To Dust You Shall Return

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

– Genesis 2:4b-9

In the beginning, God created. And what God created was wonderful. Stars and planets and mountains and oceans and animals and plants and all of life as we know it. God created the heavens and the earth and God created us, human beings. From the dust of the ground, God formed us. From the dirt that is beneath our feet right now, the same dirt that supports our garden, the same dirt we knock off of our shoes, the same dirt that when we get home, we will vacuum up from our carpets and sweep up with our Swiffers, and clean out of our air filters. The same dirt, the same Dust of the Earth, the adamah. That’s the word in Hebrew.  Adamah. That is what aDAM, the first human, is made from. Adam is made from Adamah. As well as his counterpart Eve. Dirt is what we are made of and dirt is where we come from.

As the pinnacle of God’s creation, you would expect humans would be made of something better than dirt. You would expect we would be made of something special. Maybe gold or plutonium or some element uniquely our own like adamanitum or humanillium. Because after all, we human beings, are different than the rest of creation. We are unique. We are special. We deserve to be specially made. So how can it be that we are nothing more than dust creatures, mud pies made by God? It just doesn’t seem right that we are made from dirt.

Because we are different. We are special. We are better than the creation around us. We may not say it, but we might think it and we might act that way. There is nothing like us on God’s green earth. There is creation and then there’s us. I mean, what other creatures do you see building skyscrapers or curing polio or making chocolate covered bacon or landing a Rover on Mars or making multibillion dollar comic book movies? That’s right. Nothing else. Just us awesome descendants of Adam.

We are different. We are important. God made us special. So isn’t it interesting that the Bible makes a point of saying that in the beginning, when God creates humans, God did not get out a special box of materials to make a special creature that was completely unrelated to the rest of creation. God made human beings out of the most common, the basic component of the earth. God made us from dust.

It’s hard to find anything lower than dust. Dust is humble. It’s is both pre and post life material. It’s where life begins in the soil. And it’s where life ends up as decomposition and decay. It is where life begins and ends.   We are dust and to dust we shall return. We come from dirt, the same as everything else. We are not unique or special. We are part of creation. We are a part of its living and growing and dying and decaying. We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us. We are dust and to dust we shall return. And yet, from a handful of dirt, from the lowest of all things, God makes the most wonderful of things. The most compassionate and graceful of things, the most violent and self-serving of all things, the most hopeful and optimistic of all things. God makes human beings, in the very image of God, out of the dust of the earth. And God breathes God’s own breath into them. And God says “Here is my most proud accomplishment, my handiwork, Please take care of it!”

We were made from the earth to take care of the earth. We are part of creation and we have a special God-given part to play. And it is not to use creation. Or plunder creation. Or make creation sorry it was ever born. But our part is to live out our belief that all this is the Lord’s and is it not wonderful? The bright expanse of the night sky, the depths of the oceans, the damp richness of the rainforest, the scouring beauty of the desert. Is it not wonderful?  The tangy smell of an orange, the whirr of hummingbird wings, the invitation of a spring breeze. Is it not wonderful? The humming bees, the flittering bats, the shy salamanders, the smallest of fish dancing in mountain streams? Are they not wonderful? And the soil itself, humble and lowly, the beginning and end of all life. The dirt under our feet, which God used to make humanity. Which God became part of himself in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God became a humble human being made of dust, like you and me. So God could be part of life with us. So that we could be part of him. Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it wonderful?

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