The setting is chaos. Darkness cloaked the waters. The earth was formless. No beauty. No order. No color. No creativity. No design. Just chaos. And God, in the midst of chaos instituted order, purpose, meaning, usefulness, light and life.
After separating the sky from the land and creating vegetation, after creating the sun and the moon to govern day and night, after creating flying creatures, swimming creatures and land creatures, after creating all of that simply by His Word, God decided to create a man and a woman.
However, His method was about to change. His method was going to establish that His desire to relate to men and women was going to be different from the way He related to the rest of creation. He wasn’t going to create by His Word again. He was about to become very “hands on,” very intimately acquainted with the people He created. Creation was created to display God’s power and creativity and was created for His pleasure, but you and I were created for more. We weren’t created merely to be admired. We weren’t created merely to serve a utilitarian purpose, but you and I were created to be in an ongoing, dynamic relationship with the God of the universe.
Genesis 2:7 tells us, “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” God stooped down and scooped up dirt from the ground in order to create Adam and after getting His hands dirty, He breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and Adam came to life.
I want you to see this morning that when God gets down and dirty, people are given life.
God was just as “hands on” when He created Eve. He became a surgeon, willing to use His hands again to fashion a woman. Genesis 2:21-22 say, “So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”
You and I didn’t ooze out of anywhere. We were fashioned by a Master Potter and we see this image of Potter and clay woven throughout Scripture beginning with the Genesis account of creation. Psalm 139 is just one of many passages that tell us God’s fingerprints are all over every one of us! Until God got His hands dirty in the dirt of His own creation, no human life existed.
A lot of people who don’t know God personally think God is a killjoy, a downer, a control freak, and a fun stealer. Not at all. He wants us to get the absolute most out of life. God is all about giving every one of us life. He wants us to have abundant life. He wants us to be fulfilled in life and to find contentment in life. He wants us to experience the satisfaction that comes from letting Him lead in a “hands on” way. God, touching our lives, shaping our lives, guiding our lives and directing our lives, that is the path to true life.
The creating of human existence wasn’t the only time God got His hands dirty in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, became broken and cracked clay pots when they chose to sin against God, the Master Potter. They violated the one command God gave them. They sinned and with their sin came separation from God. But the Potter wouldn’t be apart from the people He had formed in love. He wouldn’t take His hands off of what He had made and given life. He loved Adam and Eve too much. He reached again and got His hands dirty.
There is only one thing that can pay or atone for sin. It is blood. It’s a spiritual law. Sin is the most vile thing to God because it separates us from Him. The most vile thing can only be wiped away by the most precious thing, blood. The Potter can’t stand to be separated from that which He formed and gave life. That’s what sin does. It causes spiritual death, spiritual separation from God. God didn’t make us just to prove He could one up Himself after the plants and animals had been created. He didn’t create us to prove He could. He made us as an expression of His love and because He wanted to be in relationship with us. Sin kills that relationship.
Sin kills the life, the spiritual life that God breathed into Adam. And without life, the chaos that existed before creation begins all over again. I see it all the time as a pastor. Without spiritual life, earthly relationships get broken. Adam and Eve weren’t only separated from God, but they were also separated from each other. There was a strain on their relationship. Fingers started pointing. When obedience to God isn’t the center of our relationships in our marriages and families and friendships, it becomes a game of blaming and shaming.
That’s where Adam and Eve found themselves. A feeling of dread and desperation set in. They were all of the sudden disconnected from their purpose. Without spiritual life, we are not only disconnected from people, but from what God created us to do and possess and be. Adam and Eve hid out of embarrassment. God had given them dominion over all of creation and rather than rule forever they forfeited their authority for temporary pleasure and as a result felt the need to go into hiding. They didn’t just fall as in “trip up” or make a mistake, but they fell from an intimate relationship with their Creator and they fell from their intended place as the rulers over all God created. Losing innocence is a hard thing from which to recover.
And so, God got His hands dirty again. Rather than obliterate Adam and Eve because of their sin, He killed an animal on their behalf, an animal sacrifice whose blood atoned for their sin. In the beginning, because God loved people more than anything, He willingly got blood on His hands. When God gets down and dirty, people are given forgiveness.
People are messy. You and I are messy. We are all big projects for anyone to willingly take on. How many times will you tolerate someone who repeatedly offends you? How many offenses will you endure before you defriend someone on Facebook? How many grievances will you accumulate before you refuse to speak to someone? How many transgressions can you suffer before you walk the other way in the grocery store or mall?
How easy it is for us to see people as dispensable. No so with God. He can’t take His hands off of us! His love for us compels Him to get His hands dirty in order to clean up the messes we make so our relationship with Him can be restored. In the beginning God created. He got His hands dirty. He got His hands bloody in order to give life to Adam and Eve and to give them life again through forgiveness after they had sinned.
