DISRUPTION AND THE POWER OF SPIRIT
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
The first physical disruption is recorded in the forefront of revelation, after the creation of the heavens and the earth, by which the earth became a chaos and vacant. “As for the earth, it came to be a chaos and vacant, and darkness was over the surface of the abyss” (Gen.1:2a). This primeval cataclysm is referred to in the Scriptures as if it were the most important event in the past history of the earth, second only to its destruction by fire in the future. Other vital events are dated either before or from the disruption. Before it the Father loved the Son. (John 17:24) Then it was that He chose us in Christ. (Eph.1:4) Then also Christ, as the flawless and unspotted Lamb was foreknown. (1 Pet.1:19-20) From the disruption the Lambkin was slain. (Rev.13:8) There is the shedding of blood, beginning with Abel (Luke 11:50-51), besides the making ready of the kingdom. (Matt.25:34) The apostle Peter explains the relation of the earth to the cosmic arrangements upon its surface by calling the latter a “world.” He speaks of the earth cohering out of water and through water, by the Word of God; through which the then world, being deluged by water, perished. This is accurately described by the phrase “the disruption of the world.” The earth itself was not disrupted, only the system upon it. The same was true of the ancient world of Noah’s day. (cf 2 Pet.2:5; 3:6) Then, of course, it included all land life, as well as mankind, with the exception of those in the ark.
We do not know the underlying cause that produced the two deluges which disrupted the earth in the past. Some of the contributing causes are revealed. In the past the stored in the earth played a large part in the catastrophe. The corresponding future disasters will be due, in part, at least, to the fact that the earth now is stored with fire. (2 Pet.3:7) Volcanoes are clear evidence that the fire is there. I have visited Vesuvius, and have seen what it did to Pompeii when it buried it under ashes many feet deep. We are not told that the subterranean fire will burst forth during the judgement period, which corresponds with the second deluge, but fire is used to dissolve the present earth before the new creation. (2 Pet.3:10; Rev.21:1)
If we do not know the underlying cause of this disruption, we do know the cause of its correction and the restoration of the earth. “The spirit of Elohim was vibrating the surface of the waters.“ (Gen.1:26) The operations of God’s spirit in imparting motion and life and intelligence transcend human expression, and are too abstract for us to grasp in literal language. Hence we are introduced to it by a series of illustrations. Indeed, much of the truth of God’s earliest revelation comes to us as if it were a picture book for children. So it is that in the first intimation of the mode of the spirit’s operation, a word is used which is elsewhere applied to the vibratory motion of a bird’s pinions when it is hovering in the air. The tremulous action of the vulture’s wings suggests the mode of operation of the spirit in restoring the earth. Repeated and powerful impulses were given to the ruined wreck, which resulted in its restoration. First there is light, as distinct from darkness. Then the gases are separated, and the fluids are parted from the solids, to form the various layers of which the present earth is composed.
How difficult it is to define spirit in literal language! It takes about half a column in our Greek-English Concordance, and is longer than any other. But God provides a picture of it preceding even those of light and life. In the original Hebrew the word is WIND. It was a “wind” of God that vibrated over the waters and brought light. It is a pity that we cannot use this for both in other languages, for it is the inspired illustration of spirit. The wind itself cannot be perceived by our faculties. We can feel and see and hear and smell its effects, but the power itself lies beyond our apprehension. Our Lord compared its action to a powerful blast. (John 3:8) So it is that nature provides us with the clearest definition of the most intangible and spiritual of all things, the very essence of God, for He is not merely a spirit, but is literally Spirit.
A clear understanding of the very first action of the spirit of God may be of value in apprehending its further operations. The AV says that the spirit moved. This is correct, but it gives us no clue as to the character of its motion. The Hebrew word occurs only three times. The most helpful is found in Deuteronomy (32:11) where we read of a vulture that “fluttereth over her young” (AV). In Jeremiah 23:9 the prophet says “all my bones shake.” Not many of us have seen a vulture hovering over her fledglings. But some of us have observed a hawk or other bird of prey, hovering in mid-air, before plunging downward, or a humming bird, as it vibrates its wings when draining the nectar from a flower. Perhaps all of us have experienced the shaking of our bones.
The contexts give us the kind of movement, which is attributed to God’s spirit. It was a fast to and from motion, which is best expressed by the word, VIBRATE; hence we have chosen this for the standard of this stem, though it cannot well be used of birds or of man. This meaning is confirmed by the first result, which was light. This is now generally taken to be the effect produced by etherial vibrations on the eye. I would never seek to conform the Scriptures to the theories of so-called “science.” But when God’s revelation agrees with the evidence of nature, I am convinced. All the more so, as the following events also are in agreement with our present knowledge of natural phenomenon.
In bringing us back from death into life when we first believe, the spirit of God pursues the same course. “The God Who says that, out of darkness light shall be shining, is He Who shines in our hearts.“ (2 Cor.4:6) First the spirit hovers over the sinner in his darkness and enlightens him through the power of God’s Word. One is a fine figure of the other, in a higher realm. The Son of God, anointed by the spirit, is the Light of the world. (John 1:9) We also, who have the spirit dwelling in us, are light (Eph.5:8), and children of light (1 Thess.5:5). We must understand the meaning of the literal operation in this passage before we can fully appreciate its force in these figures.
Creation is not confined to the making of one plant of each species, in the beginning, but of including in it all the plants of that species that will ever exist in the future. It is not a question of evolution and constant change to correspond to environment, but of involution, not in its restricted biological sense of degeneration, but of having in itself all that eventually comes out of it. Out of nothing, nothing comes. Each species remains true to its original, and reverts to it when left free to do so. Each plant was created for its species, or, as the Hebrew more exactly expresses it, “for its FROMS” or from-kind, that is, those that spring from it. It never changes to make another species. As a result there is not a single species in the world today that was not created in the beginning. There are species that have died out, but no new ones that have evolved from the original, or have been produced by crossing.
