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.
What comes to your mind when you think about “nothing”? Take a moment. Think it over. What are you thinking about? Maybe it’s a pitch black room, a dark canvas, or the emptiness of space. Whatever it is, to think about “nothing” is to think about “something.” We are actually incapable of thinking about “nothing.” Our experiences drive us to conjure up a picture based on what we know. And all of the images we know of “nothing” is in fact “something.”
Now, if I did this exercise with the Hebrews, who first heard the Genesis story told, one image would have permeated their minds: dark chaotic waters.
To the ancient world, space was not dark due to light pollution. It was a spectacle of stars and light coming down from the heavens. But when they looked out on the endless ocean, especially in a storm, they saw darkness and danger. They saw “nothing.”
With that in mind, read again the opening sentences of Genesis.
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. (Genesis 1:1-3)
God did not move away from the darkness and danger. Rather, he moved towards it. God's first movement in creation is to move towards the darkness and create light.
Creation is not about creation. Creation is about the God of creation. Five times in Genesis 1, we see the word “create.” Thirty-two times, however, we see the word “God.”
Creation is a canvas where we see the character of God on full display. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). You can tell the heart of an artist by the art they create. So if creation is speaking, what is it saying about God?
He is a God who moves into chaos of the “formless and void” and creates order. He is a God who moves into “the darkness over the face of the deep” and creates light. He is a God who is powerful enough to speak things into existence, and yet loving enough to use that power to move towards the chaos and darkness and create order and light.
It is here that we see the love of the triune God overflowing into creation. The Father speaks into the darkness. The Word of God (the Son of God) proceeds from the Father and carries out the Father’s creative work. The Spirit of God hovers over all like a bird over its nest.
Power and love. As the Psalmist sings, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.” (Psalm 62:11-12)
Power without compassion is harsh. Compassion without power is not helpful. But power with compassion is love. What our hearts desperately need is a God powerful enough to sit sovereign over all things, yet loving enough to move towards us in our brokenness.
So yes, God made the world Ex Nihilo: out of nothing. Yet we see that God also made the world Ex Amore: out of love.
This is the God who reveals himself in creation and continues to reveal himself to us today.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6 )
God has spoken and God is still speaking. When God speaks, chaos turns to order, darkness turns to light. He has done it before. He is still doing it. This comes the same way it did in creation: through Jesus Christ.
So come to him with your chaos, and watch him create order. Come to him with the darkness of your sin, and watch him create light. Come to him with your nothing, and watch him create something wonderful.