Dem Bones

 

Photo credit: valkrye131 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

Psalm 130

 

Dem Bones, original version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVoPG9HtYF8

Eighties version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLg-v4CS4nQ

Modern version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCEK-ZdOggU

The spiritual, Dem Bones, written in the 1920’s, first recorded in 1928; so it does not go back to slave days like most spirituals. It is not a folk song, but rather a spiritual because of the solid reference to Ezekiel in today’s reading.

Verse 4 gives us a key verse: Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LordKJV

The most important message is that God alone can bring the dead back to life. To prove his point to Israel, God had Ezekiel experience the valley of dry bones. He watched as the bones assembled themselves and flesh grew on them.

But notice that they were not yet alive. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may liveKJV The same Hebrew word is used for breath here as in Genesis 2:7; And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. KJV

And, it is the word used for the Spirit of God. The Spirit brings life.

The Gospel story of Lazarus is Ezekiel come to life. The bones were not sun-bleached, but the stench of death was all over the body.

We see some strange things as we read the story. When Jesus receives word that Lazarus is ill and his sisters fear for his life, Jesus remains two more days near the Jordan River. The reason is simple, Jesus listened to the word of the Lord.

Just as God gave a visual lesson to Ezekiel, God planned to give one to the followers of Jesus. He did not tell Jesus to move until Lazarus was already dead and buried. It took all day for Jesus and his disciples to walk up the mountain from the Jordan to Bethany, just a stone’s throw east of Jerusalem.

In chapter 10, the Pharisees chased Jesus out of Jerusalem, so his disciples tried to talk him out of getting as close a Bethany. His answer? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in himPhillips

Remember that last week’s lesson was about walking in the light, and that light equals life. If we walk in the Light of God, all is well, but to walk in darkness will lead to death eternal.

Jesus chose this obscure statement to answer his disciples exactly to connect the idea of Light with resurrection. He knew he was going to command the dead body of Lazarus to take a breath, stand up, and walk out of his earthly tomb. He needed his followers to make all the connections.

Lazarus is not a moment of magic. It is not an illusion. He does not appear where there was once a tiger. Lazarus was dead. The Breath of the Spirit of God made him alive again.

Life comes from God alone.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

You Claim You Can See

 

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

Psalm 23

 

Total blindness is rare; about one in a million. Most blind people can see light, and many can see enough of the darker shapes to get some idea of what is ahead. Today, we measure eyesight by how well we can see objects from twenty feet away; 20/20 vision is what most people have, but some can see smaller letters from twenty feet than the average. Many of us have vision problems. My vision is around 20/200, meaning I can see a letter on the chart that a normal person can read from 200 feet away. Living in modern America, I can slip on lenses which correct my sight to normal.

What is normal spiritual sight? How well can the average person see (understand) his relationship with the forces of good and evil? How well can he see God and how well can he see the Evil One? The process is so much like physical blindness that it is easier to use those terms. Can I tell the difference between light and dark?

In verse five, Jesus said, I am the light of the worldNIV His complete comment in 3-5 presents a complex idea. First is the idea that God allowed the man to be blind so that Jesus could heal him and use him as an example to all of us regarding spiritual blindness.

Second, Jesus turned to the day/night image, saying that we must work when we can see, or spiritually, we must work when we see what God wants us to do. When we are in the dark, we can do nothing for God. We must live in the light.

Third, night is coming. We must work while we are alive in this world for death will take us. Even Jesus had a limited time on earth, and he had much to accomplish. But notice as you read the Gospels that Jesus left much for us to do after he ascended to Heaven. We have been struggling for 2,000 years to do the mission and have much yet to do. God has things He wants me to do, but if I don’t complete them before I die (which is likely), He has plenty of others waiting to take over.

The body of Christ will work in the world with or without me.

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the LordNIV

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Living Water

 

 

Exodus 17:1-7

Romans 5:1-11

John 4:5-42

Psalm 95

 

The psalmist has God saying: If only you would listen to him today, ‘Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestor challenged me, tested me, although they had seen what I could do.’ TJB

That day in the wilderness is described in the Exodus reading. The whole community camped at a place with no water. So they grumbled against Moses. ‘Give us water to drink’ they said. Moses answered them, ‘Why do you grumble against me? Why do you put Yahweh to the test?’ TJB

There are several lessons in these two verses, but water is the theme today, specifically, life-giving water. The people of Israel focused on their material needs instead of waiting on God. They lurched from one crisis to another and never considered that God would provide. Even Moses at times despaired.

