Genesis 3:19

Sermon preached on January 6, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

There's a poem by Saxon White Kessinger called,
The Indispensable Man. It goes like this,

Sometime when you're feeling important, Sometime when your ego's in bloom, Sometimes when you take it for granted You're the best qualified in the room. Sometimes when you feel that your going Would leave an unfillable hole, Just follow these simple instructions And see how they humble your soul. Take a bucket and fill it with water, Put your hand in it up to your wrist, Pull it out and the hole that's remaining Is a measure of how you'll be missed. You can splash all you wish when you enter, You may stir up the water galore, But stop, and you'll find that in no time It looks quiet the same as before. The moral in this quaint example Is do just the best that you can, Be proud of yourself, but remember— There's no indispensable man.

That poem was the favorite of the late County Music star Jim Reeves. He had it hung it on the wall of his office. I suspect that he put it there to keep himself humble. We're supposed to be humble and things that help us be humble are usually good.

As we begin the New Year I think it's important that we consider humility—one of the primary characteristics that we are to exhibit as Christians.

You are to be humble.

God wants you to be humble. He wants you to be humble toward others. In 1 Peter 5:5 the apostle said,

"All of you, clothe yourselves
with humility toward one another,
because, 'God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.'"

In Philippians 2:3 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit, but in humility
consider others better than yourselves."

As we live our lives among other people we are to be humble. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5–7,

"Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,"

Even if you are superior to others, it's only because of God's grace, so you should not be proud. As the apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 4:7

"For who makes you different from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?"

Paul taught that even the most esteemed workers for Christ are to be humble. In 1 Corinthians 3:5 he wrote,

"What, after all, is Apollos?
And what is Paul? Only servants,
through whom you came to believe—
as the Lord has assigned to each his task."

As Jesus told us in Mark 9:35, we are to put ourselves last and became the servant of all.

Not only are we to be humble toward others,
God tells you to be humble toward Him. Micah 6:8 summarizes our duty. The prophet wrote,

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

We are to walk humbly before God. 1 Peter 2:16 tells us that we are to

"live as servants of God."

We are to do this in the spirit of humility. In Luke 17:10 Jesus said to His disciples,

"So you also, when you have done
everything you were told to do, should say,
'We are unworthy servants;
we have only done our duty.'"

But how are we to be humble? What are the helps that God gives us? God gives us a lot of things to assist us. I mean, all I have to do is look at myself and my life and there are so many things there that shout out to me that I should be humble. Or you have trouble seeing your own faults, all you have to do is ask your spouse? They're usually a pretty good help in keeping us humble. Or you could ask your kids. God has given us many kinds of help.

But one of the best biblical teachings to keep us from becoming proud is the fact

we were created from dust and we will return to dust.

Any time you call this to mind it should give you a profound sense of humility. At the same time it should cause you to be amazed at the grace and power of God that is evident in your life. What Jesus has made us into, what He is going to make us into—are things that should cause us to praise and rejoice in Him.

Our text says that after Adam's sin, God said to him, (Genesis 3:19)

"By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust
you will return."

This is incredible. There's nothing like it. It's something we should be keeping in mind every day that we live. This is a truth that should give us a profound sense of humility.

Consider first the fact that

we come from dust.

God made Adam from dust. 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."

What are we in ourselves? Dust! That's what God used to make us. God didn't use gold or silver. He didn't create us out of nothing like He did with the earth. He didn't make us by just speaking. No. He used one of the most, if not the most insignificant things He had already created. He used dust. The Hebrew word that is used here can be understood of as topsoil, earth, the good earth that we have in our gardens. But it is often used to refer to literal dust. For example, when God told Abraham that his offspring would be like the 'dust of the earth', he wasn't talking about topsoil. He was talking about 'dust'—those tiny particles that are all around us. Not only that, but the context here is very negative. It's about God's judgment on Adam's sin. Just before this God told Adam that his work would result in sweat. John Calvin writes,

"He denounces that the termination of a miserable life shall be death; as if he would say, that Adam should at length come, through various and continued kinds of evil, to the last evil of all."

This mention of dust was bad, devastating. I've never been present when an old coffin has been opened—but I've seen some movies about that stuff to know that it's not good. I don't think it's nice topsoil that they find in old coffins. Dust is worthless. We were taken from dust.

Think about it. We came from dust. As Eliphaz said in Job 4:19, about how the angels are inadequate before God,

"how much more those
who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!"

