From Empty and Void to Good, Very Good

The first line of the Bible is a bold confession, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The earth began, however, as an uninhabitable mess. The earth was a chaotic void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, as the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

At first, God created a mess. This is no moral judgment; God does not create evil. Rather, the mess was unordered, lacked arrangement, and was unsuitable for life. It was empty, void of all life and characterized by darkness and the waters, which are terrifying images to ancient peoples.

Though the darkness and the waters covered the earth in the beginning, God was not absent but present. The Spirit of God, who is the giver of life, hovered over the waters like a mother bird over her nest. The Spirit moved over this chaos in order to bless it and pour life into it.

God created space for life by introducing the light of divine presence, by separating the sky from the waters, and by separating land from the waters. God ordered the mess so that there was light, a sky above the earth, and dry land upon it. God created habitable space where life might flourish. The Spirit of God, the giver of life, ordered the chaos.

Then God filled the space. God filled the sky with luminaries: the sun lit up the day, and the moon and stars illuminated the night. God filled the waters with life, and God filled the land with creatures, including human beings.

According to Genesis, God created the original chaotic mess, and then God formed, ordered, and crafted it into something good, very good.

God is a royal architect and artisan. God commanded, and it happened. The word of God accomplished whatever God intended. God erected a new structure, a cosmic temple, and filled it with life and everything that makes life possible. God weaved the cosmos in such a way that it is a diverse, vibrant, and beautiful place. And what God erected and weaved was good, that is, a space where life could flourish.

Good, however, does not mean complete or even perfect or ideal. God wanted the cosmos to grow and progress. New species would emerge, and humans would have children, fill the earth, and develop multiple cultures. The creation is a dynamic rather than a static reality. Change is built into fabric of the universe, and that is good.

The creation is good, but God is not yet done with it.  When God came to rest within this cosmic temple, God invited human beings to participate in the work to come. Though God finished creating the space and filling it, God was not yet done with what the creation was yet to become. The creation had a future, and that is the rest of the story.

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