Day 5 – Rising up from the dust
When I was a sophomore in high school my parents took me out of class to go to the 10AM Ash Wednesday service at church. I can’t remember the reason, but something prohibited us from going in the evening and this was how my parents rolled.
I came back to school about lunchtime, completely unaware of the cross blazed across my forehead. But instantly one of my male classmates, who shall remain nameless, walked up to me and stammered, “What’s on your face?” and proceeded to rub my head vigorously to remove the cross.
I stood in shock, all systems shut down from the basic humiliation, turned on my heel, walked to the bathroom, entered a stall, and promptly burst into tears. I didn’t know what to think. At that space in my life, I couldn’t recognize the spiritual significance of what had happened to me. All I knew was that something about his actions rocked me deep in my core.
I said a prayer of empowerment, gathered myself, and walked out of the bathroom stall, directly to unnamed classmate and said quietly, “You may not touch my personhood again. You may not defame what I hold dear. His name is Jesus and you should probably get to know Him.”
This girls, was a Holy Spirit moment, if there ever was one.
In my youth, I dutifully followed the religion of my parents, I embraced Lutheranism head on, not because I believed it at that point, but because I needed it to reign me in. Sophomore year was my worst and my moral compass was all over the place, laced with feminism, hedonism, and many other -isms thrown in for good measure. I knew Jesus because He called me in my baptism, but I didn’t trust Him enough to include Him in my life and I surely, at this point, wasn’t introducing anyone else to Him.
“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
Dust and ashes on my forehead were what woke me up from a youthful spiritual stupor. I started searching for Jesus with everything I had, to find out that He had found me long before and my heart was alighted with just how shockingly deep the Father’s Love is.
Dust isn’t our whole story, but it certainly is a huge component of it. Ecclesiastes shares the message that dust reminds us where we come from and where we are going (Ecc. 3:19-21, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8). The writer of Ecclesiastes, I’m sure, was just as wowed by God’s full plan, when He saw Jesus for the first time in heaven, as we are when we read it in His Word. Let’s take a minute to be wowed, sisters.
Let’s follow the trail of God’s dust from creation to purposeful destruction, to resurrection and on to restoration.
Everything is beautiful in its time. This is what our study, if anything, has taught us.
First – Creation…
Let’s read Genesis 2:5-7
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Formed from the dust, by the hands of our Creator. Our first breath, His breath. I wonder at the conversation between the persons of the Trinity at this moment. Matthew Henry tells us that the Hebrew noun for Creator in Ecclesiastes 12:1 below, is plural. How beautiful is that!
Second – Purposeful Destruction
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Underline or circle every reference to the ground or dust above. Sin brought destruction to our world, but God would use it for His purposes. Even this, He will make beautiful. You could also look at the Babylonian captivity to see God’s work in purposeful destruction, of His temple, of His people, of the way people thought it would be forever…all to lead us to Him. (Check out Isaiah 17 or Daniel 9.)
Third – Christ in the dust.
Christ is born among the dust of animal feed (Luke 2:7). He bends down into the dust to lift up weary souls burdened with the weight of sin, oppression, and judgement during His time on earth (Psalm 113:7, John 8). He let His face be ground into the dust as He took our sins on Himself and bore our iniquities (Matthew 26). And He was eventually laid in a dusty tomb, carved out of the rock (John 19:41-42).
Fourth – Christ is risen from the dust.
Let’s read it fresh…Matthew 28:1-7 –
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
Verse 6 proclaims beauty from the ashes, beauty out of the dust…
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
Come, see the place where he lay.
See where he lay. He’s not there. He did what He said. Thank you, Jesus.
Fifth – Restoration from the dust.
Whether we’re talking about personal restoration or the restoration of the whole of creation, Jesus is surely faithful.
he Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
A beautiful headdress instead of ashes. Comfort, freedom, praise.
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the thingsabout which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Restoration…everything beautiful in it’s time. In His time.
What does this mean for you? What has Jesus restored or what are you waiting for Him to restore?
How will all of creation look different in the Restoration? The Last Day isn’t just about judgement and terror. For Christians, it’s about the culmination of all time, being eagerly restored by a God we know intimately.
Praise be to Him, girls! That day in high school years ago, I had no idea why my forehead dust meant so much. Today, when I go to Him in prayer and worship, when my husband places the ashes on my forehead and proclaims, “From dust you came, From dust you shall arise!” I know. When I heartily reply, “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” this Sunday, I praise Him for using moments of humiliation, moments of destruction, moments of struggle, moments of joy, moments of peace, moments of confusion, moments of understanding.
Everything beautiful in His time. Every moment, all in Him.
Oh, I will miss you girls! Thank you for taking the last 9 weeks to study with me. I have learned and been stretched and I pray you have been too.
Until next time, in Him, much love,