Tohu wabohu. Tohu wahbou sounds like something Jabba the Hutt would say and it sure fits him. Jabba is of course the gangster figure who appears in various Star Wars movies. He is a massive slug-like creature and is truly disgusting – especially when his giant tongue comes out of his mouth. A member of the Hutt clan, Jabba is a vile character who exists outside of the law as he preys upon others. If you have seen him in the movies, then you know that we never hear Jabba speak in English. Instead he speaks the language of the Hutt clan. And it sounds just like this: tohu wabohu.
In truth, tohu wabohu isn’t the language of the Hutt clan. Instead, it is the Hebrew phrase in our text which indicates that after God’s initial act of creation the earth was “without form and void.” It was disordered, but then through his creative word God brought order to it as he made a creation that was very good.
Things were very good. However, in the Fall sin brought disorder into human lives and creation itself once again. It brought anger, pain, and suffering. It brought tohu wabohu – the kinds of things that Jabba the Hutt loves. Yet the good news of the Gospel is that God was not content to leaves things there. Instead, he did something about it. He did something that revealed the depth of his love for us in a new way.
Our text this morning is the account of the creation found in Genesis chapter one. There are those who like to say that the book of Genesis has two creation accounts. However, this misses the point of what Moses is doing. In Genesis chapter one we get the “big picture” – a sweeping account of how God made all of creation – including man - over the course of six days. Then, in the second chapter, he moves in for a close up as he focuses on the details of how the most important part of creation was made – Adam and Eve.
We often associate creation with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet the thing to note is that immediately after this we are told, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” God’s initial act of creation made “the stuff” of creation from nothing. However, this stuff was “without form and void” – it was tohu wabohu.
And then, in his creative work God set about bringing order to this disorder. Through his creative word – by speaking – he begins to separate things. He separates the light from the darkness. He separates the waters above from the waters below. He gathers together the water so that land appears. He puts the lights of the sun and the moon in the heavens to separate the day from the night. And he creates plants and animals, separated out to reproduce, each after its own kind.
Where there was disorder – where there was tohu wabohu – God brings order. He orders things in a way that is good. In fact, we hear the refrain again and again, “And God saw that it was good.”
Finally, on the sixth day we hear, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”
The one God says “Let us make man in our image” – a statement that the Church has always seen as an early hint about the triune nature of God. We have learned through God’s revelation in the incarnation of the Son of God, that God is an ordered unity and plurality – that he is one God in three persons. The one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity.
We hear in Genesis, “So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God creates man in his image – he creates him to be like God. Man is not God – only God is the Creator; only God is God. But alone among all his creatures, God creates man in his own image – he creates man to be like himself. And indeed just as the unity of God is an ordered plurality, so also is man. God creates man – male and female he creates them. As we learn in chapter two, God creates woman from man as the helper corresponding to him. He creates the perfect fit, the one he needs; the one without whom man is alone – something that God says is not good.
When God has finished his creation, he has brought perfect order to the stuff that had been tohu wabohu. Created in the image of God, Adam and Eve reflect this order because they live holy lives that perfectly reflect God’s will. It was not just good. Instead we hear at the end of chapter one, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
It was very good. Yet, it turned out that this wasn’t good enough for Adam and Eve. The devil came to Eve and offered something better. He said that God was holding out on them – that they could be more. He said that they could be more like God than they presently were. He offered the hope of being God. And they succumbed to the temptation. They disobeyed God’s one command and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And in doing so they brought sin into the world. They brought sin, and with sin they introduced disorder into their lives and into creation itself. They brought tohu wabohu.
This disorder – this tohu wabohu – is now the reality of the world in which we live. Creation which had been given a perfect ordering by God is now a place of violent and destructive hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires. Created to live in perfect harmony, the animals now live an existence that is red in tooth and claw – a world of predators and prey.
Sin has brought disorder into the relationships between nations and peoples. Wars and acts of terrorism span the globe. Random acts of violence plague our culture – whether by a lone gunman or a gang of people. Even the institution that has been given the job of maintaining order – the government – can’t keep its own house in order as it slips deeper into debt and is paralyzed by contention.
Sin has brought disorder into our personal relationships too. Husbands and wives get frustrated with each other and speak angry words that they wish they could call back. Children disobey parents and parents feel exasperated with children. Co-workers deceive and gossip is passed around the office.
And sin has brought disorder into our own lives. We do not fear, love and trust in God above all things, but instead have no difficulty finding other things to put before God and his Means of Grace. We act in selfish ways and in so doing hurt the very ones we claim to love. We find ourselves ruled by impulses for things which we know to be wrong.
And in the end, this will lead to the ultimate example of disorder for us – death. Sin brings death- it always does. And death rends apart what God had ordered as a unity. Death tears apart body and soul – it undoes what God made us to be.
Sin brought disorder. It brought tohu wabohu. But God didn’t abandon us to that disorder. Instead, he did something completely new; something unexpected; something amazing.
In our text we hear that God said, “Let us make man in our image.” It is a small hint that there is more to the story than the simple fact that God is one. God revealed this for all the world to see as the Father sent forth the Son who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary. John tells us that, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Son of God took humanity into himself, without ceasing to be God. True God and true man, he came as the second Adam in order to restore the image of God within us.
Jesus Christ came to undo the disorder produced by sin. Yet for this to be done he had to deal with sin itself. This he did by becoming sin for us. The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus received the punishment against sin that we deserved. And then he experienced the ultimate consequence of sin – he died.
Jesus was obedient unto death as he carried out the Father’s saving will. He submitted to death as he said, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” But then on the third day he defeated death. He rose from the dead and in doing so he began the resurrection of the Last Day. As the second Adam he began again the life that the first Adam lost.
Through his resurrection Jesus Christ began the new creation in which God’s very good order is restored and the disorder of sin is removed. And the new creation is present in you. In fact, in Christ you are a new creation. The Holy Spirit who hovered over the waters in our text in the act of creation has given you rebirth through the waters of Holy Baptism. The Spirit has renewed you so that you are now the forgiven child of God.
For now we still live in a fallen world and we also still have the fallen, old Adam with us. We live as saints and sinners at the same time – we face a struggle as the new man contends with the old man. The new spiritual life created by the Spirit in baptism is fed by the Word and the Sacrament of the Altar. Through this Jesus Christ strengthens us in the faith and prompts us to strive to live more and more in ways that follow God’s will – ways that reflect what it means to be created in the image of God.
And as we live in this way, we keep our eyes set on the goal. The apostle Paul told the Romans, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
We live knowing that Jesus Christ will return in glory on the Last Day. When that happens he will give us a share in his resurrected and immortal body. He will restore creation and free it from the slavery of corruption.
God’s order will be restored. In the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has acted to overcome tohu wabohu once again. Through the Means of Grace God has already made us a new creation now and we look forward to the Last Day when once again all things will be very good and there will be no more tohu wabohu.