3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
Like many others, I started my ministry career focusing on youth, both high school and college students. I’m sure that college students would resent being considered “youth”, but I’m sorry…it’s true. You have no idea what you are doing. And as a youth minister, I have heard a lot of curious questions about the Bible, like “Did Jesus wear a thong?” You know, because John the Baptist said he wasn’t worth of tying Jesus’ sandals, referred to as thongs. But one question that a very quiet youth group student posed has always stuck with me:
“How did the plants grow without the sun?”
I asked her to explain what she meant, and she launched into detailed recitation of the Creation account, that plants were created by God on the third day, and then the sun was created on the fourth day. So how did the plants survive without the sun? I think my answer at that time was something pretty stupid, something along the lines of, “Well…it was just one day between them. The plants would have been fine during that time.”
Oh boy, may God forgive me for the innumerable idiocies I have uttered as a youth teacher or pastor.
But I have actually discovered that this question is a major stumbling block to many people. Atheists commonly use this passage as clear evidence of the stupidity of Scripture, that of course plants could not exist without the sun. Just another example of how backwards the writers of the Bible were, and how ignorant of basic scientific principles. Laughable, (snootily) HAHAHA…
But hold on, that can’t be true. The Israelites were pastoralists who spent nearly every waking hour trying to raise food, both crops and livestock. And not for cash, because such a thing hadn’t been invented yet – for survival. Like all farmers, they were probably intensely aware of that principle, as it dictated whether they would have enough crops to harvest and eat. They knew how plants grew, and that plants needed the sun. No, they didn’t understand that sunlight has an effect on the chlorophyll in the plants’ leaves to create usable energy, but they understood that plants needed sun.
And so contrary to what we might think, it is not ignorance or stupidity that drove the writer of Genesis to write this description of creation. Rather, it is a particular understanding of God, and an understanding that plants do not grow because the sun shines upon them, but because God wills them to.
The sun is very important to the growth of plants, of course. The Israelites knew this, and we know this. But this is where our agreement ends. Because we believe that plants can’t grow without the sun, while the Israelites believed that plants can’t grow without God, without His creation, without His light, without His will, without the sun that He would create. Their belief was that God was the source of all things, bar none. And this was a belief that would be carried from the first book of the Bible to the very last, for in Revelation 21, this is what we read:
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
That city will not need the sun, for the Lord Himself will be their light. God is the Source, with none before Him, a Presence so wonderful it dwarfs even the sun.
But think about what this means away from Genesis 1, and in the context of our own lives. How often we look at our circumstances and mistakenly believe that it is our ability, or money, connections or influence, that makes all things possible! We have our own “suns”, proxies that we feel are more necessary for our lives than the will and providence of God.
I’m curious – what is that for you, what is your “sun”?