Now that we're moving after five years here, I need to say thank you for our house, God. We would happily keep living here, except we are called elsewhere.
God doesn’t keep relics.
But that doesn’t mean that physical items are of no importance to Him.
We are in the process of moving our household from one location to another so that we can live in the neighborhood where we are planting a church.
In all honesty, I keep too much stuff for purely sentimental reasons. In order to do that though I have to tell myself a story to justify it. Do you know what I mean?
We may need this later.
Someone we know may need this later.
The kids will be interested in this.
I’m finally going to start using this.
These are all things that help me create a story about why I must keep something. Too often though, these are little lies I’m telling myself in order to mask my desire to hold on to something for sentimental reasons.
Sentiment is not all bad, but sentiment untempered is a symptom of both selfishness and a lack of faith.
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, whole chapters are dedicated (twice!) to spelling out the details of how the Ark of the Covenant is to be fashioned, along with all the details for how the worship tent for God’s people should be made. Later in the book of Kings, the details for the building of the permanent temple are spelled out. It became the new resting place for the Ark.
These books give details about how the project was funded, who was going to do the work, and also details about the kind of ornamental decorations for curtain rings and wall coverings. It seems God cares very much about physical space and the details that go into it.
But God is anything but sentimental over these spaces or the things found in them.
The purpose for these places and for these details are worship for the gathered people of God, and worship is something that forms God’s people as they live lives of justice and truth in the land.
When worship is profaned and when justice and truth are absent from the land, God allows the physical details to look like the spiritual details.
This is why Jeremiah 3:16 says this:
And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.
And then Jeremiah 7:3 says:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
Right relics plus profane worship equals no worship at all, but judgment.
The Ark and the Temple went from being physical reminders of a spiritual reality to being sentimental relics in the life of His people that they used in profane worship.
What physical things are you holding on to out of sentiment?
Ask yourself, “Am I using physical things as a relic of a relationship that has changed for the worse?”
“…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.”
Genesis 2:7 (ESV)
It’s an interesting phrase isn’t it? Man of Dust.
Notes given in the NET translation label dust as an adverbial adjective describing what material made up the man. What was he made from? He was made from dust.
This is why translations like the NET and NIV say man “from the dust” or “from the soil”. That can be helpful if we want to describe the material.
Man of Dust can sound like something called a genitive of source, which gives a slightly different flavor to the term. Man of Dust can sound like “Fred of Columbus”.
It’s a relatively insignificant quibble, but here is my point:
We don’t belong to dust, at least not in the negative sense.
Man of Dust sounds to me like “Man who hails from dust and who will never rise above being dust.”
But when God formed the man from dust, it was a good thing. It was only after the Man of Dust tried to play the part of God that things went wrong.
Being a creature formed from created material by God’s hand is special in and of itself.
Being the creature formed from that material and having God breathe life into you is even better.
Being the creature that God looks at and declares “very good” is pure wonder.
The well-known saying “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” comes from the connection between Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 3:20.
The best reference about the man of dust, though, comes in 1 Corinthians 15:47-49:
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
It’s the best reference because it makes the best comparison. It compares the man of dust and the man of heaven. Adam was of dust. Jesus is of heaven.
Whether we like it or not, we all understand instinctively what it is to be a man of dust (even if you are a woman!). We bear Adam’s image.
While being formed from the material of creation we all bear the pain of what it is to be living in a created world that is broken by our own rebellion against God that began in the Garden when the man of dust chose to play God.
Yet Jesus came from heaven to walk on earth. He took on the image of the man of dust, only he didn’t play God. Rather he obeyed God. More than that he is God.
On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment owed to the man of dust so that we could bear the image of the man of heaven – his image!
This means that just as instinctively as we have borne the image of the man of dust and everything that means – being made good, yet experiencing the pain of our sin and the sin of others against us, hoping against hope, and also being frustrated – we will instinctively bear the image of the man of heaven.
We will be freed from the brokenness of this world and our own personal brokenness due to sin.
Have you placed your faith in the man from heaven that you might bear his image?
If you have, what are you facing that remembering you will bear the image of the man of heaven help you?
Part of my job as a pastor is to help people understand the Bible, not just to believe the Bible, but to use it well. So I appreciate these two terms - tradeoff and marketing.
Let me be very clear that the above is a caution, not an accusation. Whenever something is marketed, there is a danger of over stating what a product is or does. The Christian publishing world is not immune from this danger...
Before you walk into a new chapter of life, it is important to complete the past. The phrase isn't original to me, but it makes sense. Before opening something new, it is important to close the old book. One phrase I use to describe moments like this, moments like the one pictured above is...