Simchat Torah, October 14, 2017
The heavens declare the glory of God. Since creation is good, orderly, beautiful, and well designed, the Creator must be very good! V’eemru? (And let us say?) The message of the heavens concerning the glory and goodness of the Creator is one we need to be ready to share with others—especially our children, young people and secular Jews (and Gentiles).
The Bible makes important spiritual and moral claims about the creation and the Creator,
starting with Beresheet (Genesis) 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The universe has a definite beginning and God made it. V’eemru? It so happens that modern astrophysics now confirms that the universe has a definite beginning. That’s nice—most scientists used to believe that the universe is eternal and had no beginning.
Science studies the material universe. The Bible declares moral and spiritual truths that are beyond empirical observation, starting with: The universe has a Maker. This spiritual and moral truth the Bible reaffirms many times:
Psalm 134:3, “May Adonai bless you out of Zion—Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:8, “Our help is in the Name of Adonai, Maker of heaven and earth.”
The definite beginning of Creation, as science confirms, points to the greater truth of the Maker. Trusting in this truth this truth will open the human heart to His blessing and His help. V’eemru? Yet the knowledge of this truth is not by scientific observation, but by faith. Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen did not come from anything visible.”
When Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity, he realized that his equations implied a definite beginning. Einstein disliked this end result so much that he introduced a fudge factor into his theory that allowed for an eternal, static universe— he called it the “cosmological constant,” because it arbitrarily allowed his equations to predict an eternal, changeless universe. However, when astronomer Edwin Hubble showed that the galaxies are receding, and thus the universe is expanding, Einstein admitted that the cosmological constant was his greatest blunder.
The truth that the universe has a definite beginning is one almost all scientists accept nowadays and even that what is seen come from what is not unseen, though many scientists don’t like it. But that it was created by the word of God—now this truth is spiritual, and must be accepted by faith. Not that it requires a great leap of faith. It doesn’t take an Einstein to look at the heavens and be rapt in awe at its grandeur and beauty—declaring the awesomeness of the Creator. V’eemru? Truly, as Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows His handiwork.”
What the heavens declare, we need to declare. Show people these glorious pictures and then tell them what the Bible says: the awesome beauty of the universe declares the glory of God. V’eemru?
Beresheet 1 verse 2 reveals more: “Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering on the surface of the water.” Out of chaos and waste, the Ruach Elohim has made the universe orderly and life sustaining. When people despair about the chaos made by hurricanes and mass-murderers, let’s help them see the big picture. Hurricanes restore temperature balance of the planets and nutrients from the bottom to the surface of the oceans.
The universe is an orderly place—the mathematical laws of Newton, Maxwell & Einstein confirm it and enable engineers to design GPS and missions to Pluto—because Pluto was where engineers expected it to be many years after they launched the New Horizons probe on its 3-billion mile journey. The further from the chaos of men, the more orderly the universe is. 1 Cor. 14:32, “for God is not a God of confusion, but shalom,” and v.36, so “let them be in order.”
Creation is not chaotic but well designed. Modern physicists are amazed at how it all fits together. As Wikipedia puts it, “The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can occur only when certain universal … physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life.” Indeed, it we should say utterly unlikely. The odds against the universe we live in in are quadrillions of quadrillions to one.
Then there’s all the information complexity of DNA. As Bill Gates observed, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created…” This movie shows how DNA fabricates RNA in the nucleus, which in turn fabricates the complex proteins (such as enzymes) essential to the rest of the cell. Amazing! It’s a molecular factory! Proteins form microscopic machines, with motors, rotors & propellers, or switches and sensors. Ladies and gentlemen, microbiological life is extraordinarily well designed!
So, where did DNA come from? In the geological record, life (which requires DNA) appears suddenly, ruling out gradual evolution. Many who refuse to acknowledge the Creator of life imagine that maybe it came from Mars or somewhere else out there. Out there is… God…. As Hebrews says, “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.”
The universe is not waste, but life-sustaining, since the Ruach Elohim cares tenderly for His creation. Deuteronomy 32:11 “He found [Jacob/Israel] in the wilderness land, in the void of a howling waste. He surrounded him, cared for him, guarded him as the pupil of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young…” The Hebrew here for waste is tohu, as in Genesis 1:2—just as a mother eagle hovers over her young, so the Ruach Elohim hovered over the formless deep to create a life-sustaining environment, and the same Spirit of G-d cares for Israel to bring His people from waste place to a fruitful land. V’eemru? Let’s declare it to our children, to young people and to secular Jews & Gentiles.
