The Creation of the World
Having considered the intrinsic works of God, we proceed to consider His extrinsic works—in the realm of nature and in the realm of grace. His works in nature are creation as well as His providence in regard to His creation. We shall first discuss creation.
The verb “to create” has various meanings.
(1) It can refer to God’s common government of things. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil” (Isa. 45:7).
(2) It can refer to extraordinary acts of God. “For the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:22).
(3) It can refer to regeneration and renewal of heart in conversion. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psa. 51:10).
(4) Generally we understand the verb “to create” to refer to the generation of matters, either out of nothing as was the case on the first day, or out of formless matter created on the first day, the latter being the method by which God created on the five succeeding days.
In travelling reversely through time, one will ultimately arrive at the beginning, beyond which one cannot proceed. Beyond this there is nothing but God only who inhabits eternity. No temporal human being can comprehend this eternity, and those who seek to view it as a very long time, view it erroneously.
The eternal God, being desirous to reveal Himself and to communicate His goodness, has according to His eternal purpose and by His wisdom and omnipotence, created the universe and all things belonging to it. Thus, whatever exists has a beginning, prior to which nothing existed except God Himself. There was no infinite light. Neither were there elements, formless mass of matter, matter in motion, nor anything else which one could possibly name or conceive. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “In the beginning” does not refer to the moment before anything existed, but it refers to the first moment of time which coincided with the appearance of the very first element of creation. This is confirmed in Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world.”
Prior to the existence of the world, there was a “before,” not in reality, but only when viewed from the perspective of the beginning of creation. In this “before” the world did not exist, but this “before” was eternity itself. “… even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.” The world which did not exist was brought forth. That which has been brought forth, however, of necessity has no prior existence, but rather a beginning. This is confirmed by the use of the word “before” in other texts. “… before the foundation of the world …” (Eph. 1:4); “… before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Both texts imply that there is a beginning of time and a beginning of the world. Consequently, the world has not existed eternally.
As the world did not exist eternally, neither could it have existed eternally. God was indeed eternally capable to create, however, that which is created cannot be without beginning, and thus cannot be eternal. This is true for the following reasons:
First, it could then not have been stated that the world was created, for to create is to bring forth matter which had no prior existence. Since in this formation there is a transition from nothing to something, there is of necessity a beginning.
Secondly, there is progression of time during the existence of a created entity. Progression of time logically implies, however, that there be an initial moment, and therefore the existence of a created entity must of necessity have a beginning.
Thirdly, if the world would have eternally existed, then it either must eternally have been self-existent, or it must exist by virtue of God’s eternity. If it existed by virtue of its own eternity, then of necessity there would be two collateral eternal entities, and God would neither be the only eternal One nor the original cause of everything. Scripture, however, consistently attributes these to God as being unique to Him alone. If the world would have eternally existed by virtue of God’s eternity, then it would be God Himself, and thus also be omnipotent, omniscient, simple in essence, immutable, etc., for in every perfection of God all other perfections are comprehended. Within God these perfections cannot actually be distinguished, but they are all one and the same. It thus follows that the world could not have existed eternally.
In calculating retroactively from our time, the beginning can be dated approximately 5750 years ago. I say “approximately,” for this date cannot be determined exactly, since this chronological calculation is not based on the course of the stars, but must be solely deduced from the genealogies of the patriarchs which are recorded in Holy Scripture, all of which only record the years, without reference to months and days. It is therefore uncertain during what season of the year the world was created.
The suggestions that it occurred 1) either when the sun was at its zenith or lowest point, 2) at the point when during fall or spring both day and night are of equal length, or 3) during a different season of the year, are entirely speculative. Most often it is suggested to have been at the time of the spring equinox. Those who claim that it occurred at the time of the fall equinox seem to have the better arguments. I personally do not know which view is correct.
The world did not come into existence of itself for nothing can bring forth itself. Instead, the world has been created by God who is the Creator of all things. “… The Creator of the ends of the earth …” (Isa. 40:28); “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth” (Exo. 20:11); “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psa. 121:2); “In the beginning אלהים (Elohim) (the triune God) created” (Gen. 1:1).
Creation, the Work of a Triune God
Since God is one in essence, and the three Persons are the one God, their will and power are one and the same. All God’s extrinsic works are common to the three Persons, being the work of a triune God. Nevertheless, each of these extrinsic works is attributed to individual Persons according to the relationship which each Person has to the particular work. Consequently, creation is attributed to the Father, redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. In doing so, however, the other Persons are not excluded but expressly included in the same work, so that any extrinsic work attributed to one of the Persons, is also attributed to the other Persons. Thus, creation is attributed not only to the Father, but also to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
The Son has created the world.
