Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can These Bones Live?

In family worship, we have been reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are many deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other mysteries that we have yet to understand. Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

The prophet is taken in the Spirit of the Lord to a valley - a valley of dry bones. These bones did not just appear yesterday. Whoever owned them had been dead for quite a while, and their bones had been exposed to sun and wind for some time as well.

As he walks about in the desolate valley, looking on the multitude of bones, the Lord asks, "Ezekiel, can these bones live?"

Could they?

"You know, Lord."

The next words from the mouth of the Most High are these:
"...Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 'O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord." ' "
 (Ezekiel 37:4-6)
So Ezekiel obeys, and prophesies, and witnesses this grand phenomenon:
"...There was a noise, and behold, a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them."
(Ezekiel 37:7-8)
 Fully built, but with no breath, no life. They were still dead.

Scanning ahead to later verses in Ezekiel 37, it is quite apparent to me that this chapter is referring to a revival among God's people. This is noted by such words as army, whole house of Israel, and O My people. God is describing last day events in His church.
"Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel..."
(Verse 11)
So what happened? How is it that a revival began, but never finished? Where was the culmination of this grand revival? Where was the newness of life?

My dad thought of this Scripture in connection with Ezekiel 37:8.
"And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake..."
(2 Kings 19:11)
Let's expand this passage a little bit:
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
(Verses 9-13)
 "Lord, what is happening to your church! No one -- no one -- gets it! No one sees! There is no one to stand in the gap. Look - they are quenching out the very life of your saints. I am the only one left!"

Can these bones live?

Everyone sees the problem: no spiritual growth; no evangelistic success; no fire; no influx of new believers; no unity; no agreement on doctrine. It's just a mess.

"...Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts" (Ezekiel 37:11).

So we launch a revival. But is the Lord in it? At the end of the day, do we gain spiritual life and vigor from these efforts?
"...There was a noise, and behold, a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them."
(Ezekiel 37:7-8)

Big and loud and showy does not do the job. So what does?
"Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
(Verse 9)
The result?
"So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
(Verse 10)
 In Revelation 7, the four winds are those of strife. There are angels holding back those four winds while the servants of the Most High are being sealed. Just before these winds are released, the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on His people, also as a strong rushing wind.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
(Joel 2:28-31)
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
(Luke 21:25-28; see also Revelation 6:12-17)
 "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost..."
(Acts 2:2-4)
As the Preacher said, what hath been will be. The Holy Spirit is the key for true revival, for He is the One Who guides us into all truth (John 16). And when we know truth, we are sanctified and set free (John 8:32 and 17:17). This brings true revival, true life.

Notice a second wonderful thing about this true revival. It raises up an army. An exceeding great army.

Where do we hear the concept of warfare in Scripture? Yes, Armageddon. But let us be practical: who is the army? For the composition of the army determines outcome of the war.

King David said this:
"As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they [the children, for this is the only plural mentioned in the chapter] shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."
Young people are this army. They are the ones who speak with the enemies in the gate. Are we grooming them for this great task? Are we preparing them to stand on the front-lines and the defend the faith. Are we praying for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on them so they can see the truth live? Claim the victory and fight?

The last day work will not be accomplished by those of older years, and even those of more experience. To the contrary: it will be youth who build up the foundations of many generations, repair the breach, and restore the paths.

And yet - in spite of the overwhelming evidence - we fail to ask for the old paths. Worse yet, we literally lead our young people out of the fold of God and into the army of the enemy by using his methods to win youth to God.

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Doesn't God know that His methods are right and effective in winning our youth? Then why do we still feed them that which is not bread?

Can these bones live?

It breaks my heart when I see churches employ the world methods and ideas in youth ministry. It breaks my heart so, because I know the plans God has for His young people, to prosper them and to give them an expected end. I know that God intends to raise an army which can accomplish His work. I know that He believes in the power and dedication and diligence of young people. I know that He knows what He is doing.

But soon, the youth of God will rise up and stand in the gap and restore the old paths where is the good way; and they will lead the church in triumph and find rest unto their souls.
"And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord."
(Ezekiel 37:13-14)
But this work does not commence without our involvement. Notice an important thing about the movement of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The breath of life does not come with the package. We are instructed to pray for the Holy Spirit.
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
(Luke 11:13)
And based on verses 5-9 of that same chapter, we are expected to persist in our request until it is granted.

Now, starting at verse 15, I had a complete eye opener, which actually lead me to see the first 14 verses in a different light (as above illustrated).

