Good News – Unfilleted!
The Bible – all of it – is good news from God and it’s not unusual to discover that faith suffers if the good news is detached from its… BONES!
All through His Word, God uses often uses bones to teach us the way of wisdom and faith. It all started way back in Eden when Adam, the perfect man, awoke from a deep sleep with one of his ribs missing – only to discover that God had used it to make the perfect woman – the only perfect woman who has ever lived. The Hebrew catches Adam’s breathless response: “AT LAST!!” Most probably his eyes – the window of his soul – were saying “I can live without a rib – can’t imagine living without this W-O-MA-N!!” Probably best to bridle our fallen imaginations at this point so… moving on…!
Joseph the great-great grandson of Abraham presents us with another life story from which we dare not remove the bones! Unwisely favoured by his elderly father Jacob, Joseph became the teenage tell-tale whose older half-brothers came to hate him. When he, probably unwisely, shared dreams of his future elevation above his entire family – including his mother and father – their hatred overflowed. At the first opportunity, they sold him into slavery to passing traders and convinced their doting old father that beloved Joseph had been torn apart by wild animals. Through 22 years of suﬀering in Egypt as a slave, falsely accused of attempted rape, imprisoned, forgotten for two years by a released fellow prisoner and then suddenly rocketed to untouchable power and authority second only to Pharaoh, Joseph had discovered God could take the most hopeless situation and fill it with hope. Indeed, he discovered that his youthful dreams had been Godgiven and fulfilled in exact detail. In Joseph’s experience, God’s promises were unbreakable. So, in his dying hours, he told his family to make sure that they would carry his bones to the Land God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – 400 years before the promise was fulfilled. His bones were to be removed from Egypt – because they could not be removed from God’s promise!
King Solomon said “a crushed spirit dries up the bones” . (Proverbs 17:22) Israel’s ancient king knew nothing about calcium deficiency caused by anxiety (that discovery had to wait for 20th century medicine!), but he had noticed that bitterness, worry and mental stress can cripple your body. He spotted that (with some help from the Holy Spirit) about 3000 years ago! So, many of our aches and pains might mean that we need to worry less and worship more! One of Solomon’s most famous insights draws a direct line between our trust in God and our bodily health – including our weary bones! “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)
Fast-forward 1000 years… Jesus has just risen from the dead and His disciples are struggling to get their heads around this amazing news … Some disciples from Emmaus had met a stranger who made their hearts burn as He led them in an amazing Bible study – proving that their Messiah was expectedto die and rise again. He had gone home with them for a meal. As their guest, they had invited him to break the Sabbath bread but as soon as they heard the bread crack they suddenly recognised Him and He vanished from their sight. They had already walked the seven miles permitted by their Sabbath laws, but they forgot all about regulations and ran the journey all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the others. They’re just telling their story when Jesus appears again! ….
We pick up the story at Luke 24: 36… It will do us good to note that Jesus’ appearance here is not a reward for faith, but a merciful concession to terrified doubters who are more inclined to think He’s a ghost than to rejoice that He has kept His promise to rise on the third day… Patiently, He draws their attention to His very real “flesh and bones” . Earlier in the day, Mary had not expected to see Him alive at the tomb, the disciples had rejected the testimony of the women, The Emmaus duo had lost all hope. Later the same day, Thomas refused to believe what he could not see. At no point did Jesus demand faith before revelation. Their hopes were crushed, their faith needed restoration and all their agonised unbelief was met with gentle mercy and glorious grace. Once again, He expounded Moses and the prophets to them and ate some roasted fish in their presence. If there was still any risk that some would think they had hallucinated the whole encounter, He made sure they still had the bones to look at. No, not His bones… His FISH BONES!
Don’t fillet your faith – God never will!