28 Jan 2006, Dr Barry Wright
(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
During the 1970s 'The Kings Heralds' released an album called Master Designer with the song Master Designer as its main theme. This morning I would like to share the words of that song with you. They go something like this:
Cotton candy clouds so fluffy and white,
Who put you there in a sky of deep blue?
Or do you just happen to float along,
Pretty and white in a sky so blue
Tall mountains, deep valleys, fast river, cool stream,
Show grandeur and majesty in some grand scheme
All of these wonders that we behold,
Are only a part, it cannot be told
Master Designer, whoever you are,
All of this beauty, both near and afar,
Can't just have happened, the odds are too great
There must be a plan, we're not left to fate.
All of this beauty, is far too convincing,
Master designer, Your word must be true.
Of all your creations, man is the dearest,
Help me to simply believe now in you.
The world that came from the hands of the creator was a very different world from what we live in today. However, even with the results of sin we stand in awe of the majesty and beauty that still remains in the physical world.
In what way was the world different? What do the scriptures tell us about this world that was designed by the godhead and put into place by the word of the lord of creation - Jesus Christ.
David makes it very clear about creation when he says in Psalms 33: 6,9 that:
'By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.'
Dear friends, the earth began by an act of god and the scriptures tell us that it was very good
We are told that as the world '…came from the Creator's hand, not only the Garden of Eden, but the whole earth was exceedingly beautiful. No taint of sin, or shadow of death, marred that fair creation.' (White, 1952: 22).
What sort of a picture do we have of this early period of earth's history? How has the world been described?
When God formed the earth there were mountains, hills and plains but they were not as abrupt and rugged as they appear today. They were covered with plants and flowers of every description. Trees, more majestic than any that now exist, crowned the high places and added to the already luxuriant beauty of the plains. Interspersed between them were large rivers and lakes and the air was pure and healthful. The whole world seemed like a decorated palace with everything in its place. (White, 1958: 44) (White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3: 33).
On the second and fourth day of creation God was to set in place His original design for the maintenance of the plant and animal world that He was about to create. Both these creative acts were to put in motion the complex mechanism for the distribution of water using the atmosphere and the energy of the sun.
We need to recognise that a world without these elements was to be a world without life. So what did god do? Let's read the accounts in Genesis Chap. 1 and 2.
Account No. 1 is found in Gen 1: 6-9 (NIV)
'And God said, Let there be an expanse (firmament, atmosphere) between the waters to separate water from water. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse sky. And there was evening and there was morning -the second day.
Account No. 2 (Gen 1: 16) NIV
'God made two great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night…'
Account No. 3 (Gen. 2: 5,6) KJV
'…For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth…'But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground'
Account No. 4 (Gen 2: 10-14)
'A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided; it had four headstreams. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold…' We need to recognise that gold was plentiful on the earth's surface. A part of the beauty that god had provided and that man was to eventually abuse. The name of the second river is the Gihon, it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth is the Euphrates' (Gen 2:10-14).
It is interesting to note that the names of the last two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) were eventually brought from this pre-flood world and given to two new rivers which flow in that area referred today as 'the cradle of civilisation' - an area now found in the country of Iraq not far from the mountains of Ararat.
What do these accounts tell us?
They tell me that:
- There was no rain before the flood of Noah
- Large volumes of water were stored not only above the atmosphere, but also on the earth's surface, and below the ground.
- The earth was to be watered by mists or dew and also from rivers that came from beneath the surface of the earth.
- God provided just the right climatic conditions to maintain the necessary growth and beauty of all living things.
- This mechanism did not accommodate for such things as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, hail and electrical storms that now cause so much destruction on our earth today.
- God's world was a perfect world and it was designed to operate at maximum efficiency.
Astronomers today have rightly called our earth the 'odd planet'
Even today from space, Earth looks different from the other planets. It hangs there, bright and blue, its skies dotted with floating white clouds. It hangs there in the emptiness, circled by its moon, looking warm and friendly.
This is so different from the other unprotected planets that are pitted with craters caused by rocks that hurtle through space and strike their surfaces.
Only on earth does water exist as liquid on the surface. It is water, covering two-thirds of our planet, with its water vapour suspended in the air that makes life possible and gives our world its beautiful blue colour.
It is no wonder that astronomers, after comparing what else they have discovered in the Solar System, continue to refer to this earth, not only as the 'Odd Planet', but also as 'the mystery planet'.
