November 23, 2013

Them Bones

Although some people’s faith tends to be skeletal and not muscular (pun), this post will not be allegorical nor made into metaphor. No, we will be actually talking about pieces from the skeletal system or bones. No, not the good doctor from Star Trek…actual bones in a person’s or animal’s body. As I do with all these topical posts I will attempt to do them in order where they are found in the Bible. Where I can I will tie them together if the intent of Scripture allows it.

The first place we see a bone is in Genesis 2 (duh).

Genesis 2:21-22 ~ “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

This passage is critical in understanding the male/female relationship. They are inseparably connected. We are created in two sexes and both bear the divine image to do the will and the work of God in the world. To do His will we do it together, not one or the other...both. We see unity of spirit in the proper godly loving relationships. Without this union the work is somehow incomplete. Somehow some way it is through this union of men and women that we as human best emulate the image that is God. It is a multiplicity of personality joined together in unity action. Perhaps that is why marriage is one of the earliest institutions instituted in the Bible (singleness is fine, the Church at large still has a combination or both male and female singles). Whenever those of either sex disregard this divine order by mixing and matching sexes, roles, quantities and even kinds, all sorts of evil and detrimental consequences result in the end. It is most likely the reason that things like homosexuality are considered such an abomination to God.

Man and woman in unity is the intended order. Most likely this is as pure an image of the Trinity as we will ever get in this life. A unity that is in reality a unity or covenant of three: the man, the woman in Christ or God.

Moving on we see the bones of Joseph are transported long after his death. The question is why?

Joshua 24:32 ~ “As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

If we search Scriptures, they tell us why Joseph’s remains were moved. By mentioning Jacob and Joseph it is tying the Torah or books of the Law written by Moses to those of later writers of the historical books of which Joshua is the first. We see continuity or continuation due to the immutability of God's character. Joshua acts as culmination and conclusion to the desert wanderings and books of the Law and what God start with Moses (and Abraham). This takes place in a context of covenant renewal and shows three burials in Israel’s history. All of these being buried at the same time show stability and permanence of God’s promises not only of Promised Land but also that Abraham’s descendants would be more abundant than the stars. Joshua is buried in verse 29, Joseph verse 32 and Eleazar the High Priest in verse 33. Joshua is Moses heir. Eleazar is Aaron’s heir. Joseph’s bones are the tie to Jacob and therefore Abraham.

The next narrative shows us judgment through the jawbone of an ass. Samson clobbers a thousand men.

Judges 15:15 ~ “And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we see Samson break the bonds he has been restrained with by the his own people to treacherously turnover to the Philistines. His own traitorous people intended to give Samson to the enemy. This is similar to believers today that would encourage fellow believers into sin. Encouraging them into the very thing that will hold them prisoner. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we see Samson defeat a town’s worth of mere men who do not have the power of the Spirit in them. We see the power of God working through man. Through the power of the Spirit we see the breaking of bonds and a defeat of the enemy. This analogy should sound extraordinarily familiar to a Christian. What we see immediately following this incident is even more telling.

Judges 15:18-19 ~ “And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 

Even a man who has just exhibited supernatural endurance and strength is shown to be dependent on God’s provision. Even a supernaturally endowed man is susceptible to dehydration and he therefore calls on the God that had just imbued him with extraordinary strength to provide for him an absolutely ordinary need. What 1000 men failed to do a lack of water will do very effectively. What do we learn? That the supernatural and the ordinary all flow from the same source: Almighty God. Our entire existence is owed to God, without which we would have no needs satisfied nor could we exist. From the great to the small, from the individual to the nation, from the atom to the galaxy cluster…existence and being is found in God.

Next we arrive at Ezekiel’s valley. It is a rather lifeless valley.

Ezekiel 37:1-6 (full context 37:1-14) ~ “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel is taken “in the Spirit” to a valley that was full of bones. Then the Lord asks Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel’s reply is respectful and accurate, "O Lord GOD, you know." God then commands Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones. Subsequently, God would cause breath to enter the bones, and they would live again and God would reconstitute them sinew and flesh and cover them again with skin.

There was a then a sound, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. So Ezekiel did as he was commanded and breath came into them (a la Adam in Genesis 2) and they lived and stood on their feet in an exceedingly great army. When we reach verse 11 we get an explanation of this strange vision. We find that this army of revived bones are the whole house of Israel. At this moment during the time of Ezekiel, Israel is essentially dead. No land, no city, no nothing. A valley of dry bones with no life…as with anything God is involved with, an appearance or insinuation of impossibility is not deterrent for an omnipotent God nor should it be a deterrent for one of His faithful. In God's economy, dead to the world means alive in Him and to live for this world is to die to God.

The Lord has Ezekiel prophesy that the Lord would “open Israel’s graves and raise them from their graves". He would put the Spirit, His Spirit within them and they would live and He would place them back in their own land so that they would know that He is the LORD. Because He had spoken it, He would do it. Is this not an exact image or shadow what God does through Jesus for the believer? Even in an imagery directed at Israel...we see hints of Christ and the coming Kingdom of God.

The image of many “dry” bones in the desert indicated that these bones (Israel) had been there for a long time drying in the desert sun. Ezekiel’s vision was of a people that would spend a long time in a dry godless place before being reborn. This place could've been physical, geographical or spiritual. God essentially told Ezekiel to preach to a pile of dry dead bones…and as the Word (His Word) is preached we hear rattling and clanking like the sound of bowling pins and dried sticks banging together. God’s Word brought them back to life like death in reverse. First sinew, then flesh, then skin and finally the breath of life from God called from the four winds. Just as God spoke things into existence, just like Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. "Lazarus! Come forth!"

Is this not exactly how we see the new creation of the Christian? God gives life where there is none. God gives eternal life where there was none. God quickens man and puts a heart of flesh where there was once only a dead stone.

It is an imagery of hope to an exiled sinful and lost people that have been promised that they will be restored if they obey their God. When God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind the is an interesting parallel. The word for wind would’ve been ר֖וּחַ or ruwach/rauch in Hebrew, meaning breath/ exhalation (from God) or spirit/Spirit. This is the same word in Greek πνεῦμα used by Jesus when speaking with Nicodemus about the blowing of the wind and the new birth through the Spirit in John 3:5-8. This of course is similar to the imagery of the breath of life breathed into Adam…the life spark of man comes from God, both in this life and the one beyond. This use of words and imagery is not an accident.

…and finally, almost as a reversal of the bones of Ezekiel’s valley that come to life…we have the tombs referenced by Jesus that are filled with dead men’s bones. In other words. The Pharisees are the absolute opposite of Ezekiel’s skeletons yet they are still alive. The Pharisees visually give off an illusion of life superficially on the exterior but inside they are spiritually dead and therefore condemned. Why are they condemned? Because they reject Jesus Christ and His Gospel therefore they reject the promises and truths of God. They are therefore abusing God’s mercy and grace. It is a choice to choose death and reject life God offers as He is the source of everything including life.

Matthew 23:27-28 ~ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

This is the polar opposite of Ezekiel’s valley of rattling and clanking bones. Contrary to the Pharisees, outwardly Ezekiel's bones give off an image of death and no life but it is not these bones from which the life will emanate but it will be God will breathe the new life into them. Just as He does through His Spirit when a Christian becomes a new creation. In their return to life, we clearly see the Sustainer of Life that is giving life to otherwise dead beings...God Almighty. The very God the Pharisees reject. The Pharisees are an image of us dead in our sin and self-righetousness. The image of the bones coming to life is us during our conversion as we rattle to life and respond to His holy and life-giving call in our lives.

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