No doubt the most significant reference to water in the Bible—perhaps in all of human literature— is found in the Genesis account of creation. That’s where we find the foundational statement about the connection of life to water:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:1-2).
The word deep in the second verse is a Hebrew term that also refers to water—the fathomless depths of the oceans. This image of the protecting Spirit of God brooding over the pregnant waters of earth as the Creator gave origin to all of life is paralleled by the development of the life of every human being born on that very same earth. The hovering Holy Spirit guided the development of life on the earth just as lovingly as He does every human soul nurtured in the placental waters of its mother. Certainly Francis of Assisi had this image of nurture in mind when he wrote, “Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and keeps us.” People of God’s Book shouldn’t feel pressured to discard this beautiful picture of the primal earth as a nurturing mother. Rather, we ought to boldly proclaim that our Father God through the eternal wisdom and power of God the Son and the superintendence of God the Holy Spirit created the earth with the capacity to nourish all life it gives birth to. Such life could not exist without the miracle of water. The root meaning of the Latin word for “nourish” is “to give milk to.” From this we can see that St. Francis’ metaphor “Mother Earth” is not based on a pantheistic understanding, but on natural reality. As a follower of Christ, he properly gave praise to his Lord and God, as did the psalmist:
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away (Ps. 148:1-6).
The human embryo, over the course of 9 months, grows into a mature infant as it “swims” in its placental water sac. This fact provides us the simplest and most likely explanation for Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6). People are first born naturally—out of water. And those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are born a “second time”—born of the Spirit.