Earth is unique because of its life sustaining properties. It is a world especially created by the God of heaven to sustain life.
It is no wonder that David could suggest in Psalm 19: 1 that:
'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork'
Unfortunately, as we are told, sin was to enter this perfect world and cast over it, its blight of misery and death
We need to recognise that while there were evidences of decay in nature from the time of creation to the flood, the Earth was still to retain much of its former beauty. However, the coming catastrophe of a worldwide flood was to change many of the original designs God had put in place.
Using the words of Scripture, author Ellen White describes the devastating scene that took place.
She says, 'Then 'the fountains of the great deep' were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened'. Water appeared to come from the clouds in mighty cataracts. [For the first time] Rivers broke away from their boundaries, and overflowed the valleys. Jets of water burst from the earth with indescribable force, throwing massive rocks hundreds of feet into the air, and these, in falling, buried themselves deep in the ground…Satan himself, who was compelled to remain in the midst of the warring elements, feared for his own existence.' (White, 1958: 99)
As a consequence, the earth was to undergo a major transformation. Climate changed, mountains had become broken and irregular and valleys were carved deep and wide. The earth at that time presented an appearance of confusion and desolation. But, in spite of this catastrophe, the handiwork of God was still to be seen, as the earth, over time, was eventually able to regenerate itself.
King Solomon provides a statement in Ecclesiastes 1: 6-7 describing one of the most remarkable changes in the natural world and which is now recognised as underpinning our understanding of modern meteorology. With this statement, that could only have been given to him from God, Solomon now describes the movement of water in a new and completely revised mechanism that would radically affect the climates of the world. Listen to what he says in Ecc 1: 6-7. NIV
'The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.'
Solomon has just given us one of the best definitions of what modern science now calls 'The Hydrologic Cycle' or simply 'The Water Cycle'. This recent discovery by scientists approximately 200 years ago describes how water, which is now precipitated as rain, sleet, hail or snow, is drained off by the river system into the ocean. It is then raised by a process of evaporation back into the skies, and carried back by the wind over the land where it will be precipitated again. And the cycle continues and '…yet the sea is never full'.
It is now known that the major wind currents of the world follow well-defined circuits. These great wind circuits are largely responsible for all the great ocean currents as well as the great air currents of the world. Simply put, these changes, which are now being more and more affected by the works of man, are now responsible for many of the destructive extremes in weather creating floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and the resulting loss in life.
It is also significant to note that Satan himself had successfully used nature as a hostile agency to further alienate humanity from God.
David reminds us in Psalms 102: 25-27 that this cataclysmic period of earth's history involving the flood was to be the beginning of the end. Let's read what he says.
'In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same and your years will never end.'
A world that was designed to last forever was now to experience, in greater intensity, the processes of decay and deterioration. The process of aging and death were now accelerated and were to affect all living things.
Not only the physical world but man himself was to feel the effects of this change
Let's go right back to the very beginning where we read that man was created perfect from the hand of god. both Adam and Eve were of lofty stature and of perfect symmetry. They wore no artificial garments but were clothed in a covering of light such as the angels in heaven wear. They were also made to be free moral agents with the ability to accept or reject god's commands.
Dear friends, we need to be reminded that the first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of creation, given dominion over the whole world, and charged with the responsibility to care for it. This is not a mystery. The Scriptures could not be clearer in stating that humans came into existence directly as a creative act by God.
What happened to man after the entrance of sin through until the time of the flood? God's word tells me that:
Man begins to die
He now becomes a slave to the earth that he was created to dominate.
We see human hardship amongst environmental disarray.
The animals that the earth provided were now in rebellion against him.
There was an increasing alienation from God
There was an increase in violence involving the shedding of blood
General wickedness had increased.
However, with only a few generations since Adam and Eve's access to the tree of life, the human race had still retained much of its early vigour. Man's existence was still being measured by centuries and they were described as giants of great stature, strength and wisdom capable of making and devising wonderful works by their hands. Unfortunately, these talents were devoted to self rather than to the God of Heaven.
Let's read Genesis 6:1-6 (Clear Word Paraphrase) to show God's response to the world at this time.
