Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 3

Ezekiel 37:1-14, “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Son I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 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 bring 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.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. 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!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: “Behold O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it”, says the Lord.”

Now before we get into the text itself, I want to give you a little background on the prophet Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel is counted among a small group of prophets known as the major prophets of the Bible. In fact other than Ezekiel, there are only three other major prophets, those being Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of course Daniel. I would encourage anyone who still believes that the life of a prophet is easy and carefree, to read the book of Ezekiel all the way through, and focus on what this man had to endure for the sake of God, and all the trials and hardships that he went through.

Since the topic of this teaching is not the prophet Ezekiel himself, but rather a vision he had of the valley filled with dry bones, I will only give you a few brief highlights of his life and time in ministry.

I think I relate to Ezekiel very much, because of the difficult and unpopular message he had to bring to the house of Israel. In essence Ezekiel prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, and their being taken into captivity. It’s not easy preaching an unpopular message, it’s not easy going against the grain, and swimming against the current, but when God requires this of you, you have no choice but to obey.

Somewhere near the beginning of his ministry, God made Ezekiel’s tongue cling to the roof of his mouth, and for roughly seven years, until the destruction of Jerusalem he was not able to speak. This is why the book of Ezekiel is filled with symbolism, and with visions that God showed him.

Among the many things that God commanded Ezekiel to do, and which Ezekiel did faithfully were eat a scroll, build and destroy a model of Jerusalem, bake bread over a fire fueled with cow manure, then eat it, lie on his left side for three hundred and ninety days, then another forty days on his right, and all these things were used as symbols, types and shadows showing God’s displeasure with His people, the dark valley into which the people had descended spiritually, and forewarning them of their coming captivity.

Life was not easy for the prophet Ezekiel, and although God allowed Him to marry, to have this one small comfort and grace, his wife dies upon the destruction of Jerusalem.

This selfsame prophet is taken in a vision in the midst of a valley full of bones. The bones were very dry, representing the absolute lack of life among the people of Israel. We can readily extrapolate the vision that Ezekiel had to today’s modern age, and conclude that many today, even among the church, even among those who claim to belong to Christ, are merely dry bones, of no use to anyone. Absent of God, man is but a bag of bones, dry and useless.

What Ezekiel saw were not just a few bones scattered along the valley floor, but rather he saw very many bones in the open valley. Perhaps it would be more comforting to us if the Bible said, ‘Many are those who find the narrow road, and walk through the small gate’

But it does not. The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:14, that narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The dead dry bones are not few in number. Those who are dead in their sins, those who have no life within them, those who are dry and scattered across the open valley are larger in numbers than we would like to contemplate.

Statistics tell us that almost one hundred people die on this planet every minute, and the tragic truth is that a great majority of them die in their sins. Everywhere you go, if you have spiritual eyes, you will see the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision, and your heart will be burdened with speaking life into them.

As Ezekiel passed by the bones, all around, God speaks to him and asks him a deceptively simple question.

‘Son of man can these bones live?’

Now Ezekiel was so taken aback by this question, that he did not know how to respond, and so he simply said, ‘O Lord God, You know.’

From a human perspective, using human reason there was no chance, and no way by which those dry dead bones could come back to life, there was no way that they could live. The human perspective is discouraging, but God is able to do what is impossible for man.

Although God could have done it himself, He chose to use Ezekiel, and commanded him to prophesy to the dry bones, saying, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’

I have often thought what the reaction of a congregation would be if I started out a Sunday sermon with this declaration. ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’

Even if it is uncomfortable, even if we seem as fools in the eyes of the world, we must preach to the dry bones, we must preach to those who are still dead in their sins, we must preach to those who roam about in the darkness, we must preach to those who are desperate and hurting and hopeless and say, hear the word of the Lord. Not my words, not my ideas, not my doctrine, but the word of the Lord.

This is what I attempt to bring to you with every post and with every teaching, and this is what you should attempt to bring to those around you: The simplicity of the word of the Lord. Not stories, not traditions, not hyper spiritual ritualism, but the simplicity of the word of the Lord. It has power, it has authority, because it is anchored, rooted, and has its genesis in God. If you want the dry bones in your family to come to life, if you want the dry bones in your home to be made alive again, they must hear the word of the Lord. The Word clearly tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So how can we hope for our loved ones, our family, and our friends to come to the knowledge of truth, how can we hope that they come to faith, if they never hear the word of God?

Dear friend, if you want your spouse, your son, your daughter, your mother, your father to come to faith, they must hear the word of the Lord, and God commands you as He did Ezekiel, speak to the dry bones and say, “O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.”

Ezekiel prophesied as the Lord commanded, and after prophesying to the dry bones, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling and the bones came together bone to bone. Ezekiel continued to look, and he beheld the sinews and the flesh, come upon the bones, and the skin covered them over.

