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Genesis 1:14-19 Day 4 Lights in the Sky

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14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26 (4) Fourth Day of Creation (1:14–19)

The fourth day introduces the second group of three days that depict the filling of the universe with movement and life.

Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary The Fourth Day (1:14–19)

Once more the description is unashamedly geocentric. On this, and on the appearing of the sun, etc., so late on the scene, see the Additional note, pp. 58ff. The view expressed there brings verse 14 into a simple relation with verse 4 by regarding the sun as the divider of day from night in each verse; veiled in 4, visible in 14. But again the dominant interest is theological. Sun, moon and stars are God’s good gifts, producing the pattern of varied seasons (14) in which we thrive (cf. Acts 14:17) and by which Israel was to mark out the year for God (Lev. 23:4). As signs (14) they will speak for God, not for fate (Jer. 10:2; cf. Matt. 2:9; Luke 21:25, 28), for they rule (16, 18) only as lightbearers, not as powers. In these few simple sentences the lie is given to a superstition as old as Babylon and as modern as a newspaper horoscope.

17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.

Thus says the LORD:

“Learn not the way of the nations,

nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens

because the nations are dismayed at them,

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,

In general, v. 14, 15, where we have 1. The command given concerning them: Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven. God had said, Let there be light (v. 3), and there was light; but this was, as it were, a chaos of light, scattered and confused: now it was collected and modelled, and made into several luminaries, and so rendered both more glorious and more serviceable. God is the God of order, and not of confusion; and, as he is light, so he is the Father and former of lights. Those lights were to be in the firmament of heaven, that vast expanse which encloses the earth, and is conspicuous to all; for no man, when he has lighted a candle, puts it under a bushel, but on a candlestick (Lu. 8:16), and a stately golden candlestick the firmament of heaven is, from which these candles give light to all that are in the house. The firmament itself is spoken of as having a brightness of its own (Dan. 12:3), but this was not sufficient to give light to the earth; and perhaps for this reason it is not expressly said of the second day’s work, in which the firmament was made, that it was good, because, till it was adorned with these lights on the fourth day, it had not become serviceable to man.

2. The use they were intended to be of to this earth.

(1.) They must be for the distinction of times, of day and night, summer and winter, which are interchanged by the motion of the sun, whose rising makes day, his setting night, his approach towards our tropic summer, his recess to the other winter: and thus, under the sun, there is a season to every purpose, Eccl. 3:1.

(2.) They must be for the direction of actions. They are for signs of the change of weather, that the husbandman may order his affairs with discretion, foreseeing, by the face of the sky, when second causes have begun to work, whether it will be fair or foul, Mt. 16:2

2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

They do also give light upon the earth, that we may walk (Jn. 11:9), and work (Jn. 9:4), according as the duty of every day requires.

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

The lights of heaven do not shine for themselves, nor for the world of spirits above, who need them not; but they shine for us, for our pleasure and advantage. Lord, what is man, that he should be thus regarded!

3  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4  what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

How ungrateful and inexcusable are we, if, when God has set up these lights for us to work by, we sleep, or play, or trifle away the time of business, and neglect the great work we were sent into the world about!

The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, and shine in their season, without fail: but we are set as lights in this world to serve God; and do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? No, we do not, our light does not shine before God as his lights shine before us, Mt. 5:14. We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work.

The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26 (4) Fourth Day of Creation (1:14–19)

The description of the celestial bodies is phenomenological (see on 1:6–7), presupposing a human view of the planets from the earth. The narrative stresses their function as servants, subordinate to the interests of the earth. They are to differentiate day and night and to distinguish the seasons, days, and years. This differs significantly from the superstitious belief within pagan religion that the earth’s destiny is dictated by the course of the stars. Nevertheless, the celestial bodies have the honored role as “rulers,” but their realm is carefully restricted to the skies, whereas on the sixth day human life is appointed to rule the terrestrial world. What appears to be at stake in the narrative is the answer to the ancient question about who “rules” the skies and the earth. Mesopotamian and Egyptian religions speak of their great cosmic gods of Heaven, Air, and Earth. The Sumerians have their Anu, Enlil, and Enki; the Babylonians have their trinity of stars, Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar; and Egypt has Nut, Shu, and Geb with the preeminent astral deity, the sun god Re. Genesis declares otherwise: Israel’s God rules the heavens and the earth. The ancients misinterpreted the prominence of the celestial bodies, which owed their existence and authority to the Unseen One.

The atmosphere being completely purified, the sun, moon, and stars were for the first time unveiled in all their glory in the cloudless sky; and they are described as “in the firmament” which to the eye they appear to be

two great lights—In consequence of the day being reckoned as commencing at sunset—the moon, which would be seen first in the horizon, would appear “a great light,” compared with the little twinkling stars; while its pale benign radiance would be eclipsed by the dazzling splendor of the sun; when his resplendent orb rose in the morning and gradually attained its meridian blaze of glory, it would appear “the greater light” that ruled the day. Both these lights may be said to be “made” on the fourth day—not created, indeed, for it is a different word that is here used, but constituted, appointed to the important and necessary office of serving as luminaries to the world, and regulating by their motions and their influence the progress and divisions of time.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26 (4) Fourth Day of Creation (1:14–19)

The fourth day introduces the second group of three days that depict the filling of the universe with movement and life.

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