The breath of life

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Genesis 2:4-7

What does dirt have to do with deity?  Quite a bit actually.

Here’s our verse for the day:

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  (Genesis 2:7)

It doesn’t get any more earthy than ‘the dust of the ground’.  Genesis is asking us to imagine the LORD God with dirt under His fingernails, so to speak.

There’s no “Let there be a man” here.  Instead it’s hands-on.  So obviously this isn’t the Father we’re speaking of.  This is definitely the Eternal Son since no-one has seen the Father (see John 1:18; Colossians 1:15).  This is Christ before He became dust.  Here he sketches out the humanity He would later assume.  Christ is the Potter, Adam is the clay.

But it’s not even as dignified as ‘clay’, or even ‘mud’.  Instead it’s ‘dust.’  So fragmentary.  And so quickly blown away.  It’s the sense of ‘easy come easy go’.  Plenty more where that came from.

He is dust.  More than that, he is dust of the ground.  Adam is very connected to the earth.  He is made of earth.  Adam has not been flown in by the angels to trouble-shoot in this new-frontier start-up called earth.  The man who will have dominion won’t just stand over the earth, he will be earth.

Here is the man of dust springing up from the ground – just like the trees soon will (Genesis 2:9).  It’s another indication that humanity is a crop.

And yet, notice what happens to this very terrestrial, horticultural, ephemeral pile of dirt – Christ the LORD breathes into his nostrils the breath of life.

The earth-creature is blessed by heaven.  No other creature is formed like this or breathed into like this.  No other creature has their earthiness or their spirituality highlighted in such a way.  In man there is an intersection of creation’s two great realms.

Throughout Genesis chapter 1 the stage was being set.  The heavens and the earth were prepared.  And now at centre-stage stands man – moulded from the earth, kissed by heaven.

Here is man face-to-face with the Hands-On God, freely receiving life from his Lord.  This is man in intimate fellowship with God and, at the same time, at the pinnacle of creation.  He sums up the earth and the whole crop of humanity in himself.

Here at the intersection of heaven and earth lies the operating system of the world.  Whatever happens to this man in his relationship to God will happen to all reality.

When this man turns from the LORD, everything falls apart.

But, take heart.  When Christ takes Adam’s flesh He will turn man back to God… and then, the whole world is raised up and set to rights.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Jesus makes sense of man.  He is the true intersection of heaven and earth.  Yet He invites us to share in His life and status.  What incredible honours are lavished on us, the creatures of dust!

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