We were busy, at the conclusion of our preceding article, with a discussion of the grounds for our observation that the original earth was limited in size and did not embrace all the present continents.
Fourthly, assuming that the earth ofwas limited in size, we are also enabled to explain other things. On the one hand, this enables us to explain or somewhat understand the flood. The question has often been asked whether the flood covered the entire face of the earth, or a limited part of it. This has been and is being disputed also today. However, if we believe that the earth before the flood was much smaller than the earth of our present day, we need have no difficulty. It is surely an indisputable fact that the flood caused tremendous geographical changes. This mighty work of the Lord, causing tremendous upheavals in the bowels of the earth whereby other continents arose out of the waters, caused “the fountains of the deep to be opened,” quickly, in the space of forty days and nights, covered the earth with water to a depth of twenty five feet above the highest mountain. Hence, we read literally in that the world which then was was overflowed with water. Tremendous changes must have occurred at the time of and during the flood. And the whole earth was covered with water. This is also the literal presentation of Holy Writ. And, on the other hand, this also enables us to understand the appearance at the time of the flood of the rainbow. Then the rainbow made its appearance for the first time. Fact is, until the flood it had never rained upon the face of the earth. informs us that a mist went up from the earth. This is understandable if we bear in mind that the earth at that time was limited in size and surrounded by a vast body of water. Therefore the wicked mockers ridiculed the idea of a flood inasmuch as it had never previously rained. And therefore there had been no rainbow before the flood, inasmuch as there has been no rain prior to the flood.
God’s creation of the plant world.
First, let us note this creative act of the Lord as such. First, upon the word of divine power and by the quickening influence of the Spirit of God the earth is pictured as itself bringing forth the world of plants. The plant was not created out of the seed, is not presented in Genesis 1 as coming forth out of the seed, but is first. Hence, also here we have no evolutionistic presentation of the coming into existence of the world of plants, as if the seed and roots were first and the plants then gradually came into being and existence, but the Scriptures present to us the divine creation of the plant world. We understand, of course, that when we read that the earth brought forth the world of plants this does not mean that the earth itself had the power to bring forth the grass, herbs, and trees, but that they simply came up out of the earth but then through the almighty and quickening effect of the power and the Spirit of God. Moreover, that God caused the plant world to come forth out of the earth also signifies that henceforth the earth would continue to bring forth these living creatures, of course, through the mighty and quickening power of the living God. Secondly, the Lord brought forth these living creatures out of the earth, and each creature after its kind. The plant is indeed a living creature. It lives. The plant moves, grows, lives, breathes, draws substances out of the world of its environment unto itself, out of the earth, out of the air, out of the sunshine, the rain, changes these substances and transforms them into a rich and beautiful fruit. The field of biology is very rich in this respect. Wonderful indeed is the study of the world of plants, of the grass, the flower, and the trees which bear fruit. The plant grows and reaches out unto the sun and the heavens, and presently it lowers its head, returns unto the dust, and its place knows it no more. However, of all the living creatures, the plant is the lowest form or sort. Also the animal, another living creature, lives out of the ground (as does, incidentally, also man). However, the animal moves about from place to place, does not live so directly out of the earth. Besides, the animal has a soul. The plant is the lowest form, sort of the living creatures. It has no soul. There is in it no breath of life. It does not think or will or have any aspirations or desires. There is no shadow of the higher in its being or form of existence. Hence, the plant is not only taken out of the earth, but it is also exclusively bound to the earth. It is not free, does not move about, simply has its roots in the earth out of which it came. Also from this viewpoint the plant can be distinguished from the life of the animal.
We may also note that Scripture divides the world of plants into three classes. They are: the grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind. God, therefore, created the grass and everything which is related to it, the herb or field vegetation, food for animal and man, and the tree, particularly the fruit tree. This refers, we understand, to the three great classes of plants, each of the three classes containing countless species. Of importance is the fact, first of all, that the Lord created these three great classes of plants. Modern science would have us believe that all vegetation and plant life really and actually had their origin in but one species, and that, evolutionistically, the entire plant world developed out of one species into another. The vegetable plant and the different fruit trees all had one common origin. This theory, however, is surely denied here by Holy Writ. God created, we read, the grass, the herb, and the fruit tree. Besides, also of interest is the fact that we read that the Lord brought forth grass, the herb, and the fruit tree after its kind, whose seed is in itself. The expression “after his kind,” also appear in Genesis 1 in connection with the creation of the animals. The different kinds of plants were created and immediately distinguished at the time of their creation. The plant was first, and then the seed. For the different kinds of plants were not only immediately distinguished, but they are also immediately separated. Each plant was created whose seed, we read, was in itself. Each plant, therefore, bears its own seed, develops out of itself. The plant, therefore, continues to bring forth itself, but always as within its own particular sort and species.