“All things were made by Him (that is, the Word, the Son of God); and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3); “For by Him were all things created” (Col. 1:16). In doing so He did not assist, nor did it occur through Him as a means, but He is the moving cause Himself, for the word “by” refers to the original cause. “… Through Him … are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “God is faithful, by whom ye were called” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Creation is also attributed to the Holy Spirit.
“And the Spirit of God, מרחפת (Merachepheth) moved (in a forming, creating, and generating manner) upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2); “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psa. 33:6).
Since creation is the work of the Holy Trinity, it is stated in Genesis 1:26, “Let US (נעשח Na’aseh, plural) make man.” “Remember thy בודאיך (Boreëcha), Creators” (Eccl. 12:1); “בעליך עּשיך (Bo’alaich ‘osaich), thy Makers is thine Husbands” (Isa. 54:5).1
Creation, the Proper Work of God
Creation is the proper work of God; He and He alone has created. The angels are not “co-creators,” nor can this creative power be communicated to anyone. Some wish to make such a proposition to protect their view concerning transubstantiation. Others do so to deny the Holy Trinity. However, this neither is nor can be true.
First, Scripture states expressly that creation is exclusively the proper work of God alone. “I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself” (Isa. 44:24); “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens” (Isa. 45:12).
Secondly, God distinguishes Himself from everything else by a power which, as it is in Him, is both inherent and incommunicable. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish.… But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King.… He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion” (Jer. 10:11, 10, 12); “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” (Psa. 96:5).
Thirdly, creating is the manifestation of infinite power. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). This infinite power is the infinite God Himself. If God were capable of communicating this infinite and eternal power, then God could cause other eternal gods to exist, which is absurdity itself. On the other hand, the creature is finite and therefore cannot comprehend nor perceive the infinite. It is true that the work of creation relates to finite creatures, but the power of creation is and remains infinite.
Fourthly, in order to make a certain thing, a creature must work with something which already exists, and in addition that substance must be suitable to be used for given purposes. A painter, for example, cannot paint a picture on water. To create, however, is to bring forth something out of absolutely nothing—from something that in an absolute sense has not been formed, to something that has form. It is therefore impossible that the power of creation could be communicated to a creature.
When men are said to have performed miracles which necessitated the exercise of infinite power, then they themselves did not do it. They did not possess such infinite, inherent power, but were merely the moral causes of such power. Being inwardly convinced of God’s will and being moved by God to declare His will, they thus stated, “Arise,” “Receive thy sight,” or “Walk.” Upon such declarations God performed a miracle by His power. Peter confirms this when he states, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power … we had made this man to walk?” (Acts 3:12). The performance of miracles is the proper work of God alone. “Thou art the God that doest wonders” (Psa. 77:14); “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (Psa. 72:18). Thus it is evident that this creative power cannot be communicated to anyone, and therefore only God is the Creator.
As infeasible as it is for this creative power to be communicated to anyone, so infeasible it is that any instruments were used during creation. What would be the purpose of an instrument, when God, by the use of one word, brings forth something out of nothing? In the transition from nothing to something neither matter nor time play a role. The use of an instrument, however, necessitates the presence of both.
Objection: The angels were “co-creators.” “Let us make man” (Gen. 1:26). God could not have addressed Himself, and thus He addressed the angels.
Answer: This text proves the Trinity of Persons. Man was not created in the image of angels.
God did not create the world from an infinite air mass, neither from indivisible elements, from an eternally formless mass of matter, nor from anything else, whatever name one would wish to attribute to it. This is a pagan fabrication derived from the fundamental principle: only nothing can come out of nothing. This is true in reference to the finite creature and natural forces, but not as far as the infinite and omnipotent God is concerned. He has brought forth everything out of nothing. The determining factor here is this “nothing,” and not the matter from which things were formed.
The apostle demonstrates this in Hebrews 11:3, where he states, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Natural reason teaches that by virtue of causal relationships one ultimately must come to God as the original cause of all things. Natural reason, however, cannot understand the “how”; that is, how something can come into existence out of nothing, how God with one word and with one single command has caused everything to come into existence. All this we accept by faith.
