Despite Being Made of Dust, Push Ahead!
“He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.”—PSALM 103:14.
1. Is the Bible scientifically correct in saying that humans are made of dust? Explain.
IN A physical way, we are dust. “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) This simple description of man’s creation is in harmony with scientific truth. All the elements of which the human body is composed are to be found in the “dust from the ground.” A chemist once claimed that an adult human body is 65 percent oxygen, 18 percent carbon, 10 percent hydrogen, 3 percent nitrogen, 1.5 percent calcium, and 1 percent phosphorus, with the remainder being made up of other elements. Whether these estimates are wholly accurate is unimportant. The fact remains: “We are dust”!
2. What response does the way God created humans produce in you, and why?
2 Who, apart from Jehovah, could create such intricate creatures out of nothing more than dust? God’s works are perfect and without blemish, so his choosing to create man in this way is certainly no cause for complaint. Indeed, that the Grand Creator was able to create man from the dust of the earth in a fear-inspiring and wonderful way increases our appreciation for His unlimited power, skill, and practical wisdom.—Deuteronomy 32:4, footnote; Psalm 139:14.
A Change of Circumstances
3, 4. (a) In creating man out of dust, what did God not intend? (b) To what was David referring at Psalm 103:14, and how does the context help us reach this conclusion?
3 Creatures of dust have limitations. God never intended, however, that these be burdensome or overly restrictive. They were not meant to cause discouragement or to result in unhappiness. Still, as the context of David’s words at Psalm 103:14 indicates, limitations to which humans are subject can cause discouragement and result in unhappiness. Why? When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they brought about a changed situation for their future family. Being made of dust then took on new connotations.*
4 David was speaking, not about the natural limitations that even perfect humans made of dust would have had, but about human frailties caused by inherited imperfection. Otherwise he would not have said of Jehovah: “Him who is forgiving all your error, who is healing all your maladies, who is reclaiming your life from the very pit, [who] has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve.” (Psalm 103:2-4, 10) Despite being made of dust, had perfect humans remained faithful, they would never have erred, sinned, so as to need forgiveness; nor would they have had maladies requiring healing. Above all, they would never have had to descend into the pit of death from which they could be reclaimed only by means of a resurrection.
5. Why is it not difficult for us to understand David’s words?
5 Being imperfect, all of us have experienced the things of which David spoke. We are constantly aware of our limitations due to imperfection. We are saddened when they at times seem to impair our relationship with Jehovah or with our Christian brothers. We regret that our imperfections and the pressures of Satan’s world occasionally push us into despondency. Since Satan’s rule is rapidly drawing to a close, his world is exerting ever greater pressure on people in general and on Christians in particular.—Revelation 12:12.
6. Why may some Christians feel discouraged, and how may Satan take advantage of this kind of feeling?
6 Do you feel that leading a Christian life is getting more difficult? Some Christians have been heard to remark that the longer they are in the truth the more imperfect they seem to become. More likely, however, it is simply that they have become increasingly aware of their own imperfections and their inability to conform to Jehovah’s perfect standards in the way that they would like. Actually, though, this is likely a consequence of continuing to grow in knowledge and appreciation of Jehovah’s righteous requirements. It is vital that we never allow any such awareness to discourage us to the point of playing into the Devil’s hands. Throughout the centuries he has repeatedly tried to capitalize on discouragement in order to cause Jehovah’s servants to abandon true worship. Nevertheless, genuine love of God, as well as “complete hatred” for the Devil, has prevented most of them from doing so.—Psalm 139:21, 22; Proverbs 27:11.
7. In what respect may we at times be like Job?
7 Still, Jehovah’s servants may at one time or another feel discouraged. Dissatisfaction with our own achievements could also be a reason. Physical factors or strained relations with family members, friends, or workmates may be involved. Faithful Job became so discouraged that he pleaded with God: “O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!” Now, if difficult circumstances could push Job, “a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad,” to have bouts of discouragement, it is small wonder that the same thing can happen to us.—Job 1:8, 13-19; 2:7-9, 11-13; 14:13.
