Dirt Writings /
Sometimes scripture is just plain confusing. I don’t deny it. Not all of it is perfectly clear. In fact, The Apostle Peter even said as much about the writings of his contemporary, The Apostle Paul. He also warned that people will use this to distort what God wanted to say.
2 Peter 3:15-16. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
So, when we are talking about things which are not perfectly clear, and we start to do a little speculation, it is important to do two things; 1 be clear that we are speculating, and 2 do our absolute best to remain true to the rest of scripture in which we KNOW what it is saying.
In the famous passage from John 8 in which a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus and the religious leaders demanded to know from Jesus whether or not to stone her to death, He famously stooped down and wrote in the dirt. But scripture doesn’t say, at all, what he wrote. We know that when he stood up he said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” This, presumably compounded with what He wrote, was enough to affect the consciences of everyone there, starting with the oldest men, so that they dropped their stones and left.
While I was reading in the Old Testament the other day, I ran across a passage which I think very well may be what Jesus was writing. Now I say this very speculatively because millions of people have claimed they think they know what Jesus wrote. I have no idea if I am right, but I will tell you why I think that maybe I am.
I read from the Prophet Hosea in chapter 4 verse 14. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
In simple point of fact, you can’t be a prostitute if there isn’t a customer.
I think that this is very likely what Jesus wrote in the dirt for two reasons. First, it is 100% in keeping with what was going on and the desired result Jesus was aiming for. I know of no other passage which fits so perfectly. Jesus was pointing out to them that there may be a law about stoning women (actually anyone, not just women) for adultery, but there was also scripture of God saying that He would not do so BECAUSE the men of the land were just as bad, and nothing was being done to stop it. In simple point of fact, you can’t be a prostitute if there isn’t a customer.
The hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees who brought her didn’t see fit to bring the other person caught in the act. Him they let go. Jesus points this out, clearly, in his backhanded accusation of anyone who is without sin can start chucking rock.
The second reason I think that this is completely likely is that it is also 100% consistent with Jesus’s over-all message and the other times when He quotes from the Prophet Hosea. In Matthew 9:11-13 Jesus is being looked down upon for socializing with known “sinners” and he responds thus; And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Later, in Matthew 12, Jesus quotes the same passage again when the religious leaders were, once again, looking down on Jesus for all of the good things he was doing on the Sabbath; you know, like healing people and letting people eat. Verses 6-7. I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
Both of these times Jesus is quoting Hosea chapter 6 in which he is spelling out that loving people and knowing the will of God trumps ruthless obedience to laws.
Now, lest you think I am saying that we should just abandon laws about obedience to the moral teachings of God, I point out how the passage in John 8 ends in verses 10 and 11. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
The simple fact is that Jesus came to bring mercy and rescue us from our sins which had destroyed our relationship with God, not kill us for committing them. But He didn’t go to the cross to give us a free ticket to live however we want. He gives us a second chance, but not a free license.