God is revealed as eternal and self-existent, maker of heaven and earth, dividing light from darkness and dividing surface water from water vapor in the clouds. He caused the dry land to appear and on the same day created life. But as the third creation day was a struggle for naturalist, the fourth is a struggle for some creationist.
14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so.
[As you recall each creation day has had light but the source of the light was not specified. In the fourth day God has willed that the lights be visible on the earth for a purpose; to regulate the passage of time, marking the days, years, and seasons, and provide a regular source of light on the earth.
We see the familiar word firmament, before it referred to the expanse or sky of the earth's atmosphere. In this context it refers to the expanse of space. Likewise heavens are used here for the abode of the stars.]
16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. [He made] the stars also.
[Some skeptics point to verse 16 to attack the Bible's accuracy saying that the moon isn't really a light because it's only reflecting the light from the sun. But the Hebrew word Ma'owr is refers to a luminous object regardless of whether the light is emitted or reflected.
The two great lights, the sun and moon, are also a part of the Rare Earth Hypothesis, because they are not ordinary, and play a large role in the earths favored status as an ideal place for mankind. Most planets that have a moon, have one that is much smaller relative to the planet it orbits. Moons like that can't provide the orbital stability provided by our moon. Planets without a moon like ours frequently become tidally locked meaning gravity holds one side of the planet always facing the sun making life impossible. Many civilizations have used a lunar calendar to make the months and track the tides (very important for fishermen and sailors). Scientists even believe that the gravity of the moon stirs the earth's molten inner core keeping alive the magnetic field that guards the atmosphere and protects us from the most harmful radiation in the solar winds.
Likewise the sun is not just any star. Its mass ranks among the top 5% of known stars, its metallic content is just right to host both rocky planets like earth, plus the gas giants that shield us from massive asteroids. The sun is exceptionally stable in it light output only varying by 0.1% across an 11 year solar cycle, even that small variation affects the earth's climate, so this stability is critical to life. The mass of the sun is over 100 times that of earth, and accounts for over 99% of the mass in our solar system. The sun itself orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy at a distance of 25,000 light years completing one galactic orbit in 250 million years. Its orbit is again critical residing in the co-rotation circle of the galaxy between two great spiral arms. Orbiting in this way means that our solar system does not crash into other stars and planets, which is very good for sustaining life. Scientists believe our sun and planets formed from the same molecular cloud some 4.6 billion years ago. This brings us to this week's controversy. Was the sun formed after the earth as Genesis 1:16 would seem to imply?
As you might guess there are different views on this subject. First of all astronomers generally say the sun has been burning, or more accurately running, as it is a nuclear fusion engine, for 4.5 billion years and they put the age of the earth at 4.3 billion years. Now there are multiple assumptions that go into those calculations, and that supposed age difference is only 4% which is well within the margin of error. By comparison my wife is 5% younger than me, and that only seems to matter on her birthday. Scientists only care about this age difference because it conforms to their theory of star and planet formation, so if God is intervening in this part of creation, the theory of natural formation does not matter that much. But there is a scriptural basis for these different opinions on which came first, based on how you treat the Hebrew word for "made" which is "asah". "Asah" is translated made, but it also means to fashion, accomplish, to bring forth, or even to cause to appear. When I think of "asah" I think of the French word "viola" used to call your attention to something that has appeared.
Oddly enough the young earth creationists at Answers in Genesis are adamant that the earth was made first and the sun was made on the fourth day as the scripture implies. But to me as a part of their argument for 24 hour creation days, they should argue for a sun that was made on the first day when God said "let there be light", but was not identifiable on the earth until the 4th creation day. As verse 14 says these lights are for "signs and seasons, and for days and years" so if they don't have the sun until the 4th day how could they argue for a standard day of 24 hours relative to a star that does not yet exist?
Conversely our old earth creationists, at Reasons to Believe, argue that the sun was made first. So how do they make this argument? Remember Genesis 1:2 "darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters"; now look at Job 38, in verse 4 God asks "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth"? He goes on explaining creation, then look at verses 8 and 9.
8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
9 When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
Genesis 1:2 together with Job 38:9 give the idea that early earth was shrouded with an opaque atmosphere so dense that no light could reach the planet's surface, and the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters draws our attention to the surface so that the rest of Genesis 1 is read from the perspective of what is seen from the surface of the earth. So you might ask is that a reasonable reading of the text, would God make a planet like that? We have a great example of that in our neighboring planet Venus.
Venus is a rocky planet very similar in size and composition to earth and it is sometimes the brightest object in the night sky. It is the second planet from the sun orbiting the sun every 225 earth days. We talked about mars having an atmosphere 100 times thinner than earth, well Venus has one 92 times denser than earth, made mostly of carbon dioxide, but also wrapped in a layer of clouds made of highly reflective sulfuric acid, such that no visible light can reach the Venetian surface. It is probable that the Earth started out much like Venus. So in this view when God said "let there be light" the earth's atmosphere was changed from opaque to translucent, such that you could see the light but not the objects producing the light. This would be like a fluorescing light bulb which has an electric filament that you can't see, because the electricity excites the gas and causes it to glow. Then in verse 16 the atmosphere is changed again from translucent to transparent, removing the veil and bringing forth or causing to appear, the sun moon and stars.
I should also point out that in verse 16 where it reads "He made the stars also", that second "he made" should be noted as added, as it is not in the Hebrew text. Read without the second "He made", the stars in verse 16 join with the moon in ruling or having dominion over the night. I point this out to say that our reading of Genesis 1 should not require all the stars to be the same age. One day my younger son called and he was taking physical chemistry and they were looking at nova's to explain how a star dies. And Aaron said if the universe is only 10,000 years old, and I look at a nova more than 10,000 light years from earth, then I am watching the death of a star that never existed, that would only be an illusion. And I said "yep", then I explained to him all the things we have been discussing in Genesis 1 that allow for creation days of any length, with possible time spans in between. Even if you prefer the young earth view and don't care much about the scientific perspective, you know someone who does care, and we need to be able to give an answer to these very reasonable questions.
From a theological perspective I don't think that it matters whether the sun was made first then was made visible from the earth, or if the earth was made first then the sun. Either way the focus of the text should be on God as Creator, and what a marvelous endowment he has left us in the world he created for us.
17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
This "firmament of the heavens" is still a great mystery in science. If you look across the universe there is a very uneven distribution of stars which makes us wonder why the galaxies are arranged the way they are? In recent years science has proposed dark matter as an invisible lattice work of great mass that uses gravity to pull matter into the clusters and super-clusters holding our galaxies. Some studies find evidence for dark matter, others do not, but it's clear that the mechanism God used to position each star and planet is more marvelous than our greatest imagination.
A part of the current theories on galaxy formation holds that the oldest galaxies should be clumpy and poorly formed, and only the newer galaxies like the Milky Way have this elegant spiral design. Recently the Hubble Space Telescope found a galaxy 10.7 billion light years away with this perfect spiral shape. If you remember your physics you know that when you look at an object 10.7 billion light years away you are in a time machine of sorts, seeing that galaxy as it was 10.7 billion years ago, because that's how long its light takes to reach us. That means a beautiful spiral galaxy existed billions of years before such a galaxy was supposed to be possible, at least according to contemporary theory. So don't ever think man has it all figured it out. No matter how smart we think we are, our Maker still has countless surprises out there that cause us to marvel.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
6 Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The firmament of the heavens is still speaking today, revealing knowledge, declaring the glory of God.