“And God said, “Let there be light in the firmament of heaven to separate between the day and the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. And let those light be in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater to rule the day and the lesser and the stars to rule the night. And God placed them in the firmament of the heavens to shine on the earth, and to rule the day and the night, and to separate between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, day 4.”
Day 4 is a little embarrassing, don’t you think? The sequence is all off – how did all of the vegetation created on Day 3 come to be and continue to live without sunlight? Those who desire for the 7 days of creation to speak to scientific realities are left blushing, those who use science to question the integrity of Scripture are left celebrating.
But to say such things is to believe that the first tellers of the story either paid no attention to detail or had no idea how the earth worked. The Hebrew people lived and died by the land and these greater and lesser lights. They paid attention; their lives depended on it. They knew that plants depended on the light from the sun to grow. And based on this Day 4 passage, they even used the sun, moon, and stars to mark time. We need clocks and calendars for that now.
The first tellers of the story and all of the generations who passed it along in this form were not ignorant. They knew that this was “out of sequence.” So the question for us should be Why are they telling it this way? This hiccup in sequence is a call to wonder, it’s a call to look up.
In an OnBeing interview with Krista Tippet¹, Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno describes his time with the Peace Corps in Kenya teaching astronomy to graduate students. His lectures drew out entire villages. Everyone wanted to hear about astronomy, everyone wanted to look through the telescope. He was struck by the reality that the people of Kenya were just as fascinated by the night sky as the people of Michigan. “And it suddenly dawned on me, well, of course. It’s only human beings that have this curiosity to understand: What’s that up in the sky? How do we fit into that? Who are we? Where do we come from? And this is a hunger that is as deep and as important as a hunger for food…”
What’s up in the sky?
How do we fit into that?
Who are we?
Where do we come from?
These were questions that the Hebrew people were asking, too.
Tonight, put on a sweater, grab a blanket and a pillow, and go where you can see the sky. Ask the questions that people for all of human history have been asking, wonder about what the answers might be. Imagine the Hebrew people doing the same; laying themselves out on the ground attending to the part of creation that hangs above them, asking the same questions we ask. I wonder if Genesis 1:14-19, Day 4, is their answer to these questions. I wonder.
Why did they choose to tell it this way?
May we wonder.