First words are a milestone. Parents encourage their babies to make meaningful sounds when they start babbling, coaxing them to say “Mama” or “Dada.” When the baby finally does say his or her first word, proud parents share the news and brag to their friends about how smart their child is, perhaps even teasing each other about which parent got the honor of being named first. It makes me wonder what Jesus’ first word was. The Bible doesn’t see fit to tell us, but it is interesting to read God’s first recorded words in Scripture.
“In Hebrew narrative, the first words a person speaks are extremely important to understanding his or her character; they tell us about the personality or faith of the person,” Elizabeth Ahlman explains in Ruth: More Than a Love Story (47). So it is interesting to see that the first character in the Bible to speak is none other than God Himself, and His first words in the narrative of Genesis are indicative of His character: “Let there be light.”
The account of creation is one of the more well-known stories in the Bible. It seems like every Sunday School curriculum, every VBS program, and every children’s Bible story book begins with creation. After a while, people may be tempted to glaze over it and think, Yeah, yeah, I know all this. God created the world. Let’s move on already. But take a moment to think about God’s first recorded words about light.
Anyone who knows the Bible knows that there are many references to light in Scripture, and not just physical light. Yes, God was creating light and darkness, day and night, that first day of creation, but there’s a deeper level here. The Bible often contrasts light and darkness, referring to faith and spiritual blindness. The book of John, in particular, highlights this theme. In fact, the beginning of John refers back to creation, parroting the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning…” We learn from John 1 that “all things were made through [Jesus], and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).
What is this “light” of which John speaks? More accurately, who is this light? Jesus, of course. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me with not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). Jesus is the light who was with God from the beginning, who came into the world as a man, and who will be our light into eternity. As the Bible begins with light, it also ends with light. In speaking of the New Jerusalem—aka heaven—John writes, “Night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5, see also Revelation 21:22-25).
Yes, God’s first words are indicative of His character, for He brings light into a world of spiritual darkness. He brings us to faith in Jesus, the light of the world, and He will keep us in His light forever. Indeed, “Let there be light.”
Ahlman, Elizabeth. Ruth: More Than a Love Story. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014.