Let There Be Light
October 28, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-14
The Earth Was Chaos
1. "God said, 'Let there be light.' Then there was light," (1:3). In the verse before that, before God said, "Let there be light," the conditions are described in the following way. "The land was chaos, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God moved on the surface of the waters," (verse two). The word "chaos" in the [Japanese] Bible Society version that we used to use it was translated as "formless [and] empty." We get an idiomatic expression from these two words. This phrase is found only three times in the Old Testament. The land was formless, empty, without order, without the meaning of existence. It was truly a world of nihility where darkness covered its bottomless depths. With these words the scriptures express the initial condition of "the land, the earth" – that is – this world.
2. God addresses this world of confusion and darkness. He tells it "Let there be light." Then it had light. Something brand new begins from there on. After the darkness recedes, one by one shapes emerge in it. One by one order emerges. That's the kind of story that is written here in the scriptures. As [the phrases] "God spoke" and "Thus it came into being" are repeated, the world of chaos turns into God's world, which is an expression of the glory of God.
3. Well, just as we have read, this is a narrative about the beginning of the world. But, what the biblical words are truly intending to give is not merely some "nice story about long ago." That is hardly what it is about, to those who read this narrative – no matter the time period of the reader – it is giving a message that directly concerns one's very life. The scriptures are addressing a matter that affects a person's life because the way a person lives his or her life is set by how one views "the earth" and how one views the world. "The earth was confusion and it was darkness. God said let there be light in it. Then it had light." – In this [passage] the scriptures are making a very strong statement regarding how we see "the earth" we're living in, how we look at this world that is visible to our eyes.
4. It is making the statement that God is the one who has given the world its form, its order, and its meaning. It is saying that without the word of God and the works of God this world would basically only be chaos and darkness. And it is the logical conclusion to what I just outlined, but the most important point it is making is, whenever the world ends up separated from God, it cannot help but revert back to its initial chaos and darkness. [That's] because God gave the light, because God gave order and meaning. If ever it were separated from God it would end up reverting back to the condition of "the land was chaos, and darkness was on the surface of the deep," which is written [in the scriptures] at the very beginning.
5. What I've just stated is expressed very clearly in other passages of the scriptures. Over twenty-five hundred years ago, from the seventh century B.C.E. to the sixth century B.C.E., there was a person who gave a message on it quite strongly to the people. The name of that person was called Jeremiah. His words were written down in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.
6. Please look at Jeremiah chapter four and verse twenty-two. To the people of Israel, who had rejected the word of God, rebelled against God, refused to admit their sin as sin, and did not know how to repent, God spoke through Jeremiah as follows. "Truly, my people are ignorant. They are not willing to make me known, they are foolish children, they have no distinction [from other nations]. They skillfully practice evil, and do not know how to practice good," (Jeremiah 4:22). And just as Jeremiah had already seen with his own eyes of the dreadful end that was to come soon upon the people who refused to know God, he gave forth the following [words]. "I looked. Oh look, the great land was turned into chaos, and there was no light in the sky. I looked. Oh look, the mountains were shaken, all the hills were trembling. I looked. Oh look, the people vanished, the birds of the sky, each and every one, had fled away. I looked. Oh look, the fruitful land changed into a desert, each of the towns, in the presence of the Lord, was toppled down by the severe wrath of the Lord," (Jeremiah 4:23-26).
7. We can see in the expression that is written in this passage that "the land was turned into chaos" the words, "the land was chaos -- without form, empty," which we saw just ago in Genesis. I said that it appears three times in the Old Testament and that's one of them. The earth was made into chaos. He says "I saw" the great earth that way. Jeremiah saw the land become without form, empty, that it lost its light and ended up being in pitch darkness. Jeremiah saw with the eyes of his heart that if it separated from the God who gives order and meaning to this world, the rebellious world would soon and certainly collapse and fall into darkness.
8. Furthermore, the people of Israel would soon experience in their own daily lives that the vision that Jeremiah had seen and that the word of the Lord that he had given were true. The kingdom of Judah would topple, the temple the people were trusting in would burn down, the fortress city of Jerusalem would fall and become a mountain of rubble, and the principle people would be carried off to Babylon and become captives. "The great land was turned into chaos, and there was no light in the sky." -- It certainly did turn out that the people really did see such a world. "The great land was turned into chaos, and there was no light in the sky." -- That message was actually felt in their lives. To those people this universe creation narrative was not sheer far-far-away folklore and fable. The description of the initial conditions, where it says "The land was chaos, and darkness was on the surface of the deep," [and] the description of the world in which they were actually living was but the same description as their every day lives.
