Sunday, November 20, 2016

So Many Dry Bones

With the hand of Adonai upon me, Adonai carried me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley, and it was full of bones. He had me pass by all around them — there were so many bones lying in the valley, and they were so dry! He asked me, “Human being, can these bones live?” I answered, “Adonai Elohim! Only you know that!” Ezekiel 37:1-3 (CJB)
 I've read this passage countless times, and it's come to be one of my favorite stories in the Bible because of the wide range of applications throughout the entire chapter. In every context it's read in, there's something new to be learned. At this stage in my life, however, one specific context almost overwhelms me.

 The bones of Israel, God's people, were "so many," and "so dry." This is a representation of hopelessness and despair. God's own people, the army of God's chosen nation, defeated. Their bones were scattered throughout a valley, which is another depiction of brokenness. This valley is a low point, not a mountain. They did not die in their hope and the glory of their former victories. They died in a valley, surrounded by mountains, closed in, and defeated. Their bodies were not even given the dignity of burial, but were left uncovered for the vultures to eat, for their flesh to rot in the sun, and stripped of every honor bestowed to common man. The image here is a man of God being called Ben-Adam (which means "Human Being," or "Son of Man"), being shown a destitute, decaying army of bones that once belonged to people not unlike himself. Imagine being shown a valley of bones of servicemen left unburied and on American soil. It calls to mind every form of defeat and shame; for the army, for the civilians, for the entire nation.

 Then God has the audacity to query Ezekiel, "can these bones live?"
 Ezekiel's response shows a great faith, in my opinion one of the greatest signs of trust seen in the entirety of the Bible; "Adonai Elohim (Sovereign Lord)! Only You know that!"
 In this broken place, he still calls the Lord Sovereign, still makes the statement that His Name is Victorious in all He sets out to do. Ezekiel is saying that God has the victory, even in this defeat of His people. What I would do to have the faith to call Him Victorious, even when all I can see is the failure of His chosen nation!

 This hits me very close to home, because in the past months there have been times of severe discouragement in my life. In my relationship with my wife, in her health, in our finances, in nearly every aspect of our lives we have faced some form of despair. In those times, when friends and family have tried to use the Word of God to encourage me, my cynical mind recalls the fates of those "heroes of faith". They've all died, and often in some form of misery and without seeing His promises fulfilled. My discouragement in these scenarios comes from my answer to God when He asks, "can these bones live?"

 When He asks if the remains of the lives of these "heroes" can still live today, I am too eager to say "yes!"
 If I were to answer with "no," it would show an obvious lack of trust in His faithfulness.
 When I answer too quickly by saying, "Yes, Lord! You can do this miracle!" I'm not just saying He's able. I'm saying my trust is based upon His action in the observable and tangible now.

In Hebrews chapter eleven, we read of many who were faithful. It's been dubbed the "Chapter of Faith." I believe a more literal (not to mention applicable) translation of the word used for faith in that chapter is trust. It's the Chapter of Trust to me. By trusting, Abraham lived as if the promises of God would come to pass. But Abraham didn't see his descendants become "as numerous as the specks of dust" (or grains of sand, if you will). Nevertheless he still lived as if it would happen because he trusted God to do as He said He would. He didn't know how it would happen, but he simply decided that the Lord alone knew how and when it would happen.

 "Can these bones live?"
 Ezekiel's answer was not one of slight doubt but of absolute trust; "Sovereign Lord! Only You know that!" He didn't trust in what he would come to see happen, and he didn't doubt the Lord. He trusted that God would do what God intended to do (Sovereign Lord!), and he trusted that God would do what He promised to do, and nothing less; if God were to promise something, it would be possible (Only You know...!)

 May we be encouraged knowing that God is faithful to His Word, and that He will hold to His promises. May we not be encouraged by the things we hope He does in our lives, but may we be encouraged by the trust we have in Him to use our lives beyond the ways that we can see.
 The despair we are facing today may not be used in ways we can see to bring us hope. Just as it may not be for us but for His glory that He will act, I will trust Him in that. I will trust Him to know what He will do, and I will not lose hope if He does not use it in my lifetime.