In the manner of the Lord’s death, Roman soldiers break legs to hasten death. But they don’t do it to Jesus. He is already dead. The apostle John says: “In fact, these things took place for the scripture to be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of his will be broken.’” (John 19:36)
He is quoting Psalm 34:20: “He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken.”
Yet, if you read the verse in its Psalm 34 context you would never get the impression that the subject dies.
They cried out, and Jehovah heard; He rescued them from all their distresses. (17)
Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit. (18)
Many are the hardships of the righteous one, But Jehovah rescues him from them all. (19)
He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken. (20)
Disaster will put the wicked to death; Those hating the righteous will be found guilty. (21)
Unbroken bones runs parallel to ‘rescued from all distresses,’ ‘saves those who are crushed,’ and ‘rescued from all hardships.’ If you’re rescued from all your distresses, you don’t expect to die. The only one who dies is ‘the wicked’ of verse 21, the one ‘hating the righteous!’
Are we looking at a bait and switch? Is John doing some ‘quote-mining,’ pulling a verse out of context? Better to think that in applying it to Jesus he adding a new dimension to Psalm 34:20. Was Jesus’s life unbroken? Anyone seeing him impaled, his disciples included, would have to say no. What was unbroken, however, was his integrity.
Bones likened to integrity works pretty well. What gives a body ‘integrity’? What makes it stand up? Bones. Break the bones and it no longer stands.
Bones are often not literal in scripture. They can be “filled with dread,” in the case of a fearful person. (Job 4:14) “Jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Pr 14:30) On the bright side, “pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Pr 16:24) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Pr 3:8) In all of the above, ‘bones’ are symbolic.
But if the bones that not one will be broken are not literal then probably the other items of Psalm 34 are not literal either. ‘Rescued from all your distresses?’ You may still die, but with your integrity unbroken. It’s a little like the sparrows that “not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” That doesn’t mean they don’t fall to the ground. It just means God knows about it. This is a downright bummer to those whose sole focus is the present life, and it’s a bit of a check even for those whose is not
Still, in the long run, integrity is life. Jesus was resurrected. Those who keep integrity toward God, though they die, are resurrected. They may yet live forever, just with a little hiccup at the beginning.
This brings no comfort to those whose sole horizon is the short run, but it does to those who have the big picture. See what a difference your time frame makes. People do die in this system of things. Sometimes your faith gets you out of a jam even now, and when that is the case—well, you won’t hear me complain about it. They throw Felix into the hellhole (related Saturday AM at the Pursue Peace Convention) where prisoners are broken, and he emerges with the toughest one of them saying, ‘If anyone messes with you, they’ll have me to answer to.’ It’s his faith on display that protected him, in combination with qualities engendered by the Word of faith—don’t repay evil for evil but repay evil with good, consider others as superior to oneself, treat others with deep respect, keep a primary eye, not on your own concerns, but that of others.
The qualities instilled by application of Bible principles go a long way in safeguarding a person. They are very hard to instill in the absence of Bible study, since they go so contrary to the dominant spirit today. Even now, they bail a person out of trouble. But when they don’t, one is fortified by knowing that keeping integrity means resurrection, and resurrection means life. That confidence, in turn, strengthens the resolve not to break one’s integrity. All the people manipulated to do terrible things through fear of being killed themselves, whom Bro Sanderson spoke of? Doesn’t happen to those who trust in God.
One’s time frame makes all the difference. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’ as the song taken from 1 Corinthians 9:24 says. Make life in this system count, but even so, know it is not the ‘real’ one. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, shot back at those who insist the economy would always revert to normal ‘in the long run’ with, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
He is right with regard to the time frame of persons whose sole reality is the present system of things. But in the time frame of those who trust in God, it is, “in the long run we all live.”
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