The life is in the bones

14 Jan
All my bones shall say:
    O Lord, who is like you…     Psalm 35:10
 

Stopping short on this verse, folded inside David’s cry for deliverance, I wondered aloud, “How do bones sound when they praise God?”

My question prompted a 2-day archaeological dig through Scripture searching for bone references.  Carefully, I brushed the dust of familiarity away from well-known verses–

  • Adam said that Eve was “bone of my bones” after God created her from one of his ribs (Gen 2:23).
  • Ezekiel spoke the Word of the Lord over the dry bones in the valley, and they came back to life as a vast army (Ezek 37:1-14).
  • None of the bones of a Passover Lamb could be broken (Ex 12:46) which foreshadowed the prophecy about Jesus on the cross (Ps 34:20; Jn 19:36).

But my question remained – what do bones sound like when they praise their Maker?

I dug further into the layers of the Word.

Relationship

While we say, “flesh and blood” to describe close family ties, the Hebrew phrase throughout the Old Testament is “flesh and bone” (2Sam 5:1, among many others).  This is the absolutely strongest relational tie.  My bones praise God because I am His– He created me (Ps 139:13-14); He has adopted me (Rom 8:15); I am a co-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17).  Already, I feel praise and thanksgiving to Him rising up in my bones!

Strength

From a purely organic perspective, bones are the strongest part of our bodies.  When my dad’s remains were scattered beside his favorite wilderness lake, we were told to keep our distance because his ashes included bone fragments the crematory fire could not burn up.  (The pastor didn’t want us to freak out if we caught a glimpse of pieces that used to make up his body.)  The Bible speaks of the blessing of strong bones.   Strength is paired in Proverbs 3:7-8, and elsewhere in Scripture, with wisdom (most notably – Rev 5:12).   My physical strength praises Him (I have a sudden urge to run around the room and do push-ups!); as does the foundation of strong character based on Godly wisdom.

Any wisdom I possess is from God and for His praise.  Relying on my own wisdom always gets me in trouble – it saps the Godly strength available to me.  David had the same problem.  In his anguish when confronted with his sin, he felt as if God had crushed his bones (Ps 51:8).  Oh that I would rely solely on God’s wisdom and my bones would rejoice!

Life

Over the last few months we watched our neighbor across the street fight against the deadly assault of leukemia.  His doctors used all the weapons in their medical arsenal, but remission remained elusive – too elusive for the bone marrow transplant he desperately needed.  New, healthy blood cells grow in the marrow, continuously replenishing life.  Ironically, he was not healthy enough to withstand the procedure that would restore his blood and give him new life.

In several places the Bible says that the life is in the blood.  The metaphor of sacrificial blood being shed to pay for sin and bring new life is unmistakable.  But the actual physicality is just as compelling – the life is in the blood, and the blood comes to life in the center of the bones.  Therefore, the source of life is, literally, in the bones.  (Excuse me while I go get a drink of milk!)

Our Western culture elevates the heart as the source of life.  While it is true that life ceases when the heart stops beating, this muscle is simply a delivery pump for the life-giving blood.  Bones are the life-source for the source of life.   This gives loving the Lord with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength” deeper shades of meaning (Deut 6:5; Luk 10:27).  I love Him with the deepest and newest fibers of my being, with my very life as it is continually renewed at the cellular level without my conscious involvement or awareness.  New blood cells even now are flowing from my marrow into the tiny capillaries that infuse my bones, and I hear humming emanating from my bones like chant flowing from a stolid cathedral at Matins.

Another question

My understanding of the three verses at the top of this post also expands in light of these other passages.  Eve was bone of Adam’s bone – she was as close to him relationally as it was possible to be and still exist as a separate person.  She was created out of the strongest part of his being and from the source of his life.  Ezekiel’s dry-bone army was rebuilt as strength and life flowed into them from the Spirit of God– a prophecy of hope when Israel had none.

None of Jesus’ bones were broken when He was on the cross so that the Old Testament prophecy mentioned above would be fulfilled.  But why was the prophecy given at all?  Why would it be important in the glorious story of redemption that Jesus’ bones remain intact?  His blood, shed for me, was produced and protected in His human bones, bones His Father protected from being broken during His Crucifixion.  Could it be that God created this system– the strongest living tissue producing and protecting the source of life– to be ready for the most precious substance in all His creation: the blood of His only Son?

I am in utter awe.

What bones sound like

I still can’t describe the sound, but as long as I have breath, the rocks will not cry out– all of my bones will say: WHO IS LIKE YOU, O LORD!

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