Is hope lost?

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!”‘” (Ezekiel 37:11 NKJV).

To those who take the great commission seriously, prospects for ultimate success may seem more remote and improbable than ever. The mushrooming world population overwhelms whatever progress we seem to be making. Political changes continue to close doors to foreign missionaries. Our missionary forces are aging rapidly with recruitment of new, younger, workers more difficult than ever.

Added to those factors is the rapid increase in terrorism and persecution. It seems that one may hardly turn on the news without reports of yet another mass shooting or bombing by terrorists, and these are occurring at widely separated points of the globe. Literally nowhere is safe; there seems to be no refuge.

Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) has direct relevance to this situation. Like the Church today, ancient Judah was in dire condition. The Babylonian army had invaded the land twice, robbing it of treasures and taking many selected captives. The third and final invasion which would destroy Jerusalem and its Temple was soon to come. Judah’s attempt to enlist the aid of Egypt had failed, and even God had refused to provide escape. It is no wonder they were wailing, “Our hope is gone.”

But their fears were not valid. Yes they would suffer defeat and a period of captivity. But the nation would survive and return to its homeland. “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and put flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord'” (Ezekiel 37:5-6).

The bold and eternal message of Scripture is that so long as we trust in God there is hope. Whether we are concerned with the issues of our material lives, our ministry in his kingdom, or our eternal destiny, God is our Rock, our refuge, and our salvation (Psalm 62:2, 7). If he is for us, it does not matter how many enemies we have (Romans 8:31).

Most Christians agree that God may be trusted to save us eternally, but many seem reluctant to extend the same faith towards earthly concerns. There is much doubt as to exactly how much we may expect him to intervene against illness, economic stress, accident, or violent attacks.

It is true that we are clearly taught that persecution and suffering will come even to righteous Christians (Matthew 10:17-26; 2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:20). We live in an imperfect world and will be affected by its imperfection. Yet we will not be overcome by those experiences so long as we trust in God. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

There is a limit to what God will allow to happen to those whom he loves. Terrorists, ungodly governments, and all other enemies of the gospel are included in the wonderful promise, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

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