Once more Ezekiel prophesied, this time that breath might come upon these slain, and that they might live. Because God had commanded it, and Ezekiel had carried out God’s command, behold an exceedingly great army came to life, all standing upon their feet. What a sight it must have been, that a valley once filled with dry bones, was now filled with a great army. What an amazing spiritual principle we can glean from this vision that Ezekiel had, that from dry bones, God can make an army.

Yes, God can make an army from dry bones, and this army now stood before the prophet Ezekiel.

There has always been something that has bothered me personally about this vision of Ezekiel’s, and that is the fact that the bones were very dry and also scattered upon the valley floor. Why was it that God waited for the bones to be dry and scattered? I’ve contemplated this question often, and the only answer is, when something seems all the more impossible, that is when the power of God is all the more glorious and evident. God could have shown Ezekiel a valley filled with comatose people, he could have shown him a valley filled with dying people, but He chose to show Ezekiel a valley filled with dry bones, wherein no sign of life remained, that when God brought the bones together, and the flesh and the sinews and the skin, then breathed life into them, the miracle of this act would be all the more glorious to behold.

We serve a God who can do the impossible. The impossible is His realm, and He begins where we end. When we see no possible remedy, when we see no possible cure, when we see no possible way out, that is when God begins to work, and show His great and awesome power.

If we hope to reach our loved ones, if we hope to reach our communities, if we hope to reach our cities and our nation, we must preach the word of the Lord that they might hear, and we must pray that the word takes root in the lives of the hearers, and that they bear much fruit.

Don’t lose hope dear friend, God can bring dry bones to life. Don’t give up on praying for those you are praying for, don’t stop interceding for those you are interceding for, God is able, yes, He is able to bring dry bones to life.

So there they stood, this exceedingly great army brought to life, what had only moments ago been a mass of dried bones scattered about in a valley. The breath of life, the breath of the Holy Spirit had breathed upon these once dried bones, and now they were animated and full of life.

So there are three distinct stages here that we must understand in order to get a better picture of the world, of the church, and those who are truly saved and sanctified, bought and made clean by the blood of the Lamb.

The dry bones scattered in the valley, represented the world, those who do not know God, those who have not repented of their sins, those who have not received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.

The lifeless bodies, those that had been reformed, and covered in flesh and skin, represent some in the church today. Yes, they are fully intact, but they are still inanimate, they are still lifeless, they are still without the stirring of the Holy Spirit. A church without God is nothing more than a dead body. It can be made up to look alive; it can even be adorned and made to look handsome or pretty, but in the end, a corpse is a corpse, it is a lifeless thing, that has already begun returning to the earth from which it came.

So often we are content with pretty corpses, so often we don’t inquire if the power of God is in a place, if the place looks nice enough; we don’t inquire if the Holy Spirit is with the preacher, if he tells enough jokes; we don’t inquire if there is life flowing in a congregation if they have enough programs and pizza nights; and so we grow tragically comfortable with attending a dead church, sitting through dead sermons, and being part of a dead fellowship.

When will we awaken to the reality that absent the breath of life, absent the Holy Spirit, absent the power of God in the midst of a congregation, the only thing separating us from the dead bones is time?

We need the Spirit of God, we need the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow on us, to blow on our families, to blow on our churches, and revive us. We need the Holy Spirit to bring us to life. It is not a hoped for thing, it is an assurance, a promise that God made to those who would receive Him.

“I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live”, God said. If God said it, He will bring it to pass. If God said it, we can trust in His promise.

And what a great promise it is, that He would put His Spirit in us that we might live. Desire to live in God dear friend; desire to be alive in Him. Don’t be content with being just some inanimate body warming a pew, not just some scattered bones, dried by the wind and the heat of the sun, desire to live in Him.

This world is a valley, and the dry bones litter the landscape. Won’t you be that Ezekiel that will speak to the dry bones, and speak the Word of the Lord? Won’t you be that Ezekiel who trusts God to such an extent that they would do whatever is asked of them?

God needs servants today, perhaps more than ever before in the history of the world God needs servants today. No, He doesn’t need people that are in ministry for themselves; He doesn’t need people that believe godliness is a means of gain; He doesn’t need people that just want to build up their kingdoms; God needs servants who are willing to go and speak the word of the Lord to the dry bones of the earth. He needs servants who will preach the gospel of Christ; He needs servants that are shameless in proclaiming the truth of Jesus; God needs true servants.

There are already too many hirelings within the house of God, too many pretty corpses talking allot but saying nothing at all. God needs simple, committed, faithful, obedient servants.

Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, “the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

The harvest is truly plentiful, the valley is full of dry bones, what remains is for someone to speak the word of the Lord to them, that they might be brought back to fullness, then animated to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is able to bring dry bones to life, God is able to pour out His Holy Spirit, He even desires to do these things, but He requires servants through which He can work.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for true yet encouraging and much needed words from our Lord and your heart. I needed to hear this.