By faith we also accept the order described by Moses, in which all things were brought forth. The pagan physician Galenus, upon reading the first chapter of Genesis, stated, “Moses says much, but proves little.” By faith we understand and maintain with utmost certainty that τα βλεπόμενα (ta blepomena), were made μὴ ἐχ φαινομένων (mee ek phainomenon), that is seeing that which does not appear, the latter being a Greek manner of speech. It is as if it were stated, “τά ὂντα ἐξ οὐχ ὄντων, (ta onta eks ouk onton),” that is, being out of what is not, which is equivalent to “out of nothing.” This manner of expression is found in Matthew 9:33: “It was never so seen in Israel,” which does not imply that anything of this nature had existed before, but rather that something of this nature had never existed before. Our intellect can readily understand that something can be created from something, but faith is required to conclude that things which exist have been brought forth out of nothing by God “who … calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17); “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:9).
(1) If anything existed prior to creation, then of necessity it either had to be created, or it was not created. If created, it necessarily was created out of nothing, and if not created, it was necessarily eternal and independent and thus was itself God. Then God would have created the world out of something which was external to His own existence and until this day the matter of the universe would be unrelated to God’s Being. Added to that which we have already stated, this is the absurdity of absurdities.
(2) Scripture states clearly, “Thou hast created all things” (Rev. 4:11). This statement is all-inclusive.
The creation of the world came to pass
(1) by the exercise of omnipotent power, merely by a singular verbal command of God’s omnipotent will, all of which occurred without the least exertion. “Let there be light,” etc. “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” (Isa. 40:28).
(2) by virtue of His absolute sovereignty. God was able to create the world, and He could have also refrained from doing so. He could have created prior to 5750 years ago, at a later date, or also could have created several worlds. He only made this one world, however, brought forth at the precise moment according to His volitional decree.
(3) as a result of His infinite wisdom. This wisdom can neither be searched out anywhere in the entire universe, nor by examining the orderliness, motion, and interrelatedness of secondary causes; nor can it be traced even in a simple flower—although all of these reveal a glimmer of it. Here one must end with the exclamation, “In wisdom hast Thou made them all” (Psa. 104:24). This wisdom is wonderfully manifested in the orderly fashion in which everything that has been created continues from the beginning.
The Orderly Progression of God’s Creative Activity
Immediately upon creating the formless mass of matter, God in one moment could have created everything in the perfect state which existed on the seventh day. It has pleased Him, however, to create sequentially within the time frame of six days, thereby providing man with an example to labor six days and to rest on the seventh day. This reason is stated in Exodus 20:11: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth … and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
It is, however, not recorded whether God devoted an entire day to each task, or whether the accomplishment of each day was created in one moment. God could indeed have commanded it into existence in one moment, and in one moment have created everything out of nothing. Due to one thing being created out of the other, however, that which was created needed time to set itself in motion. Air, as it issued forth from the shapeless mass of matter—which was but small in comparison to the globe in its final form—needed time to expand from the very center of this mass to form the immeasurable firmament. Time was needed for the division of the waters which were under the firmament and the waters which were above the firmament. Time was needed for trees to spring forth from the earth and to come to full height, etc. The quantity of time required each day for all this cannot be determined, however.
It appears probable to me that an entire day was used for the accomplishment of each daily objective in order to give the angels reason each day to shout for joy (cf. Job 38:7) in response to their observation of the wisdom and power of God in the creation of things. It is also probable—in order for the six day duration of creation to be an example to man to perform his labors in six days, and because God observed and approved His work at the end of each day and is said to only have rested upon the seventh day.
Since the Lord has described creation for us in such a detailed fashion, it is therefore our duty to attentively observe all this. To facilitate this, we shall make the following general remarks.
First, it should be noted that the first verse of Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is not a superscription, nor is it a summary statement relative to creation, but it represents a stage of creation. By “heaven” we understand the third heaven, and by “earth” we understand the globe and the visible universe.
Secondly, on the first day God created out of absolutely nothing, and on the other days God formed everything from this formless, inert mass of matter.
Thirdly, God was initially—that is on the first four days—occupied with the creation of lifeless objects: on the last two days He created living creatures.
Fourthly, in the creation of lifeless objects God began with that which is most sophisticated: light, from which He proceeded to air, from air to water, and from water to the earth, which is the least sophisticated structure. In creating living creatures, however, God began with the lowest degree of complexity, the irrational animals, and ended with His most magnificent creature, man.
Fifthly, on each day of creation the following is to be observed: (1) There is a command: Let there be …; (2) there is a chronological equation: And it was there; (3) there is an approbation: “It was good”; (4) there is a definition of purpose, and (5) there is a blessing.
Sixthly, three matters must be considered in the creation of each thing: (1) Its generation, whereby it came into existence; (2) its formation, identifying it as a specific creation; and (3) its adornment, making it both beautiful and pleasant.
