The opening words of Scripture give us a description of God’s activity in creating the universe. This description states that the Spirit (or ‘wind’/’breath’) of God “was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2).
Theologians and scholars have made the observation that this early point in creation was a time of disorder and chaos–turbulent, even violent activity taking place in the waters of this primordial stage of earth. Even so, the Spirit of God was there to superintend the natural realm, and whose work provided good order, peace, and purposeful arrangement of the cosmos throughout each day of creation.
On the 6th day of creation, the ‘breath’ of God (or spirit, with a little ‘s’) is breathed into Adam and he is thus the first living human being, who stands as a representative of the new humanity–a population of beings who bear the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7). Sadly, this new image-bearing population is marred by falling into sin, resulting in death–the removal of the ‘breath’ of life that sustained him.
The description of the Spirit “hovering” has evoked the image of a bird in flight. The image of the Holy Spirit acting as a bird is taken up in the NT during Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of his earthly ministry (see Matt. 3:16; Jn. 1:32, 33). It is here that the Christ (‘Messiah’/’anointed One’) is anointed with the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work that the Father sent him to do.
Interestingly, some have seen this account as a new creation with Christ as the new Representative of a new humanity, who bear the image of God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This echo of the creation account can yield some profound (sometimes contrastive) ideas about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Person and Work of Jesus, and in the people He represents.
For example, as the drama of Jesus’ earthly ministry unfolds, the Holy Spirit who had just anointed Jesus, leads him into the wilderness, not to experience the peaceful and purposeful order of having God’s Spirit upon him; rather, it was to undergo the chaos of temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Later Jesus goes in among the masses of fallen image-bearers–who suffer from the effects of sin, and gets weary by dealing with the chaos of these effects by healing illnesses, hunger, injustice, disease, demonic possession, and even death. Further, he experiences the chaos of being challenged again and again by his opponents to prove his authority or to renounce his status as Messiah and Son of God. Finally, the drama of his earthly ministry reaches its climax as he goes through the chaos of public humiliation and death by crucifixion.
However, none of the “chaos” of sin is too great to overcome the strength of the Holy Spirit! For it was by the Spirit’s power that Jesus was propelled in his ministry and be raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God (see Acts 2:32-33). This, Christ did in order to pour out the Holy Spirit and bring peace with God and purposeful order to his elect (Ephesians 1-2).
Now that the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (Rom. 5:5), we have become part of the new humanity created in Christ and have strength to overcome the chaos of trials and suffering, and to worship Him joyfully as we serve, pray, witness, and grow together.
Soli Deo Gloria