Finally, the world of plants is rich in significance and has much to teach us, especially from a threefold point of view. First, the world of plants is a means of fellowship and communion between the lifeless earth, the ground, and the living creatures such as man and beast. Man and beast are also earthly and must live and obtain their daily substance out of the earth. Man and beast have also been taken out of the dust of the ground and are dependent upon the ground for their daily and continued existence. However, man and the animal cannot live directly out of the soil. We cannot eat the ground. Neither can the animals round about us. And neither can man and beast simply grow out of the earth. The plant, however, is able to do this. It can and does live, exist directly out of the earth. It draws its life’s sap directly out of the ground and brings forth that which man and beast can use and eat for their daily existence. The world of plants stands therefore in the service of man and beast. The vegetable plant and the fruit tree stand before us as our servant, offer unto us their fruit which they have prepared for us out of the bosom of the earth. And in this sense the world of plants also serves man in his service of the living God. For man has been created to serve and love the living God. To do so he must live. And herein he is constantly being served by the world of plants. Especially the fruit tree is a beautiful example of this fact. With outstretched arms, as it were, it offers man its fruit that he may eat and live, and thereby be able to serve the living God Who made him.
Another significance of the world of plants is that this particular aspect of the Lord’s creation transforms the otherwise barren earth into a habitation for man and beast. It is especially from this point of view also that the Lord, upon the third day, is engaged in preparing a place of habitation for man whom He will presently create. The wilderness or desert is no place of habitation for man. Hence, the desert is characterized by wildness and loneliness. There nothing grows and man cannot live. But the world of plants makes the earth a beautiful habitation for man. The beautifully green and luxurious grass is as it were a beautiful carpet for man and beast. The shade tree provides shade and shelter and refreshing. And the plant world producing vegetables and fruits also provide oil and wine for man, so that in all these things he may extol the bountiful goodness of his God Who did provide for him such a wonderful habitation wherein he may dwell and serve this God. We repeat it: it was particularly upon the third day that the Lord created for man and beast a wonderful dwelling place.
Thirdly, the world of plants is also rich in its symbolical significance. We must surely bear in mind that the Lord created the earth as a mighty symbol of the heavenly, the natural as a mighty symbol of the spiritual. This truth is surely held before us in Holy Writ. Indeed, the entire teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in parables rests upon this fact, namely, that the earthly and the natural are symbols of the heavenly and the spiritual. And we do well to listen to this wondrously rich, symbolical speech of all the works of God’s hands. In our grossly materialistic age we are too often engrossed in the things of the earth round about us from a merely carnal and materialistic point of view. The farmer looks at his grain and cattle and views them merely from the viewpoint of dollars and cents. The bread and the water which we daily eat and drink are merely regarded as means to sustain us in our own earthy existence. We so often look at the works of God’s hand all around us and completely fail to see and appreciate their symbolical significance. This is due, we understand, to the fact that we are so often self-centered, are interested not in the living God and His purpose in His creation of the universe but in our own carnal enjoyment and advancement.
Hence, we do well to listen to the wondrously rich symbolical speech of all the works of God’s hands. In general we may remark that the plant symbolizes man from a twofold point of view. On the one hand, confined and limited to the earth in its existence, the plant symbolizes the earthly, man as he, too, is of the earth earthy and bound to the earth. We are of the earth earthy and completely dependent upon the earth. In this respect, in the first place, the life of man is symbolized by the plant. On the other hand, however, the plant also lifts up its head heavenward and reaches out unto the sun. The plant longs for and turns unto the light. In this striving of the plant we may discern a symbol of the voice of hope, a longing for the glorious liberty of the children of God which will be realized in the heavenly renewal of all things in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ for those who have received and rejoice in the possession of this blessed hope. Creation all around us calls upon us, therefore, to seek the things which are above and not the things which are below, to look for the city which has foundations in the day of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Not only, however, does creation in general symbolize man from the above mentioned twofold point of view, but also, in particular, the individual and several plants and trees are rich in symbolical significance according to the Word of God. Our Lord God, who, we understand, knows the end at the beginning and from of old the things that shall be, yea, who works all things according to the sovereign counsel of His own will, created all things exactly with a view to the heavenly and spiritual restoration and renewal of all things in eternal and heavenly glory. He did not create the world and will not presently create man with the divine purpose that the earthly creation would be the goal and the end of His work, that Adam and his posterity would enjoy eternal life upon the earth and in the earthly sense of the word. Rather, it was the divine purpose that this earthly life would become the sphere or the scene of the struggle between light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, the truth and the lie, the Seed of the woman and that of the serpent, the anointed of the living God and the anointed of Beelzebub, the party of the Lord of hosts and the hosts of evil and darkness. Moreover, this earthly must serve as the basis and groundwork for the realization of His eternal and heavenly kingdom in Christ Jesus, His Son, our Lord. Hence, God created the earth to serve exactly as a mighty symbol of that eternal and heavenly kingdom of heaven. This is the teaching throughout Holy Writ. In the light of this tremendous truth the world of plants speaks to us a mighty symbolical language. The vine, the fig tree, the oak and the cedar, the thorn and the thistle, the mustard seed, etc.—what mighty symbols!
