“In the Beginning”

“In the Beginning” January 1, 2024

Photo by G.F. Erichsen on Unsplash

Almost every translation of the Bible begins Genesis 1:1 with the phrase, “In the beginning.” The CEB, however, says, “When God began to create…” What might God want to tell us through this familiar passage, rendered in an unfamiliar way?

Scripture:       

Genesis, chapters 1-2; Luke, chapter 1

Genesis 1:1-5 (CEB):

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 swept over the waters – God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light Day and the darkness Night. There was evening and there was morning: the first day.

Observations:

In the Beginning: When God Began to Create

As I started to read today’s passages, I was immediately struck by the CEB’s translation of Genesis 1:1.  While almost every translation I’ve read starts with the phrase “In the beginning,” the CEB says, “When God began to create…” That’s why I change translations each year for my daily readings – so I don’t become too familiar with certain passages that I miss what they say.

Well, so what? What difference does it make to say When God began to create rather than “In the beginning”?  Two things immediately stand out to me.  First, When God began to create keeps the focus on God. It reminds us that God is the One who created – and still creates. Second, “In the beginning” can be a bit confusing, because God did not have a beginning. We believe that God is without beginning or end; he is truly “eternal.” We talk about “eternal life” as life that will have no end, but every one of us had a beginning. But not God! God has always existed, even before he began to create.

In the Beginning: God’s Wind Swept over the Waters

The next phrase that catches my attention in the CEB text is: God’s wind swept over the waters. The word “wind” here, while technically accurate, is a bit misleading. The word for “wind” can also be translated “spirit” or “breath.” (Interestingly, that’s true in both Hebrew and Greek.) Referring to God’s wind, however, minimizes the personality of the Spirit – which is a much bigger issue than whether we’re talking about “wind.” It’s important for us to study Scripture, not just “read” it!

In the Beginning: God Separated the Light from the Darkness

Finally, verse 4 tells us that God separated the light from the darkness. While the focus in reading this is undoubtedly on what we normally think of as “light” and “darkness,” there is always a spiritual dimension to “light and darkness” in Scripture. What God did “in the beginning,” on the “first day,” God has continued to do every day since. He created the sun and the moon – the “two great lights” (see verse 16, CEB) – and He continues to sustain them through His power.

Furthermore, He “separated the light from the darkness” at the time that sin entered the world, to make clear that His way brings light and life, and sin brings darkness and death. “What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people” (John 1:4, CEB). Jesus came to bring God’s light into the world in a new and fuller way – and God’s light brings us life! Just as we cannot live long without the light of the sun, and all it brings, neither can we live long without the Light that Jesus brings.

Application – In the Beginning

As I read Luke chapter 1 – our other reading for today – I noticed that Luke says in verse 3 that he has “investigated everything from the beginning” (emphasis added). Whenever we want to really understand something, what do we do? We go “back to square 1.” We start at the beginning! And today, we’re starting at the beginning: the beginning of a new year; the beginning of our reading schedule; and the beginning of what God wants to do in our lives.

  • “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be celebrate in it” (Psalm 118:24, NASB).
  • “Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended, certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, CEB).
  • “So, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts as they did in the rebellion, on the day when they tested me in the desert” (Hebrews 3:7-8, CEB).

Every day is a new beginning! Every day is an opportunity to seek God, to hear His voice, and to walk in His way. Embrace this new beginning!

Prayer:

Father, we confess that it is so easy for us to get distracted by the future, or discouraged by the past. Thank you for reminding us that every day is a new beginning! Help us to embrace your way today, that we may see your purposes fulfilled in us. You have made us new creations, and you continue to form us in the image of your Son Jesus. Help us to know and to do your will today.  Amen.

 

 

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