9. Well, [we've] been talking about "their" story. So, what about "ours" twenty-five hundred years later? For many modern people, this narrative from Genesis can only be heard as a very primitive and naive account. But can we simply ignore the words "the land was chaos?" No, much rather, the very word "chaos" is often the most appropriate term to express reality, whether on the individual level of our lives, or in our home life, or on the social level. Isn't it? As a matter of fact, aren't we beginning to see the phrase "the land was chaos" in reference to the whole earth in a very literal sense, that is, on a global scale? What about the phrase "darkness was on the surface of the deep?" A deep pit from which nothing can crawl out anymore, a world over which darkness looms and there is no light at all. Aren't they truly appropriate words to describe the world we're seeing before our eyes? The state of the world which has lost sight of God, whether twenty-five hundred years ago or presently, can chiefly be described with the terms "chaos" and "darkness."
"Let There Be Light" The Second Time
10. But, when the words "The land was chaos, the darkness was on the surface of the deep" are read in relation to our own selves and when the universe creation narrative is indeed read as "our story," then the words of verse three that come next does have great significance for us. The word of God will reverberate across that chaos and darkness and say into it, "Let there be light." The words, "Let there be light," will become a statement that presses upon us forcefully.
11. "God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light," (verse three). From there the works of God began. The works of God began that would end up decisively changing the conditions from that of chaos and darkness. After this, the narrative proceeds in an absolutely orderly manner. An orderly world that God considers good is created amidst the repeating of phrases "God said," "Then so it was," "God saw it and considered it good." Please imagine it if you would. This narrative based on simple repetition probably gave such great comfort and hope to the people who had been carried away to Babylon and to those who had seen the chaos and the darkness [for themselves].
12. Earlier I mentioned "There is a claim here that whenever the world separates from God who gives order and meaning to it, the world cannot help but revert back to its first chaos." But, something even bigger is being given here. There is a greater message still. It is the message that "Since God gave the world form, order, and meaning at the beginning, one can expect that he is able to give form, order, and meaning again to a world that has become chaos." The narrative of the world's creation is also a narrative that says God "is able to recreate the world."
13. At "the beginning" God did not abandon the world to stay that way for ever, as a great land made chaotic, a darkness that covered the deep. Since that's how he was then, therefore, one should expect that God would not for ever abandon either the world now or this country, in chaos and darkness, to remain that way. We ought not to expect that God would let our homes, or our lives, be forsaken to remain in chaos and darkness. For, whenever God speaks, whenever God says, "Let there be light," light will be brought forth there. When the light comes, the darkness flees. In that place new order emerges and meaning re-emerges anew. At that place new creation takes place. At that very place where their hope lied, our hope lies there as well at that very same place.
14. And so God turned to the world and said, once more, in a decisive way, "Let there be light." He is communicating the same thing to us as well, that is the message from the scriptures which was read in [our] gospel reading for today. These words [are located] at the very beginning to The Gospel According To John.
15. It is quite obvious that this passage was written with the universe creation narrative in mind. In this text Christ is called "the word." And then it states that "The word became flesh and dwelt among us," (John 1:14). The word walked upon this earth after becoming human and as the human named Jesus of Nazareth. That means to say this, God has thus spoken in a final and decisive manner. God has spoken to this world by having sent into the world God the Son, who is one with God the Father. "The Word" who had once taken part in the creation of the world has come into the world that has turned its back against God in rebellion and become chaos. There was life in that Word. It had the life of God. And, the scripture says that "The life was the light that shines in humankind." Yes, that's right, it is the same "light" as that time. You could say, God said, once again, "Let there be light," just like he did at that time at the beginning, and then he sent his son into the world.
16. Then, since God said, "Let there be light," the light has already been brought into this earth. Jesus said it like this. "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life," (John 8:12). The light is being given for some time now. Therefore, when a person is with Jesus, that person has the light of life. [Nobody] needs to live in the darkness of chaos any longer.
17. Shortly ago I stated that, "The narrative of the creation of the world demonstrates that God 'can re-create the world.'" God said "Let there be light" for the second time. Therefore, his works of a new creation have already begun: He was born in a stable, he died on a cross at Golgotha, he was raised from the dead in that tomb that turned into empty air, he was lifted up into the heavens from the Mount of Olives, and through Him God said, "Let there be light." From there a new creation has begun. Paul also says the following. "Any person joined to Christ, no matter who, is a newly created person. The old one passes away, a new one is born," (Second Corinthians 5:17). Since that new creation began with the coming of Christ, it is heading to completion. That [same] Christ has been proclaimed to us as well. Christ the Light has been brought forth into our lives. The new creation has begun even in us joined into Christ. And that good work of God is heading for completion.