Don’t Forget Where You Came From

I can’t say that I think all that much on my origin. When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and thought, “wow, I came from the dust.” I encourage you to take a moment and think, really think about this text.

“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen 2:7).

This is quite staggering. We came from the soil. We were literally fashioned from dirt. Walter Brueggemann wrote a helpful article titled Remember You Are Dust. In the article he does an excellent job articulating the implications of this text.

This formula affirms four matters: first, the human person is fundamentally and elementally material in origin and composition, genuinely an “earth-creature,” subject to all the realities and limitations of materiality. Second, because the human person is an “earth-creature,” it belongs with, to, and for the earth, and all other creatures share the same qual- ities of life. Third, this mass of earth (“dust”) is no self-starter. In and of itself, it remains inanimate and lifeless. “Dust from the ground” by itself is no human person. Fourth, the vitality of the human person depends on God’s gift of breath which is freely and graciously given without cause, but which never becomes the property or possession of the human person.

Thus human persons are dependent, vulnerable, and precarious, relying in each moment on the gracious gift of breath which makes human life possible. Moreover, this precarious condition is definitional for human existence, marking the human person from the very first moment of existence. That is, human vulnerability is not late, not chosen, not punishment, not an aberration, not related to sin. It belongs to the healthy, original characterization of human personhood in relation to God. This is what it means to be human.

Just as Adam was a man of the dust, so we are considered to be people of the dust (1 Cor 15:47-49). The Bible states that we will all return to the place of our beginning (Gen 3:19, Job 10:9, 34:15, Ecc 3:20, 12:7, Dan 12:2 ). The Psalmist expresses this truth as he engages the Creator. “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’” (Ps 90:3).

An awareness of our origin will inevitably provoke humility as we engage our Creator. It did for Abraham. When speaking with God he stated, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27). We see this same posture in Job. At the end of the book, he lowers himself into the “dust and ashes” and repents (Job 42:6). Job gets down to to the place where he comes from. God always hears a man who remembers his humble beginnings.

Our status as people of the ground issues in the compassion of our Creator. The Psalmist teaches us this. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps 103:13-14). The ground of his compassion is our frame, our origin. In the same article Brueggemann says this regarding Psalm 103.

God remembers the way we have been formed in the beginning. Perhaps God, in this Psalm, remembers the narrative of Gen. 2-3, recalling the entire tale of our odd and awesome point of origin in the powerful generosity of God. The reality of our “dust” does not evoke in God rejection or judgment, but fidelity. When God remembers our dusty creatureliness, it evokes in God fidelity and compassion. God’s loyal covenant love is the counterpoint to our dust.

The God who Conquers Chaos

In Genesis 1:1 we are introduced to the Creator. In Genesis 1:2 we are introduced to the Conqueror. This verse tells of a chaotic mass without form that is void of any content or shape. It is a dark chaos. This is the context of creation. It is into this mass that God commands light. It is out of this shapelessness that he brings structure. It is from the void that he brings forth an inhabitable home. He dominates the chaos. He conquers it and transforms it into something functional, even beautiful. The first few sentences of the entire storyline of Scripture introduce us to a God who engages and wins over chaos.

Creation faith recognizes that the Creator is the Conqueror. It recognizes the capacity of the Almighty in the face of any and every form of chaos. Walter Brueggemann has a helpful section about this in his Theology of the Old Testament. He says, “creation faith is the summons and invitation to trust [the Creator] in the face of day-to-day, palpable incursions of chaos. The testimony of Israel pushes toward a verdict that [the Creator] can be trusted in the midst of any chaos, even that of exile and finally that of death.” The practical implications of Genesis 1:2 are far reaching for believers. The God we serve is no stranger to chaos. He has entered it more than once and demonstrated his sovereignty over it. For his own, he will continue to enter it and engage it. We can be confident that choas will not have the final say.

