And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
Last week I started looking at the story of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-10. It was a place of hopelessness and despair where Ezekiel had to acknowledge that only God could do the impossible there.
The interesting thing is that after Ezekiel turns to God for the answer to this hopeless situation, God’s first instruction to him is to “speak” to the bones. Here is the reality, these bones have no life in them. In fact, they are dry which suggests that there isn’t any hope that life could ever return. On top of that, as I mentioned last week, they are a disconnected mess. No bone is attached to or even near a body to which it might belong. Yet, He tells the prophet to “prophesy to these bones…” (Ezekiel 37:4) I decided to look up the word “prophesy” and it simply means to “say that (a specified thing) will happen in the future.” God wanted him to speak to something that had no future!!!
Last year, after suffering a mild heart attack, I honestly felt that I had no future. I found it difficult to see myself back in my church and back on my job. I was honest with God about how I felt yet God directed me to do something specific: I had to see myself, in faith, back in church and back on my job and I had to declare it!!! Was that easy? NO! But I did it in faith. I chose to see it in mind and I chose to speak it. Additionally, God reminded me of a verse He had given me at the start of the year: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God was going to be the One to give me a future when I could not see it. In fact, He is my hope and my future and that was never so clear to me as when I went through that challenge.
How many of us have been through situations that felt so hopeless we couldn’t even see past it, we couldn’t see ourselves making it, we couldn’t see any good coming out of it? Maybe some of us are going through that now. I am reminded of Jairus. He asked Jesus to come to his house because his daughter was dying. Jesus did not get there on time and Jairus lost hope. His daughter’s future had ended – or so it seemed. Jesus’ response to her death was simple: “Do not be afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). Jesus saw the future that Jairus could not see. When Jairus believed it was over, Jesus knew that it was not. Maybe that’s what God is saying to someone today. It’s not over, there is still a future!
But my story for today isn’t over either! God told Ezekiel to say something specific: “O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!” (v.4) Those bones were not going to come to life on the words of Ezekiel but on the Words of the Lord! God’s Word is alive! We speak words and don’t always back them up with our actions. God speaks His Word and actions follow. When we look at the creation in Genesis, from verse 3 to verse 29 there is a recurring line “Then God said…” and whatever God said, He did! God doesn’t speak idle, empty words like we do. When He speaks, He does what He has to do to back up His Words with action.
We have to be careful with the words we speak when we are going through challenges. Sometimes, we speak our own words of frustration, anger or fear but they don’t line up with God’s Words about our situation. We speak what we see in our present, God speaks what He sees in our future.
God wanted to give those bones a future. God wanted to give Israel a future. God wants to give you a future, not just a future but the hope that there is a future just for you. I don’t know what your situation is, but God does and to someone He is saying to you in your valley of dry bones, you still have a future! It wasn’t over for those dry bones and it’s not over for you. Listen to the voice of God and speak the words of life that He is telling you to speak. You may not be able, but God is more than able.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so today. The advantage of having God in your life is that no matter how bad things get, you have the God living in you that will give you a future when there seems to be none and a hope when all hope is gone.
I was recently reminded of a song by Elevation Worship entitled, “Graves into Gardens.” One line in the song in particular stirred something in me and I felt prompted to write about it - “You turn bones into armies.”
This comes from the book of Ezekiel 37:1-10. Although I am familiar with this story, I did further research to better understand what was happening in these verses. The prophet is taken by the Spirit of God to a valley filled with dry bones. One of the observations he makes is that, “they were very many…they were very dry”(v.2). That reveals how overwhelming and how hopeless things were for the nation of Israel at that time. On top of that the bones were in an open valley. It tells us that these people had not received a proper burial and in ancient Israel and the ancient Near East, a corpse that had not been properly buried and left exposed, was considered a disgrace.