What a relief it is to read God’s own account of His creation! A single line of it is worth more than all the books ever written on evolution. Life began with verdure. (Gen.1:11) Here are a few phrases that settle the “origin of species.” When God spoke verdure into being by His spirit, He made “herbage seeding seed for its from-kind.” Marvelous is it, and utterly beyond the power of any of His creatures, how God makes a single living thing. Men might imitate a blade of grass so as to appear like a real one, but it would not grow. How utterly impossible would it be to even make a dead member of the human body! Even if our eyesight were deceived, a microscope would soon detect its imperfections. But how can we give it life? Who can see with a glass eye? Wherever there is life we should perceive the “finger,” or spirit, of God.
On a memorable occasion I was most powerfully impressed with the greatness of God in the smallest things. I stood before General Sherman, as the biggest of the “big trees” is named, and marveled at its tremendous bulk, the largest living thing on earth. I had seen large pine cones, or seed containers, and reasoned that its cones must, of course, be the largest of all. Instead, they were rather small. Its seed, instead of being the largest of all, was a tiny thing, light as a feather. Indeed, one could not feel its weight. So may a most insignificant act, almost unnoticed at the time, contain the potentials of great things in the future. The mere execution of an alleged traitor, long ago, will result in the restoration of all of God’s creation at the consummation.
But some will be sure to say that it is impossible to put the life and the form of millions of millions of living plants into the microscopic part of one single seed. Yes, so it is, for a man. But God not only can, but has done so. If He will pry open our closed eyes to acknowledge this, one of the minor marvels in the grand revelation of His power and wisdom and foresight in the realm of life, it may help us to go on and believe His Word in reference to the higher manifestations of His love and prescience in dealing with man himself. He, too, along with millions of his fellows, originated in an invisible speck of spirit, which has determined beforehand, not merely his species, but his form and destiny. All was involved in Adam when he was created, and in Christ, even before, as God’s Creative Original.
David, the sweet psalmist, has phrased these simple yet solemn thoughts most marvelously in one of his Psalms (19:1-4): He says,
The heavens are recounting the glory of El,
And the atmosphere is telling the work of His hands.
Day after day is uttering a saying
And night after night is disclosing knowledge.
There is no audible saying, and there are no words;
Their voice is unheard.
Yet into the entire earth their voice goes forth,
And into the ends of the habitance their declarations.
The heavens do not only declare the glory of God, but recount them continually. The Hebrew word comes from the stem sphr NUMBER. Literally it means enumerate. A single glimpse of the glorious galaxies of the celestial sphere, especially as seen in the clear sky of a Palestine night, would amaze us and make us marvel. But it needs to be repeated night after night to be transformed into knowledge. Sight is the most spiritual of the senses, for it reaches far beyond the air, in which alone a sound can be heard. In solemn silence we may sit in the great school room of the universe each night and listen to the atmosphere as it tells us of the glories of His celestial handiwork. In God’s book of nature the lessons are emphasized by contrast, impressed by repetition, and enlarged by variety. Darkness is contrasted with light, day and night are constantly repeated, and almost an infinite variety of forms and colors are created for the sense of sight alone. Even the function of darkness is clearly revealed by the night. For by it alone can we see the stars, which thrill us with a glimpse of His celestial glory. We are thankful for the darkness as well as the light, for it suggests to our hearts the great truth that His highest honors are revealed through sadness and suffering.
Not only does each succeeding day repeat the tale that God is light and life, but the seasons add their lesson of the eons. The annual change, from cold to heat, winter and summer, constitute the best treatise that we have on the eonian times. The dark and dismal seasons, when death reigns in nature, when the trees shed their leaves and the vegetation vanishes, speaks eloquently of the evil eons, in which we live. But, when winter gives place to summer, then life reappears, and the plants not only live, but give life to the souls that cannot get it from the soil. Here we have a picture of the eons of the eons, when resurrection recalls the dead to life and blessing will abound. Each year is a miniature rehearsal of God’s grand circle of the eons.
God is the life of all that lives. This also is a daily occurrence in our experience. While we do not die daily, we enter into a state, which is so like it that sleep is the figure employed to denote death in view of resurrection. Normally, at night we are worn out, our activity ceases, our faculties become dormant, so that we are “dead to the world,” until the morning. Then we become alive again. God gives us this recurrent contrast in order to teach us what life and death are, and that He alone supplies the light of life.
Spirit is the power that God used to restore the ruined earth. Later, when Adam caused an even greater ruin in a higher sphere, only spirit could restore humanity to God. Only God’s Word can dispel the darkness with light, and replace death with life. This is the chief lesson found here, at the very forefront of revelation. And nothing else was needed. God begins here with spirit, and this remains the power throughout unto the end. During man’s immaturity, spirit was displaced by many material forms, which were only tangible representations of spiritual things, but these are laid aside when man becomes mature.
The lack of God’s spirit, and the futility of all man’s efforts to satisfy and save himself by any other means, lies at the basis of all history, human or divine. Notwithstanding the tragedy of the last six thousand years, man is still seeking for peace and plenty from many other sources. Even those whom God has called, who hear His Word, and have learned to rely upon Him for salvation, for the most part have not fully learned the lesson taught us at the very beginning of the Bible. The spirit of God is the only power to restore the wreck that man has made. We, who have all spiritual blessing as our peculiar portion, should be better able than all others to learn the lesson of God’s spirit, and enjoy the light and life and love that He imparts. May all who read these lines be partakers of this bliss!
DISRUPTION AND THE POWER OF SPIRIT [Adolph E. Knoch] 1