Monday, April 7, 2014

Ezekiel 37:7-14 (ESV)

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 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.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

Consider the lost, the dry, thirsty souls living in brown houses. They can be led beside “still waters of comfort,” those cool springs meandering through “green pastures.” Indeed, the lost can know a liberator pledged to “free them from the power of those who enslaved them.”

All it takes is a shepherd, or so David and Ezekiel claim.

Appearing elsewhere in the Old Testament, that same shepherd comes at the end to claim his lost sheep, securing for them the super-abundance of an eschatological harvest.

“Shepherding them rightly,” our Lord affirms in Ezekiel 34, “the lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.”

The vision of Ezekiel 37 as well predicts a restoration. It concerns a restoration under the figure of a resurrection from the dead. For it is in the valley of the Dry Bones where we are to search out the reconciling of the lost with the Leader, the Good Shepherd.
The text establishes that the valley floor lies littered with the remains of an army cut off from hope because it was cut off from their leader. Figuratively, this is the whitened sepulcher of Israel, which is to be brought back to hope, and thus to life, through divine agency.

Restored to God, we are poised to bring body and soul together anew. By transforming the elements of our lives, God reconciles us not only one with another but even with ourselves.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has lain:
Love has come again, like wheat that springeth green.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ezekiel 37:1-6 (ESV)

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

“A taste of mint chocolate chip, please.” Apologies to those who have given up ice cream for Lent. But we need to make a point.
There is, in the Bible, something called foreshadowing and it works much like a taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It prepares us or helps us understand something that comes later (like a triple dip cone).

The experience of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones is like that. It was an experience through which we can better understand later events. It was a foreshadowing of two things.

First, this story foreshadows the power of the Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost. We recognize this in verse 5, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” The Greek word for breath is pneuma. Pneuma can also be translated as wind or spirit. All three are used to describe the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is, of course, “the Lord and giver of life.” He brings life, both physical and spiritual. That is what we see in the valley of dry bones. The breath of God, the Spirit of God brought life where there was only death.

The second thing Ezekiel’s experience foreshadows is the general resurrection at the end of the age. Remember, when Jesus returns, the dead will rise, much like in the valley of dry bones.

Except the newly alive warriors in Ezekiel’s experience had regular bodies and were destined to die again. Not so at the general resurrection. When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised but with a new type of body, a resurrection body, a body that will not die again.

In the valley of dry bones, there was a taste, a hint, a foreshadowing of future things. One has happened already. One is yet to come.

Breathe on me breath of God. Amen.