"By the Word of God, the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged and perished".
2 Peter 3:5&6.
Emptiness and darkness. Then, void and water. Not, we would say, what could be called ideal conditions for creating the universe. What is described appears to be more like total desolation after what was has been destroyed than the initial stage of creation, but that, surely, is the reason why Genesis chapter 1 provides us with such a clear and vivid description of how the heavens and the earth began. The 'nothingness' which we begin with isn't sufficient at all to furnish and produce what will come from such bleak beginnings.
The same problem comes up several times in the creation account. On day five, for example, we read of God commanding birds and winged creatures to come from the waters (1:20). As Martin Luther notes in his commentary, "who would conceive of the possibility of bringing such creatures from the water - beings which, clearly, could not continue to exist in water?"
We're back to our original conundrum. God 'works' to bring about form and substance to our world, but we are really none the wiser about what has happened here - how is it possible?
Through employing reason and examination, we seek to unpack the mystery. We define all manner of schemes of measurement and hypothesis to unweave the fabric of our reality, believing we have the tools for the task, but the very notion that we can - the possession of a capacity, a need to know - tells us more than any model or theory we may devise which 'best fits' our present level of comprehension.
Luther shows us how Genesis zero's in on the answer to the matter.
"God speaks a mere word, and immediately, life is formed from the water".
The defining requirement for life, then, was not what 'natural' element (water or earth) it appeared from, but the Word of God, which causes it to be. As with the creation of light on the first day, so here - it is when God says 'be' that things are so.
It's vital we see this, because what is true of God's work in creation is equally the case when it comes to His work in redemption.
Think of the Crucifixion.
When we examine this in a 'natural' fashion, we see nothing but desolation and tragedy. Our empirical tools lead us to only one conclusion - the life of the one known as Jesus of Nazareth was terminated in a cruel fashion, but the rational definition of this event entirely robs what has occurred of its true power and significance, because it does not have the ability to truly 'see' and penetrate the event itself.
This is no everyday execution of a common thief, or even the mere death of a troublesome teacher. The Gospels speak of an event, a moment in history, which continues to impact upon the purpose of our very existence.
What we are confronted with in both of these (and other) occasions are events where the Word of God creates a reality which is far deeper than what we now determine or measure as real, and it is this reality which must take precedence amongst what we can see and hear.
The desolation which is in evidence 'in the beginning' and, so very often, in our analysis of our existence, is the absence of the Word - surely, the most miserable famine of all, for "all things are made by this", and without it, nothing which has been made exists. The same, of course, is true in human reason - God becomes unnecessary, even absurd, when we define life as something entirely possible from, essentially, nothing.
The purpose and intention of God, woven into the very fabric of all that is, is to 'speak' to us of the fact that all we are comes from and will continue to have relevance because of only one thing - His living word. This wisdom, as rare as the most precious stones, continues to 'cry out' to this, if we have the means to listen.