Reader: “He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils,”
Response: “and the man became a living person.”
Scripture: Genesis 2:4b-7
This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
During this Eastertide the resurrection and eternal life have certainly been part of the focus as we head toward Pentecost this coming Sunday. I’d like to go back to the beginning in Genesis and have us look at the passage that introduces the arrival and the uniqueness of humans entering creation.
A second name for God is introduced in this pericope. The first two chapters to this point refer to God as Elohim, the all-powerful creator God. In our portion God is referred to as Yahweh Elohim, which speaks of an eternal God who formed an everlasting covenant with Israel. In other words, there is a more personal dimension in the creator God as well. We see evidence of such in the latter section of our passage.
At this point in creation there was no vegetation life on earth because there was no water and there were no people to cultivate the land. Cultivation and working the land you’ll notice is not a result of the fall. Sin had not yet entered the new creation. Farming the land predated sin! Later with the fall of Adam and Eve, the ground was cursed because of their sin and the eternal losing battle against weeds and thistles began. Caring for and stewarding creation was part of human identity and purpose from the start. The earth is the Lord’s and man has been given the responsibility to act as its gardener with accountability to its Owner.
The last part of this passage strikes me as very “earthy.” The LORD God took dust from the ground and formed a man. The earth to this day is a reference point for humans. When we die we are planted back in the earth to return to dust, the substance which formed us in the first place. Like many places in Scripture, it doesn’t say about the process in which God formed man, it just states that he did. Then came a creative act unique to all of creation. God breathed into the man’s nostrils and this dust-formed man became a living person, unlike anything else God made in all of creation. God was intimately involved in making this creature. God put his own breath into the man. Adam’s first breath came from God! God did not do this for any animals. Only human beings are made in the image of God. Only human beings have souls. The psalmist says that we are “a little lower than the angels” (Ps.8). Only humans have dialogue with their Creator. Only humans have spiritual awareness and a moral conscience.
In a world where many human beings are searching for their identity in all kinds of strange ways and trying to find meaning and purpose as to why they are here, we have to but go back to Genesis two to see God’s initial plan. God created a man and woman, male and female, to be fruitful and multiply and take care of his earth. Their identity rested in being made in God’s image. Having read this passage again, I take comfort in what God has done. Perhaps we can help someone today who is struggling to figure things out.
Music: “The Creation” a poem by James Weldon Johnson
Prayer: Creator Spirit, who broodest everlastingly over the lands and waters of earth, enduing them with forms and colors which no human skill can copy, give me today, I beseech Thee, the mind and heart to rejoice in Thy Creation. Forbid that I should walk through Thy beautiful world with unseeing eyes; forbid that the lure of the market place would ever entirely steal my heart away from the love of the open acres and the green trees; forbid that under the low roof of workshop or office or study I should ever forget Thy great overarching sky; forbid that when all Thy creatures are greeting the morning with songs and shouts of joy, I alone should wear a dull and sullen face. Let the energy and vigour which in Thy wisdom Thou hast infused into every living thing stir today within my being, that I may not be among Thy creatures as a sluggard and a drone. O Thou whose divine tenderness doth ever outsoar the narrow loves and charities of earth, grant me today a kind and gentle heart towards all things that live. I rejoice in the wonder of Thy works all of which speak to the glory of their matchless Creator. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. ―A Diary of Private Prayer, p.125, adapted Daniel Sharp