This does not mean sitting on our hands and never providing for ourselves. We trust God when we are standing on the edge with nothing in sight. When the doctors say, there is nothing left to be done, we let God do His thing.

Jesus offered the Samaritan woman Living Water. He did not tell her to forget about the well water. We live in this world and must do what it takes to survive here. But we have the promise of life in God’s world.

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty againESV Some people take this statement—and others—to mean that once we accept Jesus, all our earthly needs will be provided. We will always have food and money for what we need.

That is not what Jesus meant. The Living Water Jesus offered and still offers is of the New Jerusalem—heaven, if you will. Real life only comes after our earthly deaths.

Paul’s comments on this idea are instructive: This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troublesPhillips Even in our trials and troubles. Following Christ does not give us a free ride in this world. It identifies us as aliens in this world. We become targets of abuse by this-worlders. Nor can we take over the government and make Christianity the state religion—as many American Christians have tried to do for some time. The only way this can become a Christian nation is if there is no government and every individual listens to God alone, not filtered through a President, Pope, preacher, or prophet.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

To Save the World

Genesis 12:1-4a

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 3:1-17

Psalm 121

 

The call of Abram is a more stunning event than we credit it to be. At the opening of chapter 12, all we know is that Abram is the son of Terah, is married to Sarai, and is the uncle of Lot. The last fact given in chapter 11 is that Terah died in Harran.

Harran. Not Ur.

Genesis 11:31: Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled thereNIV

That is the full extent of what the Bible tells us about Terah traveling to Canaan. However, the oral teachings of Judaism give us an extensive history of Abram’s early life. The key points are that Terah made a good living fashioning gods to sell while Abram spent 13 years in a cave fashioning an understanding of the universe. When he stepped from the cave, Abram began to preach the idea that there is only one God. The people of Ur finally drove Terah out of the city.

With the death of Terah, chapter 12 begins with the call of God to Abram to move from Harran to Canaan, including the promise that he would father a great nation.

Paul gives us the key to understanding why all this history of Abram, who becomes Abraham, is important. Verse 16a: The whole thing, then, is a matter of faith on man’s part and generosity on God’sPhillips Salvation depends on one thing only: Faith.

That is what Jesus promised in his longer discussion with Nicodemus.  Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdomMSG Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdomMSG

We are all born into this world—this earth in the midst of a vast universe. At the same time, we are born citizens in a different world, the perfect one of God. We are all aliens on earth. Jesus tells us that we can move on to the perfect world or we can stay here and die with the imperfect world.

Moving on requires faith that God loves us enough to let his Son do what we cannot do, even those we call saints. Only God can defeat evil and death.

If you find it too much to accept that a human could be perfect—could be God—and still be completely human, join the crowd. That’s one reason we call it faith. Also, your faith does not need to be great. With faith, size does not matter.

Finally: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through himNIV You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through himPhillips John 3:17

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Adam Obeyed

 

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

Psalm 32

 

If Adam had had a good lawyer, he might have gotten off on his first offense. Can’t you hear a lawyer saying to the jury, “Remember that God said, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.’ ESV Can you blame Adam for confusing one tree with another?”

Sure, there were others words involved in the case, but it is just the argument we all use to justify our own transgressions. Adam obeyed God, sort of.

But when you’re in God’s Court, that defense never works.

What Adam did was to obey the snake. Adam heard the whole exchange between the snake and Eve, and he obeyed. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ateESV Adam could not claim that Eve was responsible; he obeyed the snake instead of God. It does not matter if the snake was really the Devil or not; Adam obeyed someone other than God.

As Paul put it: Sin made its entry into the world through one manESV After a digression, Paul continues: As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteousTJB

Adam is the first precursor of the coming Messiah. Dozens followed, each contributing something to the understanding of the Messiah. For Adam, it was the introduction of disobedience to God. With Adam, we understand that the Messiah obeys God.

Notice in Matthew’s account of the tempting of Jesus that Jesus resisted each offer (and there were likely more than three) with a quotation of the Word of God. Jesus refused to listen to anyone except God.

Happy the man whose fault is forgiven,

   Whose sin is blotted out;

Happy the man whom Yahweh

     Accuses of no guilt,

     Whose spirit is incapable of deceit! TJB

 

Once I say ‘Yes’ to Jesus, I need do nothing else to receive the full blessings of Eternal Life. Yet, if I focus on Jesus the Messiah, I will see the things he did, and I will want to copy them as well as I can. Whatever good I may or may not do will have no bearing on my standing for eternity. It is simply the result of my saying ‘Yes.’ I now want to obey God, not others.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence