7 ways God worked “in the beginning”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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 1:1-3)

The bookends of today’s passage are familiar to us. Countless children’s books and sermons have repeated the words, “In the beginning God created” and “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” But it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone preach on the fact that “the earth was formless and empty.” What’s going on here?

Well, according to Moses (the author of Genesis), “in the beginning” the world was amorphous and chaotic, wild and unwieldy. And the rest of Genesis 1 shows God bringing form to the formless void. Establishing order where there was once chaos. But pay attention to how God brought order to the world: Through his words. As soon as Yahweh said, “Let there be light,” creation began to take shape. 

Of course, when sin entered the world, chaos returned, creating the need for order to be restored once again. And how would the world be put back into order the second time around? Yet again, through the word of God, or more specifically through Jesus Christ, “the Word [who] became flesh.” 

In a way, the entirety of Jesus’s ministry was about the Word restoring order to creation. He brought hope to the poor, calmed an untameable storm, and raised the dead to life. But of course, the work of restoring creation is not yet finished, because Jesus said he would continue to restore creation through you and me (see John 14:5-12).

The Apostle Paul said that “the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). Creation is groaning, longing for God’s people to bring order to the world. As Tim Keller says, “Just like God, as image-bearers of God, humans are commissioned to bring order out of chaos.”

How will we do this? The same way that order has been brought about since the beginning: through God’s Word—by each of us being not just hearers of the Word, but doers of it, allowing God’s Word to order our lives, our work, and our world once again.


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