Summary: The truth of the day is that Ezekiel’s bones will live and the rocks will sing because there is nothing at all anyone can do to prevent the Word of God from being spoken.
Dry Bones and Singing Stones
March 20, 2005
Jeb was one of the leading citizens of Ottumwa, Iowa. He was the kind of guy that you could count on, no matter what. He was a deacon in his church. Every time the doors were open, he was there. He had served as Chairperson of the Trustees, head usher, and Church Council Chair. He taught the Jr. High Sunday School class.
Every year, the women of the church had a fall bazaar and apple dumpling sale. He was always there, pealing apples, mixing dough, selling the sweet pastries. They made him an honorary member of the women’s group, complete with lapel pin.
If you needed something, Jeb was always there. He was quick to pull a ten dollar bill out of his pocket to give to a transient who needed gas. He helped mow lawns and rake leaves for some widows in town. He coached little league baseball. He was the announcer at High School basketball games. He built houses with Habitat for Humanity. He took eye glasses from the local Lions Club down to Haiti for poverty-stricken people there.
He was also one of the most successful farmers in the tri-county region. In addition to running a thousand head of hogs, he farmed 2,500 acres of rolling prairie that produced some of the finest corn and wheat in the country. He had a degree from Purdue in Agricultural Economics and had become one of the wealthiest farmers around.
He and his wife of 40 years had been blessed with ten children…seven sons and three daughters. They had all grown to be fine young adults. Jeb made it a habit to pray for each one individually during his morning devotions, asking God to bless and prosper them.
Late one Monday night, Jeb got a call from the sheriff. It seems as though all of his children had been at the home of the oldest to have dinner and watch football. A gang of young toughs from Des Moines had come through town, and for some reason, picked that particular house to rob. In the process, they had shot and killed all ten of Jeb’s children.
Sometime during the early morning hours following the funeral, lightening struck one of his barns. Hogs have a tendency, when they are scared, to group together as tightly as they can. That is what they did when the barn began to burn. Instead of running away from the flames, they huddled together…and most of them perished.
Just as he was trying to make sense of all of this tragedy, he began to feel some heaviness in his chest. Going to the doctor, he was put through a whole battery of tests. When the results came back, he was shocked to learn that he had lung cancer.
And he cried out to God in his loneliness, anger, grief, and despair. He told God that he couldn’t take it anymore. He said that he wanted to die and to be put out of his misery. He couldn’t understand how one man could be expected to persevere through all of this misfortune. He wished that he had never been born. Is there any among us who is not able to feel his pain, see his despair, and understand the terrible anguish of his life?
That was a parable. Perhaps you will recognize a parallel to this parable if you are familiar with the biblical character of Job, who lost his children, his flocks, his health…and cried out to God to just let him die. Job had everything going for him - family, friends, wealth, health - only to have them all stripped from him in moments of horror and shock. In the outer darkness of his desolation, Job lashed out at God, wanting to know why he was ever born in the first place. He lamented that he didn’t die at birth. He bemoaned the fact of his life and wished only for death.
Perhaps you have not experienced such Job-like struggles in your own life. But I bet, if you search the deep recesses of your memory, you will be able to bring to mind someone you have known who has passed through those waters. Maybe you are indeed one of those who have experienced the throes of disease, sorrow, and death. Perhaps you are one of those who know first-hand what it is like to suffer. Perhaps you are one of those who understands Job more than as just a story in the Bible. Perhaps this very morning, you are one of those who are trying to make sense out of your faith; trying to make sense out of a life that has gone wrong; trying to make sense out of disaster; trying to find answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.