Earth and Breath

Genesis 2:4-7
When I was young, and I wasn’t excessively careful about my hygiene, my mother would yell at me, “You have bad breath!” Then I would go brush my teeth, come back, and she would repeat, “You have bad breath!” I think I just had chronic bad breath. Of course, I could never smell it myself, and my mother has an extremely sensitive sense of smell. However, undoubtedly, you could say that I had a lot of bad breath growing up. Well today we are going to look at Someone who has such good breath that life comes from it.

Verse 4 tells us that a new story is about to unfold. The telltale word, “account” is a mile-marker in the book of Genesis to tell you that Moses’ new chapter is about to begin. It is also a verse that links the previous chapter with the following chapter. Notice the way that Moses switches from the order “heaven and earth” in verse 4, the first part, to “earth and heaven” in the second part of verse 4. This tells us that the focus is now going to be on mankind on the earth.

One question must be addressed before we go on. In chapter one, Moses uses the word “Elohim” to describe the mighty creator God. In chapter two, in this verse, notice that Moses changes the title of God slightly to include the name “Yahweh,” which is translated in small capital letters as “Lord.” Liberal theologians have come to the conclusion that because of the different names for God in chapter one as opposed to chapter two, that therefore the two chapters must have been written by different people. This argument would never even have found soil to grow in, had it not been for the fact that liberal authors wanted to do anything to attack the idea that Moses wrote all of Genesis. You see, if you say that Moses did not write Genesis, then you can call Jesus a liar, and so discredit him, along with the rest of the Bible, which ascribes most of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to Moses. But the argument based on the different names falls to the ground once we realize that there are two iron-shod objections to it: first, the word used for God in chapter one is used immediately after Yahweh in chapter two. Second, the change in the way Moses refers to God has a very good reason. Yahweh is the name for God when one is talking about God’s relationship to His people. That is, we call it the covenant name for God. Elohim is the name used to talk about God in relationship to the entire creation. So what Moses wants to say is that the God who created Adam and Eve, planted the Garden of Eden, and put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the very same God who created heaven and earth. If chapter one talks about the entire creation, chapter two narrows the focus on to the creation of mankind. So there is no reason to assume a different authorship of these two chapters. Those of you who have sons and daughters in college might wish to remember this, as the argument still gets around on college campuses.

Now we come to a two-fold problem. Moses wants to explain why it is that there was no shrub or plant of the field on the earth at that time. Now here we face another preliminary problem. Genesis one says that the order of creation was plants before mankind. Now here it seems to reverse that and say that mankind was created before plants. Well, this verse does not say that there were absolutely no plants on the earth when mankind was created. Notice that it says “shrubs of the field” and “plants of the field.” The shrub of the field indicates a certain type of wild shrub that needs rain, and that grows in desert regions. It is a specific kind of shrub. The plant of the field indicates cultivated crops. So other types of vegetation, including trees, wild flowers, wild vines and so on were in existence.

So the two-fold problem is that there was no rain, and there was no one to work the ground. These two problems are what God is going to fix. In verse 6, God fixes the problem of the lack of water, and in verse 7, God fixes the problem of the lack of someone to work the ground. Notice that the NIV places a dash right before verse 5, and again right before verse 7. I agree with the placement of the dash before verse 5. However, the dash right before verse 7 is misplaced. It might give you the impression that the streams coming up and watering the ground were part of the problem. Actually, verse 6 is the solution to the lack of water problem. It should read, “God caused rain-clouds (not streams) to come up and water the whole surface of the ground.” Voila! Water!

Most farmers are aware that their crops need water in order to grow and survive, and produce a crop. Sometimes, however, it is easy to forget that it is, in fact, God who makes the weather. The weatherman will not tell you, “God is bringing in a cold front here, pushing out the high pressure region, and bringing in snow.” Most weatherman will give you the impression that the weather simply comes and goes, completely at random. Don’t you believe a word of it. Next time you tell someone about the weather, you might try saying that God is bringing in a cold front, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him!

Then in verse 7, God forms man from the dust of the earth. It is vitally important to realize what Moses is doing here. The word for “man” is actually the name “Adam.” The word for earth is the noun “Adamah.” Moses is emphasizing that man came from the earth. You might translate it this way, “the Lord God formed the earthling out of the earth.” We come from the dust of the earth. Calvin said it so eloquently, “He must be excessively stupid who does not hence learn humility.” We come from the dust. Who do we think we are, when we are proud, arrogant, and wanting to take God off his throne and put ourselves there instead?

Now, lest we think we are nothing but dirt, Moses gives us the flip-side. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. For no other creature did God do this. No other creature had breath poured into him by God himself. This scene is rather close, like a family showing affection one to another. God loves His creature man, and gave Him this wonderful gift of life. Life comes from God. That is something we learn here. It does not come from us. It comes from God.

This is vital to remember, because just as we receive life from God, we also receive new life from God. In John 20:22, Jesus breathes on His disciples, and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” No longer were they dead with regard to the power that Jesus had. Now they would have the same power that Jesus had, because they would have the Holy Spirit. When God turns your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, He breathes the Holy Spirit into your life, and you become a living soul. Your soul lives that was dead before. So becoming alive in Christ takes no less power than the power required to breathe into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life.

This new life is possible because God raised Jesus from the dead. It says in Romans 1 that Jesus was, through the Holy Spirit, declared to be the Son of God in power. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us that Jesus became life-giving Spirit. We should understand that to be the Holy Spirit. He gained the Holy Spirit as reward for His labor on earth. It is that which He gives to us when we become regenerate. From this it therefore follows that we can no more choose to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit than Adam could have chosen to get up from where he lay after God had formed his body.

We must give God the glory for our salvation. There is always a tendency among mankind to take the glory for salvation for ourselves. God will not allow this. The glory for our salvation lies with God alone.

However, at the same time there is also the call to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. You must believe in Him. He is the only one who can give you the Holy Spirit. There is life in Him alone. You must have the good breath.
There are many things with which people like to fill their lives. They have a sense of emptiness in their lives. They hunt for satisfaction, fulfillment in their jobs, or in money, or in pleasure, or in relationships with other people. None of these can satisfy, because we have a God-shaped hole in our lives. Only God can fill it. And God fills that hole with His Holy Spirit.

But sometimes we forget, don’t we, that the Holy Spirit is in our lives. Are we not tempted to lie to the Holy Spirit? We say to Him, “I am now holy. I have achieved that for which you have called me. I have now arrived.” Arrival does not take place until heaven. Then your soul goes to be with the Lord. And when the Resurrection comes, then and only then, will your body be a truly holy body. Then the Holy Spirit will breathe once again into the body resting in the grave, and the body will come together again, sinew by sinew, ligament by ligament, like the bones in Ezekiel.

We are not there yet, but we have that to look forward to. We will no longer eat poorly, so as to have bad breath. Bad breath will no longer be possible. The Holy Spirit will be the sole occupants of our bodies, and we will dwell with the Lord forever.