The First Operation

From the series Breathing Life

Time truly seems to begin in that first breath of man. There’s a maternal quality as the Creator introduces each first of newborn mankind.

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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 soul. – Genesis 2:7

If I didn’t know anything about descriptive writing and imagery, I’d still be able to tell this verse is an attention-getter. It explodes in my brain with its appeal to the senses. He “formed man of the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils.” Even the meanings behind the phrases are too deep to capture in one read-through: What really is “the breath of life”? What is “a living soul”? These phrases and words evoke a picture of a life-giving operation the Creator is performing.

Repeating what I said about Genesis 1, I’m not seeing a Creator here who stands back and watches. He is actively involved in the process. I’m given this intimate picture of breathing into the first man’s nostrils the breath of life. In Genesis 2 mankind is the focus. The Creator is going to flesh him out. Literally.

Genesis chapter two introduces the Creator’s name for the first time. It appears first in verse 4, “…in the day that the LORD God made….” In verse 7, the LORD God is the subject actively creating man. Some versions of the Bible insert “Jehovah” for LORD.1 In Hebrew, Jehovah was written in four letters, YHVH. This four-letter word, “the tetragrammaton,” is found more than 6,000 times in the Bible. So it’s clear the Creator wants His people to know His name. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure how to pronounce it because there weren’t vowels in the Hebrew script, and pronunciation was passed down through tradition. God’s name is sometimes pronounced Jehovah, Yehowah, Yahweh, and sometimes shortened to Yah or Jah (as in, Hallelujah). It means, ‘the existing one,’ which depicts His infinite nature. He always existed in the past. He exists now. He will always exist in the future.

The phrase ‘LORD God’ is used exclusively when the Creator is identifying Himself to His people as the cause of some effect. Here He is the cause of the creation of the world and the life of mankind. The ‘God’ in ‘LORD God’ is ‘elohim’ in Hebrew (or elohiym). ‘Elohim’ is the plural form of the Hebrew word ‘god.’ An entity perceived as superior to mankind in power and understanding is called ‘god.’ This Hebrew word is used in the Bible when the writer is speaking of any gods. For example, when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, decides to follow Jehovah, he says, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods (elohim)…” (Exodus 18:11).   So, ‘ Naming Himself “Jehovah God” for us is our Creator’s way of identifying Himself to His people. He is the existing one Who is superior to mankind in power and understanding. Later, the writer of Psalm 83 will pen,

“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” – verse 18

Recap: As a writer, I should focus on the characters, their natures, and their relationships at the beginning of the story.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

  1. Out of respect for His holiness, the letters YHVH were replaced with the letters for Lord (ADNY) in the Hebrew language.

In Transition

First in the series Breathing Life

Phrases at the beginning of Genesis 2 help identify a transition in the narrative. Here’s one of them:

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,… – Genesis 2:4

Generations‘ conveys the meaning of a timeline from beginning to end. The same word/phrase is used in passages that list family genealogies. It tells me the creation account in Genesis 1 is in sequence. And, like reading a family tree, it’s the condensed version! Chapter 1 was the context-setter for chapter 2. It’s like the Star Wars crawl, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way” before the explanation about the civil war going on.

…And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. – Genesis 2:5-6

Not only is the narrative transitioning, this explains how the creation transitioned, as well. No humans were prepping the earth to grow plant life, so the Creator steps in with a mist in the interim to make sure there is moisture and aeration. Until all things were created, the cyclical, cause-and-effect process of life was not complete, so it was helped along supernaturally until the point that it was all present and able to work as the autonomous machine I see today.

I tend to want to believe the laws of nature were always in place, and, yet, I accept that the same laws are breaking down – that this earth is slowing down and tearing down and losing its efficiency. Why is it so much easier for me to accept the earth’s future trajectory than it is to accept the launching Force at the point of origin?alley-ball-bowl

Recap: A prologue is the context-setter for the story.

I’ve read many prologues. Some have no intention of setting the context or telling me what’s going on. Some are confusing and require a great deal of non-linear thinking and patience. The purpose of Genesis 1 is not to frustrate the reader, who is there to receive information. Maybe that’s why it starts at the beginning and goes in sequence.  Maybe the Genesis account aids one in basic critical thinking. A sort of primer.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by Permission.

One Wednesday Night

Realm received a note the other day from a coworker who spent one Wednesday night with us months ago. This coworker—I’ll call him Alexander because I rarely get to call anyone Alexander, and I really like that name… What was I saying? Oh, yeah: So, Alexander doesn’t live here. He lives three states away. Realm, being the type of guy who doesn’t like to see another guy eating fried chicken from the grocery store deli or buying the very fresh and boring sandwich (call it a Panini or what you will, it’s still a sandwich), invited Alexander over to eat at our house.

I didn’t know very much about him when Realm invited him over but that he was from out-of-town and that he was on a diet similar to Realm’s: fresh veggies, low carbs, no sugar. He walked into the kitchen to greet me, and he was very polite. I was very nervous about what I was serving. It was my third week of making low carb dishes. I hoped the honey in my honey-mustard sauce drizzled over the baked ham wouldn’t be too bad of a diet no-no. Then I hoped my ham wasn’t a no-no! There are some religious groups, like Seventh-Day Adventists, who don’t do pork. Basically, I worried my way through the entire meal, even after he complimented me on the food.

That night, when we left the house for Bible study, Alexander rode with us. My kids fought over who would sit by him. I don’t know much about Alexander’s beliefs, but he told Realm afterward that he’d enjoyed the study.

In the weeks that followed, the kids asked repeatedly whether he’d be back to eat with us again. “He should come over on Sunday and eat, too. Then he could go to worship services with us two times!” my daughter said. I think she thought this was an offer that couldn’t be refused. But Alexander had to go back home, and he slipped out of our thoughts for a bit.

