Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Set Apart" (Genesis 1:6-10)

Day two fights the structure of this hymn. This passage is so structured. That goes beyond the “and there was evening and there was morning” formula. There are seven repeating phrases or elements that occur (with a couple exceptions) in each of the six days. On day five, the fulfillment of God’s fiat is only implied and not spelled out with the “it was so.” On days three and four there is no subsequent word from God beyond the “let there be.” But here in day two, the “God saw that it was good” is missing. It does come later, in day three when God is finished separating all the waters, but why does that act extend over two days?

I don’t know. But there is an interesting detail in the structure. Between God's seeing the light was good in day one, and His seeing that the sky and land and seas being good in day three, there are three instances of God separating, setting things apart.

We see God doing more than just strictly “creating” in Genesis one. He “makes” the sky (firmament), the sun, the moon and the animals. He sees and calls and blesses His creation. But here, between the Good in day one (verse 4) and the Good in day three (verse 10), He separates.

God separates the light and the darkness. He separates the sky from the earth (the waters below and above) and he separates the seas from the dry land. The creative act of God is as much about ordering and organizing the world as it is about making it. God is not a God of chaos and disorder. He determines the way of creation. Where things go; where they belong.

To separate is also to set apart, to call out. God will continue to do this throughout history. Much of God’s activity in the world is setting things apart from the rest. He calls people out to a special purpose. This goes beyond the “creatureliness” we saw back in verse four. The loss of the creature is the fall from grace, the rebellion called sin. The call to return, to be set apart—made holy, is the restoration of humanity.

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