When my brother was single, he claimed to be looking for the ultimate woman—the woman who could make a sandwich. After a long and arduous search, he found her. She makes sandwiches…and coffee! Their marriage is a blissful one.
After reading about what God accomplished in one day—which dwarfs my To-Do list, oh, for the whole of my lifetime—I decided to check out what happened next. Would you believe God made a sandwich? Stick with me here…
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
When I think of a firmament, I envision something solid, some sort of mass. God describes ‘firmament‘ as an expanse on which something rests or hangs. The word is used later in the chapter as the place the stars were set and also where the birds are commanded to fly, i.e., “the open firmament of heaven.” (BTW, the word ‘open’ there is the same word that is translated ‘face,’ which I looked up last time.)
And 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.
So, we have a layer of water, followed by the firmament, and another layer of water. It’s a sandwich! A perfect atmospheric sandwich. Using water vapor, along with other gases in the atmosphere, God created an internal system to regulate the temperature of the world. This greenhouse effect warms and cools our planet.
The second chapter of Genesis divulges some intriguing information. Genesis 2:5-6 states, “…for the Lord had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and no man tilled the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” When the world was first formed, God set up instant irrigation—no rainfall required. So, once the plants were created, they wouldn’t need to be tended to—no tilling, no watering. And that’s a good thing since man wouldn’t be created for three more days.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
Wait a minute! Why is God calling the firmament ‘heaven’? Didn’t He already create the heavens in verse one? I need to look this up…
The word heaven can mean three separate places. The first heaven is the sky. The second heaven is the universe. Deuteronomy 10:14 bears out that ‘heaven’ is used to describe more than one place, stating, “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” So, God speaks of separate places using the same word.
The third heaven is where God resides. Interestingly, He does not talk about where He dwells until I understand where I dwell. Since He created the sky ‘heaven’ on day two, I can conclude the heaven of space was made in the first verse. (At this point nothing is in space, except Earth.)
What can I learn from firmament/firmament, heaven/heaven name-sharing? First, that God uses comparisons of characteristics between things to teach me how to compare spiritual concepts. For example, by connecting the heaven of space with God’s heavenly dwelling, He develops my awe at the vastness of space into a greater awe for the heaven where God dwells. What that heaven must be like! Second, Old Hebrew didn’t have a lot of words to choose from (not to mention that annoying absence of vowels). But that worked well because Moses’ audience, to whom Genesis was originally written, had limited ideas. Yes, they were advanced for their time with written language, amazingly detailed religious rites and craftsmanship, fixed standards for commerce, and unprecedented protocols for stopping the spread of disease (like God’s soap recipe); but they were still coming out of the prehistoric age.
God made a firmament, an expanse in Earth’s sky.
The firmament was sandwiched between water, creating Earth’s thermostat.
All He had to do was speak it, and it was.
He named it Heaven.
While reading this, I realized God had to wait a couple thousand years before humankind was even ready for the writing of the Genesis account. Just think, He was giving Moses His commandments up on Mount Sinai, while Aaron was at the base of the mountain forming a gold cow so they could call it the god that delivered them out of Egypt. How insulting! And that was before He had Moses even start writing Genesis. Sometimes I think, “These stupid ‘great ideas’ of early man really bring home what my Heavenly Father has endured to teach His people.” Then I laugh at myself for thinking I’m any smarter. I may comprehend civilizations, nations, empires, and world-wide unification, but have I really grasped the point? Why did He go to so much trouble to teach me about the beginnings of a place that will one day cease to exist? There will be no Earth—no sky ‘heaven,’ no universe ‘heaven.’ Nothing physical will remain. Only the spiritual will go on. Hebrews 1:10-12 repeats what David wrote in Psalm 102:25-27,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
What’s the point? Maybe it’s this: God made a physical world so complicated that I will never reach the ends of knowledge about how it works. Word by word, I am made aware that He knows and is providing everything I need. If He can provide for me in ways—atmospheric sandwich ways—that I can’t just look at and understand (that it took thousands of years and better technology to study and comprehend), how much more will He provide for my comfort in a world where my physical eyes are unnecessary?