Dust

Psalm 119:25 – “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.”

Someday I’d like to do a Biblical word study on the word dust. The word appears exactly 100 times in the New International Version of the Bible. It’s found in the second chapter of the Bible and found in the 18th chapter of the Bible’s last book, Revelation.

In Scripture we read that man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), that dust was placed on the head as a symbol of mourning (Joshua 7:6, 1 Samuel 4:12, 2 Samuel 1:2, 15:30, Job 2:12, 42:6), that the disciples were to shake the dust off of their feet when the encountered a town that refused to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:14, Acts 13:51), and we read about a little known event in the life of David, the same man who I believe wrote Psalm 119.

The story is found in 2 Samuel 16. David’s sin with Bathsheba brought about numerous consequences in his life. His family would never recover from the sorrow that David brought upon them. David lost the son who Bathsheba carried in her womb. He lived out of fellowship with God for a period of over a year. He had one family crisis after another. And, in 2 Samuel 16 we read about one of those crises. David’s son Absalom grew to hate his father. He planned a coup, to overthrow his father’s government and rule as the new King of Israel. David fled with his top advisors. And something strange happened. In 2 Kings 16:5-14 we read,

“When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. Thus Shimei said when he cursed, ‘Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! The LORD has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!’ Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.’ But the king said, ‘What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the LORD has told him, ‘Curse David,’then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?” Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, ‘Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him. Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.’ So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones and threw dust at him. The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary and he refreshed himself there.”

David truly felt like a cursed man. And, part of that cursing involved the humiliation of the fleeing King of Israel, who was afraid that his own son was going to kill him, being pelted with stones and dust by a relative of his predecessor, King Saul. David’s bodyguard offers to go take care of this troublemaker, but David refuses. Why? Because David felt that he deserved this cursing. He deserved this punishment. He, the King of Israel, deserved to be chastised. He knew that he hadn’t lived like a man after God’s own heart.

In Psalm 119:25, David writes as a man very familiar with dust. He knew the story of creation. He knew that in comparison to the God of the universe, he was dust. He had used dust as a symbolic means to express his grief before God. And, he had been covered in dust in an unforgettable moment of time in his life. God preserved David’s life on multiple occasions. And, I believe that David, while looking back on all of these occasions, could think of no more appropriate place for him to be in front of his God than in the dust. He couldn’t stand. He needed to be face down, prostrate before the God who is the perfect embodiment of the law. He needed God’s grace.

And, so do we. We need to recognize that we are so little. History is God’s story. We are bit players in His eternal story. And, the sooner we understand that, the better. May God be pleased with our lives! May He take delight in the way that we follow Him. May our lives be an accurate reflection of Christ to the world around us. And, may we celebrate that God loves people of the dust.

Dear God,

At funerals we are reminded of our mortality. Our lives are not long. They are here for your glory. Forgive us for seeking the glory that only you are deserving of. Forgive us for thinking that we are something more important than we are. Like David, help us to come to the realization that we must not think higher of ourselves than we should; that your holiness is something that should cause us to be in awe. Help us to remember that you are not just the God of love, but also the God of wrath. Help us to live in wonder of who you are.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.