Seventhly, in considering the entire work of creation, it should be noted that it was God’s objective to create man and to exalt man in a most extraordinary manner. For this purpose He prepared such a large and spacious edifice, arranged everything in an orderly fashion, and adorned it in every possible manner. Having prepared everything, God then created man, placing him in dominion over the works of His hands.
In proceeding to the creative work of each day, we discern that God created three things on the first day: the third heaven, the shapeless mass of matter, and light.
God created the third heaven upon the first day.
“In the beginning God created the heaven.” This refers neither to the atmosphere nor the firmament, which were created subsequently, but to this heaven which is also called the heaven of heavens (1 Ki. 8:27), the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2), Paradise (by comparison) (Luke 23:43), the Father’s house (John 14:2), and on high (Heb. 1:3). Concerning this place I dare not say much, as nothing has been written about it (I am referring to its locality and not to the benefits and felicity to be enjoyed there). We do know, however, that the third heaven was created. “For we know that … we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1); “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).
In Matthew 25:34 it is stated, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” which confirms that this third heaven was created at the beginning of the six-day creation. Aside from knowing that it was created, it can be deduced from Revelation 21 that this heaven is exceedingly glorious, not merely due to the heavenly blessings with which the souls of men will be saturated as they enjoy perfect communion with God, but also in respect to the place itself. Man in his glorified state will retain his body, and whatever is most delightful for the body will therefore be found in this place, which is God’s artifice (Heb. 11:10). We are therefore of the opinion that this third heaven, compared to the earth and to the earthly Paradise, will be superior in a manner exceeding our imagination. The particulars of this place, however, have been concealed from us.
The second activity of the first day was the creation of the formless mass of matter.
We refer to this as “formless” in view of the formation which followed. This first mass was “תהו ובהו (thohu wavohu), without form and void” (Gen. 1:2). Everything was brought forth from this original matter—not due to divinely induced activity whereby everything formed itself or had the potential for formation—and has thus been created from this mass by the omnipotent power of God, for it is expressly stated, “The Spirit of God מדהפת (Merachepheth), moved (in a creative manner) upon the face of the waters”; that is, upon this mass of matter which was fully enveloped by water. The pagans refer to this mass of matter as “chaos,” that is, the conglomerate mass of matter containing the original elements of all things.
The third activity of the first day was the creation of light.
This light was not an effect without a cause; such would be contrary to the nature of an effect. It was also not an illuminating cloud, for clouds had not as yet been created. Its existence was also not exterior to this mass of matter, for exterior to this matter there was no space. Rather it was something which at its most extreme edge revolved around this mass of matter during a twenty-four hour period thus creating day and night. It is easier to describe what light is in its manifestation than to define its internal form and essence. Paul states, “For whatsoever doth make manifest is light” (Eph. 5:13).
On the second day God created two matters.
First, He created the firmament.
This mass of matter was neither suited to be a dwelling place for man nor did it manifest as yet the extraordinary wisdom of God. Consequently, God created additional space, bringing forth an air mass from this matter, limiting it by means of an immeasurable circumference, outside of which neither space nor anything else existed. Thus, the boundary of this air mass was not defined by something exterior, but its boundary was defined by the air-mass itself. From the very center of this mass of matter to its utmost extremity there was a remoteness established by God Himself, beyond which there was and is no space. This firmament is subdivided into two heavens, as the paradise of God is the third heaven. The first heaven extends from the earth to a specified point in the atmosphere which is unknown to us. The second heaven extends far beyond the point where the first heaven terminates, which is the space in which sun, moon, and stars have their place; this is referred to as the firmament. We will leave speculation about any further divisions of the firmament to astronomers.
The second activity of the second day was the division of the waters which are above and under the firmament.
One should not imagine that there are waters beyond the stars and beyond the extreme circumference of the firmament, for beyond this extreme circumference there is no space, it being the ultimate boundary. It is probable that the farther air is removed from center, the thinner it is. The waters above the firmament, however, are the clouds, some of which float higher than others. They have, as far as altitude is concerned, a boundary beyond which they cannot move. This text (Gen. 1:7) uses the word מעל (Mé’al), “above,” that is, in the higher regions of the firmament לרקיע (Lerakia’), and thus neither beyond nor in the lower regions of the starry heavens, but at the highest boundary of the first heaven. Since Moses refers only to two levels of water, dividing them in lower and upper waters, it negates the suggestion that there would be waters above the stars, as Moses would then have spoken of three levels of water: an upper, middle, and lower level.
On the third day God accomplished two things.
First, He separated the lower waters of the earth.
