The Brooding Spirit.
[F B Meyer, The Call and the Challenge of the Unseen: Addresses Delivered in Australia. (1923)]
"The spirit of God broodeth upon the face of the Waters." Gen. 1: 1-5.
THE opening paragraph of Genesis is very old. It was old when Moses heard it first from he lips of his mother, in the slave huts b he Nile; old when Abram received it as a tradition from before the Flood; old, perhaps, when Enoch walked with God. As the Bible ends in an Apocalypse, an unveiling of the future, so it begins with an Apocalypse, an unveiling of the past.
The same Angel of revelation may have operated in each case; and as in the one we have the seven seals, trumpets, and vials, so we are not surprised to find here the successive stages of creation, each of which covered a vast period of time, classified under the heading of Seven Days.
A timeless chasm evidently intervenes between the general statement of the first verse, and the focussing of our attention on the one planet, in which we are directly interested. It has been surmised that, in that gulf of time, occurred the fall of the angels who ruled here but v ho "kept not their first estate," and that this accounts for the title applied to Satan of god, or prince, of this world. It is possible that this also
explains the allusion of the Apostle, when he says that the creation became subject to vanity "by reason of him who subjected it" There is a freckle on the fairest flower, a touch of accidie in the happiest life, a miasma brooding over the loveliest scenes: it would be interesting if all this were due to some malign influence generated in distant ages, and marring the "very good" of the Creator.
But we have now to deal with an earth, which was without form and void. No mountains or valleys, no configuration of coastlands, nothing to break the blank monotony of the waste: no living thing existing in those sullen waters. The house of life was being built, but there was no occupant; not an amoeba, not a zoophyte! Dense clouds, perhaps the result of a gradual cooling process, like a huge pall enclosed the entire globe, and excluded a single ray of light. During those ages the spaces of the universe were pervaded with a dim luminosity, which was afterwards to be focussed in the sun. Beneath that dark canopy the wild waves seethed, sighed, loosed themselves into a rage of foam, and then sank down to a dull moaning of restless despair. Darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the reign of chaos seemed to defy control.
The only alleviating trait in the whole scene is cited in the extraordinary announcement, that "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters!" Is not this an astounding announcement? Surely such a scene was the very last spot that the Spirit of God might have been expected to select. Heaven's holy peace, the blue spaces of the azure, the
sea of glass outspread before the Throne, would better befit His holy, gentle, and peace-loving nature.
But God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. And, whatever we might have expected, here at least is the announcement that "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." For moved the margin substitutes brooded. It is interesting to find that in the year A.D. 350 an old father of the Church, Basil by name, preached on this passage. He says: "These words may be the portico of a temple, or the forecourt of a sanctuary, but if they be, how dazzling bright must be the Holy of Holies, to which they form the entrance. In sublimity, purity, in strength of diction, they stand unrivalled. They form the portico of the Bible, the forecourt of the sanctuary, in the inner Holy of Holies of which Jesus Christ is to be found." He goes on to say that a Syrian, who knew little of the world, but much of God's truth, had told him that the word should be translated broods. How sublime are these old simple images! When God would utter His greatest thoughts, it is in the simplest imagery, and here it is the bird brooding over her nest, until her vitality is communicated to the eggs. It is an inspiring and suggestive thought that over the darkness and chaos of those early stages, there was brooding the warm bosom of God's love, and that moving stage by stage from that beginning, He was able finally to say: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and he shall have dominion."
The use made by Paul of this passage (II Cor. IV. 6) suggests that he saw a parallel between these verses and their spiritual analogues. In later days Pastor Stockmayer in his Meditations in Genesis still further elaborated the analogy between the work of the Holy Spirit, in reconstructing a chaotic world, and
His work in the human heart. Concerning this preparatory work he says:-"The Spirit of God prepares the way for the Word of God. Before God speaks the creative word (Gen. I: 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26), the Spirit of God must make ready His way. He hovers, He moves, He broods over the heart as a hen over her young. Before the sinner awakes to 2race out of the world of chaos in which he has been living, an uneasiness comes over him. It is the brooding of the Holy Spirit. While we are praying and giving forth the Word of God in public assemblies or in personal conversation, the Holy Spirit is at work to bring about the sense of need that develops into conviction."
After unknown aeons of brooding, we read that God said, "Let there be light; and there was light." Some strong Archangel, who had been waiting for the word of command, rolled back the curtain of cloud; a light broke in revealing the chaos and storm that had reigned so long. This gave hope! This division of the light from the darkness revealed a new principle. The light was good. It came from another sphere. It gave ground for hoping that there might be further gifts from that sphere. It was revelation of possibilities. It was "good" in God's sight . It was akin to His own nature, for God is Light and in Him
is no darkness at all. So when the Angel's action permitted the flood of light to enter, the particles of which material world was composed, till now lying hidden in the atmosphere of murk and chaos, suddenly discovered that they were predestined to be the organs and transmitters of light. When the light broke in, they would, as may be said, suddenly awake to their capabilities, their use, and the final ends of their creation. The fulness of time had arrived, and they were needed to disseminate light.
