Dusty or Not

One of my favorite books of all time, probably in my Top 3, is Thorleif Boman's "Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek." I use it almost like a devotional, reading parts here and there, finding different things in one reading that I never noticed before. He talks about the Hebrew tendency to attach a meaning or attribute to anything physical. "Flesh," "flowers," or "grass" is used to convey weakness, the transitory, or the temporary. The "sun" and the "moon" are signs of God's daily grace and mercy, while "gold" naturally conveys opulence. But the one that usually interests me the most is their use of "dust."

Dust carried with it a very related spectrum of ideas. To show extreme grief, they poured it on their heads. It was equated to death, Sheol, and the grave. When speaking to a superior, it seemed common to refer to oneself as no more than "dust and ashes" to communicate humility and smallness.

And man was created from "dust."

"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground..."

When you think about all the negativity associated with dust, it can put a new light on the creation of mankind. Man was initially made as dust, or of dust. His abiding nature is dust. The narrator of Genesis could not just say we were made of "earth," because "earth" did not carry with it the underlining quality of humility, smallness. As interesting a commentary as the first half of this verse implies, it becomes even richer with the addition of the second half.

"...and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

For the foundational quality of man, God drew from the earth's most insignificant part and turned it into the crown of creation. He gifted this dust with the breath of life, allowing it to become a living being that would rule over the earth. This abiding nature is so essential to man that without access to the Tree of Life, he returns to his humble beginnings. Job says that if God were to remove His Spirit, man would return to the dust.

It's fascinating to me that the Hebrew's saw the only thing really separating us from our base nature is the gift of God's breath of life. And I also see in this perspective man's tendency thorughout his life to try and return to the dust... to insignificance.

If there is an internal struggle going on inside of us, I would define it as our abiding nature of dust warring with God's desire to lift us higher than that. While this contention eventually found a culmination in our history, with God's invasion through Jesus the Christ, the struggle is made on a more minor scale in our daily lives. Every morning we wake up with an automatic tendency to make ourselves insignificant, to spend the day trying to return to our beginnings. And throughout the day God is trying to get us to realize our potential, to turn instead to the spirit of life within us, to make us recognize our significance. To those who wanted more help with this battle, God gave the Holy Spirit through his Christ, allowing us to return to God unscathed in the times we mistakenly choose dust over a crown.

So what can I do today to remind myself that I am meant to be greater than my beginnings? That I am made to be more than my start? That God lifted dusty me up to represent him in creation?

Abraham answers this question for me.

Abraham obeyed God's call to walk with Him. And as a result, Abraham's name was changed to better represent what he would become. And even more interestingly, God used dust to describe Abraham's destiny.

"I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered."

What an intriguing twist God put on dust. With this promise, dust represents a new beginning, a new creation of man, one that was eventually realized in the resurrection of Jesus.

When we choose to walk with God as Abraham did, and we live out our calling to follow God's Spirit of Life instead of our natural tendencies to return to the dust, we are resurrected with Jesus to be a part of the new creation. And we begin to exist as he originally intended us to.

As a creature raised from humble beginnings, entrusted with his spirit of life, to become more.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I loved this! Awesome revelation here, Kyle, totally uplifting.