Tohu wa-bohu (תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. – Genesis 1:1-5


Sunrise Over the Ocean | September 2010

Tohu wa-bohu (תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ) is one of the few Hebrew phrases I can easily call to mind. It means “formless and empty.” Prior to the creation of light the earth was formless and void. Gene Peterson in the Message version has, “a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness.” The rest of the chapter details – following the creation of light – the acts of God to give form to that which was a soup of nothingness, and fills that which was a bottomless emptiness. There is beautiful prose in these verses in the first book of the Bible.

Those words reflect the glory and beauty of God’s creation. Take a look at the sunrise. Consider a flock of Geese making their way south for the winter. Enjoy the grand splendor of the starry host in the middle of a cold winter night. Watch the unfolding of a butterfly’s wings emerging from its chrysalis. These simple and elegant displays of creation’s splendor – if we will consider them – inspire songs of praise and adoration of our God.

If we lose this sense of awe we walk dangerously close to the precipice of faithlessness and a formless and empty life. We may hide such emptiness with glitz and glamor. We may numb ourselves with gin and distract ourselves with virtual reality. But there is an emptiness in a life without awe before God. Our lives conform to any and every whim of the world. We careen from one pursuit to another enticement.

This truth – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth – provides a foundation for all that will come afterward. If this is not true there is no reason for us to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. He is nowhere to be found. And justice and mercy will be constantly redefined by the latest impulse of political correctness.

But there is this foundation. God has created the world. He has left a record of his work for us to consider, and spoken through prophets and apostles. But the One who spoke the world into existence has also spoken the final word of grace and truth. Whatever else comes of my acknowledgement that God has made me and all that exists will flow from through the truths that spring from this fount.

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