Fast forward to the New Testament where Jesus, who is God the Son, uses His hands and once again gets down and dirty. We read in John 8 that Jesus was teaching in the temple courts when He was interrupted by the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees who were always trying to discredit and trap Jesus. They brought a woman before Him who had been caught in adultery and the text says in verse 3, “They made her stand before the group.” Doesn’t that send a chill up your spine? They intentionally put a spotlight on her sin. The enemy of our soul will always try to expose us, embarrass us, shame us, condemn us and sentence us to death. Those accusers wanted her stoned per the Law of Moses.
And Jesus did a very interested thing. When this woman, one of His precious creation, someone with His fingerprints on her, even though she had been dislocated by sin, He did what He had done in the garden with Adam and Eve when their sin was exposed, He got His hands dirty. Listen to verse 6 and following:
“They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
She said nothing while the crowd was there. Caught is caught. She was guilty and she knew it. No one would stand up for this desperate woman, but there was One who chose to stoop for her! Jesus got down and dirty, and twice in this passage, Jesus played in the dust. I wonder if He revisited creation in that moment. I’ll bet His heart beat with compassion as His fingers filtered the dust through them and He remembered creating Adam. I’ll bet while touching that dust He recalled how frail the woman was, how frail we all are, how dependent we are on Him for true life.
What did He write in the sand? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we know one thing. Whatever it was, it was compelling and convicting because the woman’s accusers dropped their stones and left the scene. They had done a quick self-evaluation at Jesus’ request and decided none of them had a leg to stand on. They were just as guilty as she. The drama was over.
Can you picture the color returning to her face? Can you see her hands come down from in front of her face and from her head where she had anticipated being stoned and was already trying to protect herself? Can you see her fast breathing begin to slow and her shoulders begin to relax. Can you picture hope returning to her countenance as she realized that her life wasn’t going to end, at least not in the next few minutes?
Whatever Jesus had written was enough to convict the accusers of their wrong motives or their own sin to the point where they realized they were in the wrong for exposing this woman’s sin. Remember, these accusers “caught her in the act of adultery.” Where would they have had to have been in order to catch her in the act of adultery? Why were they there in the first place? Just sayin’!
Anyone need to be delivered from some drama? Anyone here on the hot seat? Anyone here who has messed up and needs a do-over?
Had she done wrong? Yes. Did she need to change? Yes. But we see here, the heart of God, not wanting to expose and embarrass and shame her, but a longing to cover her and to point her toward change. Our down and dirty God has come to teach us there is a better life for all of us to live than a life of sin and that none of us is qualified to judge anyone else!
When God gets down and dirty, people aren’t only convicted of sin, but they are freed from it and can choose to live a different life.
Another time we see God getting down and dirty is in John 9 when his disciples question him about a blind man. They wonder if his blindness is a result of sin in his life or in his parents’ lives. Jesus explained that neither was the case. His blindness was a temporary tool through which God’s works could be displayed in the man’s life both for the blind man’s benefit and for the benefit of those around him.
Jesus bent down to demonstrate what one of those works would be. He connected with the dirt once again and spit into it. In the story of the woman caught with adultery Jesus drew in the dirt. In this story, He made a mud pie in the dirt. No wonder the children loved Him! J Once again, the Potter worked the clay.
In verse 6 of John 9 we read that Jesus took His mud pie and put it on the man’s eyes! That mud and spit became the catalyst for the man to be healed. Ewwwww! I don’t care if you are blind or not blind, mud in your eyes would be greatly irritating. It would be greatly uncomfortable. My immediate concern wouldn’t be my sight, but getting rid of the irritation that mud would cause. Jesus told the blind man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam and I am sure the man didn’t argue with Jesus about that. I am sure the irritation put him in a position where he wasn’t only willing to go wash his eyes, but he was wanting to. Jesus willingly touched the blind man in the most sensitive spot on his body in order to bring him healing.
Praise God for the things God introduces into our lives that make us uncomfortable or irritate us or challenge a spiritual state of blindness in order that we might truly see! Some of us would never come to “see” Jesus and gain eternal life if there wasn’t some irritation, some nuisance, some challenge, some problem that we needed to be cleansed and rid of!
When God gets down and dirty, all kinds of healing are possible.
The man not only received a physical healing, but he also received spiritual insight that led to a spiritual healing. The Pharisees were all up in arms over the healing and questioned the young man’s parents and then the young man himself two times. They insinuated that Jesus wasn’t who he said He was. The young man went on to defend his belief that Jesus had been sent of God.
Perhaps the most compelling and tender part of the story is seen in the act of Jesus, the Master Potter, physically touching the blind man, the clay. In that culture, blind people were beggars, outcasts, and while Jesus could have spoken a healing word over the blind man, He chose to touch him instead. He chose to communicate worth and value by touching him. In a society that would have easily discarded someone with that physical challenge, Jesus reached out and touched him to let Him know how loved and valued he was.
