A baby’s first words—they’re adorable, they’re cute, they make moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas beam with pleasure. Maybe it’s “momma,” maybe it’s “dada.” Whatever it is, it’s what the baby has been hearing. And it’s an amazing confession. He doesn’t even know it, but in forming that word, the infant is making a profound statement about his place in the world. He is a son, or she is a daughter. There’s an identity affirmed, a relationship confessed. I am your child; you are my parent. First words may be simple, but they affirm a deep, abiding truth.
Our God’s first words—they too are short and simple. In uttering them, He too is making a profound statement about His place in this world. And while He is affirming His identity, more importantly, He is confessing our identity. We learn who God is, and who we are, in the very first words He speaks. Even more, as these words echo down the hallways of the great house of Scripture, we hear in that distant echo the clear sound of grace. God’s first words may be “Let there be light,” but He had just as well said, “Let there be Gospel.” Here’s what I mean.
- God Speaks into Darkness. Before God spoke those first words, “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep,” (Gen 1:2). Years ago, I took my children to Carlsbad Caverns. Deep within that cave, our guide sat us down and told us he was going to turn off the lights for one minute. When he did, the darkness that flooded us was complete. We could squint, stare, blink all we wanted, but we could see nothing. Total, crippling, crushing darkness. So was our world before God spoke. And so were we before God spoke the light of His grace into our hearts. Paul says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” (2 Cor 4:4). But what did our good and gracious Creator do? “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor 4:6). Read that verse again, savoring each word this time. Did you taste the sweetness in God’s first words? Here is the grace-bestowing, gift-giving, life-bestowing Lord. Our Father who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who continues to let light shine out of darkness. That darkness is our blindness, our sinful, lost condition in this world. That light is the Gospel; it is the light of knowing that the glory of God shines from the face of Jesus.
- God Does All the Doing. If God had not said, “Let there be light,” our world would still be bathed in night. It would be formless and void. The dawn would not somehow evolve into being from the stuff of midnight. The world would not wake up and decide it would create the sun, moon, and stars. If God had not acted, if God had not spoken, there would be no light. He had to do all the doing. And because He did all the doing, it is not only good but perfect. It is no different when God speaks, “Let there be light,” into the midnight realm of our hearts. “Our foolish hearts were darkened,” Paul says (Rom 1:21). We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Dead people don’t resurrect themselves. Darkened souls don’t create light within them. But God does. Our Father has shone into our hearts. The light of His Spirit has beamed the rays of grace within us, dispelling the night. Off the face of Jesus shines the light that creates faith within us, the knowledge that we are God’s children in His Son. He does all the doing. And because He does all the doing, it’s perfect. We don’t decide to believe, we don’t wander about in the darkness of unbelief until one day we find a match and light the candle of faith within us. While we’re dead, darkened, lost, God says, “Let there be light.” And there is. By His word, by His Son, we are enlightened to life.
- God Creates Light for You. There is a reason that our Father does everything He does in Genesis 1. He creates light, separates the waters, forms the animals, puts the sun and moon and stars in their place—all for you. The culmination of creation is on the sixth day, when the Lord says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” (1:26). Everything that our Lord had done up to that point was in preparation for this day. He was like a rich groom getting everything ready for His bride. He builds the mansion of the universe for her, decorates it with the beautiful things of creation, hangs the sun and moon from the ceiling to give it splendor, then finally He brings His bride to the home He has constructed for her. We are that bride. All creation exists not for God but for you. He didn’t need it. God created you to have someone upon whom to bestow His blessings, a bride upon whom to lavish gifts. And there is a reason that our Father speaks light and life into our dead and darkened hearts: because He loves us. He lavishes upon us the gifts of hope and absolution and rest because we mean more to Him than anything else. Christ remakes us into His image, into His likeness. And He presents to us all His saving work. He gives us the cross, He gives us the resurrection, He gives us Himself. He makes us bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. And He does so because He is love, and that loves spills over from Him into our world, onto us.
“Let There Be Gospel”
The deep, abiding truth in God’s first words are that He is a God who gives. He gives through His word. He gives in His Son. And He gives it all to us. “Let there light” means “Let there be saving light in my Son for a world darkened by sin.” It means, “Let the light of Christ shine in their hearts so they might see my glory in the face of my Son.”
In the third verse of the Bible, as those words echo down the hallways of Scripture, “Let there be light” resounds as “Let there be Gospel.”
What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!