Understanding the writing in the dirt

Published 7:06 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019


Religion Columnist

Are you a disciple?  To be a disciple is to go on the journey of faith as Jesus’ own disciples did.  Jesus taught them the scriptures, how to pray, the importance of sacrificial giving, evangelism, service, humility and love — just to name a few disciplines of the disciple.

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Today, I want to talk about the importance of Bible study and reading. I am amazed at how God showers new pearls of wisdom upon me on a regular basis during my Bible studies. For example, I have always been intrigued by the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11).  The religious elite want to destroy Jesus’ ministry, and so they drag a woman caught in adultery before him. They ask if she should be stoned as the Law of Moses demands, or be set free.  Jesus starts writing in the dirt, and then challenges them, “He who has never sinned can cast the first stone.”  No one does, and interestingly, they leave, the oldest first, to the youngest.

I have always been intrigued by what Jesus could write that would turn them away, and leave in order of their age.  Some have offered that he didn’t write anything, but was disrespecting them. Some have offered that Jesus was writing the sins of those holding stones for them to read.

A third explanation I got during a recent Bible study.  First, we remember that Jesus is at the Feast of the Tabernacles and has declared, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:38).  This declaration was in direct contradiction to the traditional ceremony done by the priests at the Feast of Tabernacles.  Each day of the feast, a priest would take water from the Pool of Siloam, pour it in a jug that drained into the altar, and declaring it to be the living water of God.

Jesus has boldly declared he is the living water of God.  Now he is writing in the dirt.  We read in Jeremiah 17:13, “Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame.  Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.”  This would lead us to believe that Jesus was writing their names (miraculously oldest to youngest) in the dust to remind them of this prophecy.  Thus, he was putting them on the spot.  In that moment they would have to start throwing stones and declare their belief that Jesus was not the source of living water, or acknowledge him as the Messiah.  They didn’t believe he was the Messiah, but they weren’t ready to have their names written in the dust of eternity, so they dropped their stones and left.  The reason I like this as a great explanation is it reminds us that the Bible supports itself over hundreds and thousands of years.

My years of study were crucial to me putting all these pieces together.  To be a Bible student disciple you have to get started.  Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Only be excited about what you will learn. Every day, every week, every year you study you will grow in wisdom and knowledge. 

Some of my favorite web-sites for studying the Bible include Biblegateway.com, Bible.org and the phone app YouVersion Holy Bible.  Google is an amazing search engine for studying the Bible.  Begin keeping track of the sites you like using and trust for truthful information.

Study with other people.  This allows you to learn from others and to be held accountable to keep up with your reading and study.

The committed Bible student must commit to reading the Bible. Don’t worry if you don’t always understand it. Pray the Holy Spirit will help you to understand it before you read. Find a reading program that will help you to read every day. Start in Genesis. Finish in Revelation. Keep reading even when you are confused. Over time your knowledge and wisdom will grow, and the confusing times will become rarer and rarer.

What are the barriers to Bible study for you?  Have you tried to study/read the Bible before, but not been able to keep doing it? Who can you study the Bible with? Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? You need to study the Bible.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles go to www.lagrangepres.com.