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May 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 30, 2021



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.” [please read the entire passage] Ezekiel 37:1-14

Intro: When I say “Arlington,” what comes to mind?

The Arlington National Cemetery began as a solution to a problem
– after the Civil War, cemeteries ran out of space for all the remains of dead soldiers
• Arlington was offered for those who could not afford a proper burial anywhere else
• it also provided space for the remains of more than 2000 unidentified soldiers
– a friend who flew helicopters in Vietnam was nearly shot down when evacuating soldiers from a “hot spot”
• he told me, that when it seemed he was going to die, his last thoughts were of relationships
• that’s why there’s a Memorial Day,
◦ so that we don’t forget those whose last thoughts were of us

Ezekiel’s vision took him to a cemetery of sorts
– only without any graves – just a desert valley strewn with bones
• his prophecy is not about an individual resurrection
• it’s about the resurrection of a nation
– the people of Israel were beyond hopeless
• they had no country, no government, no landmarks
◦ all of that had been erased from the map
• all they had was a memory of what they had lost
◦ they had their memories, they had each other, and most important, they had God
◦ starting with their remains–dead, dry bones–God would reassemble the nation
◦ beginning with a bare bones frame, next he would add materials for life and movement
• and then he would breathe his Spirit into them and bring Israel back to life

Why are we spending all this time exploring body parts in scripture?
– because this is a way of bringing awareness to how we live with God
Do not present your members [body parts] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Ro. 6:13, 19; and 7:5)
• thinking about how God claims for himself our eyes and ears, nose and mouth, neck and shoulders,
• gives us more objects to remind us to watch for how God moves in our lives
◦ and how we move toward him
◦ what we allow in our eyes and ears, and out of our mouths,
and what we do with our hands and where our feet take us
– among our body parts, scripture could not ignore something so important as our bones
• the skeletal system is the internal structure that supports the body
◦ it is what enables us to sit, stand, walk, and so on
◦ in scripture, the bones are also an essential component of our inner life

In the Bible we find that people were very concerned about their bones

Even after death, their bones represented a shared experience with the community
Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Ge. 50:25)
– David paid respect to King Saul by providing his bones a dignified burial (2 Sam. 21:12-14)
• even for kings, to be buried in the tombs of their fathers was an honor (2 Ki. 16:20)
• to not be buried was a terrifying thought, and punishment (2 Ki. 9:10)
◦ a bone that was not buried was considered “unclean”
(and a source of ceremonial impurity; Nu. 19:16)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Shcroer, “During life human bones are something like a barometer of health. . . . The more the bones are embedded in sound flesh, the healthier the person appears, and the more they show, the closer that person is to death (Lam. 3:4; 4:8; 5:10).”
– regarding bones “showing”:
Man is also rebuked with pain on his bead
and with continual strife in his bones . . .
His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen,
and his bones that were not seen stick out (Job 33:19, 21; cf. Ps. 22:17)
• good health is judged by the soundness of one’s bones
One dies in his full vigor,
being wholly at ease and secure,
his pails full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist (Job 21:23-24)
• poor health is felt in the bones
The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. . . .
My skin turns black and falls from me,
and my bones burn with heat (Job 30:17, 30)
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin (Ps. 38:3)

Sharing bone and flesh signified a bond with another or others

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man (Gen. 2:23)
Staubli and Shroer, “Here and in many other places (Gen 29:14; Judg 9:2-3; 2 Sam 5:1; 19:12-13) flesh and bones express the closes relationship, such as is felt by members of the same tribe.”
– the bond Jacob shared with his uncle Laban (Gen. 29:14)
• the family connection Abimelech shared with the city of Shechem (Jdg 9:2)
• the affinity David had with the tribe of Judah (2 Sam. 5:1; 19:12-13)

