My understanding of the Bible is it is all about relationships: God’ relationship with creation, God’s relationship with human beings, and human beings’ relationship with each other. During my recent journeys through the scriptures, a theme emerged that I hadn’t noticed before. Throughout scripture, the relationships are seen through twin perspectives – what is above and what is below, what is outside and what is inside, what is on the surface and what is deep.
We see these two-fold views at the beginning of the Bible. As it turns out, God’s creating was operating on two different levels – one that is physical and the other that is spiritual. To get both going, God did some hovering and did the most remarkable thing:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3 NIV)
With the lights lit, God’s spirit got busy. The next 22 verses we see God’s creation of the physical universe according to an unseen natural order. Then God’s spirit shifts gears and creates human beings with a different unseen order operating inside:
“Let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness…”. (Genesis 1:26 KJV)
The word “Spirit” in Genesis 1:2 is translated from the Hebrew word ruach, which also means wind or breath. In the second chapter of Genesis, we get more details about God’s wind:
“…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7 Etz Hayim)
Here we feel the powerful, unseen movement of God’s creating within the human being. God’s wind becomes God’s breath (neshama in Hebrew) and that breath finds its home inside the human being.
God’s breath brings more than life. In the Book of Job, we read:
“But it is the spirit in a person, the breath (neshama) of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.” (Job 32:8 NIV)
Proverbs connects God’s breath with light:
“The life-breath of man is the lamp of the LORD revealing all his inmost parts. (Proverbs 20:27 Jewish Study Bible)
Putting this together, we could make our own midrash of Genesis 2:7 that brings to bear all these details about God’s breath:
“…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life – bringing with it His spirit, His understanding, and His light – and man became a living being.”
God is built in. We are all born with it. I think this is what is meant when God says in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness…”
“Image” is the outside part. Even though every human face is different, all are made in the image of God. The Talmud says this indicates something special about God. When coins are minted, they are stamped with the same seal and all look alike. But when God stamps each person with the seal of the divine image, they all come out different. This brought back a conversation I had with Ma when she said everyone has their own unique relationship with God.
“Likeness” is the inside part and it is the same in each of us, an unseen spiritual order containing the breath, spirit, understanding, and light of God. I have wondered how we could connect with something so big and unknowable as God. I think the answer is we can connect with God because we’re made in God’s likeness. Like knows like and deep knows deep.
Prayer: Eternal God, help me leave myself behind, be light as a feather, and go where your wind takes me. Help me to be a blessing to everyone I meet. Amen.