When God began to create the heavens and the earth— the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind/Spirit swept over the waters— God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared.
These first verses of the Bible tell us all we really need to know. Or better, they point to the person, power, and process God uses to accomplish his purposes. And the Spirit is right at the very center of it!
Christians rightly read these verses in a Trinitarian way: God, Spirit, and Word (“Let there be light,” v.3). And in them we hear the lexicon of salvation.
God creates with intention and purpose. The verb “create” (“bara”) is used only of God in the Bible. Humans do, make, produce, fashion, and the like, but only God creates. Only God can bring something out on nothing, order out of chaos. “Create,” then is the first word, the God-word, in our lexicon of salvation. Salvation begins with that which only God can do.
God must “create,” because our lives are “without shape or form.” The phrase in Hebrew is wonderful, “tohu wabohu” and is the second word in our lexicon of salvation. “Tohu wabohu” – this is the cry of our heart to God at every moment and even more intensely in seasons of struggle and defeat. We make this cry not only to God the Creator who is alone capable of bringing order from our “tohu wabohu” but to God the Spirit who is present with in our “tohu wabohu.” The Spirit “sweeps” over it, hovering and brooding over it. The Spirit tends and shepherds us in it even in our struggle and defeat.
And finally, God the Word, God’s Son, is the means of God’s ordering and creative work – “Let there be.” God’s Word –is what language philosophers call a performative utterance, that is, a declaration that makes real what it declares. “Let there be,” then, is the third word in our lexicon of salvation.
There you have it - our lexicon of salvation right in the first three verses of the Bible! God the Creator intends to save us and our world by doing for us and in us what only God can do. Thus we cry, “bara” to the One who alone is both able and willing to bring order out of our chaos.
Then we say “tohu wabohu” acknowledging and decry the disorder of our existence.
Finally, we wait to hear God’s living word say “Yehi” (“Let it be”).
Pentecost assures us that the God who was with the world in all its chaos and disorder and kept that “mess” within the love and power of the Creator and his Word to bring order, shape, form, and, ultimately, life into our death, the Holy Spirit, is also with us. Thus the one God rescues us from our chaos and brings life and abundance into the the fiber of our being and into every nook and cranny of the cosmos!
So, learn a bit of Hebrew today. Bara – create, tohu wabohu – chaos, and Yehi – let it be – our lexicon of salvation. Use it and you will find yourself participating in the very life and work of the Triune God who creates, redeems, and sustains us in every moment and movement of our lives.