This reminds me that there are times when we go through situations that not only leave us feeling overwhelmed and hopeless but covered in shame. We wonder what others might be thinking or saying. We may even feel as if our very character, our very testimony is under question. It can be discouraging and we may lose our confidence and hope of ever being restored.
It is interesting that the Lord asks the prophet in the following verse, “Can these bones live?” Immediately, the prophet wisely turns the answer to the question right back to God “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” This was beyond anything the prophet could comprehend or figure out. After all, it wasn’t a valley containing one or two sets of bones, it was a valley filled with dry bones. And, chances are, the bones were in a confused mess. This was not a valley of skeletons, but a valley of disconnected bones, scattered all over thus making it difficult to connect which bone belonged to which person. It was truly a confused mess and in our own lives sometimes, we may go through situations that feel so messed up, we really feel like there is no hope. Yet, as I said, the prophet did a wise thing - he gave the solution to the problem back to God. He knew he could in no way solve it. It was too big and too messed up for him to handle so God was his only hope!
I don’t even think God expected him to have the answer. Maybe He wanted to see what he would do. Similarly, God doesn’t expect us to have the answer. He just wants us to give that messed up, hopeless situation to Him. Too many times, however, we try to solve it on our own and we mess it up even more … if that were possible!
There is nothing too hard for our God. Jeremiah, the prophet faced a similarly hopeless situation. Judah was about to be taken captive by their enemies yet, God instructs Jeremiah to buy a field from his nephew (Jeremiah 32:6-14). That made no sense! They were about to lose their homeland yet God tells him to buy a field there. God just wanted to prove that He would restore all that they were about to lose. He would do it! “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely” (v. 37).
At some point in time, we may go through situations that may seem hopeless and overwhelming. The good news is that God doesn’t expect us to handle it on our own. Instead, He wants us to choose to give it to Him and trust His way of working it out. After all, when it’s too much for us to handle, it’s never too much for our God. That’s why He is God and we are not!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. God is in the business of fixing what is messed up and hopeless. When we learn to lean on Him and trust Him, He will do above and beyond what we are able to do.
If you want a picture of determination and stubborn resolve, think about the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48). Her determination to press towards her goal against all odds is amazing. She wasn’t just physically pushing through a thick crowd of people, but through societal prejudice and her own fears. She was ceremonially unclean. She wasn’t even supposed to be in a crowd among people. She had exhausted all of her money on doctors hoping to be healed and had been sorely disappointed. She had every right and good excuse to give up, to wallow in self pity, to resign herself to her fate and simply wait for death to come. But she didn’t. She pushed her way through one more time … and she finally got results!
Her story parallels the life of Amberley Snyder, a rodeo barrel racer, who, at the age of nineteen, gets into a car accident that leaves her paralysed from the waist down. A movie was made out of her experience entitled: “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” At the time of her accident she was an up and coming star of rodeo barrel racing. She and her horse, Power, had a promising future in the sport. Unfortunately, after the accident she saw no hope of being able to continue in the sport she had grown to love. However, one day, she was in a particularly bad mood because although her wheelchair offered the freedom of movement, her condition still left her feeling hopeless and discouraged. Her mom in sheer frustration snapped at her the words she would need to pull her out of her despair: “This chair will either be your wings or it will be your anchor … you decide!” And decide she did. From that moment onward, with the help of seatbelts to keep her in place, she got back on her horse and started training once more. She went on to be successful in various competitions.
This story inspires me because it is a reminder to not give up. Amber had three goals - walk, ride, rodeo. Although she admits that she has been unable to accomplish the first goal, it certainly has not stopped her from succeeding in the others. What is your “issue?” What is your “paralysis?” What is stopping you from achieving your goals? We all have challenges to face at one time or another. For some of us, those challenges are life-changing but in spite of how hopeless our situation may seem or feel, God’s purpose for us remains the same. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Don’t believe the lie that it’s over. It’s not over until God says it is. No one else gets to make that call … not even you! Just like you, my life has its challenges but ever so often God keeps reminding me that He has good plans for me, He has hope and a future for me. It’s not over until He says because my life is still in His hands. It has not fallen out and no one and nothing can snatch me out of His hands. My life is safe right where it is in His care. His Word says that He is able to keep what we commit to Him (2 Timothy 1:12b). That’s not an idle word. It’s a promise.
