World-Making Word

World-Making Word April 7, 2015

The Creator God is a speaker, who speaks to form the formless, dark, and empty void into the structured and glorious cosmos. As images of the world-making God who speaks, we also make worlds with words. Genesis 1 provides a paradigm, an allegory of world-making words.

In the darkness, words give light. Words illuminate, make visible. What is dim, unclear, shapeless, inchoate in our experience is illumined by speech. Words make worlds not only by giving light but by distinguishing light and darkness. There’s no illumination without distinction.

Similarly on Day 2: Yahweh’s words separate the waters above from the waters below, putting a firmament between. Separations are essential to making worlds, and words create the separations necessary to making worlds. Commands say “Do this” and imply “don’t do that.” Indicatives make truth-claims, and rule out false-claims.

Having separated waters above and below, and waters and land, God speaks to the land to fill it by making it fruitful. Caressing words bear the fruit of love; authoritative words bear the fruit of obedience and order; the words of a teacher bear fruit in the minds and lives of the taught.

Day 4 of the creation week is a mid-week climax, hump-day. And on that Day Yahweh creates lights in the heavens, just as He will crown the week by creating lights on earth (Adam and Eve). The heavenly lights are set in the firmament to rule. Words of illumination, words of separation, fruitful words culminate in the formation and exaltation of rulers. Words make worlds because words make kings.

Day 5 is the day of swarms and crowds. God speaks, and the sea swarms; He speaks and clouds of birds appear. Words gather, and words enliven. Think of all the mob scenes you’ve ever seen in a movie: That is Day 5, the lone speaker first gathering then giving life to a swarm. Day 5 is the first day on which words give life. If you think that speaking life-giving (or death-dealing) words is an exclusively a divine prerogative, you’ve not thought deeply about what your words do to your wife, kids, parents, friends. Day 5 is also the first day when Yahweh blesses, which is to say, the first day on which He speaks so as to gather and enliven and make living things fruitful.

Day 6 is another day of blessing, and, like Day 4, a day for the creation of rulers, the day for the creation of man, male and female, to rule and subdue and fill the earth. With day 6, the project of molding the formless, dark, emptiness into a world reaches its high point: With day 6, heaven and earth are lit; heaven and earth are filled; heaven and earth are formed, and earth is set on a trajectory to be further heavenized.

Yahweh doesn’t speak anything into being on the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath is the day of rest, judgment, enthronement, and delight that the world-making words of the first six days were aiming at. In the end, good words make worlds at rest, worlds of peace.

Every time a teacher stands up to teach a class; every time a preacher takes his place at the pulpit; every time a Senator gets the floor or the President gives a speech; every time a father or mother speaks to children, or a husband speaks to his wife – we are always using world-making words, making by echoing the truth of the Creator or destroying by denying Him.

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