Our foundations are dust. Abraham, the father of the faithful, recognized this. When he was pleading with God over God's plans to destroy Sodom, Abraham asked God if he would destroy it if He found 50 righteous people in it. God said He wouldn't. Then Abraham said, (Genesis 18:27-28)

"Now that I have been so bold
as to speak to the Lord,
though I am nothing but dust and ashes,
what if the number of the righteous
is five less than fifty?
Will you destroy the whole city
because of five people?"

David knew who he was and in Psalm 8:4 he asked God,

"what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?"

We come from dust. We should keep this in mind and it will help us to be humble. Anything beyond that comes from God's grace. We are His workmanship. How humble we should be. Our origin tells us that.

Yet, isn't it amazing what God has done with dust?

We are much more than dust because of what God has done to us. Genesis 2:7 tells us that,

"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's breath of life changed everything. I've heard it said that the value of the chemical components of the human body is about a dollar. But we are much more valuable that that. We have been made in the image of God. How valuable we are. In Matthew 16:26 Jesus said,

"What good will it be for a man
if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
Or what can a man give
in exchange for his soul?"

As human beings made in the image of God we are exceedingly valuable, important. We are the crown of God's creation.

Look at us. Even in our sin, we are magnificent. In Psalm 139:14 David said,

"I praise you because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;"

We have been made in the image of God. Even though that image has been marred and defaced by sin—through the grace of God what glorious creatures you Christians are. God has made you like your Savior brought you close to Him. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

How high He has raised us. You are here on the earth to show the whole creation the greatness of the grace of God. You are here to the praise of His glory. You are here to show the whole creation what God is like—isn't that incredible?

What grace! What love! If we are going to boast about anything—it should be about what God has done to us. As Psalm 100:1–3 says,

"Shout for joy to the LORD,
all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us,
and we are his;
we are his people,
the sheep of his pasture."

The second truth that should give us great humility is the fact that

you will return to dust.

Why will we return to dust? Because of sin.

You might think,

"But it's really because of Adam's sin."

Someone might somehow think that if he were in Adam's place that he would have done better than Adam and would have not given into temptation.

Such thinking is probably just wishful thinking. This is just speculation, but I suspect that God chose Adam and not you because Adam was the best representative the human race could have.

At any rate, we will all return to dust. God will not be unjust in doing that. That's what the sins of each of us deserve. If Jesus tarries and doesn't come soon—you will return to dust.

What an indictment! That's what you and I deserve.

In our society we are always hearing about what we deserve. The ad people will tell you that you deserve this good thing or that good thing. McDonald's used to tell you that you deserve a break today.

No. You deserve to return to dust. Your life, your deeds, your accomplishments that you are so proud of—they cry out that you deserve to return to dust. As Isaiah 64:6 tells us,

"All of us have become
like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts
are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind
our sins sweep us away."

Our best works are like filthy rags.

But, wonder of wonders—

because of Jesus this curse—to dust you will return—will be finally and forever removed.

Jesus died for us. Yet His body did not see corruption. His body did not become dust. In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted from David in Psalm 16 and said, (Acts 2:26–27)

"Therefore my heart is glad
and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me
to the grave, nor will you let
your Holy One see decay."

Peter went on to tell us that David was speaking of the Christ, who God raised from the dead. Jesus died for us and so saved His people. Jesus defeated death and the curse that was against us.

If Jesus tarries we will die and return to dust. But on the Last Day Jesus will restore your body. As He said in John 5:28–29,

"Do not be amazed at this,
for a time is coming when
all who are in their graves
will hear his voice and come out—
those who have done good
will rise to live,
and those who have done evil
will rise to be condemned."

How wonderful it will be for those who trust in Jesus. Philippians 3:21 tells us about Jesus,

"who, by the power that enables him
to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body."

As John put it in 1 John 3:1–2,

"How great is the love the Father
has lavished on us, that we should be
called children of God!
And that is what we are! …
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be
has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

Again, it's all because of Jesus. We are going to be with Him. As we read in Revelation 21:3–5,

"And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying,
'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them
and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.'
He who was seated on the throne said,
'I am making everything new!'
Then he said, 'Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true."

What promises! What promises to dust! Imagine—we are going to like Jesus. This dust is going to become glorious, able to perfectly reflect God's glory. We will reign with Him and enjoy Him forever. How high He is going to lift us. How you should be boasting in Him, rejoicing in Him.

Lastly, for those of you who aren't Christians, what we've seen today is that in ourselves we deserve death. But the worst of it will not be physical death, which the reference to dust spoke about. That's just the first death. But the Bible also speaks about the second death. You will be called out of your grave to stand before the great judge—and you will be cast into the lake of fire. That's the reality of death.

You need Jesus. Go to Him today. Ask Him to save you today. Find life in Him.