The God who shines his light
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light."
Genesis 1:2-3, NIV
The more I have studied the opening chapters of Genesis, the more I have become convinced that they are carefully and deliberately shaped to tell us vital truths we need to hear. They introduce us to the living God, our world and ourselves; they show us how we’ve been made to flourish in relationship with Him; they show us what’s gone wrong, and point us towards God’s solution in Christ.
You could say that these great chapters are a bit like the London tube map: they don’t tell us everything, but instead are carefully shaped to convey a particular message, making the essential truths we need to know as clear as possible.
So why has Genesis included this curious line about the earth being dark, formless and empty - until God shines His light?
The context of these lines is that Genesis is introducing God to us. We are shown the God who is personal, all-sovereign and unrivalled. Might these lines about the chaos sorted also be teaching us something about Him?
The Apostle Paul thought so. He referred to these verses when he wrote to the church in Corinth, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6). As Paul talks about God’s great power to change lives, he goes right back to this opening picture from creation itself. He understands them as showing us that the Creator God is also the rescuer God: the one who sorts out the mess.
One of the perks of my job, as a Christian minister, is to see this, in real lives, today. The dark fog of unbelief is replaced by a new clarity of vision; alienation from God is replaced by a living friendship; lives disordered by sin are re-ordered by God’s Spirit. This verse is the first hint of the Christian good news in the Bible.
Are we a bit too early in Genesis to be talking of God’s capacity to re-order a broken world? After all, we don’t get on to a world that needs rescuing until Genesis 3. But perhaps Genesis is hinting that being a sorter-out is so fundamental to God’s very nature that it is almost the first thing we need to hear about him.
When our congregation moved to St Andrew the Great in 1993-4 there was a major building project. A huge banner hung on the outside, telling all the passers by that WE RESTORE BUILDINGS, BUT GOD RESTORES LIVES.
This was not hype, but the truth. For this is the God who says, “Let there be light.”
(Adapted from The First Chapters of Everything: How Genesis 1-4 explains our world)