Genesis 1:10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
For the Hebrews, the sea was nearly as vast and inaccessible as the sky. They were not a seafaring people. It was called the “abyss” and inspired fear and awe. The earth however was their grounding, their home, the word itself so full of poignant connection. It was not just land but the land, their land, the promised land (eretz in Hebrew). It is remarkable how tightly we feel tied to the plot of earth on which we are raised. We know it and it feels safe (for most of us) in contrast to the turbulent seas that sweep around our island. It gives us a sense of belonging and rootedness and identity. It is almost an extension of our very selves. This central role of land is one of the major themes of the Bible. When we wander away, nostalgia kicks in, a longing to return to that place that grounds us, gives us equilibrium from the tossing of life, warms us with its peace, welcome and acceptance. And when a new place offers us comfort, we “feel at home.”
This “land” God is creating is a nest in preparation for his little ones, the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve. We who are on the wrong side of that idyllic past have histories that are flecked with pain and sadness. Oddly, when we reflect back on childhood, those negatives tend to slip from our memories, and we are left with a sense of longing for a pure good we never really had. Much of life is an attempt to recreate a nostalgically unreal past.
If Moses is the author of Genesis, then the Israelites first read this creation account in the desert as they stumbled towards the land, the promised land. Their hunger for home matches our hunger, a longing which God sets in us for all that is good and wonderful, a beacon to guide us towards that homeland of surpassing goodness and wonder where war and famine, heartache and sorrow cease and all are embraced in the gentle arms of God. Our world’s pristine beginnings plant in us a longing for that breath-taking beauty and joy we have never experienced. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,” C. S. Lewis says, “it probably means earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care… never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death.”
We are marching to Zion as the old song says… or plodding… or crawling through our own wilderness wandering, but our faces are lit by the glory of the coming kingdom. We see its light by faith and stir up our strength and courage to face into the ensuing storm with a hope that braces us through each trial.
Father, what a glorious world you envisioned and created, what delight and goodness, yes pure “good” as you said over and over while watching it spring up piece by piece, and yet our world is a terrible mess, a painful journey, a frightening threat, not the safe home filled with eye-popping beauty that you gave us. We have ruined it… I have ruined it with my egoism, pride, cowardice, hate. May my longing for your redemption fill my heart with a redemptive intent towards this broken world.