You see, God here is presenting Ezekiel (and all who are willing to learn) two parables, both defining the same thing. The first parable, of the dry bones, deals with the perspective of those in the church. The second deals with those without.

Inside, the church looks as though it is about to fall, but it does not. Through the work of committed young people, God's people are revived and restored. The church is saved, and they enter into the joy of their rest.

The outside perspective provides us with a few more details as to the events transpiring between this revival in the church, and the Second Coming (the entering into the joy of their rest; see Matthew 25:14, 21). Here, I will enumerate them:
  1. The people of God are brought out from among the heathen (verse 21, supported by Revelation 18).  
    • This reminds me of the loud cry of the angel in Revelation 18: "Come out of her, My people..." Compare this chapter with Isaiah 56:1.
  2. They are consolidated into one nation (verse 22, supported by Isaiah 56:1-8).  
    • There is no more separation. God's people are united with one another. As prophesied by Isaiah, "The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him" (Isaiah 56:8). Those who heed the loud cry also heed the third angel's message of Revelation 14 (verses 9-12). As they accept the message of the true Sabbath, they take hold of God's everlasting covenant (Rev. 14:6, Isa. 56:3-4), and earn a place among the True Israel.
  3. They are cleansed fully from their sins, and they cease performing their abominations (verses 23-24).  
    • This is not happenstance. This is the result of observing the Lord's statutes and doing them - "which, if a man do, he shall even live in them" (Ezekiel 20:11). Revelation 14 refers to them as "without fault before the throne of God."
  4. They become one flock, and have one shepherd (verse 24).  
    • This verse bundles every preceding verse together. Jesus later makes reference to this prophecy when He said, " And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). This also confirms events 1 and 2, listed above.
  5. They gain the inheritance (verse 25).  
    • But this is not just any country: it is "an heavenly (Hebrews 11:16). And both in Daniel (7:27) and Matthew (25:34), we see that the saints eventually possess the kingdom. From Daniel's prophecy, we can see that a  struggle will transpire just prior to the saints receiving the kingdom: " I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Daniel 7:21-22).
  6. God makes a covenant of peace with His people (verse 26). 
    • As the saints endure attacks from the little horn of Daniel, they will cry day and night unto the Lord (Revelation 6:10). Now let's Bible hop. Revelation 6:12, the seal which follows verse 10, tells of an earthquake. Skip over to Revelation 16:18, and we find an earthquake accompanied by "voices, and thunders, and lightnings." A quick comparison lets us know that both earthquakes are preceded by war or cries thereof (Rev. 16:14-16). 
    • So, let us consider them one and the same event. Then what are those voices and thunders? Revelation 10:3-4 says: "And [another mighty angel] cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."
    •  John, who writes his gospel after Revelation, later records: "  'Father, glorify Thy name.' Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him" (John 12:28-29). The voice of God sounds like thunder! (See also Psalms 77:8.) Those who know God will understand what is said and Who is saying it. But those who know not God will hear only thunder. Hint: John heard what the seven thunders uttered. But by the strong admonition not to write the words, this is information we are not yet to have. What about the last days do we no know at all? 
    • "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). Just when the saints seem to be overcome by their enemies, the Everlasting Father will proclaim deliverance to the captives.
  1. God once again dwells among His people (verse 27).  
    • Revelation 21 echoes the sentiment: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." As John the Revelator put it, "There was no more sea." No more separation between man and man or between man and His God.
  2. The heathen see the sanctuary of God (verse 28).  
    • In this, they witness the evidence of God's unchanging love and His power to sanctify - make sinful men holy. When do they see the sanctuary? If the saints have inherited their reward, should not the wicked be dead? Well, they will be dead. But Revelation 20 tells us that they will be raised 1,000 years after Jesus' Second Coming (verse 4-5). And as the wicked of all the ages are raised up once more, they will see the Holy City, New Jerusalem - else how could they surround it in Revelation 20:9? But, as Paul told the Philippians, "...At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Now, for a time, those on either side can change sides. That is, until verse 23 of Ezekiel 37: for Christ will declare, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). Before that declaration, all the dry bones can live. Everyone can come to know God personally and accept Him and Lord and Savior of their life.

You may feel that your bones are too dry; that your life is too mangled, your condition is beyond help. But Christ declares Himself "the resurrection and the life." In Ezekiel 34, we saw that no sheep is too far away to be regathered to the fold of God; too broken or too diseased to be restored to life evermore. While our High Priest is in the place of intercession for us, we can be saved to the uttermost.

Can these bones live?

These bones, battered, broken, and bruised with sin? Yes, these bones can live. The Lord will give the life-giving Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. Won't you just ask Him?

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