In Genesis 1-2 we encounter three types of creative activity. God creates out of nothing. God creates out of something. And finally, God creates by transformation. I want to focus on the third for a moment. We can see this dynamic in days 1-3 of creation. After God creates light out of nothing we are told that he separates it from darkness (1:3). He then names what he has divided. “Darkness, your name will be night. Light, you will now be called day.” The division between light and darkness is creative transformation. He takes what he has made and brings about change.
We know from 1:2 that the earth was covered in water. On day 2 he goes to work transforming this situation. This part of the creation account has always intrigued me. God speaks to the watery earth: ” Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” (1:6). The result is a division of waters. Some remains below and some is held above (1:7). Day 3 picks up where he left off. He gathers the waters below into one place in order to allow the dry land to appear (1:9). He then names these two creatures earth and sea.
God speaks a formless world into existence (1:2). Like a potter he takes his clay and begins to shape it into something beautiful. He takes some of the clay and makes other things out of it (plants, animals, humans). The remainder of the clay is transformed by the steady hand of the divine artisan (separation of light and darkness, land and water). This is whats going on in creation by transformation. He is working the clay.
God chose not to create a completed world. He chose to create one that needed further work. It’s like a man who chooses to buy a plot of land and build a log cabin with his own hands. He is not interested in a pre-fabricated cabin. He wants to roll up his sleeves and use the resources on his own land. He loves the feel of the hammer as he transforms his plot into a home. I think creation by transformation reveals a God who loves to work. According to Genesis 2:2, God wore a hardhat for six days and the universe was his construction zone. Here we have the seeds of a theology of work and vocation.
The God who works is revealed further in the coming of the Son. The life of this carpenter is an extended sermon on the doctrine of vocation. In the incarnation he takes up his tool belt. His project is our salvation. The vigor of his labor stains his brow with sweat and blood. His vocation leads him to Golgotha, the construction site of the new creation. To complete his work he must relinquish his hammer. Instead of pounding nails he must receive them. On that bloody wood beam we behold the glory of the God who works for us.