Dust and breath

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Job 33:4 ESV The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

One of my tasks as an undergraduate worker in soil science was to grind soil samples. Because of the special tests to be run on these samples, they couldn’t be sent through the mechanical grinder. So, I spent four hours a day, five days a week, grinding soil with a mortar and pestle, two to three clumps at a time. All summer long.

Now, over thirty-five years later, I still remember the round and round motion of grinding those samples with soil dust swirling and covering the table, floor, and me. Believe it or not, I enjoyed that job. This was because my hands were moving and full of soil while my mind was free to explore ideas and dreams.

The motion of my hands reflected the movement in my mind. Up and down to break up the big clumps and ideas, back and forth to make smaller aggregates and thoughts, and then around and around until the particles and particulars were fine dust that could be sorted, measured, and portioned out into sample cups or memorable sentences.  

I made lots of dust and dreams that summer. The dust is long gone but the dreams remain. Some dreams have come true, and others have greatly changed. Yet the One Who created dust, dreams, and me hasn’t changed, nor ever will.

His Name is still Yahweh or “breath.”. He is the One Who has the power to bring life from dust and dreams from death.

Peter and John saw this power firsthand in the empty tomb 2,000 years ago. One scholar describes the unoccupied graveclothes in the tomb as flat and empty like they’ve collapsed upon themselves. Another scholar expands on this idea to describe the graveclothes were positioned as if God had exhaled and thus, blew out Jesus’ body from the clothes without moving them.

How appropriate that Yahweh God, the One Who’s name was so holy it was breathed instead of said aloud by the Israelites, breathed upon Jesus just as He breathed upon Adam (see Genesis 2:7). But Yahweh didn’t stop there – He gives life to me with every breath in my lungs and every thought in my mind.

In the garden, God blew into the dust of Adam’s body and his life began.

At the grave, God blew away the dust of Jesus’ body and my life began.

One day, Yahweh God will forever blow away the dust of this world. And on that day, life without the confines of suffering will begin and continue forever, one breath at a time.

Yet that one breath at a time isn’t reserved for that glorious day, it’s available to me now here in the dust. Because this breath can either remind me of Jesus’ divinity as having defeated death thus, making the dream of heaven as reality. Or this breath can relinquish me to denying the truth of Jesus’ strength always available to me, no matter how dusty the day. In other words, it’s my choice to keep wearing graveclothes of guilt, giving in to sin, and self-glorification or to revel in the grace of the new clothes of forgiveness, freedom, and forever-living.

Jesus gives me this choice to trust Him with this breath and the next. Jesus made the choice to become dust and give up breath so that I might have life with every breath for all eternity. A life renewed in faith, rich in joy, and ripe with hope.

Thus, if I choose to really stop and think about it, this breath coming in and out from the dust that is me today is a new life. It was given to me with the breath of Yahweh God and redeemed for me by the breath of Jesus. With that thought in mind, the only appropriate use of this breath (and the next) is in worship of the One Who remembers that I am dust and gave me breath and life, then and now and forever (see Psalm 103:14).

Psalm 107:2 MSG Oh, thank God—he’s so good! His love never runs out. All of you set free by God, tell the world!

This post is similar to the content found in my next book called, “Well-Grounded: Cultivating Intimacy with God”, coming December 2023 from Northeastern Baptist Press. Please click on their link below so you learn more about this book and others from them:


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Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2023

Published by Beth Madison

author, speaker, learner

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