When Yahweh God formed the first man from the dust of the earth, he called his name, “Adam,” which in Hebrew means, “dirt.” In other words, Adam was called what he was, dirt or clay.
In order to form something out of dirt, water must be added. Then the dirt can be shaped and formed into a particular shape. Dry dust cannot be formed into anything. Thus the formation of Adam from dust implies that the waters of baptism must be applied so that his dust can be fashioned into a new form or shape.
The first test Adam endured in the garden was the test of finding a helpmate. The Lord brought animals to Adam to teach him about life, and after this time of instruction, Adam was wise enough to know that his proper helpmate was not found among those that The Lord brought to him. Adam exhibited faith and reliance on God in trusting that although there was not found for him a helper, the Lord would provide.
Then the Lord caused a deep sleep to come over Adam. Actually, this deep sleep was more like death than any sleep you or I experience. Basically, the Lord put Adam, Clay Man, to death in order to produce something entirely new. Then, after the Clay Man is resurrected, he rejoices to finally find his helpmate. For the first time, man is called ish and woman ishah. What is the significance of the change of name from adama to ish?
The word ish is very similar to the Hebrew word for “fire.” Thus what seems is happening is that the Clay Man has been put to death and resurrected as a Fire Man. As theologian James Jordan put it, “dirt clod,” has become “flambeau.”
What’s the significance of being Mr. and Mrs. Fire? Well, fire is more glorious than dirt, for starters. Woman was never subjected to that original Clay Man state. Woman is the glorified version of man. Every man who reads this will nod his head in agreement.
But there’s more to it than this. Leviticus 21:6 describes part of the role of priests. There it says:
They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. (Leviticus 21:6 ESV)
On the surface there’s not very much interesting here. However if we look a little deeper we will discover something about this new Fire Man. This verse is describing offerings or sacrifices (sacrifice is Latin for a holy offering: the shedding of blood is not necessarily implied) that are brought near and become food for God. The Hebrew for the phrase “food offerings,” reads literally, “fire offerings,” and the word used there is ish. (I must give credit to Jeff Meyers for pointing this out in his excellent exposition of Ecclesiastes entitled A Table in the Mist)
Ish, there it is again. This is the same word used to describe Adam in Genesis 2:23. So the gifts brought near to God are transformed by fire so that they become food for God. What then is the connection between these fire offerings and us as Fire Men: Flambeaux and Flambelles?
If one studies the liturgical theology of the Old Testament, especially with regard to how that is changed and made new after the victory of Christ in the New Testament, we find that the sacrifices of the Old Testament represent people. Thus when the “fire offering” was offered on the fire and became food for God, it represented the worshiper being offered on the fire and becoming food for God. (If you would like to learn more about this liturgical theology see my Sunday School series here.)
Thus what we have here is that when we come to worship, we come as Clay Men. First we put to death the sinful Adam by confessing and repenting of our sins. Then through the progression of worship we are cut up by the word of God and made ready to be living sacrifices (Rom 12:1, Hebrews 4:12). Then after we are made ready, we become Fire Men, we are offered to God to be consumed by his fiery presence in order to be transformed into the bread of life, the body of Christ, in order to become food for God and for each other. Therefore, in worship, we are Fire Men, fire offerings, living sacrifices, pleasing aromas, holy and acceptable to God. In other words, God consumes us, and through this we are incorporated into him.
What then is the result of this? Well we must understand that for the just, the fire of God does not destroy, it refines. When wood and hay and stubble enter the refiner’s fire, they are burned off, yet only the metal remains. Thus in worship, and through the progressive sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit throughout our entire lives, we Clay Men become Fire Men, ultimately to be transformed into Metal Men.
This Metal Man is who we see Jesus portrayed as in the book of Revelation:
and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:13-16 ESV)
Jesus Christ is the first Metal Man. Furthermore, he is the first fruits of the new creation, which means that we are all being transformed into Metal Men and Women through the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit. We are being made into a holy army of, well, Iron Men basically, who are being trained to take the entire world for his kingdom.
So next Sunday, when they begin to take up the offering, remember these things, and understand that a lot more is going on than revenue generation for the church. The offering, especially as it progresses to the Eucharist, is God’s way of ritualizing, and effecting even, this transformation in your life, and in the lives of all believers.