Order from Chaos

If you have been around X44 for any time at all you know we talk a lot about CHAOS. The nothingness of the world. This world and everything (everyone) in it are constantly drifting toward chaos and brokenness, it might even be best described as a complete downward spiral. The plan was that we (those commissioned as a royal priesthood) might partner with the sovereign God almighty to keep and cultivate the garden and eventually the rest of the world and bring order to it; yet it seems humanity has failed to restore even just a modicum of that given order. I don’t solely pin this on Adam and Eve, I think we are all to blame, but I also think we can claim this today and be devoted to be agents of transformation.

God brought order from chaos “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). He organized, he formed, he made, he filled. From that unformed substance emerged the beauty, the order, of this world.

Formless and void – tohu va-vohu reads the Hebrew text.  Which has become an idiom or slang for out of control to many today. There is a lot here that I will hardly touch on in this article. In the context of competing ancient cosmological accounts of the formation of the world, chaos is a terrible and terrifying force.  The force isn’t evil, it is simply untamed.

“In the religion of many peoples chaos stands at the beginning of being and becoming.  It may be understood mythically as Tiamat, as the original water, as the abyss, as night or darkness.  But the decisive point is that it is felt to be something supremely negative, abstracted and unqualified.”[1]

You will notice the words formless, void, darkness, water and deep are all symbols of the uncontrollable, unimaginable forces that existed before the formation of the earth. In the beginning the Spirit of God exhibited purposeful action even in the presence of chaos.  Chaos was mastered by God.  For the original audience, Genesis 1 is about bigger questions than the beginning of the universe.  It is about why there is life and what is the purpose of living. Bere’shiyt bara Elohiym.

The is the canvas of the greatest love story ever told, the greatest deliverance & redemption message, the story of what was lost and beautifully reclaimed. The Hebrews lived in a world of the covenant rather than in a world of contracts.  The idea of contract was unknown to them.  The God of Israel ‘cares as little for contract and the cash nexus as He cares for mere slavish obedience and obsequiousness.  His chosen sphere is that of covenant.’  His relationship to His partner is one of benevolence and affection.  The indispensable and living instrument holding the community of God and Israel together is the law.”[2]

God created people in his image and assigned them a redemptive mission, to keep and cultivate, to bring order from chaos.“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God meant for his people to make this garden a place of obvious and visible order that would stand apart from the world outside the garden. And as man obeyed God’s instruction to spread out over the rest of the earth, he would extend this order outward, through the region, the continent, the world. This was man’s exercise of dominion, his work of subduing the earth and all that is in it partnering with God as the physical manifestation on earth as God’s “hands” and/or image. That we might be ambassadors of the great creator of the universe.

The Lord brings people out of darkness into light and towards peace (shalom) and intimacy with him. Today we are still on this mission, we still see chaos replaced by order, but unfortunately, we don’t see a lot of it. Chaos is chased away by order where our free will invites Jesus to replace that space. Eventually, or eschatologically, everything and everyone will be either re-gathered or lost.

I believe God could universally bring total “restoration”, and that he has the power to (and may desire to), but I’m not convinced that his “established order” allows this. Perhaps it was only meant for those that freely chose and accepted the devout invitation.

To them someday, a new heaven and new earth will renew the one that humanity has destroyed in chaos, and order will once and for all establish balance and peace. But until then, our mission is to replace the chaos with peace with an image of Jesus to all that might see, bringing heaven to earth right here and right now.

[1] Foerster, ktizo, TDNT, Vol. III, p. 1001.

[2] Abraham Heschel, The Prophets: Two Volumes in One (Hendrickson Publishers, 1962), Vol. 2, p. 10.

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