Though I Am but Dust
“So the men turned from there, and went toward
Sodom, hut Abraham still stood before the Lord ... Abraham answered, ‘Behold, I
have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust…’” (Gen
The Lord God and two angels wanted
to find out the grave sins committed by the people of Sodom. They passed by the tents of Abraham by
the oaks of Mamre, Abraham received them heartily and in return the angels
blessed Abraham and promised him a son. Then, the three continued their journey
and Abraham went with them for a short distance to send them on their way.
Abraham learned that God would destroy the city of Sodom for the grave sins the
people were committing. He thus pleaded with God not to destroy the city for Lot, his nephew whom he loved, lived there.
Abraham said he was but dust. Yet
he dared to make his supplications to God to grant mercy and not to destroy the
city because of a few righteous people living in that city. We noted that
Abraham humbly admitted the baseness of the human state (Ps 103:14; Gen 2:7).
The words spoken by Abraham to God imply strongly that the Lord was righteous
and yet merciful. He would surely listen to the intercession of His faithful
The prayer of Abraham was in
accord with the will of God. In fact God is desirous that all men be saved and
that they would come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). Moreover,
Abraham was concerned about the righteous people and his nephew, Lot, in the city. This kind of supplication made by
Abraham was like the cry of the saints of ancient times when they would lift up
their hands and pray to God in the most holy place (Ps 5:2-3; 28:2). But we may
wonder why Abraham was able to speak to God face to face without fear?
The Bible records that Abraham was
the friend of God (Is 41:8; Jas 2:23). Through faith Abraham had carried out
the will of God which resulted in his being justified by God. And because he
was pleasing to God he was able to walk with God. Abraham walked with God for
some distance when he sent Him off. The Lord said, “’Shall
I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a
great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless
themselves by him? No, for I have chosen him, that he charge his children and
household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and
justice; so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.’” (Gen
18:17-19). Such was the closeness between God and Abraham. Should we Christians
today not also learn from Abraham?
The Bible records, “He has shown
you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to be just,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic
6:8). Justice and loving kindness are the attributes of God manifested to man
since time immemorial. God requires man to be like Him. We must be as humble as
Abraham who confessed that he was but dust before God, then
only will we be able to walk with Him.
Humility is the virtue of a saint
chosen by God. There are a lot of conflicts springing out of personal pride and
egoism. The ten tribes of Israelites rebelled against King Rehoboam because the
latter showed no compassion for the people and what more, he said to the people
harshly, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my
father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” (1
Kgs 12:1-19). King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, for a time was enjoying
his golden reign.
Apparently, he did not know that a
nation’s prosperity or downfall lies in the hands of God. One day, he boasted
that the great empire was built by his mighty power. But such pride caused his
destruction (Dan 4:28-37).
But there were many great men of
faith who lived up to the expectations of God. Those great people had achieved
greatness, yet they were selfless; though they were men of God, yet preferred
to remain in obscurity. They had done a lot of good thing for others yet would
not claim credit to it. They sacrificed themselves in order to achieve something
good for all. And when they have accomplished their tasks they would bring
glory to God. Such were the people who were pleasing to God. Indeed, God
opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6). In the parable of
the Tax-collector and the Pharisee (Lk 18:9-14), the Lord mentioned that though
the latter possessed good virtues, was upright, God-fearing, abhorred all
evils, he contracted a fearful disease - self-righteousness. As a result, he
fell short of the glory of God and was rejected by God. On the contrary, the
tax-collector, although despised by the people, lowered himself
and said, “I am but dust”. This real penitence was what Paul wrote about in his
second epistle to the Corinthians, that is, such kind of “godly grief” produces
“what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation,
what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment.” (2 Cor
7:11). The final result was that the tax-collector was accepted by God.
“The Lord makes poor and makes
rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises up the
poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with
princes (the Lord Jesus) and inherit a seat of honour.” (1 Sam 2:7-8; 1 Cor
1:27-31; Eph 1:3-14)
We must emulate the tax-collector
and humble ourselves to inherit the Kingdom
of God (Mt 5:3, 8).
Since God revealed His plans to
Abraham he enjoyed close intimacy with God. Among the apostles, Peter, John and
James were the three closest to the Lord. When the Lord was healing the
mother-in-law of Peter (Mk 1:30), the three apostles were there; when Jairus
daughter was brought back to life (Lk 8:51-56), they were also there. On the
mountain of transfiguration, (Lk 9:28-36), and even at Gethsemanc (Mt
26:36-37), the trio were by the Lord’s side. And of the three, Peter was most
loved by the Lord. He had special revelation from God to know that Jesus was
the Saviour, the Son of the Living God (Mt 16:13-18). Before the Lord ascended
to heaven, He asked Peter three times to feed His lambs (Jn 21:15-1 7).
John was ‘the disciple whom Jesus
loved’ and was most admired by all for his close friendship with the Lord.
During the last supper, John was lying close to the chest of Jesus (cf Ps
133:1-3; Prov 18:24).
One who is always near God will
receive special grace from God and he is also the one who will understand the
will of the Lord best. John was always close to the Lord. So he knew who Jesus
was and he was fully aware of what Jesus wanted him to do. After the Lord Jesus
was crucified on the cross, all the disciples were very worried. They had no
one to turn to and so they went back to fishing. When the resurrected Lord
appeared to them, everyone was puzzled. But John was the first to recognize
that it was the Lord (Jn 21:4-7). This kind of insight is what Christians need
today. We need to understand whom we believe in and what we should do (Col 1:9-14; Eph 4:13; 2
Only if we understand the will of
God can we walk with Him throughout our lives and be pleasing to Him. Enoch
lived 365 years. He walked with God for 300 years (Gen 5:21-24). Noah was a
perfect man because he walked with God. He built the ark and preached the word
strictly in accordance with the instructions of God (Gen 6:9, 15-22). When we
administrate the church today, the pattern of divine work and personal
spiritual nurture must also he conformed to the measurement of the Lord. If we
do this, are we worthy to he called “the disciples
whom Jesus loved”.
No matter what we are and it does
not matter what role we play in the house of God after having successfully completed all the task entrusted to us, we must
say, “We are unworthy servants; we have done what was our duty.” (Lk 17:10).
Even though we are hut “uneducated, common men,” (Ac 4:13) yet our God is a
great moulder (Rom 9:20-27; Is 64:8). He can mould us
into vessels for noble use (2 Tim 2:20-21). As long as we remain in His mighty
power and rely on His spiritual strength and wisdom, even though we are but
dust, the Lord will manifest His mighty works and lead us to tread on His way.