I want to encourage you to trust God to use all of you - the good, the bad, the in-between - for His honour and glory. He used the woman with her issue to encourage others. He is using Amberley with her paralysis to encourage many as well. When you think about it, your greatest victories come through some of your greatest trials. Let Him use all of you to be a powerful blessing and encouragement to those who need it. I love to say that nothing is wasted by God. He knows how to bring good out of everything. That’s what He does well. Trust Him.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. God will take all you - your successes, your failures, your limitations - and use them to bring hope to the hopeless and a future to those who have given up.
We may be familiar with the stories in the Bible of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:21-43). One day, while Jesus was with a large crowd, Jairus, a synagogue ruler, came to Him and begged Him to come and lay His hands on his dying daughter so that she might be healed. On their way to his house, a woman who had suffered with a blood issue for twelve years touched his garment and was immediately healed. Although Jesus did not see her do it, He sensed it and when He inquired, she honestly told Him what she had done and why. Jesus comforted her and sent her home.
During this time, Jairus was waiting for his own miracle. Unfortunately, someone from his household came and told him: “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (v.35) As soon as Jesus heard this He encouraged him and said: “Do not be afraid, only believe.” (v.36)
Although I have read this story a number of times over the years that caught my attention. Jairus was told a fact - his daughter was dead. There was nothing more to do. At that point, he had failed in his efforts to save her life. There was no hope left, it made no sense, as his servant said, to trouble Jesus to come help her. But, here’s the thing - Jairus had indeed come to the right Person. He did not go to a human doctor who could do nothing more, he had gone to the Doctor who had the power to do all things! Jesus was not moved by negative words or the reality of the negative situation. Jesus knew the power in Him and He knew that through Him all impossible things were truly possible. Jesus could then confidently say: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”
Something else comes to mind. The first thing Jesus said was, “Do not be afraid.” He addressed Jairus’ fear - the fear that it was over, the fear that nothing more could be done to save his loved one. Jesus needed to replace his fear with something more powerful - FAITH because faith would activate the miracle that was about to happen. I think that in the same way, God wants to address our fear, our fear that it’s over, that it doesn’t make sense trying again, our fear that nothing more can be done in our situation. I may not know what your situation is, but perchance Jesus is saying to you “only believe.” He doesn’t want you to do anything else but believe. Don’t try to figure it out, don’t wonder when or how it will happen, just believe. Let God do all of the complicated stuff. Let God do it HIS way because He has a purpose for it.
This story also reminds me of the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). In that instance, Jesus intentionally delayed going to see him while he was sick. He waited a few days after hearing the news before going to his house. By that time Lazarus had died and had been in the grave for four days. God was interested in a greater miracle. Jesus had healed many sick people but He wanted to increase their faith by actually raising someone from the dead. In our story today, Jesus knew the importance, I am sure, of getting to Jairus’ house quickly but He chose to delay. He chose to take the time to address a woman’s faith and healing. During this delay, Jairus’ daughter died. In both stories of Lazarus and Jairus, Jesus was not worried because He knew that He could do impossible things. He also knew that the more impossible the situation the greater people’s faith would be.
But, I love the fact that Jesus immediately countered the negative statement from Jairus’ servant with a positive, life-giving one - "only believe." With those two words, He was offering hope in a hopeless situation. God wants to do the same for someone today. No matter how hopeless your situation may seem God is saying “only believe.” Don’t add fear to it, don’t add facts to it … just believe!
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, I encourage you to do so now. Jesus came to offer hope in hopeless situations, strength when we need it and peace when it makes absolutely no sense. God has the final say and if He says it then that certainly settles it!
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.