Bones function with feelings and emotions of a person’s inner life

Job’s friend, Eliphaz, describing a nighttime vision
dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake (Job 4:14)
Staubli and Schroer, “The psalms have quite a bit to say about the terror that gnaws one’s bones, the dread of death that strikes a chill in the bones of those who pray (Pss 6:2; 22:14, 17; 31:10; 32:3; 38:3; 42:10; 102:3), and there are a remarkable number of sayings in the book of Proverbs that establish psychosomatic connections between one’s way of life or experiences and the state of one’s bones . . . .”
– examples of “psychosomatic connections” from the Proverbs:
trust and reverence in God
will be healing to your [navel]
and refreshment to your bones (Pr. 3:8)
the good that comes from encouraging, comforting, loving speech:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the [bones] (Pro. 16:24)
• we’ve learned that prolonged stress or anxiety can affect bones
◦ excess cortisol in response to ongoing stress diminishes bone density
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh
but envy makes the bones rot (Pr. 14:30)
• the quality of life deteriorates from the inside-out
◦ envy and other negative emotions attack body’s internal structure
positive emotions can heal, negative emotions can harm,
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Pr. 17:22)
grief overwhelms our body parts,
I hear, and my body trembles; / my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; / my legs tremble beneath me (Hab. 3:16)
Concerning the prophets [who were leading Israel astray]:
My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake . . . . (Jer. 23:9)
the emotional distress of sin and sorrow affects the bones:
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled (Ps. 6:2)
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away (Ps. 31:10)
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long (Ps. 32:3)
the relief of forgiveness can bring a joy that heals the bones:
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice (Ps. 51:8)
Pat Ogden, “Our sense of well-being is strongly tied into the core of the body, the spine, and the surrounding muscles, and particularly to whether the spine is aligned.” [Trauma or mistreatment in childhood can] “promote postural adaptations suited to unsafe, rejection, or critical conditions.”
“Posture has a powerful influence on emotions and well-being. Fixed postures, such as a chronically slumped spine or ‘military’ posture, can be viewed as positions from which only select emotions and behaviors can be possible.”

The bones speak, and like other body parts they have something to say

All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Ps. 35:10)
– David is listening to the basic framework of his body
• and his body’s core is telling him something
– to believe something down to our bones, is to be thoroughly convinced

The spine is what enables us to live an upright life

There’s a parallel between the body and God’s sacred tent
You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood (Ex. 26:15)
– upright has to do with the posture of the body and of a person’s character
See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes (Ecc. 7:29)
• in the Proverbs and elsewhere, the opposite of upright is crooked
• being bent over can happen as we age (Ecc. 12:1-3)
◦ but it can also be a punishment or curse (Ro. 11:9-10)
– in contrast to being bent, is our response to signs of God’s hand at work in the world
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Lk. 21:28)
– previously, Jesus saw a woman who was bent over and could not fully straighten herself, so he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God (Lk. 21:28 and 13:11-13)
• in both passages, Luke uses the same word for “straighten [up]”
Pat Ogden, “Our posture is dependent on the core of the body–the spine and surrounding muscles. A strong but flexible core and aligned posture stabilizes us both emotionally and physically while also supporting our actions.”

Conclusion: Paying attention to our posture is a very easy discipline

If you find yourself rubbing the back of your neck,
– stretching your back or your arms or legs,
• you’re most likely responding to poor posture
• we forget about our posture when
◦ engrossed in writing, reading, working on a project with small details
◦ but the body will remind us when we’ve been treating it poorly
Ogden, “How we hold our bodies is rich with meaning, conveying to others our mood in the moment and providing hints as to how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we hold. When we sit or stand slumped, upper back bowed, shoulders rounded, and head forward, we might appear detached, frightened, insecure, or compliant. Colloquialisms about being ‘spineless’ or having ‘no backbone’ testify that a collapse in the spine is associated with shame, low self-esteem, or difficulty with self-assertion. In contrast, when we have a rigid, tense ‘military’ posture, with head and shoulders pulled back, knees locked, and muscles tense, we might appear arrogant, intimidating, adversarial, or inflexible. Terms such as unbendable or ‘puffed up with pride’ describe a rigidly held spine and a core of the body characterized by inflexibility. But when we sit or stand tall yet relaxed, with our shoulders open and our chins level, we appear more focused, confident, and receptive.”

The Bible challenges us to live upright lives
– to carry ourselves with dignity, having nothing to fear and nothing to hide
• if we know that God is with us, our bodies will show it

Sometimes we cannot shake the emotions that rack our bodies
– we cannot rise to the fearless confidence that God is for us
• our rational minds resist the faith in our hearts
– one way to work at this is to move backwards
• instead of top-down, where we have to figure everything out in our heads before we can accept it with our heart,
• we work bottom up, where we carry our bodies as we would if “it all made sense”
◦ and all the help we needed had arrived

Developing a new habit of changed posture
will change our brains
will rewire them to what our bodies are saying
will reinforce our commitment to living upright
And quite possibly,
bring us to a greater awareness of God with us

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