Captured by a Word


Late in 1980, I committed to read the Bible through in a single year. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to finish. For many years after, this became my regular approach to my quiet time. Year after year, I used the same reading program, progressing by alternating Old Testament and New Testament books. I attribute a great deal of growth to this simple program. Eventually, I stopped focusing on the calendar and just kept up the pattern. In the last ten years or so, I’ve given myself increasing flexibility. Though I continue to be in the word every day, I have slowed down, allowing myself to read only as much as I need (on any one day) to “hear” from the Lord.

These days, that includes just one chapter. Sometimes, it means reading the same chapter over and over, pulling out all the layers of meaning and instruction. Once in a while, I get stuck on a single verse.

I highlight it. I write it out on an index card. I personalize it. I try to memorize it.

This year, I’d hardly begun at the beginning before a single word captured my attention.


In the New Living Translation, you’ll find hover in this verse:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface. Then God said, “Let there be . . .” Genesis 1:1-3

Though other translations use other English words, the Hebrew word “Rachaph,” from which the English “hover” is derived (phonetically pronounced raw-khaf), occurs only twice in the Old Testament. In the book of Jeremiah (23:9), it refers to the prophet who says that his bones tremble (rachaph) within him.

So, here we are in April, and I’m still wondering about God-hovering. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

The word is a verb, and as any third grader will tell you, a verb is an action word. It signifies movement. A noun (God) takes an action (hovers). I am struck by the fact that in this apparently significant action, Moses tells us there were no visible results. . .


In the context of the passage, I learn that hovering is God’s pre-action, his action taken before the visible results occur. We have no way of knowing how God hovers. We can’t imagine what he accomplishes by hovering. We simply know that in this case, before the important work of creation, God first chose to hover. As a writer this makes perfect sense. Any author will tell you that pre-writing (the action before the writing) is perhaps the most important part of writing.

In pre-writing, we let the subject swirl through out thoughts, imagination, and emotions. We collect ideas, imagine characters, develop plots, and add details. Most of us do this before every writing assignment. Some of us do mental pre-writing for years before we start up our computers and pound out the text. Pre-writing is the action before the action. While I may not understand what God accomplishes by hovering, I do understand the idea of pre-action.

And the whole thing makes me think about prayer. How often does my prayer move God to hover? How often does my prayer initiate the invisible action before the visible results? Have I let the apparent lack of results discourage me from continued prayer? Is God at work in ways I cannot see? Is he hovering over that addiction? Hovering over that unbeliever? Hovering over that next job application? Hovering over my marriage? Hovering over my child’s rebellion?

From this passage, I see evidence that this is indeed one of the many ways that God works. Even when we cannot see it, our God is moving on our behalf. Doesn’t that give you courage? Doesn’t that inspire you to persistent prayer? To have faith that God is acting even when you cannot see?

In what ways are you waiting while God hovers? And how do you manage to sit tight while you wait? I really want to know!


2 Responses to “Captured by a Word”

  1. Laura Says:

    Bette, this is profound. A wonderful insight. You have a great point re: ‘when is God hovering?’ Like . . . how can we know? Often we can’t know, but we can grab hold of a faith picture and choose to believe He WILL come through with action in His own time frame.
    On a few occasions I have had a sense that God was promising a particular action to come at a future time. Then, it is not hard to believe that He will act and to joyfully wait to see it happen. That is one of the amazing aspects of walking with the Lord. It can be mind-blowing. Then, other times, I haven’t a clue why a trial is happening, or when it will resolve. It’s a mystery! But we know He is in charge of it all.

  2. Bette Nordberg Says:

    Great comment Laura. I’ve had that same experience, getting a glimmer of God’s future action, even before I see it. It DOES make the waiting easier, doesn’t it? I think I find it easier to BELIEVE that he is acting (when I cannot see it) now that I can see an example of it in scripture. He’s acted invisibly before; perhaps he is acting invisibly now!

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