Made from Dust

In one verse, powerful prose, the Bible tells us how a loving God made man. It’s a play on words that speaks to a theological truth. “The Lord God formed the man (ha adam) of dust from the ground (ha adama.)” Adam is dust and his name is dust. We come from dust and one day, we return to dust. One little boy heard that in a sermon one Sunday, that we all came from dust and go back to dust, and that afternoon he was playing in his room and a toy rolled under the bed. He reached to get it and was horrified at what he saw. He ran downstairs and said, “Mom, there’s somebody under my bed and I don’t know whether he’s coming or going!” Well, the truth is we all did come from dirt, and John Calvin said of this, “No one should exult beyond measure in his flesh. He must be excessively stupid who does not here learn humility.”

As a potter forms his clay, God formed man, but he was not done. Then the Lord God did what no human potter could do. He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Derek Kidner writes, “God breathed is warmly personal, with the face-to-face intimacy of a kiss and the significance that this was an act of giving as well as making; and self-giving at that.” What happened when the breath of God entered the dust-man? “The man became a living creature.” It is the same phrase used in chapter 1 to describe fish and birds and animals; they too are “living creatures.” They draw breath one way or another, to live. But there’s one important distinction. God breathed life into man, not into the other living creatures. Job 32:8, “But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.” The breath of God shaped man into God’s image with a spiritual understanding. It gave him a conscience and a moral capacity that the rest of the creatures do not share. “Nature is red in tooth and claw,” as the saying goes. Fish and birds and animals do not have a moral compass. Man does. Though he was made from dirt, man was created in God’s image and the law of God is written on his heart. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain said once, “Man is the only animal that blushes…or has reason to.”

4 thoughts on “Made from Dust

  1. YES! Knowing that we are dust and shall return to dust keeps us humble until that day when our earthly bodies will be transformed into spiritual bodies. On Ash Wednesday, dust will be applied to our foreheads in the shape of a cross and the pastor will say to each of us: “Remember, O man [Adam], that you are dust. From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” That sets the mood for the season of Lent. Blessings! Ted

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