The Gospel in Genesis (Part 3)

Genesis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Luther’s Commentary
“I earnestly entreat you therefore with all the persuasion in my power, to set the highest value possible upon the doctrine of the Gospel. For what do we see in this history of Moses that Adam and Eve suffered when their sin was before them, and this knowledge of the promise of grace and of pardon was out of their sight? The very same do we also see in the ****ation of Satan; for as he is destitute of the promise of grace he is not able to cease from his sins, nor from his hatred of God, nor from his blasphemies against him. Hence it is that the condition of Adam was so different from that of Satan, and so much better and more blessed. For Adam was called to judgment that he might acknowledge his sin, that being terrified by his sins he might afterwards be lifted up again and comforted by the promise of the remission of his sins; as we shall now further see in this most beautiful part of the sacred history of Moses, in which we shall also find the preaching of Christ.”
“For as the issue of this whole transaction sets forth the very great goodness and mercy of God toward man, seeing that God calls him back to the remission of sins and to eternal life through the Seed that was to come; so also these very beginnings of this divine mercy, if we view them aright, are much better and greater than Adam deserved at God’s hand. For we have not here a display of that terrible majesty of God, which was witnessed on Mount Sinai, where there were thunderings and lightnings mingled with the loud soundings of trumpets. Here God approaches with the soft sound of the gentle breeze, signifying that he came in this case to seize with the tender hand of an affectionate Father. He does not drive Adam from him on account of his sin, but calls him away from his sin to himself.”
“This fatherly care however Adam, overwhelmed with his sin and its terrors, does not at first understand or perceive; he does not consider how differently God deals with him than with the serpent. For he did not call the serpent to him. He did not ask the serpent why he had sinned, in order that he might call him from his sin unto repentance. He charges the serpent with his sin, and pronounces his doom. These things show us that Christ our deliverer interposed himself even then, between God and man as a mediator. For it was the greatest display of grace, that even after the sin of Adam God was not silent, but spoke; and that too in many and plain words, with the intent of showing forth evidences of his fatherly mind toward sinners. His carriage towards the serpent was altogether different. Wherefore although the promise concerning Christ was not yet given, it may be plainly discerned in the thoughts and counsel of God on this occasion.”
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 5201-5222).

The Gospel in Genesis (Part 2)

Genesis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Luther’s Commentary
“As if God had said, Thou, Satan, by means of the woman didst attack and seduce the man that thou mightest by means of sin be the head and lord over them. I therefore in like manner will execute my secret purposes against thee by means of the very same instrument. I will take hold of the woman, and by her I will produce a Seed; and that Seed shall bruise thy head. Thou by means of sin didst corrupt and make subject to death the flesh of the human nature. I will produce from that same flesh such a man, who shall crush and utterly defeat both thee and all thy powers.”
“By these divine words therefore both the promise and the threat were expressed with the most perfect plainness. And yet they were most obscure. For they left the devil in such a state of doubt and suspense that he held under suspicion all the women which brought forth from that time, fearing lest they should give birth to this Seed; though one woman only was designed to be the mother of this blessed offspring. Therefore as the divine threatening was expressed in a general term, ‘her Seed,’ Satan was so mocked thereby that he feared this Seed from every woman who brought forth. In the same proportion, on the other hand, the faith of all mankind was confirmed. For, from the hour in which the divine promise was made, all men expected that promised Seed, and comforted themselves against Satan.” 
“This hatred and this fury of Satan are the effects produced on him, which the Lord here predicts, when he warns the serpent of the enmity which he had put between his seed and the Seed of the woman. For Satan primarily sought this Seed of the woman with hostile hatred, through all the peoples, families and lines throughout the whole world. When the promise was transferred to Abraham and restricted to his posterity, we see from history by what various means Satan attempted to hinder its fulfilment. And when this glorious promise was further transferred to the line of Judah and restricted to that tribe, we behold with what horrible calamities it was oppressed and agitated, until at length it seemed to be wholly subverted and eradicated.”
“Satan did not cease from his cruelty, hatred and enmity against the Seed of the woman. While the Son lay in the cradle Satan sought him out by the instrumentality of Herod. So that the new-born Christ was compelled to live among the Gentiles in Egypt. After this also, Satan adopted and tried all possible means to destroy him, until finding him and seizing him, he threw him into the hands of the Jews and nailed him to the cross. No! nor could his inexhaustible hatred be satisfied even then. He feared him even as he lay in the tomb, so desperate was the enmity which was ‘put’ between him and the Son of God!”
“This text therefore contains that glorious promise which revived Adam and Eve and raised them again from death unto that life, which they had lost by their sin; though the life to which they were thus raised again was rather a life hoped for than a life possessed; as Paul also frequently speaks when he uses the language, ‘we die daily.’ For although we do not wish to call the life which we live here death, yet it is in truth nothing more or less than a continual living on to death.” 
“Under the divine mind and promise, declared in this text therefore, is included redemption from the law, from sin and from death. And by the same text is set forth the plain and certain hope of resurrection from the dead, and of being called into another life after the present. For if the ‘head’ of the serpent is to be destroyed, most certainly death is to be destroyed also; and if death is to be destroyed, with equal certainty that which deserveth death, namely, sin, is also to be abolished. And if sin is to be abolished, so also is the law; and not only so, but that obedience which was lost is to be restored. And as all these things are promised through this Seed of the woman, it is perfectly manifest, as a natural consequence, that human nature since the fall can neither take away sin by any powers of its own nor escape death, the just punishment of sin, nor regain the obedience to God, which it has lost by the sin of the fall. For all these things require a greater power, a mightier strength than is possessed by man.”
“Hence it was absolutely necessary that the Son of God should become a victim or sacrifice for us, that by the offering of himself he might accomplish all these things for us; that he might take away sin, swallow up death and restore unto us the obedience which we had lost. All these treasures therefore we do possess in Christ, but in hope. Thus Adam, and thus Eve, lived and conquered by this hope. And in the same manner all believers live and conquer, by the same hope, and will so live and conquer until the last day. Death is indeed a horrible and invincible tyrant; but the divine power thus makes that, which is in all things horrible, nothing; just as the same power of God made out of that which was nothing all things.”
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 5524-5630).

