Tohu-bohu and the Spirit of God

Tohu-bohu and the Spirit of God

Text:  Genesis 1:2

            Acts 2:1-4

The Bible is the source of our deepest Spiritual insights, but it also faithfully reflects the culture that produced it.  If we read a purported ancient religious text that mentions global warming and Covid-19, we will have reason to  question its authenticity.  Likewise we shouldn’t gasp if we hear the Bible  casually mentioning commonly held Jewish beliefs about the joys of owning slaves, having multiple wives and sex slaves (e.g. Abraham), and wives being the property of their husband, along with goats, sheep, and camels. (Don’t  believe me?  Read the 10th Commandment carefully.)

Likewise, our ancient spiritual grandparents had no concept of the world being a globe that circles a sun in one of thousands of solar systems.  We had to wait until 1615 AD for Galileo to report this structure of the universe, based on his scientific observations.  How did the church respond?  The  Roman Inquisition made no attempt to challenge either his logic or data, but simply proclaimed that the idea that the earth circled the sun was, “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly                contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”  When Galileo defended his views, he was tried by the Inquisition, forced to recant, and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

Today, science is once again under attack by non-scientists who delude themselves by saying there is no scientific consensus regarding many great  issues of our day like global warming and Covid-19.  Even wearing or not wearing a mask has become a political statement in this chaotic time we live.

For this reason, on Pentecost, we are looking at the age-old struggle between the Holy Spirit and Tohu-bohu, the Hebrew word for the watery chaos that was believed to surround the earth.  The ancient Hebrews believed the earth was flat and covered by a dome called “the firmament.”  On the ceiling of this dome were stuck the moon, sun, and stars, as well as what Genesis calls “the windows of heaven.”  The Great Flood started thus: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11).  So the watery chaos surrounding earth fell through the windows of heaven and surged up from deep water wells.

 What a powerful metaphor for our chaotic times.  But this struggle between the Holy Spirit and chaos is not between equals.  Never does the Bible suggest this.  So if you are up to your eyeballs in chaos, remember the central message of the Book of Revelation: in the end, the good guys win!!!

 —Paul