Hope

February 23, 2014   Ezekiel 37   Hope 

 

       The Devil was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different prices. They were a fiendish lot. There was hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, and pride--all at expensive prices. But over to the side of the yard on display was a tool more obviously worn than any of the other tools. It was also the most costly.   The tool was labeled discouragement.    When questioned, the Devil said, "It’s more useful to me than any other tool.   When I can’t bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me."   Satan’s is never happier than when he sees people giving in and giving up to despair and becoming lost in hopelessness.     Does discouragement belong to the devil?   I know it is a battle that we fight.   One person said

discouragement is a universal experience for ministry leaders and the word actually defines itself … dis-courage, meaning no courage.   I think most folks struggle with discouragement.  If you do monitor your thoughts and call discouragement what it is.    Count your blessings – share with someone else don’t carry it alone.  Network with another Christian and pray for each other.   Do not carry your load alone.  We have brothers and sisters in the Lord. 

     We get quite a picture of discouragement in this passage.     Ezekiel is a man of God confronted with a congregation of God’s people who are discouraged, displaced and spiritually dead.    The circumstances were ripe for revival.   The hand of the Lord was upon Ezekiel and brought him out to a valley.   When we think of a valley often we think of difficult times.   David said even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.   The disciples saw Jesus change on the mount of transfiguration but it was in the valley where they were confronted with the boy who was demon possessed.   We like the mountain tops.   God took Ezekiel out into a valley and the valley was full of dry bones.    Now we do not think about bones very much and usually we do not see bones very often.   Normally most of us do not want to see bones.  Ezekiel did not ask to go out and see these bones.   God took him because God wanted to show him something.   God took him out in the middle of the valley and then took him back and forth across the valley.   God wanted him to see and observe what God was showing him.  It was a valley full of dry bones.   We need to stop often and evaluate our situation.   We need to think about our situation and our life.

      I just read an article a man wrote and he said this summer I spent a lot of time thinking through my stop-doing list.    He said I found it harder to create a stop doing list than a start-doing list.   It takes more thought, prayer and reflection.  He said I’m still pondering my list, but one thing I thought of was asking where are we heading?   What is this accomplishing?  If you start a stop doing list what are you going to do with the time of the things that you quit doing?   I reminded that Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing which was to sit at the feet of Jesus.   The better thing was more time with the Lord.   The Lord is life.  He is the source of living water. 

     God took Ezekiel back and forth over the dry bones.   The bones were very dry.     Verse 11 then He said to me Son of man these bones are the whole house of Israel.  They say our bones are dried up and our hope is gone we are cut off.    This vision has to do with living people.   It was for the children of Israel and they were deported to Babylon and scattered abroad and they were very depressed, discouraged and without hope.  It was a good place for revival.   It is a tough place to be.   It was a divided nation Israel and Judah and they were without a king and exiled.   Their cities and their temple were destroyed and they were far from home in a strange land.   There was a need for hope and God was speaking to their need.  First God showed Ezekiel where the Israelites were at.    They were at the bottom of the pit.  There was no hope.   

      We get a sense of how they felt from Psalm 137 by the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.   There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”  How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?   If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.   May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.   You can get a sense of the pain here.  Our captors, he writes, our tormentors demanded that we sing.  If I do not remember you may my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth.   That would make eating, drinking and talking next to impossible.   I suppose the Christian would say if I forget Jesus may I not be able to eat or drink or speak.  King David did not write that Psalm perhaps Ezekiel did.

      Ezekiel 1:1 in my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.   On the fifth of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians.  There the hand of the Lord was on him.   In chapter 2 God sends him to the exiled people and we read the spirit of the lord lifted me up and took me away and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit with the strong hand of the Lord upon me.  I came to the exiles that lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River.  And there where they were living I sat among them for 7 days over whelmed.  The grief was intense.   Ezekiel is probably in his 20’s. 

    We could picture him speaking.  I was in my early 20’s Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.  Shortly after that God gave me visions and prophesies concerning the times I was living in.   God gave me visions of heaven.   I was blown away by the sights and the power of the living creatures.   Those visions were so wonderful but God also showed me some other things and God told me to prophesy.   I prophesied against several other nations.   God was going to judge and punish the nations because of their sin.  That was hard and I had to prophesy against my people.   I warned them that judgment was coming.   My people had sinned against God.  God told them in Leviticus and in Deuteronomy that if we turned out back on God that we would suffer and be deported and things would be so bad that parents would eat their own children because they were starving.    My people sinned by ignoring God and making God last in their life.   They also got involved with idols which are no gods at all.   God allowed the Babylonians to come and to capture Judah and take Jerusalem.