Recently, Realm learned Alexander was returning to town. He sent him a message that he should come over again for supper, that the kids had asked about him, and he hoped his work was going well. As it ended up, Alexander’s business trip was canceled. He messaged Realm, and this was one of the things he said about coming to our house that night:

“That will go down in history as one of the highlights in my life.”

Realm showed his message to me and had to explain it because I thought it was a strange joke when I read it. It completely flummoxed me. That night I’d been super nervous about whether my food worked with the diet, while Alexander wasn’t even looking at that. He was seeing our family gathered around a table, talking and laughing. He was watching us put away stuff quickly, grab our Bibles, and pile into the van. He was listening to us carry on various conversations on our way to the church building—little, insignificant thoughts and silly fights, I thought. But they were great big clues because they exposed our closeness, our regular communication, our peace.

THE WAYNE GIPSON FAMILY SAYS A PRAYER BEFORE T...
THE WAYNE GIPSON FAMILY SAYS A PRAYER BEFORE THEIR EVENING MEAL IN THE KITCHEN OF THEIR MODERN HOME NEAR GRUETLI… – NARA – 556611 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t realize sometimes what I have. I didn’t realize it when I was growing up around our family table, where my father sat at the head and we bowed our heads in prayer. The blessing of family comes from God. It is a blessing that is distorted when God is taken out of the center of it. It is a quiet haven that is destroyed when God’s words of kindness, real love, and commitment are ignored.

Alexander is divorced. His kids are almost grown, and he doesn’t get to see them often. There’s a part of him that craves the haven of home. We only have one life. That’s it. Don’t miss the haven. Even if you’ve missed it here, don’t miss the eternal haven with God. Seek Him. Pray to Him. He invites you to His table. Accept His invitation, and He will take you home with Him forever.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
– Luke 15:17-26a

For The Last Man Standing

Story 4 – Stories of the Valiant

When you are at peace with two peoples who are at war, you must choose your side.

He came from the mountain in the plains of Esdraelon, running for his life. He came to me for refuge because of the peace between our families. I left my tent and called to him, “Captain! Come. Come in, and don’t be afraid.”

He entered my dwelling and fell upon his knees, shattered by the chase. He was out of breath, and his eyes darted about in terror. In them I could read what he was thinking: His armies were gone, every man of them killed. He was the last—their captain, he was the last!

I drew a blanket over his huddled figure. He looked up at me with his wild eyes, sunk into his drawn face, and said, “Please…Give me water. I am…so thirsty.”

I could have given him what he requested, but I placed the skin of milk in his hand instead, the cream risen, smooth and silken, to the top. He drank of the milk until his thirst was quenched, and I covered him once more.

I heard it in his sigh: His weakened body was giving way to the lulling effects of the rich cream.

“Guard the door,” he slurred, commanding, “That way if they come seeking me, you will stop them and tell them you haven’t seen me here.”

Sleep claimed him then.

I stood at the entrance as he slept and withdrew a spike that secured the cords of my house. Approaching him softly, my hammer in my right hand, I heard his heavy breathing. Nothing could have pulled him out of that torpor. Nothing.

I drove the tent nail through his temple and into the ground.

“Come,” I called to his enemy, when he came in search of the dead captain. “I will show you the man you’re looking for.”

It was I to whom the LORD sent the last man standing. To me, Jael, was given the honor of taking down Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army and the enemy of God’s people.

Sisera, the captain of the armies of Jabin, king of Hazor, went to Jael, the wife of a Kenite, for refuge. She killed him with a tent nail to his temple after giving him milk to drink when he requested water (Judges 4:15-22).  Deborah, the judge of Israel, prophesied to Barak, the captain of the Israelite army, that the honor of the battle would not go to him–that Sisera would be delivered into the hand of a woman (Judges 4:9). They sang of Jael in Judges 5:24-27, and how she killed Sisera.

Meeting the Commander in Chief

Story 2 – Stories of the Valiant

He stood before me, blocking my view of the city we were to take. I did not know from which direction he’d come, he’d appeared so suddenly. His sword was drawn. The way he held himself spoke of power and authority. He was formidable in every aspect. His very presence might have made me doubt whether I could lead my men forward. But I did not doubt. Perhaps I was given the charge of taking this land for that reason: I’ve never doubted the success of my orders from the top.

I could have gone for him then and there, initiating an attack, but I’m not one to react hastily. I needed to know what I was up against in order to fix on a strategy to defeat his army. So I stepped forward, acknowledging him with a quick lift of my chin, and asked, “Are you allied with us or fighting for the people in the city?”

My muscles tensed when he lowered his eyes to mine. Immediately I wished I had not been the first to speak, though I was sure he had waited for me to do so. I began to wonder whether he was born of royalty. There was something in his manner that made me want to fall on my knees and vow allegiance to him. But I knew I was on the winning side of this war.

The sun’s light flashed across his breastplate and glinted off his shining sword when he answered, “No. I am the captain of the royal army of your Commander-in-Chief come to you.”

Then I did drop to my knees and bowed my head to ground. He was not only from the top, he commanded the most superior army known to man. But why he was come I did not know. So, again, I raised my head with my question, this time with no hint of a challenge. I could hardly lift my eyes to meet his.

“I await your orders, sir.”

His expression changed as he looked down at me. I had the feeling I pleased him–me, the captain of a wandering people.

He commanded, “Take off your shoes. The place you are standing is hallowed.”

My heart stopped short in my chest, but I reacted as a soldier and immediately untied my shoes. I was in the presence of the Commander-in-Chief Himself, come to prepare me for the victory ahead.

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.