Thursday, April 17, 2008

Drulogion's Hexameron - The Third Day

In our series on the first creation account of Genesis, we have already discussed the first and second days. We have observed that God creates by speaking and by separating. God speaks light into existence, separating it from darkness, so that we may know. By his word, God separates the waters so that we may live. This week we turn our attention to the third day of creation, wherein God creates the dry ground by gathering the lower waters by his word.
.....[9] And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. [10] God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
.....[11] Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. [12] The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. [13] And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
How does God create?
God names.

God names what he creates. God not only speaks once in order to calls things into existence, but God also speaks again in order to name that which he has created. On the third day we hear God naming the gathered lowered waters "seas" and the newly appearing dry ground "land." God not only makes things, but names things. God leaves much unnamed. God gives human beings the freedom and responsibility to name many things. But God does not leave all things unnamed. Some things are named by God. This seems to imply that naming is not an absolutely conventional matter. Or, perhaps we could say that the convention of naming is not a human invention, but a gift given by the God who names. God names what he creates.

This is not the first time God names what he creates. On the first day, God names the light "day" and the darkness "night." And on the second day, God names the firmament "heaven" or "sky." Nor is this the last time God names what he creates. In his covenantal dealings with his people, God names his covenant partners. At crucial moments in his history with us, God gives a new name. At the reiteration of his covenant promise of a son, God renames Abram "Abraham" and Sarai "Sarah." And after a night of wrestling and blessing, God renames Jacob "Israel." This second renaming becomes the naming of his people on a macro level. So even those Israelites who are not given new names have been named by God inasmuch as they are Israelites. At the culmination of this covenant, God tells Mary and Joseph to name their "Jesus." The community of Jesus Christ is named after him "Christian" and the members of this community are named "Christians." God names what he creates.

What does God create?
God names the dry ground "land."

God names the newly created dry ground "land." This land is first of all a gift because it has been separated from the lower waters. Although the great threat of the upper waters were contained by the firmament created on the second day, the lesser but not insignificant threat of the lower waters remains. It is gathered on the third day, but not so strictly separated as the upper waters. Unlike the upper waters, these gathered lowered waters are given a name: "seas." They are given a place within creation. Unlike the upper waters, which are held at bay by the sturdy firmament, the windows of which can only be opened by God himself, the lower waters touch the land and remain an ever-present threat. But the good news of the second day is that God successfully gathers them and makes dry land to appear. The threat remains, but God overcomes. God makes dry ground to appear. And God names this dry ground, "land."

But the emergence of land is not the end of God's creative activity on the third day. God does not just gather the waters in order to produce a desert. That would be to trade one threat for another. God not only makes the land, but also makes the land to produce vegetation. That God acts a second time is unique to the third and sixth days. On the other days, God acts once. But on these parallel days, God acts twice. He first creates the land, then he causes the land to produce. In the first act, God acts alone. In the second act, God acts by causing his creation to act. Both land and vegetation are God's creation. But he creates each by a different mode, the first immediately and the second mediately. But the mediated mode of the creation of vegetation does not make it secondary in importance. Rather, the production of vegetation is the telos of the creation of the land. That which God calls "land" he has created for the purpose of vegetation.

Why does God create?
God names the dry ground "land" so that we may be bear fruit.

The vegetative purpose of that which God calls "land" points to the spiritual significance of the third day of creation. In the case of land, God names that which will be productive. The land produces vegetation which itself produces more vegetation: seed bearing plants which reproduce according to their kinds. In the history of the covenant, God's naming is correlated with God's promise of reproductive fruitfulness. God never gives someone a new name as an end in itself. God does not establish a relationship with Abraham just to hang out with Abraham. "Abraham" is not God's pet name for his buddy Abraham. The name "Abraham" is a sign of the promise, a pointer to the future. God establishes a covenantal relationship with Abraham which contains the promise of children. The creator's naming of his creation is oriented toward creation's fruitfulness. The fruitfulness of the land's vegetation is not only food for our living but also means of our own fruitfulness. We live not only to ourselves, but for the sake of future life.

When God calls us by name, he calls us to be fruitful. When we are given our "Christian names," we are not merely receiving a benefit. We are, of course, being given a great gift for which we must be ever thankful. But it is a gift to be shared and passed on. When God calls us by name, he is call us to the glorious task of reproduction. We are called to reproduce, not only by bearing and raising children(though that too can be a form of disciple-making), but by making disciples of all nations. The fruit of the vine is people. We are called to be fruitful for the kingdom of God. Jesus' parables are replete with vegetative imagery. In almost every case, that comes up from the land is people. There are, of course, other kinds of Christian fruitfulness. Most obviously, the marks of Christian character known as the fruit of the Spirit. But even these fruits ought not to be abstracted from the fruitfulness as the reproduction of people for the kingdom of God. For all the ethical exhortation in the New Testament stand under the call to live a life worthy of the gospel calling to which we were called (Php 1:27; Eph 4:1). When God calls us by name, he calls us to be fruitful.

Any thoughts?
  • What do you think is the significance of God naming what he creates? Are there other instances of naming in the Bible which cast light on this divine act?
  • Is it right to suggest that the land is created for the purpose of vegetation? Are there other ways of interpreting the double activity of God on the third day?
  • Is the connection between naming and fruitfulness clear to you? Is it reasonable? What other implications may be drawn from this connection?

Next Week: The Fourth Day


pastorchris'place said...

Great thoughts!

I also see a parallel to the 6th day where God created man, named man (recorded in Gen. 5.2) and charged them to be fruitful.

I was immediately reminded of John 15.15-16 "I no longer call you servants...Instead I have called you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit..."

Naming in the first creation seems to reveal the essence of a creation--a calling forth. Land is land not matter what you call it, for example. The naming in the new creation seems to mark a change of essence--a calling out. "You were...but now you are..." An example might be Paul's reference to the Gentiles as "now a people."

Bob MacDonald said...

You have raised a few questions for me - how are the words qr), call, and $m, name, related? The same words are used of the human naming things in chapter 2. Naming seems almost more passive than the act of calling.

The other thing I note (clear in my multi column arrangement of the verses here
is that there are four times that God speaks on the sixth day - the third is the blessing (parallel to the blessing on day 4 of the sea creatures) and the fourth seems unique as instruction - I wondered if it was almost prefiguring Torah.

just a couple of quick responses

Ryan Schmitz said...

This is just a simple thought, but what about Jesus renaming of persons he came into contact with?

I think that I personally will rename this series "Johntology".