All My Bones

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

My whole being (all my bones) will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:10 (NIV)

Recently I was going through some old papers and I found a note scribbled on a church bulletin. “God hears my bones cry. If I could hear it, I would hear them cry ____?”

The Hebrew word translated “my whole being” above is etsem (עֶצֶם) and means bone, essence, substance. Other versions translate it “all my bones,” “from the bottom of my heart,” “every bone in my body.” So David is saying in the verse above, “my very essence, my substance will say.” It is like declaring, “the very fiber of my being will exclaim!”

Going back to my note, if I could hear my bones crying out, what would I hear today? I’m not sure. I have been going through a very dark and dry time. I would probably hear, “Help! Save! Restore, renew, redeem! Remember your promises to me!”

Or maybe I would hear nothing at all. Maybe my bones are too dry, too crushed.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5 (NIV)

At first when I read David’s cry in Psalm 35:10 I felt guilty. There is David, the man after God’s heart, again proclaiming God’s greatness, and here I am struggling to even get a breath after another low blow. But then I read the verse in context.

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me … arise and come to my aid … Say to my soul (that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being), “I am your salvation” … Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:1-3, 9-10 (NIV)

Later in this Psalm, David cries out, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me … Then I will thank you in front of the entire congregation. I will praise you before all the people (35:17-18 NLT).” As I read this I felt like God was saying to me that it is OK to be beat down, dried up, crushed. It’s OK to be crying for help. It’s even OK to be brutally frank with God about how I feel.

He hears, he knows, he is there in the valley of dry bones with us, and he is speaking grace and love and life and redemption. And I know that someday I will cry out, all my bones, with every fiber of my being, “Who is like you, O Lord?” I know that I will thank him and praise him for what he is doing, will do, has done.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Psalm 51:8 (NIV)

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

 

His Mercy Prevails

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman], all nations [peoples];

Laud [loudly praise, commend, glory, triumph in] Him, all peoples [tribes, communities, nations]!

For His lovingkindness [goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy] is great [prevails, is strong, stronger, mighty, powerful, valiant] toward us,

And the truth [firmness, faithfulness, sureness, reliability, stability, certainty, verity, trustworthiness] of the Lord is everlasting [forever and ever, evermore, perpetual, always, unending, eternal, without end].

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman]!

Psalm 117:1-2 (NASB)

 

David danced before the LORD with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14a (NKJV)

 

Image: Jump for Joy by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/3480602438

A Mass of Reasons

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good (good, rich, valuable, excellent, right, beautiful, best, bountiful, fine, gracious, joyful, kind, loving, merry, precious, sweet).
Psalm 100:4-5  

For the Lord is good. This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise.”—Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

“A mass of reasons” – I love that. Yes, there is always a reason to thank and praise. Though there are always reasons to complain and even despair, let me turn my eyes to my loving Father, to my beautiful, gracious, kind, precious Lord. He is the one I can always run to – when I have a “skinned knee” of the soul, when I am afraid of the thunder of what is going on in this world – he is always there with open arms.

Give thanks to him and praise his name!

 

I would like to thank Ruth at the Plantedbylivingwater blog for her 365 Days of Thanks challenge. Thank you for the daily prod and reminder!

 

Middle of the Story

Ann Voskamp wrote, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”[i] The middle of the story is the hard place, where behind me, and at my feet, is the stumbled-over rubble of past mistakes, rebellions, regrets. And before, is the obscured darkness of unknown hazards and hopes. Faith thanks God amid the wreckage. Faith asks me every day to turn from fear and trust the One who has promised. How do I do that? Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The amazing Greek word translated “substance” is hupostasis.  It partly means “steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution, confidence, firm trust, assurance,” and it is mostly translated that way as “confidence.” It literally means “a setting under”[ii] as in setting under a support, a substructure, a foundation, that which is firm. Faith is the setting under me of the foundation that makes or causes me to stand and be confident. Jesus is that foundation[iii] under me. He is the Rock on which I stand.

Thinking of it this way helps me, because it makes me realize that faith is not so much something that I “have,” something I am required to manufacture or come up with. But faith is something I do. I simply step onto the Rock. I place my faith and hope, not in my ability to produce faith, not in something that may or may not happen, but in Jesus – his faithfulness, his truth, his Word, his love and care.

But, the hidden treasure in this word is another facet of meaning. Hupostasis also means “actual existence, substance, real being, essence.” It is used in this sense in Hebrews 1:3.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (hupostasis) sustaining (bearing up, upholding, keeping from falling) all things by his powerful word.

Faith is the essence of hope as Christ is the essence of God – His exact representation. When I step onto the Rock, I am sustained, upheld, kept from falling by the very essence of God, which is love. God is love; his real being is love. I will thank God here in the middle of my story, confidently standing on Jesus, the Rock of my salvation, supported and sustained by his Love that was proven at the cross.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

There is so much in Hebrews 11:1! I will look at the second half of the verse next time. Read more about faith in the blog Faith, Part Two

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

[ii] All translations from NetBible.org and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[iii] 1 Corinthians 3:11 

 

Unblameable

Now to Him who is able (has the power)

to keep (guard, watch, protect) you

from stumbling (falling, failing, sinning, erring),

and to make you stand (stand immovable, stand firm, stand unharmed, stand ready, stand prepared)

in the presence of His glory

blameless (without blemish, faultless, unblameable)

with great (exceeding, extreme) joy,  

to the only God our Savior (Deliverer, Preserver),

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

be glory,

majesty,

dominion

and authority,

before all time and now and forever.

Amen!

Jude 1:24-25 (NASB)

He Shall Be Praised!

But even as Judas betrayed Jesus he was unwittingly prophesying Jesus’ glorification.

Judas had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I go over and give him the kiss of greeting. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Teacher!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Mark 14:44-45 (NLT)

I guess, because I am a theater person, I see this event a little differently. I see it as staged theater, a kind of street theater, and Judas is directing the play. Judas is telling the guards what the stage blocking will be – I’m going to walk up to Jesus and kiss him, and then you will come and take him away. Then Judas tells them what the lines in this scene are – I’m going to say “Teacher!” His play-acting is the worst hypocrisy, for that is what hypocrite means in the Greek – an actor under an assumed character, or stage-player.

Not being a very good actor, Judas overplays his part. The word for a normal kiss in Greek is phileo, but the word here in this verse is kataphileo – to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly and earnestly. This is the same way that Mary kissed Jesus feet, wiping them with her hair (Luke 7:38). This is the same way the father kissed the prodigal son when he returned (Luke 15:20).

Maybe Judas wants to make sure there is no mistake about the identity of Jesus, but in the process commits a most horrible blasphemy. To pretend that kind of passionate love and to do it right in the Face of God, the Presence. Imagine the power of the love that must have shielded Judas from instant destruction right there. Imagine how Judas’ treachery must have broken Jesus’ heart.

But even as Judas betrayed Jesus he was unwittingly prophesying Jesus’ glorification. For the name Judas means “he shall be praised.” It comes from the Hebrew name Judah, which means praised. He shall be praised! Maybe, through all the betrayal and heartbreak this was a comfort to Jesus. Like a secret message from the Father. “This is my beloved Son. He shall not return to me empty, but he shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which he was sent.”¹

He shall be praised!

 

¹ Matthew 3:17, Isaiah 55:11

Image in the Public Domain. Jesus and Judas, by Giotto (Scrovegni Chapel, Padua)

Passing Through

What joy for those who can live [abide] in your house [dwelling place],

always [still, yet (!), again, continually, persistently] singing your praises [praising, celebrating, glorying, shining, flashing forth light]. Interlude [Selah]

What joy for [blessed are] those whose strength [boldness, security] comes from [is in] the Lord,

who have set their minds [hearts] on a pilgrimage [on the journey] to Jerusalem [place of worship].

When they walk through [pass through] the Valley of Weeping,

it will become [they will consider, regard, make it] a place of refreshing springs [fountains, source of satisfaction].

The autumn rains [the archer, the shooter of arrows] will clothe [cover, fill] it with blessings [pools, gifts, praise to God].  Psalm 84:4-6

 

Remember, you are just passing through this valley of weeping. Set your heart on the journey. Keep your eyes on the destination, on Jesus. Keep, always, continually persistently shooting your arrows of praise, shine forth your light. Make this sad place a source of blessing, refreshing, life – both for yourself and for others.

“ … the highway to Your city runs through my heart.” [i]

 

[i] From How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place by Ted Sandquist