Rev. Justin Smidstra, pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland,
Michigan

What comes to mind when you think about sand? After a long, cold winter perhaps you feel a certain eagerness for some time at the lakeshore or seaside with the warm sun overhead and soft sand underfoot. Children may be excited to go to the beach again, or even the sandbox in the backyard, to build something out of sand. Sandis so ordinary that we do not think about it much. It is dirt we walk on. It can be a nuisance. We shake it out of our shoes, broom it out of our homes, and vacuum it out of our cars.

Yet the Bible speaks of sand and attaches meaningful significance to it. Sand is a beautiful creation in its own right. God is the Master Craftsman, who fashioned all things, both big and small, from the towering edifices of rock called mountains down to every particle of sand underfoot. The sand is God’s boundary line. He “placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree” (Jer. 5:22). What most impresses us about sand is the vast number of its grains. Take a handful of sand and study it. Try to count every granule in your cupped hands. That alone is an impossible task. Never mind counting the sand of the seashore! No surprise, then, that the Bible uses sand to describe something that is innumerable and exceeds human ability to count or calculate.

Thus, the sand of the seashore is a fitting figure for the abundance of God’s provision for His people. During Egypt’s seven years of plenty, “Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea.” So plentiful was the harvest that he “left numbering; for it was without number” (Gen. 41:49). In the wilderness Jehovah “rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea” (Ps. 78:27). God gave Israel a land flowing with milk and honey, but He also enriched them “of treasures hid in the sand” (Deut. 33:19). To equip Solomon to govern His people, God gave him “wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore” (I Kings 4:29).

The sand also represented the foes of God’s people. Small Israel, the “the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7), faced enemies innumerable as the sand. Joshua led Israel against the Canaanites, whose armies were “as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude” (Josh 11:4). With Gideon’s three hundred, Jehovah scattered the Midianite raiders, “as the sand by the sea side for multitude” (Jud. 7:12). This highlights the exceeding greatness of God’s saving power, the vastness of His covenant faithfulness, the expansiveness of His mercy and grace toward His people. Jehovah saves by His mighty hand and stretched out arm! When we ponder the depth and multitude of God’s thoughts toward us, we exclaim with the psalmist. “If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee” (Ps. 139:18).

Although each grain of sand is but “the small dust of the balance” (Is. 40:15), many grains of sand packed together are great in weight. Thus Job described his sufferings, “for now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea” (Job 6:3). Beware of anger, for “a stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both” (Prov. 27:3).

Compacted sand may be heavy, but it not sturdy like a rock. Jesus taught us “every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Matt. 7:26). Jesus’ Word is our rock, solid and firm, the one foundation to build our lives upon. Every other word, every philosophy or worldview of man, is like the shifting sand. It provides no sure stability. When the storm comes, it will come out from under you, and the life of the person who has built upon it will come crashing down.

Most significant is the first mention of sand in the Bible, the beautiful covenant promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22:17: “in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” Jehovah has kept this promise through Jesus Christ, who is the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Through Christ and His work God has gathered to Himself a multitude of the redeemed, an assembly of sons and daughters, innumerable as the sand of the seashore. Through Christ the wonderful prophecy of Hosea is fulfilled: “yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:10). The sand of the seashore is now a beautiful picture of the catholic church of Jesus Christ, the wonderful workmanship of God’s saving grace! Ponder the sand of the seashore. Be not puffed up in pride. You and I, we are but grains of sand. We have nothing to boast in ourselves. Our churches, we are but a handful of grains, a small part of the seashore that is the church universal. Ponder the sand, and the sand will humble you.

Ponder the sand, and it will lead you to rejoice! For God has plucked you, believer, from the mass of fallen humanity, and given you a place among the innumerable company of His blood-bought children, that you might be for the praise of His glorious grace. May our praise of the God of our salvation be “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude,” world without end!