In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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. Genesis 1:1, 2 NIV
As I continue making my way through The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, I begin a new book therein: “Biblical Psychology: A Series of Preliminary Studies,” which was first a series of lectures Chambers gave as principal and teacher of the Bible Training College in London in 1911.
The first chapter focuses primarily on the first two verses of Genesis, though he refers to other passages in both the Old and New Testaments. As I read this chapter, I wondered if he was inferring much more than was intended. Then I opened my NIV Bible and I found an interesting footnote: “Now the earth was formless and empty...,” could also be translated as “Now the earth became formless and empty....” Interesting difference. It became something? Before creation? It wasn’t always formless and empty? There was a time before creation when it had form and fullness? This is a new thought for me.
Chambers seems to agree with this footnoted translation, though he quotes only from the King James and Revised versions of the Bible. He suggests that there is a large gap in time between verses one and two. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and then something happened that resulted in the earth becoming formless, empty and dark. What?
Could the first creation implied in verse one be the creation of the angels?
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?Is it possible that when Lucifer fell, and many angels with him, the earth became the chaotic place of darkness, emptiness and formlessness to which Genesis 1:2 refers?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone?
While the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7 NIV)
About his idea of the interval between verses one and two in the first chapter of Genesis, Chambers cautions:
How you have fallen from heaven,
Oh morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15 NIV
[Jesus] replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:18 NIV
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” Jude 6 NIV
This interpretation is of the nature of a legitimate speculation and would seem to account for a great number of indications in the Bible. Beware, however, of making too much of these indications, because although as has been hinted, chaos may have been the result of judgement, a careful reading of Genesis 1:1-2 does not necessarily imply it.Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing thought.
Chambers has another suggestion that is new to me:
...the evident purpose of the Bible being to tell what God’s purpose is with man. Roughly outlining that purpose, we might say that God created man in order to counteract the devil. [Italics added.]Say WHAT? He doesn’t elaborate in this first chapter but I include this quote because I suspect he’ll be returning to this idea in subsequent chapters. No! He does say more about this. I missed it the first time.
Man was created out of the earth, and related to the earth, and yet he was created in the image of God, whereby God could prove Himself more than a match for the devil by a creation a little lower than the angels, the order of beings to which Satan belongs.This brings to mind some of the things Paul wrote about God using the weak to show his strength (see 1 Corinthians 1:27, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Man is the climax of creation. He is on a stage a little lower than the angels, and God is going to overthrow the devil by this being who is less than angelic....This is also the explanation of our own spiritual setting. Satan is to be humiliated by man, by the Spirit of God in man through the wonderful regeneration of Jesus Christ.Satan, a higher being than man, will be humiliated by man who was made a lower being than Satan. 1 Peter 1 says that things have been revealled to us that even angels long to look into.
There is much that God has hidden from us. There is much to read between the lines of Scripture (and done with caution). There is mystery that is yet to be revealled. We've already been shown mysteries that are still incomprehensible to angels but there is so much we still do not know that tantalizes us as we read God's Word and wait for his full revelation. We have an eternity of learning ahead of us and that thought excites me.
Thank you God for all you have shown us in your Word. Thank you too for all that we don't know, that you have yet to show us. Thank you for the teachers you have given us through the ages, such as Oswald Chambers, who give us glimpses of understanding and insight. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to what you have said and who makes your Word come alive and meaningful. Please open my eyes and keep them open so I may see. Open my ears and keep them open so I may hear. Open my mind and keep it open so I may understand and not remain in a box of pre-conceived ideas or wrong teaching. May I always be willing to know your Truth and your Will.
*All non-biblical quotes are from “Man: His Creation, Calling and Communion,” in “Biblical Psychology,” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers pages 137-139.