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Tohu wa-bohu to Tov

Human hand pointing with finger as symbol of creation. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

John begins his Gospel, “In the beginning,” to take us back to Genesis 1 and the creation story. Here is God’s own the description of the universe prior to creation.

“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.” (Gen. 1:1-2)

Formless and empty, darkness and void. This is all captured in the Hebrew expression tohu wa-bohu, and it carries with it a sense of chaos, as well. What a wonderful word phrase. Tohu wa-bohu. In the beginning there seemed to be no order, no purpose, no logic, no … Logos. But then God said, “Let there be light,” and the show was on!

God then began to create spaces and fill those spaces. The voids filled. The darkness became light. The disorder ordered. The formless formed. And as God said, “It was tov … it was good.”

In the beginning of my life there was much tohu wa-bohu. I was blind and didn’t know it. I was stumbling around in the darkness, like the people Isaiah describes:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isa. 9:2)

But then God said, “Let there be light in Sam’s life.” And the light came on. The formless started to form. The disorder started to find order. The tohu wa-bohu became tov.

It was good. And, oh boy, his tov has just gotten better and better.

I had been living with inner chaos in my life all along, but I was so blinded by this vapid culture, I couldn’t see the chaos. It felt normal—like everyone else around me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Before the Light came on, I had tried everything under the sun to dampen down the inner chaos, but of course I was looking for tov in all the wrong places: sports, work, “sex, drugs and rock & roll.” You name it, I tried it. But the tohu wa-bohu swirled on. The tov I was so desperately seeking was beyond my grasp.

Yes, the Spirit was hovering over the chaotic waters of my life, but I was under water and didn’t know who the Spirit was. Then God said, “Enough! Let there be light.” And the light came on.

Perhaps you can identify with this inner chaos, this darkness, and these voids? Or you may be one who has successfully avoided the chaos without Jesus. I doubt it. You may think you have, but when the light comes on, you will know his tov has alluded you.

How do you leave the tohu wa-bohu behind and find his tov? You surrender. You surrender “my claim to my right to myself,”1 and you start to follow Jesus, who beckons to you even now, saying,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)


  1. Oswald Chambers

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