This supposition will enable us to understand the processes of man's spiritual re-creation by the mighty power of God. Everyone is endowed with a spiritual nature, which is the soul's outlook on, and capacity for God, just as on the other hand the body is the soul's attachment to this material world. But for the most part, this higher nature is submerged, lost sight of, like a disused muscle, or an unexplored chamber in the constitution of our nature. One main object of Christianity is to rediscover the Spirit, to use it, to make it pregnant, to teach man that it should be in constant use. In too many of us its existence and use are involved in impenetrable darkness. But Jesus by the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken our slumbering spiritual sense; he calls to our transcendental nature, as to Lazarus in his sepulchre, or the young man at Nain, or to the little girl of twelve summers who had faded too soon, like a rare and beautiful flower. He can utter the imperative command to the spirit to arise and come forth. How absurd it is to speak of the Bible as played-out, when its profound philosophy
is so seldom explained and so largely misunderstood. The Saviour bids us to be in subjection to "the Father of Spirits" and live! But His appeal in its depths of significance is largely ignored. Why does modern scholarship set aside the clear witness and teaching of Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, and of the beloved Apostle John? It is almost certain that the former was an alumnus of the University of Tarsus, one of the most famous in that age, and that it was dominated by the philosophy of Aristotle: whilst the latter wrote for a constituency, which was saturated with the teachings of Plato. In fact the religious intelligence of that age was surely in advance of that which characterizes the majority of the church-goers of the present day, many of whom find their epistles almost unintelligible.
Let us, therefore, affirm our belief in the Tripartite Nature of Man as taught by the Apostles Paul and John.
The Body, which is the organ of the World of Matter:
The Soul, which is the organ of our Personality ,
The Spirit, which is the organ of the Divine and Eternal.
The soul, in the earlier stages of experience, strongly contests with the Spirit for supreme control. The "I" of the one is in antagonism with the "Not-I" of the other. The conflict is often long and dire, but it determines destiny; and our object in the following pages is to show how the Spirit of God agonises to so infill and strengthen the human spirit, that it may
become sovereign, transmitting its impulses to the soul, and bringing all the powers of our physical nature into captivity to the will of God. This is our task; but this is not all. The culmination of creation was the appearance of the first man in the image of God, and the culmination of all that can be said by any of us, who would lead inquiries forward, is that all philosophies and systems, arguments and distinctions, teachings and exhortations will fail, unless at the close, when Moses and Elijah have gone, we are left face to face with "Jesus only"; for when He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness shines into our hearts, the light of the knowledge of God's glory will be found focussed on the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus, and Jesus only, must fill the Spirit's' vision. Not rules nor conditions, but Jesus Himself.
Hudson Taylor had a memorable experience, which will help us here. He says "the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I prayed, agonised, fasted, read the Word, all without effect. I tried in vain to attain Holiness for its own sake. But I came to see that it was not by striving after faith, but by trusting the Faithful One, that I obtained peace. It doesn't matter what situation we are placed in, He is ever in us, and He is adequate." We shall never gain strength and peace by asking how to get sap out of the vine; they can only become ours when we remember that Jesus IS the Vine; that we are in Him by the act of Divine Grace; and that we have only to count on Him at every turn and in each emergency.
"The Lord Jesus received is Holiness begun;
The Lord Jesus cherished is Holiness advancing;
The Lord Jesus counted on, as never absent, is Holiness complete."
Thus, therefore, the whole matter may be summed up. By our own doorway we enter into the consciousness of our own inner spiritual life, fed from Christ. As each Christian enters into that consciousness, he realises that it is superabundant, overflowing, and ever freshly springing up. This puts fresh impulse into whatever we may say or do. It flows out from us in a living stream of love, often unconsciously to ourselves, but always fruitfully. So we keep on imparting to others, spending for others, giving to others, blessing others in exact proportion as we open the doorway of the spirit to the Lord Jesus Himself, the great Fountain of all love and blessing, if only we will let them come through.
"And the evening and the morning were the first day." Man works from morn to eve; God from eve to morn. The night settles down upon the works of our hands, but with God there is no night, for the hours climb ever to a zenith which knows no afternoon. With man the brightest beginning is often overcast; God works with patient persistence to the perfect forming of Christ in our heart, as the chick is formed in the shell. Let us follow on, then, to know the Lord, for His coming forth is prepared as the morning; and we shall see His face, and His name will at last he written on our foreheads; and there shall be no more night, for the Lord shall be our everlasting Light, and the days of our mourning shall be ended.