The God of the Dirtbag

Being called a “dirtbag” is not very flattering. But it’s accurate.

As I was doing some study for a series I taught on 2 Peter 3 last month (see the blog posts for 14-26 August), I wanted to check on the chemical composition of the human body. When I read the list aloud and asked the guys if they knew what it was, most of them guessed the Periodic Table.

Rather than list your ingredients here, I’ll let you read them for yourself. You will notice that no BHT has been added to the packaging material to preserve freshness.

If you read that list, you probably realize that you could go into your garage, grab a shovel, go out back and dig a hole in the yard and come up with pretty much the same stuff.

No offense intended, but you really are a dirtbag. God made you that way.

In the Genesis account of the creation week, we read that God created everything but humankind simply by speaking it into instantaneous, unnecessary-to-improve-upon existence. But when it was time to put people on the earth, the Scriptures say in Gen 1.26 and 2.7:

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…and the LORD formed [molded or pressed together] the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.’

The difference between you and the bag of dirt in the picture is that while there are living organisms in the bag, it is not “a living creature.” God acted in a unique fashion to make the first man, and then in another to make the first woman.

What really fascinates me about all this is that on the very day He created us, He established Himself as the Potter. This potter-and-clay motif is one that is revisited in the Scriptures in a number of places, notably in Psa 2.9; Isa 29.16; Isa 45.9; Isa 64.8 and Jer 18.4-6 in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, we read about it in Mat 27.7-10, where the chief priests and elders purchase “the potter’s field” (in fulfillment of Zec 11.13) with the blood money Judas had remorsefully thrown at them just before he hanged himself. (Perhaps you’ll see the irony of this in a minute.) In Rom 9.21 and 2 Tim 2.20-21 we read about the Potter’s sovereign choice to make some people as “vessels of honour” and others as “vessels of dishonour.” In Rev 2.27, Jesus quotes Psa 2 in the letter to the church in Thyatira.

But to me, the most intriguing vignette of the Potter and clay is in John 9.1ff, where Jesus heals a man who was born blind. Instead of simply speaking and healing the man with his words, as He often did, Jesus spits in the dust, makes mud, and rubs the mud on the man’s eyes. Then He tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, which is nearby.

Now I can tell you with reasonable certainty that if you ever have an eye ailment, your doctor will not suggest the application of either dirt or saliva. You’ve been told ever since you can remember to keep dirt out of your eyes, and you try hard to do just that.

And spit? Well! Human saliva is such a bacteria-ridden fluid you might as well spray acid in your eyes or poke yourself with a sharp stick. No, there were no therapeutic qualities in Jesus’ improvised ointment. Au contraire.

It’s interesting to me that John records this miracle, and not Luke the physician. I wonder what he would have thought of it. But we find a significant thing in the narrative that shows us why John found it so critical to the purpose of his gospel account, which was to demonstrate the deity of Jesus. In Joh 9.3, when Jesus’ disciples ask him whose fault it was that the man was born blind, Jesus replies,

It is not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Jesus the Potter uses the same materials he used at creation–dust and water (see Gen 2.6,7)–to make it clear that as the Potter who had made this man, He is perfectly capable of fixing him. John is the only evangelist who begins his gospel by declaring that Jesus is the Creator, which is also consistent with his stated purpose for writing.

The healing of the blind man is simply a visit to the Potter’s shop.


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