In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep…
The two words in the original Hebrew that are translated as formless and empty are tohu and vohu. For a few different reasons, their literal English translations are elusive. When we translate them, we get words like formless, void, nothingness, desert, or wilderness.
But the greater meaning is found in the context. The writer of Genesis wants us to understand that before God’s intervention there was no substance or reality, only darkness and chaos.
Without God’s action, all is without form, is void of meaning and purpose, and is completely and utterly dark.
Yes, this is how the world began and since the Fall, it is how the world has been.
Even now, the seeds of chaos are planted in every community, and tohu and vohu continue to reside in the cracks and crevices of society. Darkness spills into the corners of the world where no one dares to go.
Instead, we turn our heads, attempting to ignore the Darkness that churns in our city, in the lives of the children on our block, in the homes of the teens in our youth group, and in late night hours our neighbors.
Thankfully, Darkness does not, and never has had, the final say.
Even in the Darkness, where no else dares go, God is there.
Look back at Creation. God isn’t distant from the chaos. He isn’t absent from the void. Instead, Genesis tells us:
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.
God is in the midst of the tohu and vohu. In the darkness, chaos, and emptiness, there the Spirit of God is, hovering over the waters.
So, we should not be surprised when we venture into the dark rooms of broken homes and delve into the formless nature of abuse and peak at the void of sinful pasts and come alongside distraught people…and we find that God is already there. His Spirit is hovering, working, and touching. His prevenient grace is already at work, tugging on hearts.
Wherever we dare to go, God is already there.
But God isn’t content with the darkness. He never has been and never will be.
Look at the first words of God. Out of the formlessness, the void, the darkness comes a voice of love and hope speaking:
“Let there be light”
And then, followed by four more words:
And there was light.
The light did not come from the sun for it had not yet been created. That wouldn’t come until day four. The light which illuminates the cosmos comes from God and God alone.
Why did God speak?
Because wherever there is darkness, God wishes for his light to come and reside.
And now we know, this Light has a name: Jesus
John, echoing the words from the first chapter of Genesis says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There is life and light to be found in our dark and broken world. The Spirit of God is waiting in the bleakest of places, hovering over the chaos and brokenness of humanity.
But the light still needs to be spoken and brought.
So, God sent His Son, and He now fills His Church, so that light and life may shut out the darkness.
Who will dare go into the chaos of broken families and broken people? Who will venture into the tohu and the vohu of abuse and sin? Who will choose not to ignore the darkness that lies waiting in the far reaches of society, but instead venture into it? Who will utter the words of God, “Let there be Light.”
“Let there be Life.”
“Let there be Jesus.”
Shouldn’t it be us? Shouldn’t it be the Church?
God desires to usher his light into the darkness…who will bring it and speak it and do it?