Chol: Like Sand on the Seashore

Sand: Chol (Strong’s 2344)

Root: חוֹל 

Sounds like: khol

One of the best things about living on an Island is the stunning beaches. Prince Edward Island is known for its red tinted sand and pristine waters. My daughters and I especially love going to the beach! We pack snacks and books, big blankets and sunglasses, and prepare to settle in for a full afternoon with sand and surf. It never really occurs to us, though, that you can’t really have a beach without sand. In fact, YHWH, Himself, explains that sand, scientifically, has a purpose when He tells Jeremiah to say the following to the people:

Jeremiah 5:20-25

“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,

who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.

Do you not fear Me?” declares YHWH.“Do you not tremble before Me,

the One who set the sand (chol) as the boundary of the sea, an enduring barrier it cannot cross?

The waves surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot cross it.

But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned aside and gone away.

They have not said in their hearts, ‘Let us fear YHWH our God,

who gives the rains, both autumn and spring, in season,

who keeps for us the appointed weeks of harvest.’

Your iniquities have diverted these from you; your sins have deprived you of My bounty…”

YHWH said that He set up sand to be an impenetrable boundary between the land and the sea. This is the only time in the Tenakh that we get find a passage describing the purpose of sand. For the most part sand, in the Bible, is generally used to symbolically represent a great amount of something.

Sand_July30_2018
Point Deroche Beach, PEI (Photo by Grace Langille)

The Old Testament uses the word chol twenty-three times. 78% of the time sand is used to indicate an immeasurable number:

Genesis 22:17-18

YHWH: I will surely bless you, and I will multiply your descendants like the stars in the sky and as the sand (weh-ca-chol) on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the gates of their enemies. And through your offspring all nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Although sand is often used to describe large groups of people, it also can be used to describe large amounts of things, such as grain:

Genesis 41:47-49

During the seven years of abundance, the land brought forth bountifully. During those seven years, Joseph collected all the excess food in the land of Egypt and stored it in the cities. In every city he laid up the food from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance, like the sand (ceh-chol) of the sea, that he stopped keeping track of it; for it was beyond measure.

With the power of poetry the Psalmist describes how God’s thoughts (or plans) about us are focused and more vast than the sands of the earth:

Psalm 139:13-18a

For it was You who formed my inmost being;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Marvellous are Your works, and I know this very well.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book

and ordained for me before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God, how vast is their sum!

If I were to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand (meh-chol).

YHWH is in complete control. His plans for us are beyond measure. The amount is so great and so detailed that we could never even begin to count them. Everything is fully planned so we need not worry. It will do no good. We need to trust that God is the rock from which all the sand comes. Like a single grain of sand from the Master Rock, we are part of His countless plans.

In the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) Yeshua speaks of sand only once. He uses it to highlight the strength of his words as a solid foundation:

Matthew 7:24-29

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its collapse!”

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

This is an easy analogy to understand. Rock is solid, sand is not. It would be crazy to build anything on it, or expect anything built on sand to be long-lasting and abundant. Sand causes things to shift and moved. The waves cannot completely cross the sand, but they do stir everything up!

But there are two sides to Jesus’ analogy and we often overlook the second point. Who is the Rock? YHWH/Yeshua. Who is the Sand? Humanity, the descendants of Abraham, those who are as numerous as the sand on the seashore! YHWH is a solid foundation. Humans are not. We are not to put our trust in this world. We are to put our trust in YHWH. He is our Rock. He will get us through the sand storms of life. And when we trust in Him we, as a people of God, become the sandy beach. We become the enduring barrier that will not let the crashing waves of life defeat us. For YHWH is…

…the One who set the sand as the boundary of the sea,

an enduring barrier it cannot cross.

The waves surge, but they cannot prevail.

They roar but cannot cross it. (Jeremiah 5:22b)

Next week: Rock

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