"... and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." - Ezekiel 37:1, 3
The older I get, the smarter my dad becomes. It's pretty funny how we often discount our parent's wisdom while we're growing up, but then come to appreciate it later in life.
One of the most significant things I remember my dad saying relates to this verse in Ezekiel. He has said that Israel's existence is proof of God's existence. What other nation has endured such persecution and maintained its national identity? What other country has endured such persecution, threats, and attacks and still managed to exist? But greater still, what other nation has ceased to exist for almost 2000 years and then been revived? Truly Israel's existence is so fantastic, that it could have only come about by supernatural aid.
All of this seemed far removed from the cancer experience until the other day. I was visiting with someone in the Infusion area of the hospital and asked if I could pray for the person. As I was praying, this passage came to mind, so I applied it to the patient's situation. I will often relate Old Testament passages of hope, courage, strength, and victory to people's situations but had never thought of this passage before. When I finished praying for the patient, the person commented that she had tumors in several vertebrae and other bones.
Wow! God is still active applying His word just at the right moment to the right person! I'm normally very careful about making applications different from their intended use, but I believe this is a case where such applications are warranted and sanctioned. So, let me share several applications we can make from this passage of Scripture.
First, I am confident that God can protect you if He can protect a whole country. The nations of the world have tried every trick in the book to destroy Israel, but they were never successful. The nations of the world have tried to exterminate Israel by throwing her in the oven, both in Daniel's time and in our own; by scheming plots to outlaw her faith, in both the time of Daniel and Ruth; by killing her boy babies, in Egypt and Jesus' days; by putting her to hard labor in Egypt; by shipping her off to foreign lands -- Babylon, Egypt and Germany and Russia in our own day; and by plotting to destroy her in Ezra's day and during the six-day war of 1967.
All these situations have come about because God's enemies want to discredit God. Satan would like nothing better then to prove God can't take care of His children. Consequently, Satan does every thing in his power to show that God can't protect His children ... God can't preserve His children from destruction ... and God can't redeem His children from sin's destructive power. This was true of Satan's attack against Israel, and it's true when Satan attacks us today.
But I am confident that God can restore and protect you if He can and restore and protect a whole nation. The same God who defended Israel against her strongest enemies is fighting on behalf of the children He loves today. The same God who protected Israel against the overwhelming odds in the past is the same God who can protect you against overwhelming odds. The same God who spoke life into dead bones, spoke muscle onto bone, and breath into a dead nation can speak to your physical condition.
Eze 36:32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
And while we may have to go through some suffering along the way, the amazing thing is that your suffering has meaning and value when it displays God's glory. Your suffering has value when it testifies to God's power to sustain you. Your suffering has value when it testifies to the way God lovingly attends to your situation. Your suffering has value when it encourages others to trust God in their hardships. When God accomplishes this in your life, you become a testimony to God's greatness and power. Truly your existence, like that of Israel, is so fantastic that it could not have come about without supernatural aid.
So God doesn't just command that we obey and serve him without any benefit. His punishments and reward are designed to be an incentive for serving him. The choice for each of us is between being a testimony of God's greatness, and reaping the benefits for doing so, or in using our life in an effort to discredit God and becoming object of God's punishment.