We cannot enter into a detailed discussion at this time of all these symbols, but we do wish to say something about them. Scripture mentions the ones we have just enumerated. The fig tree, rich in foliage but bearing no fruit, according to its description in the gospel narrative, is an awful symbol of Israel, rich, outwardly, in its service of Jehovah but without spiritual fruit. The thorn and the thistle are symbols of the curse and the wrath of God as it plagues man throughout his earthly pilgrimage. The mustard seed, smallest of all seeds, but developing into a mighty plant, is a wonderful symbol of the church of the living God even as it has a very small beginning but grows into a mighty organism. And what a powerful symbol is the oak. The mighty oak! As it is firmly embedded and rooted in the soil and able to withstand, yea, to taunt every storm. Because it is firmly embedded in the soil it is able to resist and withstand every storm; and, the more it resist the storm the more firmly it is rooted in the earth. What a wonderful symbol of the Christian and the church of the living God! Because we are rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ we are able to remain unshaken in the midst of the world. And the only effect which the storms of an evil world can have upon the church of the living God is to drive it ever more closely unto the living God and plant its roots more deeply into His Son, our Lord. Then we read in the Scriptures of the wheat and the tares. Tares never become wheat and wheat never becomes tares. Thus the Word of God designates the church of God according to its development in the midst of the world. They, the wheat and the tares, carnal and spiritual Israel, are inseparably connected according to the will of the everlasting God, and will remain inseparably connected until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mark well, this is Scripture’s designation of the organism of the Church. The Lord designates them as He sees and knows them from before the foundation of the world. We are all familiar with the Scriptural symbol of the seed that must die to bring forth its fruit. Life all around us proclaims unto us that life is possible only out of and through death. This surely applies also to the Church of the living God, centrally in Christ and as experienced by His own when presently they will be called out of death into the life of the eternal Jerusalem. Who among us has not been directed at one time or another to the majestic, haughty, but also cold and barren mountain peaks and to the lily in the valley below. And who among us has not recognized the beautiful symbol here: that proud but cold and barren mountain top is the symbol of the proud and haughty but spiritually barren sinner, whereas the humble lily in the valley below reminds us of the humble child of the living God? We all know the symbol of the sea. At times the mighty sea is a great calm, and its mighty expanse together with its great depth speaks to us of the tremendous and unfathomable love of the everlasting God. Then again the Scriptures speak of the stormy sea. The wicked are likened to a stormy sea which casts forth mire and dirt and which, because of its unceasing restless activity, is a symbol of the wicked who shall have no peace. Or, even as the stormy sea is stormy on the surface but calm within its depths, so also the afflicted church of the living God can be tossed to and fro in the midst of all the afflictions of this world but have peace and quiet within. Again, life round about us calls our attention to roads that are steep and rocky and also to roads that are straight and smooth. We all recognize the symbolism. Steep and rocky is the pathway of the child of God and His Church in the midst of the world, whereas the way of the wicked, in the midst of this world, is oftentimes smooth. And so all things round about us speak of the heavenly and eternal realization of all things, and of God’s sovereign way whereby He has eternally willed to attain unto and realize that glory. If only we have ears that hear, eyes that see, and hearts that understand! Every day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, day in and day out, and we are reminded of the vanity of life that there is nothing new under the sun. Or, to continue with the symbolism of the sun, we should be reminded every day of the fact that the sun both quickens and burns, gives life and hardens. Thus it is also with the Christ who is held before us upon the wings of the everlasting gospel; He, too, is a savor of life unto life but also of death unto death, quickens but also burns, softens but also hardens, and that according to the good pleasure of the alone sovereign God.
The same truth is also impressed upon us when we are reminded of a tree and a post. Both may be rooted in the same soil, but the effect of that soil is so radically different upon the one than the other. The tree will grow and bear fruit, whereas the other will rot, and rot the more quickly according to the richness of the soil. The same applies to the Church of God according to its manifestation in the midst of the world. Both elements, the spiritual and the carnal, receive the same attention, the same labor, the same gospel and catechetical instruction, etc., but the effect of these means are so radically different upon the one than the other. And, finally, although one could go on indefinitely, who is not acquainted with the symbol of the wind? On the one hand, the wind is a mighty symbol of the Holy Spirit, both from the viewpoint of power and that of sovereignty. The wind is mighty, irresistible, but also free and sovereign. It bloweth whithersoever it listeth and none can control. The same, we know, is also true of the Holy Spirit. He enters irresistibly into the heart of man, and He also enters into the heart of his own according to His sovereign good pleasure. But, on the other hand, the same wind can also be a symbol of the changeableness of man. The expression: he is changeable as the wind, is known to all of us. And so we could go on. It is clear that the earth and all of earthly life round about us speaks a rich symbolical language. If only we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand, and are able to receive this language unto the glory of the living God. Then it will teach us, and comfort us, and serve to direct our eye upon the glory that shall follow when all things will be made new.