Dust to Dust … Ashes to Ashes
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 3:19 ( NKJV)
Palynology – perhaps you know what this is. I only recently came across this term whilst reading about a plant called Grewia, named after a Nehemiah Grew, a leading microscope researcher of his time as well as an eminent botanist. He studied pollen. It is said his work laid the groundwork for modern-day palynology—literally the ‘study of dust’.
In the end, all of us are dust. The scripture quoted above, Genesis 3:19, is used often in burial services, religious and secular. Some translations use the word ‘dirt.’ Whichever word you relate to, I don’t think we humans like to equate ourselves to something that is trod underfoot, yet the Bible frequently conveys this concept as we see in the following verses:
Genesis 2:7 says, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground”
Job 10:9 asks, “And will You turn me into dust again?”
Job 34:15 confirms, “… And man would return to dust.”
In Psalm 104:29 we read, “…You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.”
Psalm 103:14 says that God, “…remembers that we are dust.”
In Ecclesiastes 3:20 the writer muses, “…all are from the dust, and all return to dust.”
And Ecclesiastes 12:7 concludes, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
Whoever we are, or think we are, this fact of life is a great leveller. As the woman of Tekoa bravely (though I’m not convinced helpfully at the time) reminded a King David grieving for his son Absalom, “We all die sometime…” (2 Samuel 14:14). Regardless of whom we are and what we did with our lives, we will all return to dust when we die.
We human beings mostly don’t like to think of death. It is one thing over which we have no control as we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 9:5, “no-one has the power over the day of his death”, but we know it is inevitable. Hebrews 10:27 (& 9:5) reminds us that, “…it is appointed man once to die.”’ and this is a scary thought for us. Whilst the dead know nothing when they are gone, their loved ones are hurting and grieving. Grief can give us a huge hole in our lives and a real sense of loss that takes time to heal.
The good news is God is love and grace. There is a plan in place and things will change. Firstly and Amazingly “death will die” and we can say with 1 Corinthians 15:55 (MSG), “O death, who’s afraid of you now”
And secondly there is a resurrection. Read and take heart in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
1 Peter 1:3-4 “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven-and the future starts now!” (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG)
There is hope.
Lord God, we understand we shall die and return to dust eventually. Comfort us in our times of grief at the loss of our loved ones and keep us focused on Christ and the hope of the resurrection.
Study by Irene Tibbenham
About the Author:
Irene Tibbenham is a deaconess in the Norwich Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.
Worldwide Church of God Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
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