At various places He made cavities in which the flowing waters would collect so that dry land would appear everywhere and would be a suitable dwelling place for man and beast. This gathering together of the waters the Lord called seas, for which He established definite boundaries. Even if these waters rise higher than the shores which enclose them, they would nevertheless not move beyond these shores by virtue of the order which has been established. These waters, together with the earth, constitute a globe.
As the second activity of the third day, God adorned the dry land with trees and every imaginable type of vegetation, greatly beautifying the face of the earth with their delightful colors and scents.
This was true in a far more glorious manner than presently is the case upon an earth which the Lord has cursed. Every plant had its elegance—even thistles, thorns, and poisonous herbs, which prior to the curse were not that abundant, but by virtue of the curse were multiplied to the disadvantage of man and beast.
On the fourth day God made sun, moon, and stars.
Sun and moon are called the two great lights. It does not say the two greatest bodies, but they are referred to as lights. We will let astronomers argue about whether they are the largest bodies. The Bible calls them great lights, and it should be incontrovertible to all men that such is the case.
The idea that these lights and the stars, or the sun alone, would be stationary, and that the earth would revolve is a fabrication of men whose heads are spinning too much. We believe the Holy Scriptures, and by that faith we understand “that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Heb. 11:3). Scripture states that the earth is stationary. “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever” (Psa. 104:5). Scripture states that the sun has a circuit. “Which (the sun) is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it” (Psa. 19:5–6). When the sun stands still, it is due to a miracle. “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed” (Josh. 10:13).2
These lights have a threefold purpose: 1) to divide the day from the night, 2) for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years, and 3) by their influence to make the earth fertile. “I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth” (Hosea 2:21b).
God does reveal extraordinary signs in the heavens to warn and to startle (Mat. 24:29–30), or for the purpose of instruction (Mat. 2:2). In observing the light of the stars and the moon one can even discern whether the air is stable or unstable, from which one can conclude whether good or unsettled weather is imminent (Luke 12:54–55).
By them to predict future events, however, which will transpire by the exercise of man’s free will, as well as the outcome of wars, the death of this or that individual, prosperity or adversity, etc., is
(1) a vain practice which is refuted by reality. If someone accidentally makes a correct guess, this is not due to the stars, but mere guesswork or the secret influence of Satan by which he seeks to confirm people in their superstition and thus draw them away from God;
(2) also contrary to the express command of God. “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them” (Jer. 10:2).
Question: How could God have created the two great lights on the fourth day since He created light on the first day?
Answer: The light which God created on the first day, He, on the fourth day, caused to be transmitted by the sun—similar to the manner in which one places a candle inside a lantern. And since the sun illuminates the moon, it communicates that light to the earth by way of reflection.
On the fifth day God began the creation of living animals: the fishes and the birds.
The fish were brought forth from the water, and the birds perhaps partly from the water (Gen. 1:20) and partly from the earth (Gen. 2:19). The amphibians, which live both on land and in the water, apparently were brought forth out of both.
On the sixth day God created four-footed animals with all their peculiar natures and shapes, as well as insects, be it with or without feet.
We also believe that all vermin, which in the opinion of many exists as a result of decay or came into existence due to heavenly influences, was created on this day.
God gifted the animals of the earth with five senses, and thus also with feeling. Even though they cannot respond intelligently to these feelings (as is true for men), they nevertheless feel in their own way. Who would deny that a dog sees, smells, hears, tastes, walks, and conveys a friendly or angry disposition, albeit not in a human manner? This is also true for feeling, which manifests itself as clearly as the other senses. Scripture also confirms this in many texts (cf. Job 39:6–7; Psalm 104:11).
Finally, God created the most glorious of all creatures upon earth—man.
Of this we will speak separately in a subsequent chapter.
After having completed everything in six days, the Lord added the seventh day, conveying to us His activity upon this day, namely, that He rested “from all His work which He had made” (Gen. 2:2).
The perfection of His work was such that nothing was lacking, neither was there any necessity for Him to add anything to it. He rested, and thus no longer created any new creatures. He was not weary, for “the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isa. 40:28). Humanly expressed, however, He examined all that He had made, and delighted Himself in His work. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed” (Exo. 31:17b).
The Lord has thus united the first seven days into one unit, thereby holding His work before man as an example to be followed, while simultaneously commanding man, by virtue of His example, to work six days and to rest on the seventh day.
The number seven throughout the word of God is generally referring to this seven, which is expressive of the perfection of a matter. By taking note of this, light will be shed upon those texts in which the number seven occurs and it will prevent one from drawing erroneous conclusions in seeking to distill other mysteries from this number.