8. Why can occasional discouragement be a positive sign?
8 How consoling to know that Jehovah looks into hearts and does not overlook good motives! He will never cast off those who strive in all sincerity to please him. Occasional discouragement, in fact, may be a positive sign, indicating that we are not taking our service to Jehovah lightly. Viewed from this standpoint, the one who never struggles with discouragement may not be as spiritually aware of his weaknesses as others are of theirs. Remember: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9.
They Too Were Made of Dust
9, 10. (a) Whose faith do Christians do well to imitate? (b) How did Moses react to his assignment?
9 Hebrews chapter 11 lists a number of pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah who exercised strong faith. Christians of the first century and those of modern times have done likewise. The lessons to be learned from them are invaluable. (Compare Hebrews 13:7.) For example, whose faith could Christians better imitate than that of Moses? He was called upon to proclaim messages of judgment to the most powerful world ruler of his time, Pharaoh of Egypt. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses must declare similar judgment messages against false religion and other organizations that are in opposition to Christ’s established Kingdom.—Revelation 16:1-15.
10 Fulfilling this commission is no easy assignment, as Moses showed. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I have to bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” he asked. We can understand his feelings of inadequacy. He also worried about how fellow Israelites would react: “Suppose they do not believe me and do not listen to my voice?” Jehovah then explained to him how he could prove his authorization, but Moses had another problem. He said: “Excuse me, Jehovah, but I am not a fluent speaker, neither since yesterday nor since before that nor since your speaking to your servant, for I am slow of mouth.”—Exodus 3:11; 4:1, 10.
11. Like Moses, how might we react to theocratic obligations, but by exercising faith, of what can we be confident?
11 Occasionally, we may feel as Moses did. Although recognizing our theocratic obligations, we may wonder how we can ever fulfill them. ‘Who am I that I should approach people, some of higher social, economic, or educational rank, and presume to educate them in the ways of God? How will my spiritual brothers react when I make comments at Christian meetings or offer presentations from the platform in the Theocratic Ministry School? Will they not see my inadequacies?’ But remember, Jehovah was with Moses and equipped him for his assignment because Moses exercised faith. (Exodus 3:12; 4:2-5, 11, 12) If we imitate the faith of Moses, Jehovah will be with us and equip us for our work as well.
12. How can David’s faith encourage us in the face of discouragement over sins or shortcomings?
12 Anyone who feels frustrated or discouraged because of sins or shortcomings can certainly relate to David when he said: “My transgressions I myself know, and my sin is in front of me constantly.” Pleading with Jehovah, David also said: “Conceal your face from my sins, and wipe out even all my errors.” Never, though, did he allow discouragement to rob him of his desire to serve Jehovah. “Do not throw me away from before your face; and your holy spirit O do not take away from me.” David was clearly “dust,” but Jehovah did not turn away from him, for David exercised faith in Jehovah’s promise not to despise “a heart broken and crushed.”—Psalm 38:1-9; 51:3, 9, 11, 17.
13, 14. (a) Why should we not become followers of men? (b) How do the examples of Paul and Peter show that even they were made of dust?
13 Note, however, that while we are to view this “so great a cloud of witnesses” as an encouragement to “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” we are not told to become their followers. We are told to follow the steps of “the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus,” not imperfect humans—not even the faithful apostles of the first century.—Hebrews 12:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:21.
14 The apostles Paul and Peter, pillars in the Christian congregation, stumbled at times. “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice,” wrote Paul. “Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:19, 24) And Peter in a moment of overconfidence told Jesus: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” When Jesus warned Peter that he would disown Him three times, Peter presumptuously contradicted his Master, boasting: “Even if I should have to die with you, I will by no means disown you.” Yet disown Jesus he did, a mistake that caused him to weep bitterly. Yes, Paul and Peter were made of dust.—Matthew 26:33-35.
