Ways of Seeing Meditations: 20. The Possibilities of what you see
Ezek 37:2,3 I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
How life was: I would like to just rerun some ground I covered yesterday, before we finish this series, but with a slightly different slant. Go back a couple of years. I still write in a time that is not normal, not like it used to be, a time of fear for many, grieving for some and uncertainty for all. Remember the days before all this when we had not a clue about what was coming, days when we would turn up at church on Sunday mornings, stop and chat with friends, stand alongside them and sing lustily, pray, listen to sermons, chat together over coffee afterwards, make our way home with wider family or perhaps even go out to lunch with a group of friends. How we took all that for granted. The trouble was that in that safe and secure environment, as it appeared to be, we also listened to sermons with a half-open ear and went away saying ‘nice word’ but largely unchanged. All over the world preachers preached their hearts out and many responded – and many didn’t.
How life could be: Imagine a new day. The crowd gathers, the Spirit comes, prayer is poured out, people ask for prayer and the Spirit washes, cleanses, empowers and encourages and joy is released, hands are laid on the sick and they are healed, hands are reached out to some and they scream and demons flee, worship breaks out spontaneously and the Spirit inspires words and music and hearts are broken, tears flow, laughter flows, people are anointed and equipped and go out with fresh, clear vision to ‘take the world’. Can these dry bones live?
A Valley of Deadness: And so to Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. It’s a vision that has been preached many times and is well known but do we let its familiarity rob us of its challenges. Ezekiel is no stranger to God, no stranger to prophetic visions. He is also no stranger to heart-ache because for years he has prophesied to a succession of kings and still no one heeds the words from heaven. He has in his heart a sureness that the judgment of God is coming and the land will be decimated and Jerusalem and the temple destroyed. Something in him has once or twice wondered is there any future for Israel. He looks at what they are today and almost despairs. It is hopeless, they are spiritually dead, apparently unable to hear the words he has spoken for so long. And then this vision comes. He sees it clearly. It is a valley and it is littered with bones – dry bones, bones that have been scavenged by wild animals and dried out by the sun. They are simply a reminder of lives that had once been but are no more. They are the perfect picture of a people who are no longer.
The Israel that had stood at the foot of Mount Sinai centuries before and declared, “Everything the Lord has said we will do,” (Ex 24:3), the Israel that had entered the land by passing through a dry Jordan, the Israel that had conquered the land, the Israel that, under David, had subdued their enemies, the Israel that, under Solomon, had become so strong and affluent, the Israel that had known low points but also revivals, is no longer. There seems a complete absence of spiritual life. This is the people of God in name only. King after kings fails to bring change. The prophet in the land (Jeremiah) and the prophet already in exile (Ezekiel) and even the prophet in the kings court in Babylon (Daniel) appear to be having no effect. This is a spiritual dead nation.
And then: And then comes this vision. It is clearly a picture of death but then comes the question from God – can these bones live? Lord, you know. Yes, God knows everything; from the very beginning He saw it all, saw we would respond to Him, saw we would trip over our feet and get it hopelessly wrong, but He also saw what He could achieve with us – He knows!
Partnership: But then comes the involvement bit: YOU prophesy and say, “Hear what God says – I will make you live again!” It’s not what I want, it’s what He decrees, what He is going to do. I just speak it out, that is my part in the partnership. When God said at creation about mankind, “fill the earth and subdue it,” (Gen 1:28) or as the Message version puts it, “Fill the earth. Take charge!” He meant, “in harmony or in partnership with me.” In Gen 2 we see that the Lord planted the garden (2:8) but He put Adam in the Garden “to work it and take care of it”. (2:18) It has the same feeling as we find in Ex 3 when the Lord comes to Moses at the burning bush and says about His people, “I have come down to rescue them,” (3:8) but adds, “So now, go. I am sending you.” (3:10) So here is the big thing about Ezekiel’s vision. It is not only about the Lord’s ability to bring fresh life to His dead people, it is also about Him involving Ezekiel in it. Ezekiel has a part to play.
And Us? So here we are with all this talk about seeing in a fresh way. At the end of it, can we believe God is here, can we believe God wants to act in and through the Pandemic (or whatever other negative is coming through your present circumstances), can we believe He has something on His heart much greater than we have experienced previously, can we believe the vision, can we believe what God can do with a deadly situation? And here’s the heavy part: can we believe we have a part to play in this so that, as we make ourselves available to Him and seek Him with all our heart, mind and soul, He WILL use us in it all to bring transformation to the Church and to the world, and will bring glory to Him? Amen.