Whatever we have stated concerning creation was neither done merely to enhance your knowledge concerning these things nor to satisfy your curiosity. Rather we did so to direct you by way of the visible to the Invisible One, that you might observe and acknowledge the Lord’s greatness, power, glory, and goodness. “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Psa. 107:43). How clearly creation reveals the perfections of God! The heathen discern them, putting many Christians to shame. How they ought to be convicted that they have never been exercised with this, never having beheld the Creator in His creatures!
Exhortation to Meditate Upon the Wonder of God’s Creative Work
Come, behold this magnificent edifice and Him who has made all this. Behold His majesty and supremacy and consider especially that you are His creature. He therefore has absolute power over you and you are thus obligated, because of what you are, to devote yourself to your Creator. How dreadful, unnatural, and unspeakably horrible it is that you, who are so needy and dependent upon your Maker, dare to sin against such a God! How appalling it is that you dare to despise and reject Him, neither desire communion with Him nor fear Him and His wrath. Added to this is your abuse of His creatures, the use of which you have forfeited through sin. How suitable this consideration therefore is to perceive the magnitude of sin, to abhor oneself, and to sink away in shame, fear, and trembling.
The contemplation of God as Creator first of all makes it very evident that all your security, freedom, rest, peace, and happiness consist in the goodness and love of your Maker towards you.
While you remain the object of His wrath, all His creatures will be opposed to you, and every one as it were waits for permission to destroy you. Whatever you touch will resist you with displeasure. It does not want to be touched by you, but rather wishes to be used against you. Nothing will give you peace as long as your Maker is displeased with you, and therefore the fear of Cain ought to be upon you. When, however, your Maker is again reconciled with you in Christ, your Father now being pleased with you, you are then free indeed, for everything will be at peace with you. “For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee” (Job 5:23). Strive therefore with all your heart to be thus reconciled by receiving this precious Savior Jesus Christ. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
Secondly, I wish to address you, children of God—both the strong and the weak, and you in whom there is but a small beginning of true spiritual life.
What a steadfast foundation for comfort and confidence in the Lord you may have, both in prosperity and adversity, in abundance and in poverty, in times of peace and persecution, and in the present time as well as in the future! “For Thy Maker is thine husband” (Isa. 54:5); “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psa. 24:1). Since the Lord, your Father, is Creator and Proprietor of the entire world and all that it contains—which willingly avails itself for His service—how can you lack anything? How can the creature harm you? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). Therefore distill your own comfort from this and reason as follows: The Lord has known me and accepted me to be His child. This I know by the Holy Spirit who has been given to me, and has wrought light and life in my soul, however small it may be. The Lord is the Creator of heaven and of earth; everything belongs to Him and is at His disposal. Thus, I shall not lack anything and all will therefore be well, for on the one hand the Lord loves me and on the other hand He desires and is able to help me. He has promised and declared, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Therefore, acquiesce in this, and if things do not proceed according to your wishes, then look unto your Maker and submit yourself to His holy will. Approach Him as His creature, as His child; pray, wait upon Him, lean upon Him, and always let the Lord, who has made heaven and earth, be your reliance.
Thirdly, children of God, therefore as God’s creatures make use of everything, for the world is yours both in respect to property and usage (1 Cor. 3:22).
All of this, however, is only so because you are the property of Christ, and God ultimately remains the Proprietor of everything. Refrain from cruel behavior towards the creature and from its unnecessary and deliberate destruction, because it is the Lord’s property. Refrain from abusing the creature through revelling, drunkenness, and ostentatious and adulterous behavior, for it is God’s property. Rather, use it freely for necessary purposes, as well as for honest enjoyment by seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and adorning it. Realize that three words are written upon each creature by which you are continually reminded: Accipe, Redde, Fuge, that is, take, return, and avoid. Take and receive whatever God gives you, return it with thanksgiving to Him from whom it originated, and avoid misuses and sinful abuse.
Fourthly, accustom yourself to behold creation in such a fashion that you may behold God in it.
May you thus be stirred up to praise Him, to glorify Him with your heart, mouth, and deeds for His magnificence, power, wisdom, and goodness, exclaiming, “O LORD, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches” (Psa. 104:24). As you consider these perfections of God as manifested in creation, seek to cultivate a reverent, spiritual frame, and to bow yourself with reverence before Him. “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psa. 95:6). This is the work of angels. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4a, 7). T
he man after God’s heart found his delight in this and he praised God as he beheld His creation. “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy Name in all the earth! who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands” (Psa. 8:1, 3, 4, 6); “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (Psa. 19:1–2).
