Ten reasons God made the dust
1. For glory
God’s creative wisdom and intricate design are seen in the dust as well as the stars (See ‘Ten reasons God made the stars’ byTommy MacKay,ET November 1999). The dust displays its designer’s glory just as everything else does in this universe (Genesis 1:31).
Studying soil silicate crystals through a microscope reveals God’s handiwork as much as using a radio-telescope does to penetrate the secrets of the Milky Way.
Lord, how thy wonders are displayed
Where’er I turn mine eye!
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky
In an analogous way God has placed each member of the church, however unimportant, into a firmament of grace that shines universally with his glory.
No believer is too insignificant to glorify God. No Christian can infer from a sense of inferiority ‘I am not a member of the body [church]!’ Nor can any say to another ‘I have no need of you!’ (1 Corinthians 12).
2. For good
God made dust on the third day of creation week. The dust is an integral part of the ‘dry land’s’ structure (Genesis 1:9; 2:7).
When dry, it is easily blown about, especially in dust storms. When wet and mixed with vegetation, it sticks to other mineral and organic components to form the soil’s crumb. Without a proper crumb structure, soil has little fertility.
Any child can tell you that a cow eats grass and people eat cows. So it is obvious what happens to animals if the soil’s structure has deteriorated through erosion to the point that it cannot support the growth of the grass.
All human communities depend on a complex array of food webs that rely on lowly dust for their integrity. Atheists may walk proudly across God’s earth, but ultimately even they are dependent on earth’s tiny particles for their most grandiose enterprises!
3. For dependency
God created Adam when he ‘formed man of the dust of the ground’ (Genesis 2:7). Why did the Lord use such unlikely material as Eden’s soil? Was it to impress upon Adam a deep, innate sense of his creature-hood?
Man is vicegerent of creation (Psalm 8) possessing a status only a ‘little less than the angels’, yet he is so constructed that for all his dignity he can never eradicate a sense of dependency.
His atoms never stop singing ‘the hand that made us is divine’; there can be no such thing as a real atheist (Romans 1:20)!
4. For compassion
What condescension the Lord God demonstrated in his manner of making man, in forming him from the dust of the ground!
To such unpromising raw material the Lord brought his creative wisdom and skill to bear. Having fashioned the dust into a body he got down, so to speak, on hands and knees to breathe into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life – so that Adam became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).
This anthropomorphic account indicates a creative process with prolonged ‘sensory’ contact between the Creator and first human being.
In this we are introduced to God’s intimate knowledge of Adam and indeed all his descendants.
Here we see the Lord’s tender kindness to the whole human family. ‘He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust … the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting’ (Psalm 103:14, 17).
5. For comfort
Surprisingly, it is the dust-ly aspect of Adam’s origin that David recalls as he celebrates God’s care of his own life. ‘For you have formed my inward parts; you have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…
‘My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth’ (Psalm 139:13-16).
David sensed the connection between the Lord’s creation of Adam and tender care of his
own life while he was in his mother’s womb. ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high. I cannot attain it’ (Psalm 139:6). Every believer can speak like this.
Christians derive deep comfort from realising afresh that their heavenly Father watches over the most minute details of their lives, and did so even before birth (Luke 10:22-32).
6. For judgement
How appropriate that the serpent should hear his doom from Almighty God in these words: ‘On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life’ (Genesis 3:14)!
How appropriate that Egypt’s magicians must acknowledge judgement visited upon them and Egypt’s idolatry when dust thrown into the air by Moses turns into lice! ‘This is the finger of God’, they cry to Pharaoh (Exodus 8:16‑9).
What more fitting punishment can there be for fallen humanity than to hear the words: ‘dust you are and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19)? The rich and poor alike share the same lowly destiny. The body shall ‘return to the earth as it was and the spirit to God who gave it’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
Never will humanity be allowed to forget the ‘rock from which it was hewn’. Man in origin and destiny alike is dust. What a testimony to our sin-laden mortality!
7. For salvation
Jesus also was made a little lower than the angels, with a sinless human nature (Hebrews 2:9, 14). He took human nature to himself in order to suffer the agonising death of the cross for his elect people.
The dust of Israel became an unconscious witness of and unwitting participator in Christ’s work as mediator.
It was dust that clung to Christ’s bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane as he stretched out on the ground praying (Luke 22:44). Christ’s blood dripped into the dust from Calvary’s cross, when it trickled down from his head, hands and feet (Matthew 27:26; Psalm 22:15-16; John 19:34). But that blood cried from the ground for mercy, not for vengeance like Abel’s (Genesis 4:10-11; Hebrews 12:24).
The cry of Jesus’ blood explains why not long afterwards there pitched into the dust the anguished form of another Jew – his name Saul of Tarsus – in an agony of conversion (Acts 9).
Saul had been travelling to Damascus to throw Christians into prison, but was now confronted with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
‘Who are you, Lord?’ he cried. And he learned in the depths of repentance that this ‘Lord’ was none other than ‘Christ Jesus [who] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief’ (1 Timothy 1:15).
8. For vision
How many others who now oppose the living Christ will yet, like Paul, be turned to trust in him? How many of those who have not heard the gospel will one day hear it and will through faith become beneficiaries of Christ’s saving work?
The Scriptures leave us in no doubt. There will be a vast number of people in heaven, saved as a result of Christ’s atonement (Revelation 7:9). ‘Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth’ (Genesis 28:4).
Can anyone calculate accurately the number of dust particles in the world, even using the most sophisticated technology? The image is hyperbolic, but no one should be in any doubt that Christ’s gospel will triumph gloriously. Christian believer, be strong and of a good courage!
9. For hope
Paul personifies creation’s longing for Christ’s return: ‘For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now’ (Romans 8:20, 22).
The dust shares the unspoken yearning of all creation. It is home to the countless numbers of believers, whose bodies lie asleep awaiting the resurrection from the dead (Daniel 12:2-3).
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
E’en then shall this be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died for me!
(Nicholas von Zinzendorf)
10. For remembrance
When Christ returns, the dust will finally vanish in the great conflagration along with everything else in this created order. All the elements will be burnt up in a fervent heat, and the ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ will be ushered in (2 Peter 3:10-13).
But Christians in that eternal world of joy will retain many precious memories. Among them will surely be this: that our Saviour passed through the dusty streets of Nazareth, Galilee and Jerusalem in the days of his incarnation, on his way to Calvary; that on the cross Jesus was ‘brought [into] the dust of death’ (Psalm 22:15).
What love Jesus demonstrated there for sinners like us! But on the third day he rose again from the dead, ready to return in triumph to the skies.
We too will never forget what the dust so wonderfully witnessed, even when we soar to the heavens.