Dignity and Dust

(Posted by Dr. Beeke) 

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…. 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 1:27; 2:7


The two complementary accounts of man’s creation in Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:7 are necessary for a biblical understanding of who man is. The first account tells us that we were made in the image of God. That is our uniqueness. The second tells us that we were made from the dust of the ground.

Thus, combined in us is the infinite lowliness of being made of the dust of the earth and the infinite dignity of being made in the image of God. We were created of both dust and glory. If we forget or ignore either aspect, we will fail to understand how God made us.

Man, as theologians often point out, has always been his own greatest problem. His first great cry, “Who am I?” is the search for identity. His second great cry, “What am I here for?” is his search for significance. The biblical answer is that man is both dust and glory.

Dust speaks of lowliness. In Psalm 103:14b we read, “He remembers that we are dust.” That should remind us of our lowly origins. God said after man’s fall in Eden, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen 3:19b). Dust speaks of our frailty and finiteness, and the fact that we are not like God, who is eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent. When Abraham came into the presence of God, he acknowledged his finiteness by saying, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). 

Dust and glory must be kept in balance. If we forget that we are dust, we will ignore or minimize our finiteness and our absolute dependence upon God, who personally breathed into our nostrils the very breath of life (Gen. 2:7). But if we forget the other truth, that we are made in the glorious image of God, we will be content to live as the animals, and we will miss our eternal destiny. If we believe that we are nothing but dust, we will lose the glory that distinguishes us as the crown of creation. 


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