Fifthly, although the Lord reveals Himself in a much more special and glorious manner in the work of redemption than in His works of creation and providence, heaven and earth have not been created in vain.
They do not exist merely to be at man’s disposal for the duration of his existence, but they exist for the glory of their Creator.
(1) An unregenerate man views heaven and earth, and God’s government of them, in a natural way. His focus remains upon the creation and he rarely ascends to the Creator. If he does so, it is with a carnal heart and eye, perceiving little of God in it. And whatever he does perceive of God in it, he does not glorify God in response to it.
(2) The person, however, whose eyes of his understanding have been enlightened, who now knows, loves, and esteems God to be His God, now beholds everything—every creature and every motion—as so many books and mouths to declare the glory of his God and Father. And since his focus is not on creation itself, it does not concern him so much if the natural is inferior to the work of grace in the realm of the spiritual. His concern is how God, by means of creation, reveals Himself to the soul.
 Did not heaven and earth and God’s government serve as a mirror to Adam after He was created, and prior to the fall, having as yet no knowledge of redemption? Did it not enable him to behold the glory of His Creator and to glorify Him in response to this?
 The heathen who are scattered throughout the entire earth, and have no knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, nevertheless behold God in the works of nature. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).
 God often directs His church to behold His works of creation and providence for the purpose of knowing Him. “Fear ye not Me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea? Neither say they in their heart, let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: He reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest” (Jer. 5:22a, 24); “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded” (Isa. 45:12).
 Holy men of God have often focused upon the works of nature and magnified God in them. “And blessed be Thy glorious Name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even Thou, art LORD alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein … Thou preservest them all” (Neh. 9:5–6). David does likewise in Psalm 104. He begins as follows, “Bless the LORD,” upon which he demonstrates how the glory of the Lord reveals itself in the maintenance and government of both His inanimate and animate creation. He ends in like manner: “Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.” The prophet made this reflection a foundation for the confidence of the church by saying, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psa. 124:8).
Therefore, you who love to magnify God, seek to observe God freely in His creation and wondrous government of heaven and earth. Do not easily let opportunity pass by, as if such a practice were childlike and less spiritual, and as if nothing worthwhile could be observed in this. The latter is the practice of many people who in doing so, follow the example of the irrational animals of the earth. Instead, may you take intelligent notice with a spiritual eye, and thus either from the observance of creation ascend unto God—thereby stirring up your soul to a lively frame to glorify God—or from living spiritually near to God, descend from the Creator to the creature and observe them. You will discover more in such reflection than a man could possibly express. If, however, it pleases the Lord not to stir up your soul by His Holy Spirit, the entire edifice of creation, His government inclusive, will be a closed book to you, which under such circumstances will likewise be true for the Holy Scriptures. If God’s Spirit leads you into it, however, you will perceive God in an incomprehensibly glorious manner.
If, with an attentive soul, it is your desire—the soul now seeking to accustom itself to continually have God in view and to glorify Him—to observe all God’s works, then do the following:
First, in a godly frame of mind go outdoors and lift up your eyes on high to observe the immeasurable dimensions of the universe (as far as man is concerned) as well as its enormous space, and consider yourself as a grain of sand surrounded by all this.
Secondly, observe heaven’s beautiful countenance. How delightful are the distant heavenly blue, the fluffy clouds, the elegant moon, the innumerable multitude of glittering stars, the comprehensive view of the countenance of heaven; the quiet evening, the pensive night, the lovely sunrise; the sitting or walking under the canopy of a lush forest, the sweet rustling of the wind in the trees, the dimension of immensity presented by rows of lofty trees; and the immensity of a plain when viewed either from a lonely elevation or from a distant point! Here one observes green meadows filled with cattle, and there cultivated fields with either lovely, multicolored, and aromatic growth, or delicious fruits; while yonder are mountains interspersed with valleys. Then again one walks along the seashore, and yonder one sits down by a quietly babbling brook, everywhere hearing the joyful sound produced by the voices of birds of various plumage. If a soul is to some degree spiritual, will he not be drawn towards his Creator and Father, and will it not stir up a variety of emotions within? Will he not observe more than he can possibly express, and will not such exhilarating excursions both during the morning and the evening cause him to return home joyfully with a heart filled with praise?
Thirdly, observe the infinite diversity of colors, smells, tastes, voices, and shapes of birds, fishes, animals, insects, leaves, and grasses in the field. Seek to find two that are fully identical!
