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“All of us who have waited on the Lord will find him delivering on his promise, bringing the dead to life, as His Son pays for our sins and rises again. He is the resurrection and the life. Now we wait for our own resurrection, when our Lord will speak His Word over us, his now forgiven friends, and all our waiting will be over.”
As we approach Easter week, we get a fuller understanding of what—or, better, who—we have been waiting for. The assigned readings for this week of Lent are Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, John 11:1-45, and Romans 8:6-11.
The Old Testament is full of “waiting.” After Genesis 3 we find Adam, Eve, Noah, and others waiting for God to fulfill his promise to deal with the Fall, bringing us back to Eden and back to Himself. Abraham spends decades waiting for God to deliver on his promise to give him a son, who would turn into an entire nation and eventually bless all the nations. Isaac’s children waited four hundred years for God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. When the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were overthrown, God’s faithful waited for him to deliver on his promise to fix things—to make Abraham's children a blessing again, to give them the Son, to bring them back to Eden and back to himself.
Ezekiel 37 shows us a conversation between God and his prophet Ezekiel. God shows Ezekiel a vision: a valley of dry bones, dead and dusty. He tells Ezekiel to prophesy over them—in other words, he tells Ezekiel to speak God’s word to dead bones. When he does, Ezekiel watches in amazement as the bones shake off their dust and become covered in flesh, coming to life and standing before him like a “great army” (v. 10). God explains: this is what you are waiting for. Israel (in fact, all of humanity!) has as much hope of coming to life as dead bones. The Bible echoes this theme: we are “dead in our sins” (Eph 2:1), no matter how healthy we might look on the outside. Like dry bones, we have no hope of coming to life. But God tells Ezekiel: “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves...and you shall know that I am the Lord” (vv. 12-13). When God sends His Word over his people, he will raise us to life and we will stand together like a great army.
Psalm 130 voices the cry of everyone who waited for God to deliver on his promise. The psalmist cries to God: “hear my voice!” He knows that his sins mean that he doesn’t deserve God’s ear: “If you should mark iniquities, who could stand?” But he also knows that God’s love is steadfast: “With you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” But this forgiveness, this love, is not as close as the psalmist wants. He knows that God “will redeem Israel from all her iniquities,” but the bones are still dry! What will he do? “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (v. 5). He will wait more than watchmen wait for the morning, when the sunlight brings safety and they can finally be at rest.
John 11 shows us Jesus, the center of God’s promises and the center of our Bibles. The Word made flesh has shown up in our world. God is breathing over dry bones when his Son walks on the earth that he made good: little flashes of Eden extending from his healing hands and his wise lips. Jesus’ friend Lazarus is sick, but Jesus doesn’t go to visit him. Only after Lazarus dies, his bones drying out in a tomb for four days, does Jesus arrive. His disciples, Lazarus’ family, and the Jewish mourners are all bewildered. How does the healer let his friend die? How could he love Lazarus—how could he love any of us—if he would withhold his power and let death reign? Everyone had waited for Jesus, in him they had hoped, and Lazarus was dead in the tomb.
But they were wrong. They had waited for something too small. When Jesus arrives, he tells them that he is “the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). He is not just a healer. He is the breath of God on dry bones. He tells them to roll the stone away, opening the tomb of a body that had already started to decay. He speaks into the dark opening carved into the rock: “Lazarus, come out” (v. 43). God in the flesh speaks His Word over a dead friend. John simply says: “The man who had died came out” (v. 44). Lazarus would live again. No one waits for Jesus in vain.
Jesus would go on to become dead bones so that we might come to life. Don’t miss everything the world has been waiting for, the breath of God Himself, dying on the cross and rising to life—coming out of his own tomb!—in the resurrection. After all of our waiting, the Lord delivers on his promise as His Son pays for our sins and rises again. He is the resurrection and the life. Now we wait for our own resurrection, when our Lord will speak His Word over us, his now forgiven friends, and all our waiting will be over.
Romans 8 reminds us that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work now in us who believe. While we still wait for the new garden, the new city, the new heavens and the new earth, we are not waiting alone. God’s Holy Spirit has made our souls alive. He has breathed over us and remade us, so that now we are born again. So how do we wait now? We wait in pursuit of God, in pursuit of holiness. We set our minds on the Spirit, and find life and peace (v. 9). We can, because God has kept his promises in Jesus.
Brian serves the church by overseeing preaching and Sunday morning services at Cornerstone.
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