We’re six days into Creation week. God has issued orders, as a sovereign from his throne, and the universe is running like clockwork.
It’s all good.
But now, on day 6, God changes everything. He comments to himself that he’s about to do something qualitatively different; he’s going to make someone “in our image” (Gen 1.26).
And he rises from his chair.
Why do I say that?
The account in Genesis 1 is tersely straightforward: God makes man in his own image (Gen 1.27), as he had said he would. But Moses, the narrator and cinematographer, has kindly given us a close-up shot of the same scene in the next chapter:
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).
Unfortunately, we’ve become so familiar with these words that their significance escapes us.
This is physical, not verbal, language. God is not speaking Adam into existence; he’s sculpting him, forming him, shaping him, with his hands. He’s “rescue breathing” into him, with his lungs and mouth.
This is shocking language. God is a spirit (John 4.24); he has no hands, lungs, or mouth. What’s this all about?
I’d like to engage in a little biblically informed theological speculation for a moment.
We know that the active agent of creation was the Son (John 1.3; Col 1.16; Heb 1.2). We also know that the Son is the person who later, in God’s eternal plan (Heb 10.5, quoting Ps 40.6-8 LXX), became incarnate, permanently united with a human nature, including a human body, which he retains to this day (Acts 1.11; Col 2.9) and apparently will forever. We’re also fairly confident that Jesus appeared in bodily form repeatedly in the Old Testament, before the incarnation, as the “Angel of YHWH.” In Genesis 18 Abraham has an extended conversation with God, apparently this same “Angel of YHWH,” after sharing a meal with him in his tent—a very physical activity indeed. (Centuries later, Jesus would ask for a piece of fish to eat [Lk 24.41-43], specifically to demonstrate to his disbelieving disciples that he was indeed with them physically.)
So here’s what I imagine.
The Son, Jesus, is the one speaking all things into existence. In embodied form, he rises from his chair and steps to an area of clay. Kneeling, he begins to work the clay with his hands—physical hands—and fashions a body—a recumbent statue—that looks like him. (Isn’t it more appropriate that our body is in the image of the Son’s than that his is in ours?) When the sculpture is complete, he leans back on his heels and surveys his work, not to inspect it for flaws but simply to take joy in it.
But it’s not complete. It’s not human. It’s not alive.
The Son leans over the lifeless form and, placing his lips on the clay mouth, he exhales.
Once? Twice? Several times?
One thing we know. There is none of the desperation that accompanies CPR today: Come on, buddy; breathe for me now. Don’t die on me, man. Breathe for me!
The Son exhales with sovereign authority, and this statue, this clay mass, pinks up. It comes to life.
And there, sitting in the clay, is a living, breathing image of God.