Then, Genesis 1:2 comes along. Any theological consensus, any basis for humanly rational interpretation, any definitive foundation of of undeniable truth is lost. In verse 1, we've got it. But, after we get past the first six words (in Hebrew), we fall flat on our faces. God tells us something. We haven't got the slightest idea as to what He must be talking about.
Most translations clean it up a little, avoiding the mystery as much as possible. It reads as a preparatory statement: the earth was without form and void. But, in the original language, the Text has an extra word in there: the earth was made without form and void. And, darkness upon the face of the deep.
The idea that God made the earth to be without form and void causes a lot of theological speculation. If God made the earth to be without form and void, what was it before? This opens a lot of possibilities. Many have taken this mysterious statement to accommodate what is known as “the Gap Theory.” It is postulated that the billions of years that many scientists believe the earth has been floating out in space occurred between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. It's been suggested that this is when the dinosaurs must have lived. It was during this time that the Arch-angel, Lucifer, launched his rebellion and a third of the angels were cast out of God's kingdom. It makes possible a pre-biblical ice age.
It all makes perfect sense, for a lot of very articulate and well educated biblical scholars. But, for me there is one problem. It was only after that the earth was made without form and void, that God created light.
There is another way of looking at it.
When God made the heavens and the earth, He made the heavens in perfection. All the glory, the grandeur, the beauty, the life (if there may be life out there, let's just not make that the subject of our discussion, okay?)... anyway, He made the heavens in one word, just the way that they are. But, when He made the earth, He made it a hallow vacuum of utter chaos. The kind of descriptive ideas used to describe what the earth was (formless, void, deep) are words that in Jewish lore speak to a sense of utter chaos, not just a lump of mud, but a ruthless confusion that consumes and destroys everything that it touches.
That's what God created... initially.
But, I think that's the point that God might be trying to make for us today. There may lie the hope for tomorrow that we need to see.
When God created the earth, He made it as bleak and desperate as it could possibly be. Then He spoke, and there was light. And while the darkness still has its place and isn't utterly destroyed, it is brought under submission to the Authority of light (the Hebrew word for light also means understanding, and by extension, the joy of gaining understanding). Then, God brought out of the abyss, from the swirling mass of turbulence that has no purpose but to destroy, He erected “erets” (Hebrew) “dry land”: a solid foundation. And while He had any number of choices, though He could have left the Deep in its condition and focused His energies on the land, He first reaches into the heart of the depths, and there, creates life.
It's from this understanding of Genesis 1:2 that the Psalmist speaks of his relationship with God with such eloquence:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
I think, above all, when we read Genesis chapter 1, and as we read it over and over, trying to start again to do something right, and build a relationship with Him that is worthwhile. He wants us to understand one very basic principle about ourselves. Whatever it is that we're going through, whatever it is that we've done, where ever it is that we have failed, He's seen worse. And He has created something very, very beautiful from it... and, it only took Him, like, six days.
Whatever handicaps you might be experiencing, whatever discouragements seem utterly overwhelming, you just need to take a look at Genesis 1 and realize that God is capable of handling it, whatever it is. And, He doesn't need your help. He doesn't need your strength. Heck, He doesn't even need your permission.
I look in my own life. I see all the things that make me not as good, or strong, or righteous, or dignified, or smart as I would like to be. Then I realize that the reason why He only took six days to create the kind of earth we have today is that it was all pre-text. He got through all that quickly because He wanted to get to us. And, us, He delights in taking His time with.
Now, I'm not saying there isn't some really, really bad stuff in the world. And, in many ways, it sure seems like things are getting worse and worse. But, I am saying that, in my own experiences, and in my own relationship with God, He isn't done creating either. And while He never destroyed the darkness or the deep that so often seems to surround us, He continually reaches into it with light and life. It is not out of His reach. And, the fact that it is there, and so are we, maybe the strongest testament we have today that God is at work in the world today, in lives and in hearts and in homes around the world.
God made the earth without form and void. But, He didn't leave it that way. And for the thousands of years that have passed since that point in time, He is still creating, He is still brooding and breathing over the depths.