Beresheet 1:4 says, “God saw that the light that it is good.” This declaration of the goodness of light is both obvious and profound. Ask any child if she thinks light is good, and you should get a nodding head. Well duh! No light, no seeing. As Ecclesiastes 11:7 says, “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.” V’eemru? Light enables us to see and not stumble; moreover, light chases away darkness and many fears.
Yet the Bible has much more to say about the moral and spiritual significance of light. Isaiah 5:20 says, Oy to those who call evil good and good evil, who present darkness as light and light as darkness.” Here, light is a moral quality—spiritual light enables us to apprehend spiritual truth and goodness, while moral darkness hides truth and enables evil. V’eemru?
Psalm 4:7. “Many are asking, ‘Who will show us some good?’ May the light of Your face shine upon us, Adonai!” If in Bible times, many were asking, “Who will show us some good?” how much more in our time? If you have seen the light of God’s face shining upon you—as in the Aaronic blessing—then you can let others know about the goodness and blessings of His light. V’eemru?
Alas, many people are walking in darkness, as it says in Isaiah 9:1. “The people walking in darkness will see a great light. Upon those dwelling in the land of the shadow of death, light will shine.” The light the prophets perceive is the light of the Messiah, Yeshua—and it is good indeed. V’eemru? When the government is on His shoulder, He puts human affairs back in good order.
Again and again, day after day, Beresheet declares the goodness of creation: 10, God called the dry ground “land,” and the collection of the water He called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. The Hebrew is tov. 18 … making fruit with the seed in it, each according to its species. And God saw that it was good. It’s more than an aesthetic response; it’s a moral and spiritual evaluation. 21, 25 God created each creature according to their species. And God saw that it was good. Each and every species is good and each unique creature is good, valuable, revealing the Creator. Finally, 35, “So God saw everything that He made, and behold it was very good.” Tov m’od!
The goodness of creation is profoundly moral and spiritual; the Bible reiterates it several times. 1 Timothy 4:4, “For everything created by God is good.” How should we respond to all this goodness? Thanksgiving—to the Creator, who is good! Let’s give thanks and pray: that all humans would respond to God’s goodness. V’eemru?
The goodness of His creation bears witness to the goodness of God. Psalm 136 begins and ends, “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,” for as verses 4-8 say, “He made the heavens by wisdom” and “spread the earth on the waters,” then the sun to rule by day and the moon and stars at night.
I want you to see this: the message of the Creation is not a scientific theory or a pedantic argument. It’s a revelation about the meaning of our natural response to the beauty and design of creation. Let’s bear witness to others: the creation is beautiful and good—and points to a Creator who is good.
Psalm 8:4-5 (3-4) declares, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You established—what is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You care for him?” O Lord, how excellent is Your name! V’eemru? And the son of man! When Beresheet reveals how much care and wisdom HaShem put into His creation, it is going way beyond scientific observation or theory. V’eemru? These spiritual truths that the heavens declare, we must declare forthrightly to our children, young people and secular Jews & Gentiles. V’eemru?
Last Shabbat, I spoke about the Messianic hope of Sukkot, and how Biblical faith is unique in giving a positive, purposeful view of human life and destiny with G-d. Many of you liked that message. Unlike the pessimism of the religions and philosophies of mortals, the Scriptures offer joyful hope. Paganism and eastern religions have a dim view of existence. Modern existentialism and postmodernism are also pessimistic & full of angst, with no hope beyond material existence. Yet Sukkot looks forward with joyful hope to the revelation of olam ha-ba, the world to come.
Moreover, the Spirit of God is working to bring about the renewal of all things—just as He brought order and beauty out chaos and waste, the Redeemer is seeking that none should perish, but all should come to repentance and enter His glorious joy, when He restores all things! V’eemru? Creation and redemption both speak the same positive, purposeful, hopeful message—a message that only comes to humanity by revelation of the Word of God—and the Messiah, the light of the world!
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” The answer is usually not an argument but a testimony or an illustration. If someone—whether a child, or a young person or a secular Jew or Gentile—argues with you about dinosaurs or evolution of life on other planets, I suggest you point out, with meekness & reverence, what everyone knows—that rainbows and the heavens are gorgeous, declaring the glory of God, illustrating moral and spiritual truths that the Bible emphasizes: Creation is beautiful, well-designed and good, revealing an awesome, inspiring and caring Creator, who is also our Redeemer V’eemru?
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Scripture references are mostly from The Tree of Life Version (TLV) though occasionally other versions. Verse citations provide Jewish numbering, with Christian numbering in parentheses.