Word of God.”
What happens, happens because God wills it to happen. There is no higher will than God’s, there is no will strong enough to compete with God, and there is no realm where God is not present and where his will does not rule. This is the doctrine of God's sovereignty, and it is inherent in the word “God.” God by definition is the eternal being whose will reigns supreme and unchallenged. Thus, we call God “Lord” or “The Lord Almighty” or “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
In the Greek Pantheon, each god competes with the others. Even Zeus—king of Olympus—is outwitted and manipulated and frustrated by the mischievous wills of both gods and men. Elohim is not at all like this. He rules, full stop.
Note especially the power of God’s words. For Paul, this underpins the gospel mission. The gospel is God’s Word, so it is inherently powerful. Mighty Rome might find it pathetically weak, and the philosophers might find it grotesquely foolish—but even the “foolishness” of God is wiser and mightier than the power and wisdom of humanity (1 Cor. 1:18-25). And when God speaks directly to the human heart and spirit, his word is invincible (2 Cor. 4:6).
2. Light is a marvelous thing.
For starters, light is very quick, moving just shy of 300,000 kilometers per second. If you drove your car to the sun at 110km/h (the speed limit) it would take you 157 years to arrive. But if you could ride a beam of light to the sun, it would take you only eight minutes and twenty seconds. I am always delighted by the thought that when I look up at the stars, not only do I see a glorious picture of the number of Abraham’s descendants, I see also the distant past, the light of far distant stars and galaxies that may have taken thousands of years to reach me.
Our amazing scientists still do not wholly grasp the paradoxical nature of light. Physicists talk about “wave-particle duality,” or a “duality paradox”; for on the one hand light behaves like waves and has frequency and amplitude, but it also behaves like particles that can be amassed and focused into a laser beam that can cut through steel. The Jedi knight’s brilliant light sabre might be mythical, but the sheer awesome potential of light is not. These two distinct properties of light have not yet been harmonized. Albert Einstein said,
It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do. (The Evolution of Physics, p. 278)
Light is built into the very fabric of our universe. For as Einstein (again) taught us, mass is but latent energy, and energy is unleashed mass; and the amount of energy contained in mass is represented by the elegant equation E = mc2, E standing for energy, m for mass, and c the speed of light.
3. Light is also truth and wisdom.
Moses, however, is not just talking about physical light. In the Bible, light is also truth and wisdom. God delights to shine truth into the darkness of ignorance, and wisdom into the murk of foolishness. Christianity is not a philosophy, a useful way of looking at the world that will get us through. It is not a system of rituals, following a set of sacred acts to manipulate God’s favor. Nor is it essentially a system of morality: doing this and not doing that in order to win the prize of heaven. The beating heart of Genesis and the Bible and Jesus and Christianity is truth. The truth about who God is. The truth about what God has done and what he is doing. The truth about humanity. The truth about the new heaven and earth that lies ahead. The luminous truth of the Bible delivers us from ignorance, superstition, obscurity, wishful thinking, and lies.
Many demur, “But how can finite humans discover the truth about God? How is this possible?” Indeed, left to ourselves, it is impossible, for our innate blind foolishness leads us down every false path. But if it is impossible for us to grope and fumble and discover the truth about God, God is entirely capable of coming to us, to shine his truth upon us. This is what makes Christianity unique. Whereas human religions grope for God, in the Bible God confronts humanity with the bright light of truth.
A word here about the common term absolute truth. First, truth is one of those words which needs no adjective. There is truth and there is error; and there are no shades of grey in between. Anything less than truth is not truth. Many say that “there is no such thing as absolute truth,” yet that statement is itself a self-contradictory claim of absolute truth. These people would prefer a world where it is not possible to know the truth about God and humanity, where we are free to choose to live however we like. The religious decree, made ex cathedra from the throne of presumed self-rule—that “there is no absolute truth”—is not a noble philosophical contribution to human understanding, but the echo of the screaming toddler in the nursery, “But I want to!”
4. God saw that the light was good.
Note also that light was the first thing that God made. The blackness could not long endure before God flooded it with light. God is good, so everything that he makes is good. He is incapable of mistakes, of lying, of fumbling, of misdirecting, of mismanaging, of failing, of botching. This applies to history, and this applies to you.
It is a tremendous thing when a person takes up the Bible and reads it and sees the truth for the first time. Ignorance and obscurity are banished. Wrong thoughts scatter like the bugs under the old paver that you lift up in the garden. I have seen again and again that when a person comes to Jesus, ‘the Light of the World,’ they begin for the first time in their lives to question and think hard—and reason. The light is good.
5. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”
Parents name their children because the children are their children who are in their care. Parents will, for better or worse, determine a great deal of their children’s character and future. Indeed, names are considered to be strangely powerful predictors of personality and success. Business Insider says, for example, that if your name is easy to pronounce, then people will favor you more, that uncommon names are associated with juvenile delinquency, and that if your name sounds noble, like “King” or “McQueen” rather than “Butcher” or “Farmer,” you are more likely to work in a high-ranking position.
In any case, God names the light and the dark “day” and “night.” They are his, and he determines their function and future. For if the day is manifestly good, God also has a good purpose for the night: that it be a time of rest, recuperation, sleep, and peace.
6. Light can exist without the sun.
Notice the extraordinary fact that day and night are at this point utterly independent of the sun and the moon. Some think Moses blundered here. “Didn’t he know that there can be no light when there is no sun!?” As though the author of the Pentateuch, which constituted the nation of Israel and is—even if we were to put aside the divine inspiration of the Scriptures—a work of unparalleled genius that has shaped the laws and cultures of untold societies across the globe for over three and a half millennia, was naively unaware of a supposed blinding logical inconsistency within the first page of his work!
But Moses didn’t miss this. God’s prophet wanted us to get this: that light—and all it stands for—comes not ultimately from any created thing, but from God himself. God is the source of illumination, wisdom, knowledge, and truth. By creating light three days before he created the sun, moon, and stars, he made this crystal clear. The sun is merely God’s tool, God’s torch. We could say that in the same way the moon dimly reflects the light of the sun, the sun dimly reflects the light of God. And that is why in the new heaven and earth there will be no sun, for it will have fulfilled its purpose: “They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev. 22:5).
We can all rejoice that God is the God of light and that his Son Jesus is the Light of the World and the glorious fulfillment of Day One of Genesis. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5).
Let us come into the light.
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.