July 7, 2017

Death and fiction — life and reality

“The Book Thief” spins a yarn of a foster child living in Nazi Germany during the worst time in their history. The narrator is Death who delivers human souls to eternity. The girl learns to read, steals books, and shares them with the needy people around her. It is fascinating, fiction at its best.

Another story in Ezekiel is also fascinating, but not fiction. The prophet was given a vision — a valley full of dead bones. As he gazes on it, God tells him:

“And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:10–11)

God’s directive to declare His Word to the people continues, and as He speaks, Ezekiel must feel dismayed. Finally, the Lord says to him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

Well-known preacher, Charles Spurgeon said, “We cannot turn the dry bones into living men, but we can prophesy upon them, and, blessed be God, we can also prophesy to the four winds, and by our means the dead may live.”

Today’s devotional says, “Even so, we cannot give dead sinners life. Eternal life and faith in Christ are gifts of divine grace created in the hearts of men by the sovereign power of God.” He is right. Only God can give life to dry bones, yet He rarely thunders that good news from Heaven. Instead, the Lord calls His people to tell people about the way of life.

I shiver thinking of Death in the book, not that this strange narrator causes the end of life, but is there when it comes to gently gather souls and pass them to their next destination. Will the story speak of eternal life with Christ? If not, a great opportunity will be missed to give comfort to the living, to those taken up with a fascinating story and view of how it is to die.

Certainly, only those who know the way of eternal life can share Gospel truth with others. Even the most imaginative writers would not conjure up a valley of dead bones receiving flesh and breath and life — without calling it fiction. Yet what happened to Ezekiel is the power of God. In the fiction story, the stolen books give hope. In reality, the living Word of God gives faith and offers life.

Jesus, stories like “The Book Thief” fascinate readers. However, Your story does what no other can do; it gives eternal hope, faith that comes from hearing it, and the offer of forgiveness and eternal life to all who are ready and willing to listen to it. Again, I marvel that You opened my eyes and ears, that You still speak to me through this Book called the Bible using the power of the Holy Spirit. You opened my heart with Your words, You continue to bless me as I read it. May You also continue to give me opportunities to tell others what it says, that they also might find in it the reality of eternal life with You.

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