'The population of the earth increased as couples continued to have children. The daughters of the ungodly were particularly beautiful. When the sons of the godly saw how beautiful these women were, they took as many of them to be their wives, as they wanted. God saw this and said 'More and more of my people are turning against me. The human body has become their god. My Holy Spirit will not work with them. I will give them one hundred and twenty years to mend their ways.' In those days people were giants, twice as large as people are today. Even afterward, when children from mixed marriages of the godly and ungodly were born, they were mighty men, known for their strengths and accomplishments. God noticed the growing wickedness among the people and that all daylong they thought of nothing else but sinning. He was sick at heart about his creation. He had made man in His image and now man was acting more like Satan. Then God said, 'I have no choice but to step in and end all this sinning. It has become epidemic and reached a point where it will be terminal. I will have to destroy the very people I made…I cannot let this go on and on. It is wrong for a man to take the life of another man. In mercy, I must bring wickedness to an end and yet save those who love me.'
God had no choice. The people were warned. Probation was about to close. The fountain of the deep was then broken up.
After the flood, what did these changes mean for man?
The fear of man was now to be felt by every living creature upon the earth.
The entire surface of the earth had been changed and with it every green thing had been destroyed.
Consequently, under very strict conditions, God allowed the survivors to eat the flesh of the clean beasts that had been preserved in the ark.
Man's subsequent disobedience to God's instructions and changes to their strict dietary habits, originally given by God, was to see that long-lived race rapidly decrease in size, and in length of years. Noah 950, Shem (his son) 600, Terah (father of Abraham) 205, Abraham 175, Moses 120, Joshua 110 and eventually it was to reach the average age of three score year and ten (70).
Disease and sudden death were now to be multiplied many times and were to become part of the everyday life cycle of the human family. Since the time of the flood the world was to witness many who were to suffer the on-going effects of genetic decay.
One of the more exaggerated effects of deterioration and decay in the human family could not be better illustrated than that recorded in the tragic life of a man called Joseph Carey Merrick.
Joseph Merrick was born on the 5th August 1862 at Leicester in England and was pronounced by relatives as healthy and '…perfect in every way'. (56) He was christened 'Joseph' after his father and 'Carey' after William Carey (1761-1834) the well-known Baptist Minister who, while founding the Baptist Missionary Society in London, was also recognised for his ministry in the local Leicester parish.
The parent's joy over the birth of their first-born was to be short lived. Between the age of three and five their infant son began to develop symptoms, which year by year were to lead to deformities so grotesque that it was difficult for him to mix with other children. As a result, his life became marked by loneliness and introspection as he became more and more isolated from his fellows and more dependent on the company of his mother.
The end of his childhood came abruptly at the age of ten when his dearly beloved mother died of pneumonia. In Joseph's own words this was to be the greatest misfortune of his life. 'Peace be to her, she was a good mother to me' were his last parting words.
His father's remarriage was a further calamity to him as he was now seen as the odd one out in the new family grouping and ultimately, the family outcast. The sneers and jibes of his new family eventually forced him to avoid taking meals at home and he began to wander the streets to get away from it all.
After some futile attempts at hawking haberdashery goods out on the streets, Joseph eventually presented himself to the Leicester Union Workhouse as a person unable to work. Because of his deteriorating condition, he was admitted to this institution in 1877 at the age of 15 years.
Workhouses, in the 19th century, were never meant to be pleasant or comfortable places. Bells controlled them and inmates were locked in their dormitories at night as they were forbidden to go outside or receive visitors without permission.
To escape the grinding limbo of workhouse life, and to have a way of paying his way in the world, Joseph responded to the overtures of a man called Sam Torr who arranged to exhibit him as a freak. This meant being forced to uncover his bizarre body to the gazing and ridicule of an ill-informed and ignorant public.
Joseph was just 21 years of age.
After a number of years of being exhibited in England and Europe, he had his life savings stolen and was abandoned by the shows current owner when Police Officials refused to allow the program to continue. This official action resulted from changing public opinion, which now regarded the exploitation of those being displayed, as obscene. It would seem that nineteenth century sensibilities could take no more.
Hounded, persecuted and starving, Joseph eventually ended up at Liverpool Street station where he was rescued, housed and fed by the distinguished surgeon from London Hospital, Sir Frederick Treves. The Doctor's initial reaction was that he had never met '…such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lonely figure displayed'.
Joseph was of slight build, about 5'2" in height. His huge head measured 36" OR 90 cm in circumference and was a misshapen mass of bony lumps and cauliflower lumps of skin. His forehead was disfigured by bosses of bony material, which bulged forward in great mounds pressing down on the right eyebrow so that the eye on that side was almost hidden. Growths on the lower part of his face forced a pink mass of flesh from his mouth pushing back his lips into inverted folds. These growths ultimately affected his speech, resulting in his genuine intelligence going unrecognised. It was this distorted mass of flesh that was to be the origin of the trunk used by the showman to describe Joseph Merrick as 'The Elephant Man'.
