Bones and Spirit (By Lynne McCarthy)
Ezekiel 37-39 (Ps 41)
Observe We begin with the familiar yet astonishing vision of the valley of dry bones. In the Spirit, God brings His prophet to a valley floor covered with bleached bones, to prophesy over them. ‘Can these bones live?’ (3) He asks rhetorically. As he prophesies, God first recreates the bodies – just corpses, really. Then as when God breathed life into Adam (Gen 2:7), so the breath of God enters these bodies: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that these may live.” (9) until they became an exceedingly great army (10). God interprets this dream as restoring life to Israel with the marvelous promise, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land.” (14)
The restoration of Israel and Judah, homecoming alluded to in the first part of this chapter, uses street theatre again. Ezekiel joins two sticks into one, illustrating God’s desire to join the Northern and Southern kingdoms into one. The diaspora will return to Israel; one kingdom will have one king; they shall be remade morally pure. The promise of the land, a covenant of peace, and the promise of God’s eternal dwelling with them witness to the nations that “I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel…” (15-28).
Chapters 38 and 39 are actually one unit. Mysterious Gog is ruler of the equally-mysterious Magog, waging war against Israel. Imagery is violent (38:19-22; 39:17-20) as God moves in wrath against the hordes of this ruler, real fire and brimstone stuff. But God emphasizes His sovereignty. “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (38:23) we have often read in other books and contexts, but He is relentless in this declaration of His holiness, whether to His people or other nations.
Chapter 39 ends with the promise, “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel…” (39:25) Grisly scenes yield to promise of homecoming, and again God promises He will be with them and “…pour out My Spirit upon the house of Israel…” (29). His holy name will be upheld as Israel forgets its past shame, restored and forgiven and returned.
Interpret This vision, the third in the book, reveals God’s power to create and recreate a community bereft of real life. As we read the sequence of restoration, all our senses are involved: sight, sound, imagination, as the Lord gives life to a dead people through His Spirit, and His obedient prophet.
Apply We simply cannot live as followers of Christ without the animating power of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, until the powerful visitation of the Spirit, we find the apostles and others waiting, or maybe cowering together after Jesus ascended. As the wind/breath/ruach (Spirit), roars through this confined space, as the flames burn into their very beings, only then can they move outside of their own old lives to speak out the word of life. We pray God to grant us in this church His reviving, renewing Spirit, to change our lives so that others will see and ask what this is, and be drawn to the Lord.
Ask We pray for revival in our congregation, and so we must. Am I ready for what that really means, the changes it will entail? Do I want to so live that I leave old self, old stuff and baggage behind, to move into Him, as obedient and transparent as Ezekiel?
Pray Actually yes, I do, Lord. Clean me up by Your Spirit so I am ready to listen, consider, and move where You would have me, even if it means staying in the same place, but changed utterly. Your Spirit’s power, and the love of Jesus, is what I will have to give to relieve the cynicism and despair around me.
Song Ps. 41: Consider the Poor Randy Gordon
Ps. 41: Amen and Amen Abe & Liza Philip
Dem Bones Delta River Boys
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.