The Gospel in Genesis (Part 1)

Genesis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Luther’s Commentary
“It is on Satan that this sentence is pronounced, as his final judgment. It is Satan that is here placed before God’s tribunal. For God here speaks to the serpent in far different language from that which he used toward Adam and Eve, when he called them back in love from their sin. His language then was, ‘Where art thou?’ ‘Who told thee that thou wast naked?’ All these particulars indicate the love of God towards the whole human race; showing forth that God will seek after man and will call him back after he has sinned, that he may reason with him and hear what he has to say…in these same words of his judgment, there is set before the godly their strong consolation…for out of these very words of God to Satan, there begin to shine forth grace and mercy; yea, out of the very midst of that anger, which sin and disobedience had so righteously kindled. It is here in the very midst of the heaviest threatenings, that the mind of the Father discloses itself; of a Father, not so angry as to cast away his Son, but holding out salvation, yea, promising victory over that enemy, who had thus deceived and conquered human nature.” 
“For though both had sinned in the fall, Satan especially, and man through Satan, yet the judgments now pronounced upon Satan and upon man are widely different. God does not join them together in one and the same punishment, as he might righteously have done. He makes the widest distinction between them. For although he is angry with man also, who obeyed the enemy of God, disregarding God himself, yet the divine indignation against Satan is by far the greater. Satan, God plainly convicts and condemns in the sight of Adam and Eve, so that Adam and Eve, from this very condemnation of their enemy, might have a little time to recover their breath; and might feel how much more blessed their condition was than that of Satan. The first part of the great consolation here graciously given lies in this: that the serpent was accused and cursed and together with the serpent Satan also, for Adam and Eve’s sake. Not so much for Satan’s judgment and condemnation, as for Adam and Eve’s comfort and salvation.” 
“Wherefore, by this judgment of Satan that sun of consolation, which had been just before hidden as it wore behind the darkness of certain heavy clouds, now rises above those clouds and shines with its most heavenly light on the affrighted hearts of Adam and Eve. For they not only do not hear themselves cursed, as the serpent was, but they hear God declare, that he has put them into the ranks of a constituted army against their condemned foe; and that too with the hope of an almighty help, which the Son of God the Seed of the woman should bring unto them. By this therefore the remission of their sins and their full reception into grace were plainly revealed to Adam and Eve; who were thus perfectly freed from their sin and guilt, redeemed from death, and delivered from **** and from all those terrors under which they were utterly sinking in the sight of God.” 
“This first great consolation therefore our first parents and their posterity searched into and learned with all diligence, as being the original fountain and the fountain head as it were of all the promises. It was in this manner therefore that Adam and Eve understood this text and comforted themselves against sin and despair by the revealed hope of this future crushing of the serpent’s head, by Christ, the Seed of the woman. And through this, their hope in the promise thus given unto them, they shall also rise again at the last day unto life eternal.”
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 5346-5484).

The Compounding of Sin

Genesis 3:12

“The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.'”