      I remember the beautiful temple and my dream was to serve as a priest in the temple.  I thought perhaps someday I might become the high priest.   I really wanted to be chosen some day to go into the holies of holies to offer sacrifices for God’s people.   Only once a year did that happen.   The temple got destroyed before I was old enough to serve.    I loved Jerusalem and how beautiful it was.  The temple was such a great place for people to offer their sacrifices and to reach out God.   It was the land that my family had lived in for years.  Yes it was home but we as a nation were so far from God.     I told my people that destruction was at the door.  Believe me it was not a popular message.  No one wants to hear of destruction and war and starvation.   Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.  My dreams were dashed.  Thousands of my people died in war and in starvation.  Life was tough.  Israel was left pretty much deserted.   I saw horrible suffering and many people dying of war and starvation.   All of the leaders and key people were deported from Israel and Jerusalem. I would guess that over 100,000 people were exiled including  Daniel and his 3 friends were deported to Babylon hundreds of miles away.    They were to learn the teachings and ways of Babylon. 

     I was pretty upset by all of this.   God and I had some talks.    Have you ever heard of God being accused?   We can get into an endless cycle of accusing God.   It is not a good thing to do.   It seemed like God was not helping us at all.  I prayed and prayed but did not see fruit from my labor.  I told people to change but they did not do anything.  I could not get them to turn to God.   At times I could not see God working in the situation and I was frustrated and maybe at times anger and I am ashamed but I complained.   I accused the Lord but he was right and just in his judgments.   Times were dark and that darkness seemed to pierce my soul.  At times it seemed like all I could tell the people were bad things.  God made it plain that my job was to tell them whatever God spoke to me.  Being a servant of the most High was frustrating at times but over all God was good to me.  He protected me and kept me. 

    I remember the day when God’s hand was upon me and in a vision I was carried out into a valley of dry bones.  Those bones were scatter all over the place.  None of the bones were together.   They were in such bad shape it seemed like they could have been any kind of bones.   It was so dry that nothing would grow.   God took me back and forth across the bones so that I could not only see but feel how dead everything was.  I got the feeling that God wanted me to get.   God knew and sensed how his people felt and that feeling touched God’s heart.   He wanted me to feel it also.  The bones were bleached white.  God has a way of communicating the picture of it and it pierced my soul.   I could even feel the deadness. I thought God what in the world is all of this about and God told me that these bones represented his people.   Their hope was gone.  I learned that day that hope is very important. 

    Then God started asking me questions.   Has God ever asked you a question?   Well it can be pretty interesting when God asks you a question.   We see that in the bible sometimes where God asks a person a question.   Son of man can these bones live.  I did not want to touch that one with a 10 foot pole.   Well I knew I could not make them live.   I knew that no man could do a thing about bringing life to those bones.   So I just told God well God you know if those bones can live.  When you don’t know the answer just throw it on God because God knows.  He told me to speak to those bones.  I had already spoken to mountains and to trees and now God is having me speak to dry bones.   He speaks and the bones come together but there is not breath in them.   God then tells him to prophesy to the breath and for the 4 winds to come.   Breathe into them that they may live.  I prophesied as I was commanded and the wind came and breath came and they rose up a mighty army.     God’s people a mighty army outfitted by God and empowered by God.  God’s army is a mighty force in the world today. 

     The point was that God did not want his people to stay like that.  God saw their plight and God would not allow his people to stay like that just like the time that God saw their slavery in Egypt.   It was impossible for them to leave Egypt without God. In the fullness of time God sent a deliverer to them.    God taught my people a lesson and in time God was going to return his people to their land.  For the honor of his name God was going to change their hearts.   They would no longer serve idols.  God was going to give them a heart of love.  God told me that he was going to put His spirit in them and they would know God.   That was good news.  There was hope for us.  There was light for us.   God had a plan for us and that plan was not for us to be exiled and controlled by Babylon.   God told me that he was going to make an everlasting covenant with them and that he would be their God and that God was going to make them holy.    They probably had more years of exile but this was by faith. 

    God loved that remnant even though they were exiled and as good as dead.   God loved them and had a plan for them.  Their size and condition was no issue for God.   God was going to establish them and increase their numbers.  God was going to bless them.   Nothing is too hard for God.