As a farmer I deal with a lot of dead things. It is not my favorite part of the job when I get to the farm in the morning and see the tell-tale ball of feathers signaling the death of a chicken or the committee of vultures that might mean a goat has been killed. I am not a butcher, and I take no joy in the death of animals or in killing them even when it’s necessary. I will not hesitate to kill when the job needs doing, but I much prefer husbandry of living animals. Keeping them alive is the art I try to master, but nothing stays alive forever and death plays a deep part in the art of living. Dead animals, dead leaves, dead roots, and all the other dead and decomposing things in the soil are what provide the food for the microbes, bacteria, and fungi who create the living soil that produces good crops. We need the dead because without it we cannot keep on living. In this way, dead things are also my favorite part of farming because I enjoy the process of redemption wherein we take dead things and we make life as co-creators with Christ.
You see, Christ is the artist of all artists when it comes to taking something dead and bringing it to life. Ezekiel 37 comes to mind when God shows Ezekiel a vision in the desert of dry dead bones being brought back to life as the living flesh and bodies of an innumerable army. Just before this God tells Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). When Adam sinned all of creation fell, and our hearts of flesh died and turned to stone. Our God of redemption was not done, though. He knew we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins” but He “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1 & 5). In fact, our redemption and new life in Christ was only made possible through His death on the cross. But we all know this, right? I doubt I am telling you anything new or showing you any verses you have not already read. Our God is a God of redemption, which should never cease to amaze us, but it also should not surprise us.
The other day something about this did surprise me. I know God is a God of redemption, but I thought He only needed to redeem because we were dead, because the world is dead, because when Adam fell everything fell with Him and now needs redemption. That is true, and a hearty “Amen” to it. I am certainly no stranger to my need or the world’s need for redemption. Yet, it was not the Fall of man that spurred God’s redemptive work. God was already in the business of redeeming before sin ever entered the equation. Look at Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Before sin, before man even existed to sin, God took dust and redeemed it to make a living human being. Think about it. God could have created man from anything or He could have just created Him out of nothing. Both options were equally within His omnipotent ability, but He chose to create man from dust. Why? Because God is a God of redemption from the core of who He is, always has been, and always will be, an eternally redemptive God. He did not have to change at all to deal with the Fall. He already delighted in taking something dead and devoid of life and making it living, well before sin entered the heart of man.
I think maybe the devil missed this. The devil thought, “Shoot, if I can get man to fall and become dirty and sinful then good-ole pretty clean God up there won’t know what to do with him.” But God is a dirty God! He loves dirt. He loves working in the dust and the dirt to create life where no one else could see even the possibility of life. Redeeming dirt is what God is about. When Man fell and the devil thought he had beaten God I bet Jesus must have just started to chuckle. Just more mud to play in for the redemptive hand of God. God was ready to do the dirty work of redemption. He made dirt to be redeemed. Redemption was always part of the plan. From the very beginning when God created us He did not just create us from the dirt. He created us from dust, the very least of dirt. As dead as dead gets is where God decided to start, so when we died in our transgressions and sins God knew exactly what to do with us. Redeem. Restore. Repeat. Just remember, you cannot get too dirty for God. His very eternal nature desires to turn your dirt to life. You, and a lot of things in your life will have to die, but God wants to make you alive.