His right arm was enormous and measured about 12" in circumference at the wrist and 5" in circumference for each of the fingers making it look more like a paddle than a hand. His body was not to be spared, with masses of pendulous growths of skin hanging from his chest and back.
However, beneath this horrifying outer shell was a young man who displayed a sensitive intelligence and a sweetness of personality. Treves, in his treatment of Merrick, was too fine a Doctor to mistake the flesh for the man.
Joseph Merrick lived at the London Hospital until his death on April 11, 1890 at the age of 27. While the disease had caused him to age prematurely and his general health to deteriorate, it was while he was sleeping that his large head fell back, dislocating his neck, causing accidental suffocation. In the last 5 years of his short life Joseph became a voracious reader especially enjoying his Bible, which he read from cover to cover, causing his mind to turn to religious themes. During this final period of his life he enjoyed the many new experiences that were provided by Treves. He was to be visited by royalty and by many other important people from all levels in society who took a real genuine interest in his life.
A short poem shared by Merrick near the end of his life provides us with a brief insight into the way he was thinking:
'Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.
Treves once stated that the one thing that struck him as sad about Merrick was the fact he couldn't smile. Whatever his delight may be, his face remained expressionless. He could weep, but he couldn't smile.
As a specimen of humanity, Merrick was ignoble and repulsive; but the spirit of Merrick, if it could be seen in the form of the living, Treves said, would assume the figure of an upstanding and heroic man, smooth browed and clean of limb, and with eyes that flashed undaunted courage.
Just like Christian in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress':
Merrick's tortured journey had now come to an end.
All the way he, like another, had born on his back a burden almost too grievous to bear.
He had been plunged into the Slough of despond, but with manly steps had gained the farther shore.
He had been made 'a spectacle to all men in the heartless streets of Vanity Fair.'
He had been ill treated and reviled and bespattered with the mud of disdain.
He had escaped the clutches of the Giant Despair, and at last reached the place
Of deliverance, where his burden loosed from off his shoulders and fell from his back, so that he saw it no more. Joseph Merrick had come home (Howard & Ford,1981).
Dear friends, all is not lost. God has made it abundantly clear in His great plan that He intends to restore both the human race and the earth to their pre-fall perfect condition.
He intends to bring about a restored creation
John the Revelator makes this very clear in Rev 21: 1,2 when he tells us that he saw '…a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.'
When the earth is made new, the human race will no longer experience grief, death, pain or crying. All the grief and heartache that mankind has experienced since the introduction of sin will all be gone. Their experience in the new earth will parallel and exceed that of Adam and Eve in their original Garden home. The physical world will also be returned to its original glory.
While the Prophet could exclaim in Is. 64: 4 that 'Men have not heard…neither hath the eye seen…what God hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him', he also tries to capture for us a glimpse of what the new creation will be like.
'The desert shall…blossom as the rose…The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb;…and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.'
Every person will share eternal youth and strength, with perfect mental and spiritual capacity. Heaven on earth will be a place of universal and perfect knowledge.
Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist and theologian, once said about his life, 'I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. In heaven we shall fathom that ocean.
Dear friends, you and I need to be ready to take advantage of the wonderful gift God wishes to bestow on us all. We can only be recreated in His image through our acceptance of the atoning blood of Jesus and the regenerative power of His word. This is our title to heaven. Jesus said… 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. Today, let us make our calling and election sure and keep our eyes fixed on the wonderful world that God is preparing for us.
Listen to the words from this well-known hymn.
My heart can sing when I pause to remember
A heartache here is but a stepping-stone
Along a trail that's winding always upward,
This troubled world is not my final home.
The things of earth will dim and lose their value
If we recall they're borrowed for a while;
And things of earth that cause the heart to tremble,
Remembered there will only bring a smile.
But, until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I'll carry on
Until the day my eyes behold the city
Until the day God calls me home. (Brooks, 1985)
It is my prayer this morning that we accept what God has in store for us and to recognise by faith that God, as The Master Designer, will make all things new.
Brooks, C. L. (1985) The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Company.
Howell, M & Ford, P. (1981) The True History of the Elephant Man. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books
White, E. G. (1952) Education. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association
White, E. G. (1958) Patriarchs and Prophets. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
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