Historical research can take me down unexpected paths. I had to learn many things about camels (and their dung) as I wrote about the Wise Men. But, trust me, this isn’t a blog with a high “ick” factor.
Where did my rabbit trail start? With a couple first-century how-do-you questions:
> How do you make a fire in the desert? There’s no wood.
> What do you do when your caravan gets sick in the middle of nowhere and you don’t have enough medicine to treat everyone?
The short answer to both those questions is camel dung.
Stay with me now. In my estimation, that serves to point us to the Creator.
No matter how lowly or insignificant something may seem, it has a purpose in God’s creation.
God’s Provision: Fuel
In God’s infinite wisdom, He provided fuel for fire in barren lands. Camel dung has such a low moisture content that it can be burned immediately for fuel. That’s not just ancient history trivia. Today camel dung is being used in cement factories in the Middle East. Adding one part dung to nine parts coal makes fires burn at a steady temperature. A steady fire with high heat is essential for cement ovens. Other countries are using dung from other animals as fuel sources, too.
God’s Provision: Cure
Camel dung is also an age-old cure for many diseases, especially intestinal disorders. But again, that’s not just a footnote from ancient history. During WWII, the Germans occupying northern Africa would have died from dysentery if they hadn’t followed what locals did in ingesting camel dung. The secret was its beneficial bacteria (Bacillus subtilis). The Germans also found a way to isolate the bacteria. (A side note: Germans thought driving their tanks over camel patties brought good luck, so the Allies made bombs that looked the same. But that’s a story for another time.)
A different example of counteracting illness and poisoning: In Bolivia, tin and silver mining create acid water. The metals in that toxic runoff kill algae and fish. But llama dung, which naturally contains sulfates, binds those metals and drops them to the bottom of treatment lagoons and wetlands, creating clean water. (Thank the Brits for that discovery; they used cow and horse manure.)
God’s Global Provision
The bigger picture is this: across the globe, cultures naturally have different sources for fuel, building materials, and food. How did God in His infinite wisdom choose those? Take starch for example. How did God decide to provide cassava for warmer climates and potatoes for colder climates? I have no idea. All I know is that it is praiseworthy because it showcases how God is our provider and sustainer.
Right now I believe we all could use extra reminders that God IS our provider and sustainer. If He can provide an unending supply of fuel in the desert, He can supply our needs today.
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A Deeper Dive: verses to meditate on
God is our provider
I John 4:9
God is our sustainer
Job 33:4 ESV
Colossians 1:17 ESV
I especially like the Nehemiah verse. Which verse speaks to you the most?