“Let there be light” (Genesis 3:3). Those were the first recorded utterance of God in the Bible. Consider the scenario of a dark room where you are supposed to do some work. As you enter the room, the first thing you do is to put on the lights. In the absence of light you are not able to see anything in the room and you are clueless about what to do. However as the lights appear, you are able to see the things as it is and are able to get into your work and see your work done. When God created light, God was doing something similar, in that he was calling for light in the then dark, formless and void earth (Genesis 1:2).
Light and darkness are common metaphors in the Bible representing goodness and evil. Light is used as a symbol which describes goodness, righteousness and the presence of God. Whereas darkness is used to represent all that is evil and ungodly. Light is used as opposite of darkness and all that it represents. Do the words of God, “Let there be light” have a greater significance than the physical creation of light? What did the creation of light signify? What relevance can we draw out from the creation of light?
What is the creation account all about?
Much of our understanding of the creation narrative depends upon how we view these (Genesis 1) texts. Is the creation account a scientific description? Does it give a philosophical or logical understanding of how things began? Is it a chronological account? Or is it a theological account of creation by God that describes God as the beginning of all things, who brought out everything into existence by His word? As we study the book of Genesis as part of the Pentateuch, we can understand that the book is actually tracing the origin, place and identity of Israel in the Universe. The book is actually interested in the beginning of Israel and in this attempt; it traces the beginning of Israel in the existence of God and his creative word. If we understand that the creation is more a theological account than a scientific account then the words “let there be light” has much more significance than the physical aspects of the creation of light. Keeping this theological purpose of the creation account let us study the creation of light first as a physical entity, as imagery and finally drawing out the significance of the creation of light and its relevance.
A. Creation of Light as a Physical entity
When God created light, God was creating light as a physical entity as something that illuminates reality. Some of the physical aspects of light as an illuminating agency are very meaningful for us to note.
i. Light makes reality visible
The physical entity called light could be understood as something that illuminates and makes things visible. Whereas darkness hides and covers up reality, light is something that brings reality into visibility. In this sense God created light as a revealing agent.
ii. Light makes reality colorful and gives it a form
Light is also the physical entity that gives color and appearance to the reality in the world. Darkness makes our world devoid of all color; however light is that physical element that brings color to our world.
iii. Light removes darkness
The word light as used in the Bible always signifies the removal of darkness. When God created light and saw that it was good, He separated light from the darkness. A little light of a small lamp is enough to remove the darkness in a room. On the other hand, darkness (how much ever it is…) can never extinguish light.
B. Creation of Light as imagery
The physical light that God created represents the nature and the goodness of God in the Bible. We see from the overall usage of the word in the Bible, that the word “light” almost always signified “goodness, righteousness” and ultimately the “divine life” whereas darkness represented what is evil and unrighteousness. The Biblical writers used the imagery of light to display the goodness of God and the character of life that God intends for each of us. This symbolic aspect of light as a metaphor for God’s goodness is reflected through both the Old and New Testaments.
Light symbolizes the presence and life from God (Psalms 27:1) -The word “light” (Hebrew “Aur” and Greek “Phos”) is used metaphorically for life (as in Psalms 56:13), salvation (Isaiah 9:2), the commandments (Proverbs 6:23) and the divine presence of God (Exodus 10:23).
Light is also used as a resonating metaphor for God, as is evident in the words of John, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). In his gospel also, John presents Jesus as the true light (John 1:9). Of all the New Testament writers John uses the word light most frequently to present Jesus Christ. Light is very much connected with life. John also says that the one who has come into the light of Jesus has come into eternal life (John 1:5).
Apostle Paul resonates the creation of light in his description about the illumination of our hearts, “For God, who said, let light shine out of darkness, ‘make His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The writer of Revelation finally uses the word light one last time to describe the nature of life in the heavenly city. In this most beautiful imagery of the heavenly city, the Lamb, (the son of God) is portrayed as the light of the city. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelations 21:23).This image of the Lamb as the light of the city has to be understood as the culmination of all that the Old and New Testament was pointing to in its usage of the word “light”.
C. Significance of light in Creation
In the light of this Biblical understanding, what do the phrase “let there be light” signify?A few implications stand out from our discussion about the creation of light.
Firstly, God was creating light as an illuminating agent: In the first day, God was creating the physical entity or element called light as something that illuminates reality. It was a physical creation of something that dispels darkness and gives color to all the existence. Light as a physical entity was a necessary pre-condition for any good work to begin.
Secondly, God was creating light as a sign of order over chaos and goodness over evil: In the first act of creation, God was revealing His creative power and absolute control over chaos and darkness that existed in the universe before he began to create anything. In response to the darkness that was over the surface of the deep, God spoke and light came into being. In the creation of light, God was not only creating the physical entity called light but also revealing his own character of goodness over and against the character of darkness.
Thirdly, since God is light, the creation of light was in fact the communication of his presence and his character of goodness into the creation.The Biblical usage of the word light predominantly reflects the character and presence of God. It represents goodness and the divine quality of life. So in the creation of light, God was actually breathing out his life and character into existence in His creation.
Fourthly, the words of God, “Let there be light” reflect the will of God that He intends supreme good for his creation. God was going to begin his creative work of making a beautiful world; the creation of light was just the beginning of his work. In Genesis 1:2 we read that darkness was upon the face of the earth. In this world of darkness God spoke, “let there be light” and in those words we can see the heart of what God intended for his creation. It is God’s will that His goodness be ultimately revealed in the creation. God wills that the world be filled with the light of God’s goodness. It is the will of God that life in the world be transparent and pure like the rays of light.
D. Relevance of the creation of light for us today
What is the relevance of the creation of light? How are words “Let there be light” relevant for us today?
1. The words of God, “let there be light” means that God wants the world to be illuminated, transparent and pure. God does not want the world to be in disorder and darkness.It means that the will of God is that goodness represented by light should overcome darkness and its works of unrighteousness.
2. The words of Apostle Paul are worth quoting here, “For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, ‘make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The words of God, “Let there be light” must be seen to have an extended meaning that, God intends to fill the heart of every person with the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ. Ultimately God wants the world to be filled with the light of His knowledge.
3. If the words of God, “Let there be light” means that God’s will is for light to cover the whole earth then it also means that we his disciples have a very significant role in shining as light for his glory. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14). The desire of Jesus is that we must shine for the glory of God.
“Let there be light” -the will of God is proclaimed in these words, the will to bring goodness, righteousness, life and meaning into the creation. We as light of the world have a significant role in letting the light of God shine through us. God wants to see the world as a place filled with purity, truth and life abundant.
LET THERE BE LIGHT.