The following is adapted from a series of devotions written for the Crosswise Institute of Concordia University in Irvine, CA and delivered June 25-29, 2018. The theme of the Institute that year was “Science and Your Mind,” an exploration of the pursuit of knowledge in the context of the Christian faith.
IN THE BEGINNING
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. – Genesis 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-5
The Bible does not begin with speculations but a simple statement: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Earth, sky, space. The earth and the two heavens. (Shamayim in Hebrew, it’s dual, look it up). It’s not interested in telling you about galaxies far, far away, or super novae or all that other interesting stuff. We have the Hubble telescope to tell us about those things. The Bible looks at things from our point of view. Standing on the earth, looking up. The Earth is God’s temple in the cosmos, His footstool. God’s throne is above the highest heavens, and His footstool is right here where we live, on our pretty little planet on the outskirts of the galaxy, where we can gaze through our telescopes from our cosmic back porch and cry out, “How great Thou art!” as the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the works of His hands.
In the beginning, the Earth was tohu-we-bohu – without form and empty. Like a construction site. Darkness and Deep. Water and Wind. The Spirit of God blew across the face of the watery Deep. All is ready. Only one more thing is needed for order, light, and life. The Word. Those are three things needed for life: Water, Spirit, Word.
Scientists are always looking for water out in space. Why? Because where there’s water, there could be life. No life without water. But water alone isn’t enough. It’s not water alone that does these great things. You need the Spirit-ed Word, Word and Spirit, as like Jesus told Nidodemus one night: “Unless you are born of water and Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Old Nicodemus should have known better. He knew Genesis, after all.
And then God said. God speaks into the darkness, the disorder, the Deep, the Wind. When God speaks, things happen. The Word of God is more than information and communication. It’s an event, a happening, the power to make things happen. God speaks and so it is. Not just one day way back when but every day. Why are there light and day and night and evening and morning? The Word. Why are there sea and land and sky and space? The Word. Why are there plants, birds, fish, animals, us? You? Me?Why? Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. The Word.
The great empirical physicist of the 18th century Michael Faraday once wrote about scientific speculations: “Speculations, man, I have none. I have certainties. I thank God that I don’t rest my dying head upon speculations for ‘I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
Science deals in speculations and, at best, relative certainties. Reasonable certainties. But speculations and reasonable certainties don’t offer much hope in the empty, chaotic darkness. Theories won’t bring you comfort in your dying breath. The Word that made you and and me and all things is no speculation, no abstraction, no impersonal “higher power” or spiritual “force.” “The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
The Word became Flesh. The same Word that was with God and was God in the beginning when the two heavens and the earth were created, the Word that is Light and Life for all, the Word became flesh, our flesh, your flesh, embracing and embodying all flesh in His very real and concrete flesh. He is the Word who laughs and weeps, hungers and thirsts. The Word who bleeds and sighs and dies, dwelling with us, right here in our midst, where we are. He leaves the highest heavens and takes on servant’s flesh and suffers and dies in obedience to His mission to rescue us from the powers of darkness, death, and our own self-destruction.
The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling in our neighborhood. He tabernacles like an Israelite on the hillside of Jerusalem, He pitched His fleshly tent in our midst. And that Word has a name. Not the abstract plural Elohim of Genesis 1, or the ineffable Yahweh of the burning bush but- Y’shua, Joshua, Jesus. The most ordinary of names. A human name. An Immanuel name – One of us, One with us. The swaddled Baby in a manger in Bethlehem. The young boy in His carpenter father’s workshop. The rabbi from Nazareth who taught with authority. The One who silenced demons and cleansed lepers and raised the dead and silenced storms all with a Word. The Man of sorrows and the cross, who rested in the tomb on the seventh day of His holy week and rose from the dead on the 8th day, something the old creation didn’t have. The first day of a new creation.
If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation. Born of water and Spirit and the Word. A recreated creature of the Word in the watery Word of baptism. Fed by the breaded and wined Word of the Supper. Restored by the absolving Word that says, “My son, my daughter, my child, I forgive you.” The Word that says “Be light” enlightens you, shining into your darkness, filling your emptiness, bringing order and peace, setting you in your priestly place to worship God and serve those around you. This is no idle speculation. No! This is most certainly true. You can be sure of it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.