Monday, January 4, 2010


Genesis 1:1-3

One of the hardest things for us when we start reading the Bible is that we think differently than the Hebrews. Our minds have been trained to value a certain kind of logic, to see things in categories of "true / false" and to separate things into neat categories. A long line of human history has trained us not to get what the Bible has to say.

To the Hebrew mind, chaos is very close, if not identical, to evil. So when Genesis says that "the earth was formless and void" it's a statement about chaos. There's no order, no system, no function, no good. It's just chaos, and the result of chaos is that the earth is void. It's empty in the sense of its value, its usefulness, its connection to the purposes of God.

Ever feel like your life is formless and void? So many of us do. Think how much structure is imposed on your life -- structure that was foreign to the ancient Hebrews. How many clocks can you see right now? How many appointments are on your calendar for the next week? What schedules -- school, work, television, trains, flights, appointments, whatever -- do you hold in your head? What structures have you memorized if you start to think about road maps, store maps, mall maps, airport maps? We are structured down to our toenails. Yet -- and this is partly because of the structure -- our lives so often feel formless and void, totally chaotic.

The creation story is largely about God imposing order -- good order -- onto chaos. So many of us have taken the good gift of God to the nth degree and created a whole new kind of chaos. We have overstructured and overscheduled our lives to the point where the form has become void, the structure has become chaotic.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. Is it dark over the deep places in your heart? Is there an impenetrable veil over the canyons of your heart? One of the truths the Bible tells us that is sometimes hard to hear is that the depths of our hearts often betray us. We are prone to hide things away there -- old hurts, fears, bitterness, abandoned hopes get piled up in the depths of our hearts but they do not go away. We find ourselves acting and speaking in ways that mystify us because we do not realize that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). The things hidden in the depths still move and manipulate us. The word of God reveals a whole new level of chaos in our lives when it points our attention toward the depths of our hearts.

But the story doesn't stop there. That is the "before" picture. The next line is critical, and (as often happens in the Bible) there are some word plays going on here. The Hebrew and Greek words for "wind" and "spirit" and "breath" are identical. So you could say in the next line (as some translations do) that a wind from God was blowing over the waters, or (as other translations do) the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters, and there are lots of other possibilities as well. I like the term one translation uses, that the Spirit of God was "brooding" over the chaos.

Fact is, God comprehends the depths, the chaos, the formless void. But it is unable to comprehend God. The nature of chaos leaves it alienated from God, unable to reach out -- but God hovers, broods, plots for good in the midst of chaos.

Is it helpful to know that in those chaotic places in your life, God's Spirit is brooding, hovering, flowing? That the hidden depths of your heart are hidden to you, but not to God? God will speak and bring light into that darkness ... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

For the moment, look at the world around you. What examples of chaos, emptiness, darkness do you see? What evidences do you see that the Spirit of God is moving?

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