Hello and welcome to another post on Renaissance Woman where, this week, I continue to look at the Hebrew letters comprising the word bara which is most often translated “create” in the Old Testament.
I admit I didn’t get far in the study process. As Aleph is the first Hebrew letter and Bet is the second, it was easier to turn the pages of Mr. Haralick’s back and look at Aleph then to flip through to Resh which is the twentieth letter. Thus I am not looking at the letters of bara in the order in which they appear. As I was reading through Mr. Haralick’s entry on Aleph, I was struck by something he said regarding Elohim, the first name of God revealed in scripture. Elohim is spelled Aleph Lamed Hey Yod Mem אלהים and, looking at the letters in reverse order gives us another name of God Yah יה and the root word male מלא (pronounced mall-ay) which means “to fill” or “to be full. Male also means multitude, fullness or filling matter so Elohim can be understood as that aspect of Yah, God, that fills matter. (Haralick, 23)
I have already shared how energy fascinates me and I follow the studies on energy being conducted in Physics and Quantum Physics. Studies are showing that it is energy that was converted to the smallest particles which are the building blocks of atoms and thus of all that exists. I found this quote in Mr. Haralick’s introduction: “…’In the beginning, God created heaven and earth,’ should be rendered; ‘When God began to create heaven and earth’. For the world is continually being created-every day, every hour, even this very instant the world is being sustained by the same primordial creative force with which it came into existence, the force of berishit (בְּרֵאשִׁית), ‘In the beginning.’ If this creative force would depart for even a split second, the world would return to nothingness.” (Haralick, xiii) This quote made me think of Hebrews 1:3 which states Jesus Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power”.
During this study of bara, I have been meditating not only on the Word creating in Genesis 1 but how that Word was energized by the Holy Spirit to bring into being all that exists. I was curious how energy was associated with the Holy Spirit in scripture and so looked it up in my Strong’s Concordance. I didn’t find it. I was so flabbergasted I thought for a moment I’d forgotten how to spell energy and was looking in the wrong place. I had not and was not and had to accept neither Greek nor Hebrew had been translated as “energy”. This both did and did not make sense. I’m sure that energy wasn’t a widely studied concept in 1611 (Publication of the King James Bible) and yet I am surprised more modern translations haven’t used the word energy as it’s there in the Greek.
The Greek word is energia (G1753) and means “energy”. Consider Ephesians 1:19: “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working (energia) of His mighty power” or Ephesians 3:7 “of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working (energia) of His power”. Energia also appears in Ephesians 4:16, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:29, Colossians 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
Why not translate energia by the closest related English word, energy? It might be because energy is a touchy subject among Christians. I conducted an internet search and found articles addressing whether or not God is energy. The consensus among the ones I looked at was a resounding “no!” and I wholeheartedly agree but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand something of how God works by exploring how scripture speaks of energy. However, I see a de-personalization of God going on to the point where He is spoken of as a “presence” or “energy” or, the one that really makes me cringe: “the universe”. I can see why the word “energy” would be avoided as this de-personalization becomes more widespread. I picked up a book called Coffee Shop Conversations by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher and was astonished when Jonalyn shared she’d overhead another woman express her astonishment than anyone still believed in a personal God. It is a tragedy that God is rendered to a mere force or worse yet an aspect of His creation.
I find a similar tragedy in the consideration of creation. I consider scriptures like Hebrews 1:19 and Colossians 1:17 and am not surprised that science is saying it is energy that is converted to matter. It’s a strange thing: I don’t disagree with anyone who says God called all that exists out of nothing because He is before all things. Neither do I quibble with those who say God created all things out of Himself because of the manner in which I create. When I write a poem I first have the thought to do so. I decide on what form I want to use then choose rhyme and meter. Then I sit down and write it and a new thing is brought into the world. This analogy does break down of course because I create out of forms and words that already exist. I am not the source of all poetry whereas God Himself is before all things and is the source of all things. I create a poem because God Himself is a poet and I am made in His image.
I do quibble with those who say the creation is God. He certainly thought it, called it into being, and upholds it by the dunamis of His word but He is no more His creation than I am a poem I write. I am certainly connected to a poem I write and anyone who reads a poem can certainly learn something about me but reading one of my poems doesn’t mean the reader knows me. It’s the same with God. Romans 1:20 says it perfectly: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” God is certainly connected to His creation because it’s His. Creation can show us what He is like but we cannot know Him via creation.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote something I think pertains to what I am attempting to say. It comes from his story “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty” and is spoken by Sherlock Holmes: “There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.” (Doyle, 300)
I agree with Sir Conan Doyle that the goodness of God can be seen in His creation. However, as Andrew Murray says; “Nature speaks of God and His work; but of Himself, His heart, and His thoughts of love toward us as sinners, nature cannot tell. In his deepest misery, man seeks for God-but how often, to all appearance, in vain. But, God be praised, this seeking in vain is not for always. The silence has been broken. God calls man back to fellowship with Himself. God has spoken!” (Murray, 42)
We are not left in ignorance as to how God has spoken. He has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1). He has spoken to us in a person and, since seeing Jesus means we have seen the Father (John 14:9) we know that God is Person. We can know Him. We can fellowship with Him. We can have relationship with Him. We can look at what He has made and even attempt to understand how He has made it but all of this is useless unless we look beyond created things and energy and power to the One before it all. That One is love. He loves us so much He gave us this beautiful world to live in and take care of. In the midst of our failure and darkness, He sent His son Jesus Christ to rescue and restore us. Now, He freely pours His Spirit onto and in us so that we live in union with Him.
The Holy Spirit is difficult to understand. Whenever I see Him in scripture He is moving, hovering, vibrating, covering, energizing, and so many other action verbs. He is difficult to describe without using words like “energy” or “power” and, as He is the reticent Person of the Godhead, it can be easy to think of Him in impersonal terms. And yet, in John’s gospel, the Holy Spirit is described in the most personal of terms. He is Helper, Comforter, Teacher, and Guide. Only a Person can be these things.
I believe in a Personal God. I can call Him by name: Jesus. I can know Him as my Father. His Spirit living in me is my very best friend. I live in Union, Fellowship, and Relationship with Him and this is only possible because He is Infinite Person. What He is to me, He is to everyone else. Do not allow this precious life that is yours in Christ Jesus be stolen from you by one who has not seen. This life is the free gift of God. It is difficult to believe that we don’t have to earn it or clean ourselves up first so we are acceptable. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to this truth, strengthens us, and energizes us so we can receive it.
Who is like our God? Who gives gifts like our God? Our God is an awesome God!
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Doyle, Arthur Conan, The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes Treasury, Crown Publishers Inc., 1976
Fincher, Dale & Jonalyn, Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010
Haralick, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1995
Murray, Andrew, Holiest of All: A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Whitaker House, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 1996, 2004
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990
Walker, Allen G. The New Koine Greek Textbook, Volumes 1-4, 2014-2017