The first few chapters of Genesis tell the story of creation. Within it are two closely related allegories.
One describes the plan of salvation that God established before sin entered the world –before living things existed here. It’s as though He knew ahead of time exactly what was going to happen and designed the creation accordingly –before the foundations of the world were put in place. (It would be naïve to think that He didn’t know –after all, He is God.)
The other allegory depicts fallen mankind’s plight starting immediately after the rebellion in the Garden –after that first couple consumed the fruit from the tree of knowing good and evil.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
The rebellion occurred when Eve decided that she was a better judge of right and wrong than God. He had warned them that decision would be costly –that death would be the consequence. After the deed was done, they went into hiding. Their outlook was dark. Their lives were empty and unfulfilled.
When God created the earth He also created the heavens around it –nestling the earth into its place in the creation. Formless, void and darkness signify that the earth’s purpose hadn’t been revealed yet. It would be the “birthing place” for the bride of Christ. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit traveled back and forth in an expectant, hand-wringing manner (that’s what hovering describes).
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)
Although Eve was the one to bring sin into the world, we all would have done the very same thing. It’s our rebellious nature –we’re born with it. And it’s what made us all start out this life in darkness –in our dead-to-God condition. The light showed them the ramifications of rebellion. Their attempts at a remedy (covering with fig leaves) were futile –His (covering with the life of a substitute sacrifice) was sufficient.
Because of His great love, the Father effectively said “Let salvation be available for mankind.” He sent His Son to bring the light –the light that would show the way to life. He was pleased with what His Son did –”it was good.”
Notice that the Father separated the light from the darkness. We tend to think about this life as being complicated –that we mostly operate somewhere between light and darkness depending on our faith at the moment. That’s not the case. He intentionally separated the two and fixed a boundary between them. Only the light –the Light of the world– can show the way to Him.
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
The sequence in this Genesis passage emphasizes that darkness existed first; then came the light and then that day was over. It’s telling us that everything changes the instant we see what He has done.
John paralleled the Genesis account when he wrote about Jesus in .
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)
He’s describing the world as a whole –and the Jewish community in particular– when He says that the darkness did not comprehend it. But he goes on to say that some would receive that light and start a brand new life. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. ()
Luke wrote what Simeon said (quoting Isaiah) when Jesus’ parents presented Him according to the traditions ( ).
For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)
By the way, Jesus’ Hebrew name is Joshua. It means “the Lord’s salvation.” And that’s who Simeon saw!
From Genesis to Revelation, light has one symbolic meaning: showing the way to eternal life. Here’s that passage again from John chapter one –this time followed by a familiar verse out of the Psalms. I’ve highlighted the parts that connect them.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
God’s word –Jesus– is called a light to our path and lamp to our feet. Not only does He show us the path to life, He also leads us so we can know exactly where we are along the way. Without God we are empty –always searching. With Him we have meaning and purpose.