Let’s look at another “down and dirty” passage where we will see that when God gets down and dirty, He shows us how to live.
John 13:1-5 1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Feet in those days were really dirty. That’s why washing someone’s feet was the work of a servant or slave. Most people went barefoot. The roads weren’t paved. Animal yuck and who knows what caked every “street.” Perhaps jagged rocks had cut a person’s feet and blood had dried that would need to be scrubbed off. Not a fun job. To do it “just because” was an incredible act of love and kindness because no one just wanted to wash a person’s feet.
On a night when Jesus should have been concerned about Himself, you know with the upcoming arrest, flogging and crucifixion and all, at a time when He should have sought comfort from His friends, when He could have demanded some “time to Himself,” He instead served His disciples. They would betray Him. They would abandon Him. He knew it all, and yet He served them. It wasn’t His dirty work to do, yet He did it.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet, we read that during dinner they started arguing about who was the greatest. They were trying to establish the pecking order. Trying to “one up” each other. Jesus took the opportunity to demonstrate what greatness was and is all about. It’s not about being over anyone. It’s not about being above anyone. It’s about making life better for everyone. It’s about willingly serving. It’s about willingly lowering yourself if that can elevate someone else.
I’m just going to shoot straight. It is counter culture today to live like Jesus. We live in a society that shouts, “Look at me.” “Applaud me.” We live in a time where people will do anything to get ahead no matter who gets hurt in the process. Jesus got His hands dirty to try to teach us something, something we all need to continually learn! To be used of God is to SERVE!
This would have been a jaw-dropping moment for the disciples. They would have had to have picked their chins up off the floor. Seeing their Master teacher stoop down to wash dirty feet should have knocked the wind out of them. Can’t you just hear Peter say, “Shut the front door!” when He saw Jesus take off His towel and kneel in front of someone’s scuzzy paws?
The key to happiness and contentment in this life is in not living it for ourselves, but in serving others. Period. Jesus could have said it, but it would have gone in one ear and out the other. The only way they would have gotten the point was if Jesus got His hands dirty. So, He did. Again. Seeing it demonstrated drove it home. They got the point.
That’s just it. God has always been about demonstration. He never just said He loved us. He has always shown it. He showed it to Adam and Eve when He came to find them after they had blown it. He showed it when He provided a sacrifice to make atonement for their sin. He showed it to the woman caught in adultery who knew she deserved death but God got down and dirty to give her grace instead. He showed it to the blind man when He willingly touched Him in order to heal Him. He showed it to His disciples who after watching Him serve crowds of people still hadn’t learned that they should serve each other. The Potter not only created the clay and shaped the clay, but He served the clay? What kind of God is this? Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”
Talk is cheap. Unless you are willing to get your hands dirty to bring healing or hope, your words are just words. Many of us look at the cross and think “How horribly Jesus was murdered!” He wasn’t murdered. He willingly “laid down His life.” (John 10:17-18)
He didn’t resist arrest. He never cursed those who tortured Him. He was on a mission, a mission to get His hands dirty. He bore unimaginable beatings and taunting and then He got down as low as a person could get in those times, He took the role of a criminal even though He was perfect and innocent, and He allowed Himself to be crucified. Only the worst of the worst were crucified. Talk about getting dirty. Scripture says that “He was made sin who knew no sin” (II Cor. 5:21). He took on the entire dirt and filth of the world. Every sin, past, present and future was laid on Him. Jesus the Son of God, willingly became the thing God hated the most. He willingly suffered intense separation from the Father. All communication shut down and Jesus’ words which sounded more like groans, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” met empty silence. Jesus took on the filth of humanity once and for all on the cross so that sin could be put to death forever, that you and I could forever be free.
And the God who willingly got blood on His hands in the garden in order to rescue Adam and Eve was seen again with blood on His hands at the cross. Only this time it wasn’t an animal sacrifice that was the substitution for those who should have died, (which includes you and me) but it was Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God Himself whose hands got dirty from the ribbons of blood dripping from the nail-piercings on His palms. The picture of Christ on the cross would have been so repulsive, so revolting no one could have looked at Him for long. Imagine Him with open wounds, blood and dirt matted together. His beard had been plucked out. Isaiah 52:14 said He wasn’t even recognizable and that He didn’t even look human. That is how down and dirty Christ got to save you and me.
God’s handprint was on your life when you were conceived. But God doesn’t force Himself on us as we grow. He loves us enough to allow us the opportunity to choose to love Him back. We can choose to walk away from His embrace. We can distance ourselves from the touch of His hands.
There is forgiveness available to us. There is freedom from shame and the opportunity to live our best possible life. There is healing of every variety available to us. There is salvation for the asking, all because our God got down and dirty to make them all possible. Will you let Him touch you this morning at your point of need?