This morning I was reading in Psalm 96 and 97 and I came upon an example of an important triadic principle, namely that the 3rd place in the triads, reflecting the Holy Spirit, often convey the idea of plenitude.
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Ps 96:11–12)
“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Ps 97:1)
Also, “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.” (Is 42:10)
In the cosmological triad of,
- Under the Earth/Seas
we see repeatedly in Scripture that the seas convey, in a particular way, this principle of plenitude. It is a repeated refrain in scripture to refer to many creatures when referring to the seas:
“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.”” (Ge 1:20–22)
or to refer to many nations or the ends of the earth:
“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.” (Is 40:15)
“The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come.” (Is 41:5)
“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.” (Is 11:11)
““Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’” (Je 31:10)
or to refer to the abundance of wealth:
“Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” (Is 60:5)
“and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrances to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, thus says the Lord GOD: “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’” (Eze 27:3)
“For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.” (Re 18:17–19)
It ought to be recognized, however, that the heavens also have a principle of plenitude connected to them. However, it is slightly different, at least in many respects. The heavens are the source of plenitude, but the seas are the extension and fulness of the plentitude. Whereas, in between, the earth is circumscribed and limited. That is not to say that it is without plenitude, but its plenitude comes from the heavens and the seas. In fact, the function of the seas, as third place in the triad (and reflecting the work of the Holy Spirit) is to spill out its plenitude back onto the earth.
We see this in several ways in scripture, and in some other helpful triads:
God is the fulness and source of all things. He chooses Israel, Zion, and the Church, among others– that is a circumscribing, delimiting, or particularizing function. One might even connect this with the mediatory triad and note that Israel exists after the nations, (just as the earth was created after the seas) but is chosen from among them, made the head, and now mediates for the nations (as the earth mediates between the heavens and the seas). So in the mission of God, the church is used by God to reach the nations, but the nations’ “wealth” — all their God-glorifying resources — are brought back into the church. This is precisely what we see in Revelation 21.
“By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” (Re 21:24–26)
This principle of plenitude may also help explain man’s dominion over the seas. Man is not made for the seas. He is made for the earth. Nevertheless, he is given dominion over them. How does he exercise this? One of the ways is to enjoy and use (for God’s glory) its plenitude upon the earth. That’s the pattern.
Notice lastly, that this pattern has its ultimate fulfillment in the Trinity ad intra (in a vaguer and archetypical way) and in the Triune mission and appropriations (in a clearer way).
- Holy Spirit
The Father has/is a plenitude as He is the source of all things. The Son is the image of the Father — an instantiation of God — God made “visible,” and yes, even in a certain sense, prior to the incarnation. The Son, and we ought to be cautious here, is “circumscribed” (albeit in a narrow way) by being this image. It is in this mysterious way that the Son is fit to become man, which is more clearly a circumscription or even limiting–although again, we ought to be careful, for the Son loses nothing of the fulness of His divinity in the incarnation. The Holy Spirit “completes” the Trinity, but not in the sense that He is the end of God, a terminal point at which God is finished, but rather in the sense that through Him all things return back to God. From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. But more particularly, all the Spirit’s work and fulness, thinking now of the missions and the ad extra, brings a plenitude to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is glorified in the church: “Here I am and the children you have given me.” See also the last verses of Ephesians 1.
- Holy Spirit/Church