Dust is not just a dirty word. In the ancient Middle East dust was understood to be soil pulverized into a fine dry powder. The American dust bowl of the 1930s was literally just that; soil dried to fine powder and pulverized by the dry wind through the years of drought. Dust of the soil has a composition. Though its mineral and clay composition may vary, it has unique properties. When dust is dry it is a nuisance to house keeping. It has a sticky composition due to static charges and tends to cling to literally everything. When wet it is has plastic properties and even conducts electricity well. The properties of clay allow dust to be molded to form objects and when fired, to hold form.
God has uses for dust.
In the beginning God formed man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). “7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of
the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” I believe God literally formed the body of the first man from the dust of the ground. He must have dampened it, molded it, shaped it, and he did this after his own image and his own likeness. And then He breathed through the nostrils of the clay image his breath and man became a living being. In the day of his sin the man was told he would die and his body would return to the dust from where it came (Genesis 3:19). We could go into the features of the human body that differ from God’s form. He is a spiritual being not one of dust but he has been known to take a physical form. He does not reproduce to create a race like himself. He chose mankind to be His heirs to eternal life. He has no need of stomach or gut for he is not made of flesh.
Another time when God used dust, he did so to silence the pathological hypocrisy of the religious leadership of his day. In order to lure Jesus into a legal trap, the experts in the Law of Moses and the teachers of the law brought a women who had been caught in the act of adultery. John 8:1-11
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone to death such women. What then do you say?” 6 (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.
9 Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up straight and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Under Roman rule Jews could not use the death penalty. Roman law was the only means of such condemnation. Under the Law of Moses, one caught in adultery was stoned to death. The law said both the man and the women were to be put to death. Moses’ law reads this way: Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” I sometimes wonder what Jesus wrote in the dust of the ground. Did he write, “Where is the man?” Did he write this legal verse in the dust? These teachers of the Law had no interest in justice. Jesus let the dust speak for him.
Standing up he said, “Whoever of you is guiltless (without sin), let him cast the first stone.” Then he went back to writing in the dust. As her accusers considered the answer Jesus gave, one by one, STARTING WITH THE OLDEST, left the scene. Maybe older people seem to be more aware of their own shortcomings a little quicker than younger people. Or maybe older people quickly realized that Jesus supported the law with all his heart. If this was so it meant they were all guilty of the death penalty for “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus saved the woman’s life, or was it the message in the dust?
On another occasion Jesus sent our 72 of his disciples to preach to the cities surrounding Jerusalem of the coming Kingdom of God. He told them, “9 Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you!’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: The kingdom of God has come.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town!” Luke 10:9-12.
The people who cared so little that the Messiah had come doomed to the destruction about to rain down on them. For 4000 years the promises God had made to the first couple lay waiting to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They were about to come true but the Jews cared nothing for the times or this Savior. “Say to them, even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off as witness against your stubborn godless attitude.” Within the next 40 years the entire Nation of the Jews was destroyed by fire. From the surrounding cities to the capital of Jerusalem and the temple itself (Matthew 24) all was burnt and pulverized to the ground. Not one stone that held up their holy temple lay upon another by the end of the siege in 70 A.D. Over a million Jewish people lay dead behind the walls of city of Jerusalem; during the last days of the age of Moses. Over a million more were sold for pennies into African slavery. Countless others where slain by the sword, nailed to crosses or paraded back to Rome as spectacles of Roman victory. In the years to follow the ancient Roman Colosseum would be built by Jewish slave labor. The dust kicked off the feet of those early followers spoke volumes against the Jewish rejection of their King. Some of the saddest words in the bible were recorded in the Gospel of John: “He came to his own and his own received him not.”
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I was starting to like dust. Now it is a fearful omen. Yet the God of dust was not finished using dust to teach lessons. In Jesus God had to re-introduce Himself even to his chosen people. How would they recognize the God who promised Abraham children in his old age? How would they know He was near who had made the son of David the Son of God? What sign would jar their memory of a God that every Jewish child was taught brings light out of darkness and the dead to life? What if God returned to Genesis? What if he took the dust of the earth and repaired the man of dust? Would they not then recognize Him then?
John 9:1-11 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 8 The neighbors therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? 9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. 13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14 And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he kept not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now sees, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. 24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he is a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? How opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he hears. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou were altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talks with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him. 39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remains.
How is it that they did not see Him? Only this lone blind man could see Him. He was certain that the dust that Jesus placed on his eyes has made him to see. This man, the Son, the Messiah had made him to see? The religious leaders did not care for the blind man. They did not care for the miracle. They had turned the Law of Moses inside out thinking man was made for the law. God had given the Law to Moses only for the good of man, not for evil.
Are we blind also? If we will not hear Jesus, will we let the dust speak? By this miracle God’s people should have recognized Him. How are the blind so very blind?
We are all just dust. It is the potter that divides and discerns who has faith and who is faithless and this time by the effects of dust. And in the end “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” Romans 9:20-22. What else must the creator God do with dust to convince us of his power, his care, his wrath, his knowledge of the good and evil?
God is indeed the God of Dust. He is the God of us and that should make us awestruck!