“I Will Bring Life”
In the town of Sedlec in the Czech Republic is a famous cemetery that dates back to the 13th century. More than 40,000 people who died from the Black Plague and in the Hussite wars were buried there. 1 In the early 1400's a Gothic Church of All Saints was built at the centre of the cemetery. Underneath the church a chapel was constructed as an ossuary to hold the bones that were left unearthed in the area they built. Many refer to the church as “The Church of dead bones.” Long before that God had the following to say about Israel, “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.” The nation God called as His own lived as exiles in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and his army had destroyed Jerusalem and forced the people to live in Babylon. They were far from home, lost and dried up, wondering if their identity as a nation was dead. Things were so wonderful before – God finally fulfilled His promises. He led them out of slavery and He protected them in the wilderness and He provided water and manna. In His faithfulness God gave them the Promised Land – heaven on earth as it overflowed of milk and honey. As they multiplied in numbers and continued life, it was with the perception, “We never have to look back again. There is One Who can produce and deliver whatever we ask for!” But it all changed as God pulled back His favour from them as they sat in Babylon. In Psalm 137: 1-4 we read about the emotions of the Israelites while being in exile – “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?” To them they were the dead bones – all of life was drained out of them.
Let's shift to the time we live – Many say the church of Christ is dead. Christian societies that received funding before are seen as unnecessary. We hear more and more – “Live with the reality – It's the Post Christendom time we live in.” But my friends, on Pentecost Sunday, there is the same word God gave the prophet Ezekiel – “I Will Bring Life.”
From Ezekiel 37 we learn of instructions God gave Ezekiel of how life was to be brought to the dead bones in the valley. Those instructions are so relevant in our time as if a prophet receives it for the first time in our day. The first is 2 Let Them Hear My Word. We read in verse 4, “Then He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!” Can you appreciate how difficult this assignment must have been for Ezekiel? To ask of someone to go and preach to dead bones the Word of God. Let's just think of someone going to that same area I mentioned in the Czech Republic where the bones were unearthed and then start preaching to them. Those who witnessed that must have thought, “You lost not just a few marbles; you lost all of your marbles!” Anyone in a right mind would say, “Lord, let me preach to people who can hear Your Word and respond.” But what was Ezekiel's response? “So, I Prophesy as I was commanded.” That my friends, has always been essential in a world of darkness and death – no matter in what time period you find yourself. We need to speak the words God wants people to hear. St. Paul instructed Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4: 2 What is really means is that God's Word is always timely given as He intends. In the valley the dead bones got a word from God – not from Ezekiel. Only God can speak to inanimate objects and get them to respond. We learn from Scripture:
He spoke to wind in a storm and it was still.
He spoke to waves to part and it did for His people to pass.
He spoke to rocks and it brought forth water.
God's words, my friends, bring life – no matter what the circumstances. Just like in the time of Ezekiel God comes to us and says, “Let them hear my Word.” The reality of our world is that there are many valleys with dead bones. People are dead and they don't even realize that. They breathe, they walk, they eat, they work...but spiritually they are dead. And then...God wants to breathe life into them. Just like in the vision of Ezekiel when he was instructed to prophesy to the breath to enter the bodies that had been covered with flesh, the breath of God's Spirit has filled many lives. Since the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost people's lives were never the same as before. There came new life in the hearts of those who lived in fear. And then we have to ask the question, “Why are there so many people who call themselves Christians who live in fear?” I once counselled a woman who had phobias for a number of things. She asked me to help her to mentally get rid of those things. But in the second counselling session I knew that her problem was spiritually. I asked her how much she opened herself up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and she didn't know what to answer. Think about it my friends, the same man who denied his Lord three times, because of fear, spoke boldly of The Day of the Pentecost. The Spirit of truth spoke the Word of God in His heart. And when people heard the Word of God like the dead bones in the valley, the people described in Acts, they were transformed because they received the Word. On Pentecost Sunday, God's voice comes to us so clearly – “There is a world that needs to come alive; I want you to go into the valleys of dead bones and speak my Word. I want to bring a revival in the year 2021.” People have to break out of a spirit of pessimism because of something like a World Pandemic. God says, “Arise my people, for I am bringing life.”
When God instructed Ezekiel to let the people of Israel hear His Word, He also said, 3 Let Them Receive My Spirit. “Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” The breath of God is what can bring anything dead to life again. The Hebrew word for breath is “ruach.” To many it's only a strong force or wind, but we know that it's more than that. It was in the Old Testament the Spirit of God Who came over people to do miraculous things. It was the “ruach” of the Holy Spirit which enabled Samson to pull the pillars of the Temple of Dagon in to kill the Philistines. When David sinned and pleaded with God not to remove His “ruach” from him, he was pleading that God would not remove His Spirit from him. And then what the prophet Joel prophesied about the Spirit of God to come upon people came into reality on the Day of the Pentecost. There was a violent wind that filled the room where the people were gathered and tongues of fire came and rested on the people. And they were never the same as before. We too had been transformed since the day the Holy Spirit came into our lives. We received affirmation – “I belong to God, for I was claimed by God's Spirit.”
On this Pentecost Sunday there is a question, “Do we believe that God can bring life in every place of the world where so many are still dead in their transgressions? Do we believe that He again will breathe life into all of His people for them to come into motion of doing the great things He has in store for us?” Let's all pray, “Spirit of Truth change us and work through us.”