Last time, I introduced Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Did you go out and buy your copy? If so, pick it up with me and find “formless” with me. If not, no need to fret. You can jump over to Strong’s website and find it.
In the NASB, the translators chose the words “formless” and “void” to describe the state of earth at the beginning; whereas, the KJV rendering uses the words “without form” and “void.” Since I have Strong’s based on KJV, I look up the word “form” and find the number 8414.
Now that we have the number, we can look it up in the Hebrew dictionary. Again, if you don’t have a hard copy, Strong’s website offers an abbreviated list of definitions.
When I look up the number, I find the Hebrew primitive root word tohuw, (pronounced to’-hoo). Root words are the trunk from which word families grow. With this word, we cut right to the source.
At this point, it’s important to look at the definitions and translatable synonyms within the context of the passage we’re interrogating. One way to do this is to read the passage several times before looking up the words. Another way is to use your imagination to place yourself in the scene.
In this case, imagine again the Spirit of God hovering over the earth in its preformed state. Remember as you read the following list, we’re on a quest to find the richest words, the sounds, the feel of the moment:
To lie waste; a desolation (of surface); i.e. a desert; figuratively a worthless thing.
Immediately a picture forms. This is an abandoned place. This is the outback…a place where no one goes unless they’ve been called to go there. Very few people will notice anything of value here. I can hear the developers now:
“Can’t build here. Nothing will grow. No one will buy.”
Juxtaposed to this scene, we have God who sees something entirely different. Rather than abandoning it, He chooses to hover over like a mother hen watches over her nest of eggs. What does He see that the others cannot see?
That alone is sufficient cause to worship. Let’s see what else we can discover by digging deeper into the word. Here is a list of translatable synonyms:
confusion, empty place, without form, nothing, (thing of) nought, vain, vanity, waste, wilderness
This list reminds me of my own thoughts today. Confusion feels bad to me. I like to know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I don’t like aimless wondering and wandering, yet many of my days feel exactly like the nothingness described in this list.
What a relief it is to know that when God encounters wilderness, He hovers there and dreams (Isaiah 35). He hovers over the vast wasteland of my purpose, my destiny, my mundane moments. And my mind returns once again to center: To the sounds of children happily playing in the other room, to the birdsong floating in through the open window, to the steady clacking of keys spelling out words.
And with this image firmly rooted in my mind, I breathe in peace.
Will you take a minute to let me know which word in this list allows you to breathe in peace today?
In Peace & Joy,