Did you know that there are only three recorded times in the Bible that God used His fingers to write?
Yes! Once when He wrote the Ten Commandments as standard of righteousness on two tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). The second time was when He pronounced a message of judgment on King Belshazzar by writing on a wall (Daniel 5:5).
In both of these instances He wrote on concreted matter—stone and wall—signifying permanence.
The third time God wrote with His fingers is fascinating and quite intriguing to me and so it’s the focus of today’s Shabbat Shalom post.
Picture this—they were in the throes of lovemaking when community leaders broke into the privacy of the room. Astonished, they hastily separated their bodies from each other.
She was barely able to cover up her before they dragged her from the bed. As they pulled her from the room she grabbed her outerwear and clumsily covered her body. The last she saw of her lover, he was already dressed and melding into the crowd of angry men.
Hair unkempt. Clothing dangling untidily. Afraid to look up, she kept her head downcast, her eyes fixed on the sandaled-feet before her. Ears deafened by the angry mob.
This is one of the stories recorded in the Bible and referred to as the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 7:53-8:11). This story appears in only one of the four Gospels—the book of Saint John. Though there has been much debate about its authorship and its authenticity as part of the life story of Christ, I find it to be one of the best examples showing how grace and mercy coalesced with judgement and justice.
My intrigued with this story is first because it showed that Jesus was intolerant of ‘isms’ like male chauvinism and sexism. Being “caught in the act” implies that both the woman and the man were present. However, it was the woman alone who was brought before Jesus for condemnation even though the Law of Moses stipulated that both the man and the woman should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).
The intent of these men therefore was not for true justice but rather to entrap Jesus—would He apply the law of Moses and called for her stoning and in so doing break the Roman law?
But, Jesus is such a smooth operator though. He doesn’t say one word out loud. Instead, He looks them knowingly in the eye, He stoops down to the ground and He began to speak with fingerprints in the sand.
Let’s hear the story through the woman’s voice as I captured it poetically:
The second thing that intrigued me about this story is the fact that Jesus wrote in the sand.
So, what is intriguing you may ask?
That, inscriptions in sand are not meant to be permanent.
This story outlines the beauty of salvation that not only will God show up in the messiness of our sins, but He’ll acknowledge them in sand—tiny particles that are easily scattered and dissipated. And just like when sand is scattered, so are our confessed sins removed and dispersed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
This story also reinforces that Jesus does not encourage sin, but that He’s equally and unequivocally clear in the depth of His love for sinners. This is why He first seeks to heal our hearts and the proclivities that drive us to sin, then He calls us to turn away from a life of sinning while He silences those who stand in judgement and condemnation.
What accusers have you encountered?
Who’ve marred your name or brought you shame?
Who’ve dragged you before a disciplinary board?
Expecting condemnation to settle the score?
Can you see Jesus stooping, getting down to your level?
Hear Him say: My child, go now, your sins are forgiven
Then with rejoicing you too will say:
No accusers Lord to see
None left here but You and me
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Thank you for journeying along.