The first chapter of Genesis is a pretty fascinating section of the Bible. It’s written in a lyrical, poetic style — but it’s not fiction or allegory, it’s fact. History. An actual chronicle of actual events.
If you follow a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic (understanding the plain meaning of the text within its proper grammatical and historical-cultural contexts), then you must conclude that creation was a literal six 24-hour day event, where God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing. (*)
Genesis 1:1 sets the stage for the rest of the chapter. It paints a picture of the universe at that time.
We know that the triune God already existed, and that He had already created a few things. . . perhaps angels and other ministering spirits, perhaps some form of light (since He himself is light), and apparently a shapeless form of the heavens and earth. It was not imperfect, but it was incomplete.
And then the real work began. Side note: this is where we begin to get a good theology of work — if God does it, then it must be something good! And there must a good reason for us to do it, as well. (*)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1 marks the absolute beginning of our known universe: space, time, energy, matter. (*) Can you imagine what it must have looked like?
There was no “outer space” as we think of it, but there was a space where the heavens and earth existed. Was there color? Were there gaseous vapors swirling around? Was there light?
Genesis 1:2 continues to build the backdrop for what’s going to happen.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.
Water covers the surface of a formless earth. But how do you have an earth without form? Is it a globe, or some other more nebulous shape? Does it have a solid core, or is it made up entirely of water?
What does the darkness look like? Is there any color? Any noise? Are there waves or currents in the water? Any end to its depths? Any variance of temperature or structure?
We define earth in relation to life, land, and location within the universe (*) . . . but what was it before any of that existed? Before God created the dry land or any living creatures? Before the sun — or the Milky Way — existed to mark its location?
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The main character is introduced — the God who is referenced in verse 1. We now learn about His form and activity. He is a Spirit, without form or physical structure — just like the earth. And He is hovering over the deep.
How strange and fantastical a scene it must have been!
Kind of hard to imagine, right?
I couldn’t resist trying to imagine it on canvas! I picture a glistening golden vapor-like spirit moving to and fro, gazing across the swirling watery void and considering His next act of creation. It’s okay if my painting or description doesn’t make sense to you; it’s just how my imagination glimpses it.
How would you picture it?
Take some time to let yourself wonder.
Describe it in words, music, paint, clay . . . get creative with whatever medium captures your imagination!
I’d love to see what you come up with!