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Bones of Character – Part 2 of 3

(8:30am) Monday, 12/21/11

“Every heave burden you are called to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”
– J.R. Miller

Continuing down the path of bones of character, I find myself in Ezekiel 37 and  a valley full of bones.  Very dry bones scattered around.  Bones of character tossed about.  Hope given up.  Joy set aside.

“Can these bone live?”

Can you still find faith, hope, and joy that has been discarded and ‘lost’?  Can they be revived?  When I’m battle-weary and bone tired, and my faith is hanging on by a string, can hope survive?

“The LORD said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ So I answered, ‘O LORD God, You know.'”

There is so much cut-to-the-chase truth in those two simple words.  When I come to the end of myself.  When hope is shattered and dreams seem to be too far out of reach.  When my biggest fear seems to be realized and I wonder if I can survive this.  This thing.  Whatever this fill-in-the-blank thing is.  This.  He asks me.  Can you survive this?  Can your faith survive this?  ‘O LORD… You know.  Only You know.  So I put one foot in front of the other every single day.  Breathing.  Living.  Surviving.  Because You know my faith can survive this.’

The cross-reference to those two words in Ezekiel 37:3?  1 Samuel 2:6.  And it stops me in my tracks.

The context of the verse finds us in the aftermath of Hannah’s answered prayer from the chapter before.  The prayer where her faith was so dried out that she could only wring a waterfall of tears from it.  The prayer where she very nearly lost her faith altogether.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah is at her wit’s end.
Weeping.
Not eating.
Likely not sleeping.
This is not a woman whose faith is strong and whose hope is sure.  Adding to her pain: her husband’s second wife continually provoking her, and a husband that can’t begin to understand the emotional turmoil of having a closed womb in a day when it was a reproach.

She was in bitterness of soul and she wept in anguish.  Praying fervently.  And the priest though she was intoxicated because of her inconsolable display of emotion.

There is something to be said for a pure, raw, and honest approach to the throne of grace.  Hannah put it all out there at the door of the tabernacle, as she had done so many times before, and she allowed the God of all comfort… to be her comfort.

And then she went her way, having poured out all the hurt, emotion, frustration, and pain of this one long-lingering unanswered prayer, and ate.  And her face was no longer sad.

Then she conceived.

And God gave her a miracle child.  And she fulfilled the vow that was made in the midst of the pain, giving her son that she had prayed so many years for back to the One that gave him to her.

I don’t think the timing of the conception was accidental.  And it might be that the prayer of anguish she said in such true, raw emotion in verse 11 of chapter 1 was unlike any other prayer she had ever prayed before.  So I need to stop and ask myself:
Why do I want children?
– simply because it’s the next step in marriage?
– because my friends have them and I feel like a fish out of water?
– because I feel like somehow I deserve them and have been robbed of a blessing all these years?

… or is it because I want to see God glorify Himself?

Once this now eight-year-long-prayer is answered, will I simply be on my way?  Or will I give that child back to the LORD freely?  Openly?  For the rest of their life and mine?

“There is a strong contrast between Eve and Hannah.  Eve sought a son for herself.  Hannah prayed for a son for God.  In Eve’s heart ‘I have gotten’ was the expression with which she greeted the gift of God; but ‘I have given’ was the thought in Hannah’s heart.”
Mary Elizabeth Baxter

Hannah had come to the end of herself when God breathed new life into her dried out faith.  She was no longer crying.  She had an appetite again.  Her face was no longer sad (in fact, it probably glowed).  And she gave her beloved child back to Him.  Literally.  Leaving him with the priest to minister to the LORD.

Verse six of chapter two in 2 Samuel provides the cross reference back to Ezekiel 37:
“The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.”

There is no chance or fate in anything.  Everything is dictated by the absolute sovereignty of God.

“‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ The question implies that, humanly speaking, they could not; but faith leaves the question of possibility to rest with Whom nothing is impossible.”
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown