The third day’s work is related in these verses—the forming of the sea and the dry land, and the making of the earth fruitful. Hitherto the power of the Creator had been exerted and employed about the upper part of the visible word; the light of heaven was kindled, and the firmament of heaven fixed: but now he descends to this lower world, the earth, which was designed for the children of men, designed both for their habitation and for their maintenance; and here we have an account of the fitting of it for both, and building of their house and the spreading of their table. Observe,
I. How the earth was prepared to be a habitation for man, by the gathering of the waters together, and the making of the dry land to appear. Thus, instead of the confusion which there was (Gen. 1:2) when earth and water were mixed in one great mass, behold, now, there is order, by such a separation as rendered them both useful. God said, Let it be so, and it was so; no sooner said than done. 1. The waters which had covered the earth were ordered to retire, and to gather into one place, namely, those hollows which were fitted and appointed for their reception and rest. The waters, thus cleared, thus collected, and thus lodged, in their proper place, he called seas. Though they are many, in distant regions, and washing several shores, yet, either above ground or under ground, they have communication with each other, and so they are one, and the common receptacle of waters, into which all the rivers flow, Eccl. 1:7. Waters and seas often, in scripture, signify troubles and afflictions, Ps. 42:7; 69:2, 14, 15. God’s own people are not exempted from these in this world; but it is their comfort that they are only waters under the heaven (there are none in heaven), and that they are all in the place that God has appointed them and within the bounds that he has set for them. How the waters were gathered together at first, and how they are still bound and limited by the same Almighty had that first confined them, are elegantly described, Ps. 104:6-9, and are there mentioned as matter of praise. Those that go down to the sea in ships ought to acknowledge daily the wisdom, power, and goodness, of the Creator, in making the great waters serviceable to man for trade and commerce; and those that tarry at home must own themselves indebted to him that keeps the sea with bars and doors in its decreed place, and stays its proud waves, Job 38:10, 11. 2. The dry land was made to appear, and emerge out of the waters, and was called earth, and given to the children of men. The earth, it seems, was in being before; but it was of no use, because it was under water. Thus many of God’s gifts are received in vain, because they are buried; make them to appear, and they become serviceable. We who, to this day, enjoy the benefit of the dry land (though, since this, it was once deluged, and dried again) must own ourselves tenants to, and dependents upon, that God whose hands formed the dry land, Ps. 95:5; Jonah 1:9.
II. How the earth was furnished for the maintenance and support of man, Gen. 1:11, 12. Present provision was now made, by the immediate products of the upstart earth, which, in obedience to God’s command, was no sooner made than it became fruitful, and brought forth grass for the cattle and herb for the service of man. Provision was likewise made for time to come, by the perpetuating of the several kinds of vegetables, which are numerous, various, and all curious, and every one having its seed in itself after its kind, that, during the continuance of man upon the earth, food might be fetched out of the earth for his use and benefit. Lord, what is man, that he is thus visited and regarded—that such care should be taken, and such provision made, for the support and preservation of those guilty and obnoxious lives which have been a thousand times forfeited! Observe here, 1. That not only the earth is the Lord’s, but the fulness thereof, and he is the rightful owner and sovereign disposer, not only of it, but of all its furniture. The earth was emptiness (Gen. 1:2), but now, by a word’s speaking, it has become full of God’s riches, and his they are still—his corn and his wine, his wool and his flax, Hos. 2:9. Though the use of them is allowed to us, the property still remains in him, and to his service and honour they must be used. 2. That common providence is a continued creation, and in it our Father worketh hitherto. The earth still remains under the efficacy of this command, to bring forth grass, and herbs, and its annual products; and though, being according to the common course of nature, these are not standing miracles, yet they are standing instances of the unwearied power and unexhausted goodness of the world’s great Maker and Master. 3. That though God, ordinarily, makes use of the agency of second causes, according to their nature, yet he neither needs them nor is tied to them; for, though the precious fruits of the earth are usually brought forth by the influences of the sun and moon (Deut. 33:14), yet here we find the earth bearing a great abundance of fruit, probable ripe fruit, before the sun and moon were made. 4. That it is good to provide things necessary before we have occasion to use them: before the beasts and man were made, here were grass and herbs prepared for them. God thus dealt wisely and graciously with man; let not man then be foolish and unwise for himself. 5. That God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the products of the earth, either for food or physic. It is he that hears the heavens when they hear the earth, Hos. 2:21, 22. And if we have, through grace, an interest in him who is the fountain, when the streams are dried up and the fig-tree doth not blossom we may rejoice in him.