Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

GROUNDWORK by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: It was 4 years ago on August 21, 2017, when some of us drove all the way to Toccoa, Georgia, where Nicole and I went to college to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. As you witnessed in the video, it was amazing that we all began to shout spontaneously. Same thing was reported everywhere that people were gathered to watch this celestial event. What makes this so unique because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the same effect. The point is that human beings are fascinated with space. We want to know what’s out there and how it is connected to us. In our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND,” we come to the section that deals with space and its connection to earth. Some of the questions that lead me to deal with space were “Is the universe infinite?” “What about the canopy theory?” “Is there life in outer space?” Main point: The complexity and the immensity of the universe brings us to our knees and causes us to raise our hands in worship. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is. No wonder the psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse shows His handiwork.”

Genesis 1       6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

Context: There are 2 ways that some people have read the Genesis account of creation. Some think that it is simply a polemic against pagan gods surrounding the people of Israel. On the surface, this sounds good and even helps with some of the exegetical difficulties. Unfortunately, it also undermines the authority of God’s Word. People who believe this also claim that we shouldn’t get hung up on details. Instead, we should get the bigger picture that our God is superior to the other gods and not worry about things that are difficult to understand. Here’s the problem – if what we believe is not the truth and just a mythology, what right do we have to condemn someone else’s mythology? Others think that the creation account in Genesis is simply a reflection of the creation accounts of the ancient near eastern peoples. According to this view, no one knows what really happened and we shouldn’t press the point. Again, the problem here is that if we are unsure of what the Bible says, then what’s the use of believing anything. Here’s what we believe: The Bible gives us a clear and cogent account of how the world came to be. We must go above and beyond in trying to understand what it means. It is the only truth about our past, present, and future.

So, what does it mean? 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” To start with, there is a translational issue here (from Sarfati and Danny Faulkner). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is “raqia,” and it is found 8 more times in the OT. What does “firmament” mean? The translators of the LXX used the Greek word “stereoma” to translate the Hebrew word “raqia.” The word “stereoma” means a crystalline structure, something hard and transparent. According to ancient Greeks, the earth was surrounded by a hard, crystalline, and transparent sphere with stars attached to it. When the Latin translator Jerome came to that passage, he chose to translate the Greek “stereoma” instead of the Hebrew “raqia” because he didn’t understand how to translate the latter. So, he called it “firmamentum.” Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version translators didn’t know what to do with “raqia” either and they simply transliterated Jerome’s firmamentum into the English “firmament.” What a mess!

Here’s the correct meaning: Expanse. It has the idea of something that has been expanded or stretched out. Sometimes, it even refers to beating or stamping out. So, contrary to what people think, “raqia” is not a cosmic dome but cosmic space that has been stretched out. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about this and sometimes uses the word “raqia” and other times the word “natah,” and even the words “matach” and “tapach.”

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads (natah) out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Job 37:18 “With Him, have you spread (raqa) out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?
  • Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch (natah) out the heavens like a curtain.
  • Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches (natah) out the heavens all alone, who spreads (raqa) abroad the earth by Myself.”
  • Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out (taphach) the heavens.”

So, “raqia” has the idea of space or expansion. This makes sense in verse 7 “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” In other words, God made this “raqia” to separate the waters below from the waters above. One more thing – 8 “And God called the firmament Heaven.” In the OT, the word for heaven is “samayim,” which is found over 400 times. It shows up again in verse 9, 14, 15, and 17. This word refers to the space where God placed the luminaries (sun, moon, and stars) on Day 4 and the place where the birds fly “across the face of the expanse of the heavens” on Day 5. Here’s the point: The atmosphere and the outer space are both part of the “raqia.”

So, what happened on Day 2? God created a massive space between the watery matrix that will become earth and the remaining waters. Where did that water go? At one time, people proposed that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere, but it is no longer held to because of several problems (Robert Whitelaw and Walter Brown):

  • The Heat Problem – roast all life
  • The Light Problem – no sunlight or starlight for plants and seasons
  • The Pressure Problem – temp over 220 degrees F at the base
  • The Support Problem – if it collapsed at the Great Flood, that would be a long time
  • The Ultraviolet Problem – ultraviolet light would have destroyed the canopy

Better solution is that the “raqia” has separated the water which is now in some form at the edge of the universe. Psalm 148     1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 2 things that stand out: 1. There is an order – heavens, sun and moon, stars, and highest heavens. 2. This psalm was written after Noah’s flood. I’m not dogmatic about it, but this is where much scholarship is leaning – the expansion of the universe at a set time in the past. If this is true, this explains the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is that the universe appears to be bathed in a radiation field (Faulkner). This is a uniform coldness which is 3 K above absolute zero (– 459.67 F). It’s described to be like the heat from a rock lying in the sun all day. It comes towards the earth from all directions like a faint light. It is proposed that the water at the edge of the universe could be the cause of this radiation. The evolutionists talk about a big bang. According to the big bang theory, the universe started at a tiny, very very hot and dense point called singularity. It is claimed that after this rapid expansion, the heat has finally cooled down after 380,000 years after the big bang and dropped below 3000 K to form neutral atoms from electron and protons. This is how they account for the CMB. But their calculations don’t add up, especially with regards to the speed of light. We’ll come to this later. But, if God did this expansion faster than light (superluminally), it makes all the sense.

Let’s return to the text in verse 8 “…So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Notice: God does not declare this day to be good because good hasn’t come yet. 9Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. This is more than just water receding and earth coming in sight. This is known as transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. How did that happen? Don’t think of this as your drinking water flowing from your tap! One scholar (Kulikovsky) has proposed,

Therefore, it may be that God (1) caused the earth’s watery foundation to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon, and (2) separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land. In other words, the primeval earth comprised of the waters below the expanse—a large ball of water with similar dimensions as the earth today. Some of the waters were transformed into other compounds and were separated from the rest of the waters, which resulted in the formation of the dry land.

We have so much to understand! Nonetheless, 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Now God says, “it was good.”

If this were all there is to it, we would say that this is crazy and wacko. Turn to 2 Peter 3       4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This is God’s world. He made it in his way, and he will destroy it in his way. The past is connected to the future. What matters is are you living in his world his way? Are you saved? Do you realize how infinitesimal you and I are? Does this lead you to worship?

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