15. Despite the fact that we are made of dust, what incentive do we have to push ahead?
15 Despite their frailties, however, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, and others like them came off victorious. Why? Because they exercised strong faith in Jehovah, trusted him implicitly, and stuck close to him despite setbacks. They relied upon him to provide “the power beyond what is normal.” And he did, never letting them fall beyond recovery. If we keep on exercising faith, we can be sure that when judgment is rendered in our case, it will be in harmony with the words: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” What an incentive this gives us to push ahead despite the fact that we are made of dust!—2 Corinthians 4:7; Hebrews 6:10.
What Does Being Made of Dust Mean for Us Individually?
16, 17. When it comes to judging, how does Jehovah apply the principle explained at Galatians 6:4?
16 Experience has taught many parents and teachers the wisdom of judging children or students according to individual ability, not on the basis of comparisons with siblings or classmates. This is in harmony with a Bible principle that Christians have been told to follow: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4.
17 In harmony with this principle, although Jehovah deals with his people as an organized group, he judges them as individuals. Romans 14:12 says: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.” Jehovah well knows the genetic makeup of each of his servants. He knows their physical and mental makeup, their abilities, their inherited strengths and weaknesses, the possibilities they have, as well as the extent to which they take advantage of these possibilities to produce Christian fruitage. Jesus’ comments about the widow who dropped two small coins into the temple treasury and his illustration of the seed sown on fine soil are encouraging examples for Christians who may feel depressed because of unwisely comparing themselves with others.—Mark 4:20; 12:42-44.
18. (a) Why should we determine what being dust means for us individually? (b) Why should a frank self-examination not cause us to despair?
18 It is vital that we determine what being dust means in our own individual case so that we can serve to our fullest potential. (Proverbs 10:4; 12:24; 18:9; Romans 12:1) Only by being keenly aware of our personal frailties and weaknesses can we stay alert to the need and possibilities of improvement. In making a self-examination, let us never overlook the power of holy spirit in helping us to improve. By means of it, the universe was created, the Bible was written, and, in the midst of a dying world, a peaceful new world society has been brought into existence. So God’s holy spirit is certainly powerful enough to give those who ask for it the wisdom and strength needed to maintain integrity.—Micah 3:8; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:16.
19. For what is our being made of dust no excuse?
19 How comforting to know that Jehovah remembers that we are dust! Never should we reason, however, that this is a legitimate excuse for slacking the hand or perhaps even for doing wrong. Not at all! That Jehovah remembers that we are dust is an expression of his undeserved kindness. But we do not want to be “ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) Being made of dust is no excuse for being ungodly. A Christian strives to combat wrong tendencies, pummeling his body and leading it as a slave, so as to avoid “grieving God’s holy spirit.”—Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 9:27.
20. (a) In what two aspects do we have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord”? (b) Why do we have reason for optimism?
20 Now, during the concluding years of Satan’s world system, is not the time to slow down—not as far as Kingdom preaching is concerned and not as far as developing more fully the fruitage of God’s spirit is concerned. In both areas we have “plenty to do.” Now is the time to push ahead because we know our “labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Jehovah will sustain us, for of him David said: “Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) What a joy to know that Jehovah is permitting us personally to share in the grandest work imperfect human creatures have ever been assigned to do—and this despite our being made of dust!
The Bible commentary Herders Bibelkommentar, commenting on Psalm 103:14, notes: “He well knows that he created humans from the dust of the ground, and he knows the weaknesses and the transient nature of their life, which weigh heavily upon them since the original sin.”—Italics ours.
Can You Explain?
□ Why is Hebrews chapter 11 a source of encouragement for Christians today?
□ Why are we wise to apply the principle set out at Galatians 6:4?
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Christians imitate the faith of fellow worshipers, but they follow the Perfecter of their faith, Jesus