Several years ago, I worked for a summer camp as a counselor. At the start of the season, all the counselors moved in early for orientation and training. Everyone got introduced to each other and we filled out our counselor biographies. One thing I remember vividly about the biographies was one of the other counselor’s answer to the question “If you had a super power, what would it be?” Traditional powers like flying and invisibility were considered taboo so you had to get creative with your answers. While other counselors were shooting root beer out of their fingers, this guy wanted to have “Bones of Fire”.
For anonymity, we’ll call this guy “John”. I had met him at at school before in my freshman chemistry class and knew he was a Christian. At any university, not every Christian hangs out with every other Christian but we all know each other through the grapevine. John had gotten into a car accident a few months earlier and it turned out to be a really bad wreck. He ended up having to have a lot of bones put back together and back into the right places. We all heard about John’s wreck and the word to pray for his healing went quickly through the community. Fortunately, he was able to recover enough in time to work that summer.
Naturally, when John said his super power would be Bones of Fire, I assumed he was making some kind of thinly veiled comment about the long term discomfort and pain that comes with crushed bones. What I, and probably many of the other counselors, didn’t understand at the time was that this was a deeply theological reference. During my time as a camp counselor, this comment on bones of fire didn’t have a profound effect on me but it did stick in my mind for its strangeness.
Parallel to this season, I had committed myself to reading the whole Bible. It wasn’t until a few months after the summer was over that I came across this piece of scripture:
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9 ESV
When I laid my eyes on that for the first time, it was like a bolt of lightning struck me with understanding. You see, John had neatly sidestepped the conversation about silly super powers and brought the thunder with a real one.
The book of Jeremiah, where this verse is located, was written by a young man the Lord called to service. He wasn’t great and he had no love for public speaking. Often, he was known for crying in public, coming to be known as the “weeping prophet.” On the charisma scale, this guy had probably a 2 out of 10. He did have one thing, though, that all of the other prophets did not: he had the word of the Lord.
Now, in those days, the Bible had not been completed and prophetic words and signs were useful to God as a way to warn His people and to reclaim their attention from false gods. Unfortunately for the prophetic messenger, these words of God were rarely well received and often ignored. The messenger usually ended up being tortured, punished, or killed for speaking them. While all the other prophets were busy spreading false words from false gods, Jeremiah was hearing from the Lord. God knew of the sinfulness and hatred that would come against Jeremiah and warned him that this would happen.
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”” Jeremiah 1:18-19 ESV
Today, fortunately, we have the completed Bible. All of the works of the prophets have come to pass. The Lamb of God, that the is the Christ who was prophesied to be slain, has been slain and resurrected. The good news of the Gospel has been preached and explained and written down. And, the final revelation has been given to us so that we can know and be prepared for the day which is still to come, the great day of the Lord.
But here’s my point… when you read the Bible, you are consuming the Word of God. Today, we no longer have to receive signs and visions to know what God says because we have access to the Word of God itself. (You can read about why we can trust the Bible as the word of God here). As you study what God says and spend time with Him in prayer and meditation, you’ll grow deeper in your faith and understanding. You’ll begin to find that your thoughts start to shift more and more towards the eternal things and the mysteries of God. You’ll really start to understand that God redeeming us even when we didn’t deserve anything but hell is the best news that could ever be given. You’ll start to feel like you need to tell someone about it. After a while, your faith will become like a fire, shut up in your bones.
I didn’t understand what having bones of fire meant back then. I don’t really think it’s a super power either. When it comes down to it, though, I can only hope that the fire continues to burn and that I don’t try to hide it within me, lest it burn me up. I hope the same for you as well. May we all have Bones of Fire.