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TEXT: Genesis 1:14-19
SUBJECT: Henry on Genesis 1 #7
Tonight, with the Lord's help, we'll move on in the Puritan study we began a couple of months ago. It's called Matthew Henry on Genesis 1.
The creation itself calls attention to the Creator. Henry says it reveals a good deal about Him. For example:
"You are worthy, O Lord, to receive honor
and glory and power, for You have
created all things and for Your pleasure
they are created".
These are some of the highlights of our study so far. To this point, we've looked at the first three days of the Creation Week and seen the Lord make everything and then set some things in order: first He separated darkness from light, then He divided the waters above from the waters below (in other words, made the sky), then He separated the waters below from the dry land and made the land spring up with grass and grains, fruits and vegetables, trees and bushes, flowers and vines, and all the other green things that feed us and make our lives so much happier than they would be without them.
Now we come to Day Four and the creation of the sun, moon, and stars.
Henry was a great commentator with a sharp eye for things other people overlook. But here-it seems to me-he missed something, which I want to put in for him. The good thing about teaching from a Puritan, instead of directly from the Bible is that I can add to and take away from the words of this book without getting a plague or having my name taken out of God's book. Though Henry doesn't say this here, it is a true doctrine and is taught here.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've stressed how orderly the Creation Week was going. If the Lord is going to create Man on the Sixth Day, he has to have somewhere to stand, air to breathe, and food to eat. Thus, the Lord made the dry land, the atmosphere, and the plants before He made Man. Just what you would expect.
But here we have a change. Plants were made on the Third Day, and, of course, they depend on sunshine for their life. But the sun wasn't made till the Fourth Day. What does this mean?
It means that, though the Lord ordinarily uses natural causes to further His will, He does not depend on them! If He wants to keep the plants alive and well without the sun, He can do it. He is sovereign over the plants.
And over His people too. Ordinarily, God uses work to feed His people, but He doesn't have to. In the wilderness, He rained manna out of heaven. When He sent Elijah into hiding, He sent ravens to bring him meat twice a day. When the people were fainting with hunger, the Lord took a boy's lunch and fed 5000 men with it.
The same thing is true about our health. Normally, God uses bed rest or medicine or therapy or exercise to keep us well. But He doesn't depend on these things. If He wants to heal a deaf man by putting His fingers into his ears, He does it. If He wants to restore sight to the blind with mud or saliva, He can. If He wants to cleanse a leper with a Word, there is nothing that can stop Him from doing it.
Natural causes are always second causes. The Lord uses them most of the time-more than 99% of the time-but He doesn't need them.
So, is it better to work for a living or to pray? Is it better to save for the future or to hope? Is it better to take medicine or trust the Lord for healing? The answer is both. Although the first and second causes are not identical, there is no contradiction in them.
Proverbs Chapter 10 says both,
"The hand of the diligent makes rich".
"The blessing of the Lord makes rich".
Thus, the old saying is true: success in war depends on
"Trusting the Lord and keeping your powder dry".
How wonderful it is to know a God who is both orderly (so we can plan wisely) and also sovereign (so we don't have to trust our plans, which are never perfect).
That's the first doctrine and lesson taught on the Fourth Day.
THE BIG IDEA
What are the sun, moon, and stars for? They are lights by which we can see and markers for the passing of time. These thing are true, of course, and Henry gets to them shortly, but first he reminds us of their higher purpose,
"This is the history of the fourth day's work,
the creating of the sun, moon, and stars,
which are here accounted for, not to satisfy
the curious, but to furnish us with matters
of praise and thanksgiving.the Scriptures
were written, not to make us astronomers,
but to make us saints".
So, before he says anything about the heavenly lights, he calls us to praise God for them and to give thanks for the good they do us! Have you done this? And, if you have, when was that? Have you thanked God for the sun this month? For the moon this year or the stars since you got back from your camping trip? Living in artificial light must never dull us to the greatness of God's mercy in giving us lights in the sky-the sun to warm us, the moon to move the tides, the stars to guide ships and all of them to enjoy.
David was a shepherd and a soldier who spent much of his life outdoors. As he lay down to sleep, he would look into the night sky and boggle at the mercy of His King,
"When I consider the heavens, the work of Your
fingers, the moon and the stars, which You
have ordained, what is man that You are
mindful of Him? And the son of man that
You visit Him?"
The God who made gigantic stars of unbelievable heat and plants, far larger than the earth and full of mysteries no man can divine is not only interested in the big things, but in the smallest detail of our lives.
"Even the hairs of your head are numbered".
Could you imagine a president being interested in the price of toilet paper? A king taking interest in the sneeze of a small farmer? A Prime Minster worried about a little boy who thought monsters were in his bedroom closet?
Yet the God who is far above earthly powers cares about the price of toilet paper, hears the sneeze of the little farmer and feels for the boy who can't sleep at night.
The majesties of sun, moon, and stars ought to make us praise God who made them all-but Who has time for us too.
LIGHT AND DIRECTION
Henry goes on to point out the practical value of the sun, moon, and stars.
"Those lights were to be in the heavens and
be conspicuous to all.They must be for
distinction of times, of day and night,
summer and winter and for the direction
of actions, such as a sign in a change of
The heavenly bodies do three things for us: they give us light, they mark time, and-in some ways-they tell us what to do (e.g., plant or harvest for a farmer, take an umbrella to work for the rest of us).
This is not the deepest thing Henry ever said, but-as usual-he has some good lessons to draw from it.
Firstly, it reminds of that light is for shining. God didn't put the sun inside a huge iron planet, but put it in the clear heavens, so we could see it. Does that remind you of something?
"But no man, when he has lighted a candle
puts it under a bushel, but on a candlestick".
If God put the light of nature for all to see, He wants you to put the light of the Gospel for all to see. You do this in your life and also by your words.
Secondly, it reminds us that time is passing. I once read a prisoner's story of life in solitary confinement. He said the hardest thing about it was he lost all sense of time. Because he couldn't see or feel the sun, he didn't know if it was day or night, nor how long he had slept or been up or anything. He nearly lost his mind because of it. But with the passing of time, Henry reminds us means we've got to work for Christ now or not at all!
"How ungrateful and inexcusable we are, 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
This world to do".
CREATURES AND THE CREATOR
Henry closes the section with a word of warning and a word of encouragement. We'll start with the warning,
"Learn from all this, the sin and folly of that
ancient idolatry, the worshiping of the sun,
moon, and stars. But the account here
plainly shows that they are both God's
creatures and man's servants.
Therefore, it is both a great affront to God
And a great reproach to ourselves to make
Deities of them and give them Divine honors.
See Deuteronomy 4:19."
Astronomy is good because it is the study of God's works. Psalm 111:2,
"The works of the Lord are great, sought
out of all them that have pleasure therein".
But astrology is wicked because it gives a sovereignty to the sun, moon, and stars that belongs only to God. I hope no one here needs to hear this: Don't read horoscopes and don't worry about what's seen in the stars-unless it's the glory of God! I am not superstitious at all, but when the comet went by a few years ago, I felt a weird feeling as though it portended something. It was totally irrational and I knew it was wrong. But it wasn't until I got out of the car and read the verse in Deuteronomy that I could thank God for His sovereignty and laugh at myself and others who thought
"The stars in their course did
fight against Michael".
The encouragement is a repeat of what he's said all though the passage,
"The duty and wisdom of daily worshiping that
God who made all these things.The revolutions
Of the day and night oblige us to offer the solemn
Sacrifices of prayer and praise every morning
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