God recycles. He made man out of the dust.
Really? That’s our witness? A cheesy idiom that will win over the environmentalists? Will it? Maybe they were environmentalist, chastising wastefulness. If this was the case, I think it would have been better to say, “God cares about the earth, He created it.” God is a creator, not merely a recycler. Everything He creates has a purpose, and the manner in which He creates has a message. I don’t think the message of creating man from the ground was merely to promote recycling. Let’s look at the text:
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 being (Gen. 2:7).
Wow! There are so many theological happenings going on in that verse; I only endeavor to mention a few. Most commentaries on this verse mention the Hebrew wordplay between Adam (‘adam) and ground (‘adamah). This implies a connection between man and the earth. Adam and Eve are given the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:28), in which they are told of their responsible dominion over the earth and all the living things on it. Earth was their home and their natural bodies pointed to that. After they sinned in the Fall, earth is where they will be buried. Paul explains to us in 1 Corinthians; There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And it is so written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man (15:44b-49).
The fact that Adam was made from the ground points to our utter dependence on God. He is the potter, we are the clay (Isaiah 29:16, Rom. 9: 20-21). God created Adam to have a goal: to earn for his progeny that day of rest, ruling at the right hand of God. Where Adam failed, Christ was victorious (Heb. 2:5-9). We need something more than our natural bodies to reach that goal. Our own righteousness will not do, it leads to death. By our unity with Christ, the life-giving Spirit, we may gain entrance into the new heavens and new earth that is being prepared for us. Our natural bodies will be transformed into heavenly bodies.
It is also worth noting that man did not become a living being until God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. It is God’s breath, God’s word that creates life. There is meaningful theology saturating this account of the creation of man. Sure, we can see by the process recorded that man possesses a higher dignity than the animals and the rest of creation; but this description teaches about God more than it teaches about man. He created the heavens and the earth by His word and He gave life to man by His breath. Again, this points to the regenerating, life-giving power of the Logos, Jesus Christ. We know that our salvation involves rebirth. But just as with the account of the creation of man, the Bible tells us a bit of the process of that rebirth. We are saved by grace through faith, which comes through the preached word of the gospel. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher (Rom. 10:14)? God’s word is living and active (Heb. 4:12, Isaiah 55:11), accomplishing His purposes.
This verse of creation reveals many things about God and man. I could never dare to know God’s thoughts in creation, except for what He has revealed to us in Scripture. But I will be so bold to say that He wasn’t thinking, “What else can I do with this dirt?” His agenda was not to conserve, but to create. This is not an article against recycling and its benefits. This is an article against cheesy bumper-sticker witnessing that reduces God’s work to an ideological cliché.