Luther’s Commentary
“Only mark the true colors, the essential evil and real nature of sin. It is depicted in this excuse of Adam. It shows that a man can in no way be brought to an open confession of his sin, but that he will deny his sin or excuse it as long as he can  find that there is any hope or any probable ground of excuse left him…It is a well known rule, taught in the schools of legal and civil orators, that when a charge of crime is brought against the defendant, the act should either be denied totally or defended as having been done rightly. Adam here does both. He first of all denies his sin altogether and asserts that his terror arose, not from his sin, but from the voice of the Lord. And then when so far convinced of his sin in what he has done he attempts to defend the act, as having been done rightly and unavoidably. ‘If,’ says he to the Lord, ‘thou hadst not given me this woman, I should not have eaten the fruit.’ Thus he further lays all the blame of what he had done on God himself, and positively accuses him as being after all the real cause of his sin. Wherefore there is no end to a man’s sinning, when he has once turned aside from the Word.”
“Hence we see Adam and Eve so deeply fallen and sunk under sin, that they could not sink any lower. For upon their unbelief followed the disobedience of all the powers and all the members in man. Upon this disobedience, immediately afterwards, followed the excuse and defense of their sin. This defense was next followed by an accusation and condemnation of their God. This is sin’s last step, to reproach God himself and to make him the author of sin. This nature of ours can ascend no higher than this in its sin against God. And these are the onward steps of sin, unless the minds of fallen sinners are lifted up by a confidence in God’s mercy.”
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 5114-5181).

Fleeing from God and to God

Genesis 3:9-10

“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.'”

Luther’s Commentary
“Here we have a description of the judgment of God. When Adam, terrified by the consciousness of his sin, fled from the presence and sight of God he found not only paradise, but the whole world too narrow in which to find a corner where to hide himself from God in safety. But all his anxiety makes manifest the folly of his mind in seeking a remedy for his sin by fleeing from his God. But he had fled from him much too far already. For his very sin was, that he, departing from God at the first, needed not therefore to flee farther from him still. But so it is. That is the very nature of sin, the farther a man departs from God, the farther he wants to depart. And thus the man who has once departed and apostatized from God, goes on departing and departing to all eternity. Hence it is truly said concerning the punishments of hell, that its greatest punishment is that the wicked there are always wishing to flee from God, but feel that flee they cannot. Just in the same manner Adam, though found out and apprehended of God, yet ceases not to attempt to flee out of his hands.”
“The words, ‘Where art thou?’ are the words of the law, spoken by God and reaching unto the conscience of Adam. For although all things are naked and open unto the eyes of God, as it is written, Heb. 4:13, yet he speaks unto our sense, feeling and understanding; for he sees us aiming at the one thing of fleeing away from him and attempting our escape from his sight and presence. When therefore God says, ‘Where art thou?’  it is as if he had said, ‘Thinkest thou that I see thee not?’ For he will have Adam to see and feel that though hidden he is not hidden from God. And that though he flees from God, from God he cannot flee. For this is the very nature of all sin; it causes us to attempt to flee from the wrath of God, from which wrath we find it impossible to flee. It is indeed the utmost folly to think that we shall find a remedy in fleeing from God, rather than in returning to him.”
“As it was the utmost folly that Adam fled from God, so in the utmost folly he answers him, so utterly deprived by sin is he of all wisdom and counsel. He now really wishes to teach God that he is naked, who had himself created him naked. Thus does he wholly confound himself, and betray and condemn himself out of his mouth. He confesses that he heard the voice of Jehovah and was afraid. And had he not also heard the voice of Jehovah before, when Jehovah forbade him to eat the fruit of that tree? Why did he not then fear also? Why did he not then also hide himself? How was it that then he stood with uplifted countenance and with joy before him, rejoicing in his presence and delighting to hear him speak? Now he trembles at the sound of a shaking leaf! It is at least evident that he is no longer the same Adam he then was; he is totally changed, and become quite another man; he now looks about for a lie and a false cause for his defense. For how can it be true, that ‘the voice of Jehovah is the real cause of his fear,’ when before he feared not that divine voice, but heard it as the voice of his God with happiness and joy?”
“Learn then from this solemn history that perverseness and folly ever accompany sin, that transgressors by all their excuses only accuse themselves, and that the more they defend the more they betray themselves, especially before God! For as that nakedness was the creation of God, why should he the creature be ashamed of that which God had made! He then walked in all his nakedness in the sight of God and of the whole creation in paradise, perfectly secure and happy that such was the will of God and delighting in God on that very account. But now he is covered with shame, because he is naked and flees from God and hides from him on that account. Every one of these things is an argument by which Adam condemns himself, and betrays his present state of sin. He flees from God when he calls him, which was itself the very essence of sin, even as it is the very essence of righteousness to flee unto God as a refuge.” 
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 5013-5070).