And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.Genesis 1:20-23 (ESV)
On day 5, God begins the process of filling the oceans and seas and the air with animals. Interestingly he does not yet fill the land with animal life yet, as he reserves that stage for the sixth day, and with good reason.
Here we see Moses demonstrating God’s mastery over creation that is in subjugation to His sovereignty as opposed to the fabled Ba’alistic creation myth. According to Canaanite literature, a great dragon rebels against Ba’al, the main fertility god of the Canaanites, giving rise to severe storms that rise up suddenly in the Palestinian region. This is how the Canaanites explained the weather phenomenon of sudden storms that would roll in from the Mediterranean Sea, crash into the north-south mountain range along the Jordan River, and catapult up into the atmosphere, and result in violent storms. In Moses’ creation narrative, God is sovereign and in complete control of the creation of all of the sea and air creatures.
It is on this day that God creates the great whales, fish, and birds. It is also on this day that many now extinct species were created as well, including marine and flying dinosaurs, which antiquity records in terms like “dragon” or “Leviathan” or “Behemoth”. Given the descriptions of these creatures in other parts of Scripture, it is very likely that they were not just the figments of overactive imaginations, but very real, but now extinct due to environmental changes following the cataclysm that produced the flood to come.
One thing that is worth noting is that this is the first time the word “blessed” is used in all of Scripture – “barak”. The term appears to be a bit of a derivative or perhaps the root of “beresheet”, the first word of the Bible indicating again, God’s sovereignty over His creation. However, the connotation here seems to imply God is imparting His authority by way of a command upon the creatures He has created in the form of a mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” As such, the word that we interpret as “blessed” is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted words in all of the Bible.
While the word “barak” does seem to imply a sense of favor from God, it’s more akin to a sense of granting of authority to act. But it’s a limited grant of authority, not complete autonomy. The command is in three parts: 1) Be fruitful. This not only means to grow, but to be productive. Contribute to the creation of the world. 2) Multiply. A part of fruitfulness is self-replication or reproduction. The ultimate measure of productivity among the animal kingdom is the ability to reproduce and fulfill the third part of the command. 3) Fill the earth. Populate that which is empty. And migrate, roam, and explore the beauty of God’s creation.
What is important to note here is that God didn’t give the sea creatures or the animals dominion over the earth. He simply authorized them to fill it. And there is a huge distinction that is made more evident when we get to day six. In the meantime, consider this thought: this is the second day in which the Scriptures don’t explicitly state that God said that “it was good.” However, He does bless His creation on this day, and what God blesses is indeed good.
Henry Blackaby once made this observation in his study series “Experiencing God”: “Stop asking God to bless your work. Instead, seek out what God is doing and join Him in His work, for it is already blessed.” When we ask God to bless what we are doing for the Kingdom, we are essentially usurping His authority and at the heart of it, we are truly demanding that God endorse our efforts for the Kingdom. While it may seem noble to want to do great things for the Kingdom, what God expects of His creation (you and me) is obedience and humble submission to His will, rather than our own.
We can conjure up all of the plans and dreams we want that fit what our desires are for the world, but unless those desires align with Father’s heart, then we are not going to be fruitful. Our work will not result in the multiplication of true, self-replicating disciples. And we will certainly not fill the earth with His glory. Instead we may present the appearance of productivity and fruitfulness, but eventually it will prove to be fruitless, vain, and impotent. Only the will of the Father has full authority and our submission to His authority should be our desire. Then and only then can we be capable of fulfilling His command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.
So I ask you today to consider these few questions:
- How truly productive are you for the Kingdom? If after careful examination, your measure of productivity doesn’t align with God’s measure of productivity, then it’s time to reevaluate the work you are doing in light of His blessing.
- Are you multiplying? Are other believers growing as a result of your influence? Are new disciples being born again into the Kingdom and being fed the milk of the Word, rightly divided and taught? If not, what are we waiting for?
- Are you filling the earth with His glory, as opposed to your own? If you have ever sensed God’s leading to go into the world on mission, are you doing what is necessary to go? Are you serving your neighbor across the street or next door or elsewhere in your neighborhood, your town, or your city? If not, what is holding you back?