Fourthly, observe the infinite chain of secondary causes, and how one thing serves and assists the other; how heaven and earth interact, as is stated in Hosea 2:21–22, “I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.” When you sit down at your table to eat, has not the entire edifice of heaven and earth been in motion to set this table before you? What an innumerable multitude of people have served you in this, who have labored to provide you with a table, a table cover, knives, dishes, spoons, glasses, bread, meat, fruits, wine, and beer? Through how many hands did all these things pass before coming to your table? But who sets all of this in motion and who caused them to serve you in the sweat of their brow? Behold, oh, behold the good hand of your Father! It is He who gave life to the bird, the animal, or the fish. It is He who gave them food with the intent to raise them for your benefit, and who directed men to catch them, to deliver them to your home, and to prepare them for you. It is He who causes a little tree to be planted on your behalf, and prevents all His creatures from picking that apple, cluster of grapes, etc., rather directing them to leave it until, being ripe, it be delivered to your home, even if it were thousands of miles from your residence. Is all of this not suitable to prompt you to observe the hand and glory of God in a variety of ways? Does this not draw the soul which loves God towards Him?
Fifthly, observe the mountain peaks, the crowns of the trees, the church steeples, and blades of grass, and consider in which direction they point. Do they not point upward? Does all this not teach you not to focus on creation itself, but rather, to turn away from it to know the Lord God, love Him, delight yourself in Him, and give Him honor and glory?
No education is required to discern what one may observe in, and learn from, creation. The Holy Spirit, having given God’s child a sanctified soul, reveals with great clarity many glorious attributes of God, revealing them in a clearer and different manner than the brightest physicist would be capable of doing. Yes, a godly farmer can observe a thousandfold more than a secularly trained astronomer, herbalist, or biologist.
Sixthly, we hereby conclude that God is, all of which is manifested in a clear, incontrovertible, and immanent manner. This concept of God’s existence transcends our ability for verbal expression. It declares and reveals to us “His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). The fact that He created everything with one word, and by the influence of His power energizes in its existence and activity every one of the innumerable multitude of His creatures, is a reality too wonderful for our comprehension. In this we may observe the unsearchable wisdom, the infinite power, and the wondrous goodness of God, a view which will cause us to lose ourselves in amazement.
These and other attributes of God are observed by a godly person with an attentive disposition, doing so not simply by way of reasonable deduction or by mere observation. It is not so that he simply concludes God to be such and such and nevertheless remains in darkness. Rather, the Lord reveals Himself to the soul by way of His creation and the manner in which it functions, doing so as clearly as light manifests itself to the bodily eye. The fact that we neither observe all this nor lift up our hearts to the Lord with wonder, delight, and joy, or, when reasoning deductively, do not discern the glory of the Lord in all this and thus do not glorify Him in this, is but a sign of our lack of spirituality. It is a natural rather than spiritual reaction to imagine that we cannot observe God’s creation from a spiritual perspective. Perhaps this is due to the fact that one ends in creation itself, drawing but obscure conclusions from such observations, and having no experience in observing the glory of God either inductively or deductively3 with a heart which has been spiritually illuminated.
Seventhly, when a person who loves God ascends from creation to God Himself, he will observe far more of the glory of God than the creature itself can externally convey to him. He loses sight of the creature and ends in the Creator, acknowledging that His glory far exceeds the narrow confines of the creature. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee” (1 Ki. 8:27). Should he attempt to express the honor and glory of His majesty, then all mental capacity is too limited and all words are inadequate, causing him to exclaim, “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psa. 145:3).
He concludes that if God has created this lowly earth, the firmament, and the entire universe in such a glorious fashion and to His honor, His glory must be much more manifest in the third heaven, in that city whose Builder and Maker He is. There glory is to be observed in all its dimensions. It is there that the Lord Jesus was received in glory and is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. There the angels are the most excellent creatures, excelling in glory. There the bodies of the godly will be conformed to the glorified body of Christ, be fully manifested in glory, and receive the crown of glory which will not fade away.
The glory of God illuminates the New Jerusalem in its entirety—a glory which is so great that Paul, having been lifted up into the third heaven, only shares with us that He heard unspeakable words, which are not lawful for a man to utter; that is, which cannot possibly be expressed. Thus, a person viewing this by faith, in believing meditation can join himself to this glorified multitude in heaven, with them prostrate himself before the Lord, take his crown and cast it down before Him, and join in exclaiming, “Hallelujah to Him who sits upon the throne, to whom be honor and glory!” Even then one could say that all of this is as nothing compared to the infinite glory which God has within Himself. And thus we must end in amazement and exclaim, “Thou, who hast set Thy majesty above the heavens, Thy glory is infinite! Therefore, to Thee be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever! Amen.”
Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992), 1:265–284.