“And He will stretch over it the line of desolation

And the plumb line of emptiness.” (Isaiah 34:11, NASB)

These words form part of an oracle by God against the sinful nations around Israel and Judah. Here, He warns them that He is ready to execute vengeance against the injustices that they’ve been committing, and that the resulting punishment would be devastating.

Interestingly, the Hebrew words for “desolation” (thōhū) and “emptiness” (vōhū) are the same two words that appear in Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty [thōhū vavōhū], and darkness was over the face of the deep” (LEB). Readers who are familiar with Genesis will not fail to miss the allusion being made in Jeremiah.

This is important because of its implications: Genesis 1 states that out of that unformed, desolate world, God formed everything we see today, and He described it as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, sin has long since entered into and marred this world, and when God punishes this sin, the Bible uses “de-creation” language to describe the effects. This is saying that this thing is not “very good,” and must thus be undone—likening that undoing to a return to the state of the world prior to creation. The Bible is full of examples of God “de-creating” sinful peoples (for more dramatic examples of this, see Isaiah 13:9-13 and Matthew 24:29).

All these examples of “de-creation” are but small-scale examples of what God plans to do at the end of time. One day, He will remove all sinfulness from this world, and bring about the new heavens and new earth. On that day, God will wipe away the tears from the eyes of His children, and eradicate death and suffering (Revelation 21:3-4).

This promise is what those who hope in Jesus Christ long for and look forward to, and it is this promise that motivates us to continue to orient our lives around Him.