Genesis 1:2 says, “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.”
The phrase “…without form and void…” is the Hebrew phrase ‘tohu vabowhoo.’ I know a seminary professor who teaches Hebrew who used to look out over his students lamenting their lack of ability to retain the Hebrew language and say about them ‘tohu vabowhoo.’
But back to the point, in Genesis 1:2 we’re introduced to the Person of the Holy Spirit, and are told that He is hovering over the dark and deep waters. The word for Spirit in Hebrew is ‘ruach’ which could also be translated as ‘wind’ or ‘breath.’ Question: where else do we see the Holy Spirit hovering over water in the Bible?
I’ll give you five occurrences. We see it 1) Genesis 7:15 when it says the ‘breath of life’ entered the ark safely, 2) Genesis 7:22 when the ‘breath of all life’ on the dry land died because of the flood, 3) Genesis 8:1 when a ‘strong wind’ blew the flood waters back and caused the flood to recede, 4) Exodus 14:21 where another ‘strong wind’ blew the waters of the red sea to drive them back making way for God’s people to safely go through, and 5) Matthew 3:16-17 when the Spirit of God hovered over the Son of God at His baptism in the Jordan.
All these uses exist to show us a pattern which God purposely uses to prepare His people for the coming of the Messiah. Meaning, that as we see the act of creation in Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit hovers over the water, we see the same thing when the Holy Spirit brings the people of God to safety during Noah’s flood and the parting of the Red Sea. It is not a coincidence that we find all of this same Genesis 1:2 activity when we see the Son of God Jesus Christ at His baptism.
Matthew 3:16-4:1 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Note that just as the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2, the same Spirit of God is blew back the waters of the flood, the waters of the Red Sea, and hovered over the Son of God as He was in the waters of baptism. We’ve already seen new creation in the pairing of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, but here in Genesis 1:2 we see more of the new creation theme presenting itself in the Holy Spirit’s activity. Hovering over the waters of Genesis 1:2 and blowing back the waters of the flood shows creation, seeing the Spirit hover over the water’s of Jesus’ baptism shows new creation.
Within this theme we also find something we haven’t mentioned yet. Where did Israel go after they passed through the Red Sea on dry ground? Into the wilderness. Where did Jesus go after His baptism? Into the wilderness, led by the Spirit. Is it a coincidence that we see the almost the exact same Holy Spirit activity at work in the Exodus and Jesus’ baptism? What is this to teach us? The coming of Christ not only brings new creation, it brings a new and greater exodus as well, where God will once again save His people from Satan, sin and death, the greater pharaoh, taking them ultimately to a new and greater promised land in glory. This shows us that Jesus at the beginning of His ministry in Matthew 3 and 4 is re-telling the story of Israel. You see Israel was tempted in the wilderness and almost the whole time they grumbled and complained. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil himself and remained faithful to God. Lesson? In Exodus 4:22 God calls Israel ‘My firstborn son’ – Jesus is showing that He is the true and faithful Israel (or Son) of God. Because of this He will lead the new and greater exodus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am glad to see this, because I know my own sin. The Spirit hovers over deep and dark waters, and we see God by the power of the His Word order and bring life to the darkness. The same was true in the flood, the same was true at the Red Sea, and the same is true in our salvation – God, by the power of His Spirit, brings life and light where there was only death and darkness before.
Rejoice Church, there are no aspects of creation, including those of disorder and wickedness, over which God is not ultimately bringing a redemptive order.