Connections 01.07.2018: God’s Words, Our Words

Genesis 1:1-8; 2:1-4a

The first words God speaks in the first words of the Bible are creative ones: “Let there be light.” “And,” the narrator reports, “there was light.”

God speaks. Something happens. And so it goes through all the days of creation.

God’s words cause things to happen. They set events in motion. They create forward momentum. They bring about light. They produce life. They instigate progress.

The Christian calendar invites us to remember Jesus’ baptism this Sunday, so it’s worth noting that both the Genesis text and this Sunday’s Gospel reading bring together water and God’s words: “A wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light” … (Gen 1:2b-4a). “And just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mk 1:10-11).

God spoke in creation and the purpose of creation moved forward. And creation is still ongoing. God spoke in Jesus’ baptism and the purpose of salvation moved forward. And salvation is still ongoing.

All of this should lead us to think about how we should use our words. After all, God’s words have come to us as we have entered into and come out of the waters of baptism. We are God’s beloved children. God summons us to point people to the wholeness found in the saving acts of Jesus Christ. God calls us to help the world move forward.

Our words can and should contribute to God’s ongoing desire and efforts to spread light and offer life. It matters what words we say. It matters how we say them. It matters why we say them. It matters whether they are creative or destructive. It matters whether they contribute to progress or to regress, to hope or to despair, to death or to life, and to hate or to love.

It also matters that our words lead to action. God’s words cause things to happen; they contribute to what God is doing in the world. Our words should be closely related to our actions and our actions should match our words.

God said, “Let there be light.” The light still shines. God said, “You are my Son, the Beloved.” Jesus still bears God’s love. God calls us to share light and love through our words and actions. When we do, God sees that it is good. When we do, God is well pleased.

Discussion

1. “The deep” (v. 2) may refer to the primeval chaos to which God brings order. How does God bringing order to chaos speak to your situation? To the world’s situation?
2. What do you think it means for God to evaluate creation as “good” (v. 4)? How should God’s evaluation influence the ways we think about the created world?
3. Why do you think this creation account culminates in a day of rest? How do we rest? How should we?
4. The creation account of Genesis 1:2–2:4a is very orderly and structured. What might we need to learn from this?

Reference Shelf

1:2a. Before God spoke.

The earth is described as tohû wa-bohû—formless void—a devastated wasteland. The same distinctive Hebrew expression is used by Jeremiah, not long before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, to describe the approaching devastation of Judah as the very reversal of creation (Jer 4:23-26).

Jeremiah frames that entire vision in words so clearly reminiscent of Gen 1:1-31 that many have supposed him to be quoting but reversing the latter—foreseeing that the creation described in Genesis will be undone for Judah so that it reverts to wasteland. If, however, the Priestly writers composed the opening chapter of Genesis during or shortly after the EXILE (which would be later than Jeremiah’s utterances) the possibility must be considered that the Genesis text is remembering and recasting the words of Jeremiah. The tohû wa-bohû that Israel’s land and people have at the hands of Babylon actually experienced—not merely imagined or speculated about—will give way to God’s work of creation. In the words of a possible contemporary or near contemporary of the Priestly writers, creation is “now, not long ago” (Isa 48:7).

1:2b. Darkness covered the face of the deep.

This phrase is further contemplative imaging of the scene prevailing before creation. Hebrew tehôm (the [watery] deep) is a term cognate to Babylonian TIAMAT, the name of the hostile chaos-goddess according to the Babylonian Epic of Creation. In Genesis, by contrast, the deep is desacralized. With it divine underpinnings removed it is a “broken” myth.

Although the darkness will later be called night and will be separated from the created light (1:4), the darkness of v. 2 is more than “the opposite of light” since light has not yet been created. The darkness

is a figure for invisibility…. It is out of the darkness of v. 2 that God’s voice comes, uttering the first word in v. 3: “Let there be light!” whose climactic nature is due precisely to its surprising implication that the light proceeds from the darkness (Wyatt 1993, 548; cf. Deut 5:23).

1:2c. A wind from God.

Alternatively the phrase may be rendered “the spirit of God” (NRSV mg.) or “a mighty wind.” The word for “spirit” (rûah) can also be translated as “wind” or “breath”; in concept these are not sharply distinguishable in Hebrew usage. Whether “wind” or “spirit,” rûah can be God’s “messenger” (Ps 104:4), and it can be God’s agent of creation and itself an aspect of God (Ps 104:30). Here, it sweeps (“hovers” is better; cf. the same verb at Deut 32:11) over the face of the waters.

Bruce T. Dahlberg, “Genesis,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1994), 90-91.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

*