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Saturday, November 1, 2014

More Powerful Visions from Ezekiel

More Powerful Visions from Ezekiel

Ezekiel 37 and 47



God often tried to speak to his people through visions.  But the people did not always understand God’s visions or what He was trying to show them.  Ezekiel did his best to describe his visions to the people, and tell them everything that God was showing him. But being human, most of the people could only relate to earthly things.  And in God’s visions the earthly curtain would be pulled back to reveal another realm - scenes of the after life and views of spiritual powers at work in the world.  Time would get mixed up with eternity and as the camera would roll you would see visions of yesterday blending in with visions of heaven and victory.  These powerful visions in Ezekiel and Revelations left many of God’s people confused and overwhelmed.    


Ezekiel’s wild vision of the valley of dry bones was one such vision.  This vision was given to Ezekiel around 595 B.C. at a time when the Jewish people had been captured and taken from their home in Jerusalem to Babylon.  And now they were hearing that Jerusalem had been destroyed along with their temple where the Spirit of God had been. 


Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel had already been captured and carried off into captivity by the Assyrians two hundred years earlier.  That was the end of those ten tribes wasn’t it?  And now the remaining Jewish people were slaves in Babylon and their home had been destroyed.  And all because the Jews had worshipped idols and rebelled against God’s good laws.  Was God going to let the nation of Israel fall never to rise again?  Was this the end of the Jewish people?


Perhaps God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones to give the despondent Jews a message of hope!  In this vision Ezekiel tells that “The Spirit of the Lord set me down in the middle of a valley that was full of bones.”  (Ezekiel 37; 1b)  Ezekiel walks around and sees that there are a great many bones scattered everywhere and indeed they are very dry.  They have been dead for a very long time!


Then God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  (Ezekiel 37:3)  And  Ezekiel answers that he has no idea!  And then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and tell them to hear God’s word.  God says that He will cause breath to enter into the bones and put muscles and nerves and flesh upon the bones and He will cover them with skin and they will live and know that the Lord is God.  (Ezekiel 37:4-6) 


So Ezekiel prophesies over the dry bones scattered around the valley as God has commanded.  And immediately there is a loud rattling noise in the valley among the bones as the bones all come together, bone to bone!  Knee bone connecting to the thigh bone, thigh bone connecting to the hip bone, etc.  And then flesh begins to appear on the bones!  Ezekiel watches in stunned silence!  There all around him lifeless human bodies come together and are scattered all around over the ground – thousands of bodies instead of dry bones!  But these bodies are not breathing!  


So God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the lifeless bodies and say that the Lord calls out breath to come into these bodies that they may live.  So Ezekiel obeys and prophesies again and immediately the lifeless bodies all over the valley start breathing and opening their eyes and stretching.  Ezekiel watches as thousands of men and women seem to wake up from a deep sleep and look around at each other.  And then one by one each person gets up until everyone is up and walking around and talking and laughing and crying and joyfully embracing.  And Ezekiel sees thousands and thousands of people moving around the valley now when a short time ago there had been only dry bones! 


God tells Ezekiel: “These dry bones are the whole house of Israel.  The Jewish people cry out: ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ But prophesy to them and tell them that God says that He will open their graves and cause them to come up from their graves, and bring them into the land of Israel.  And they shall know that God is the Lord.  And God says that all twelve tribes will be brought back from the nations where they had been living after they were scattered and they will become a nation of their own. And God will be in their midst forever.


The book of Ezekiel ends with another apocalyptic vision – a vision of God returning in glory to a new temple – God in the midst of his people once again, never to depart. (Ezekiel 47)  This vision is similar to the vision that John had in Revelation 22.  It would seem that perhaps the Jewish people build their temple again and have their laws and sacrifices and then God changes them and makes them sinless.


 In chapter 47 we are given something gloriously new.  Out of God’s temple flows a great life-giving river bordered by trees whose fruit is for food and whose leaves are for healing.  Bible scholars believe that this great River of Life may be the Holy Spirit pouring out to all a continual supply of divine grace. This vision is similar to John’s vision described in Revelation 22:1-2) And at the very end the city is named.  It is not named “Jerusalem”, but it is named “The Lord is there”.  (compare Revelation 21:22) 


This vision is confusing to some Bible scholars since there are visions of this new temple with sacrifices for sin and sinful people obeying the law. And death still is in the picture. (Chapter 40:38)  And then we are told that God returns in glory to his new temple to a sinless people (chap 42)  Do the Jewish people bring sacrifices for their sins in the beginning and then God comes to the temple in glory and the people recognized Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for their sins?  Or is this temple with the River of Life coming out from it and the sinless people of God a picture of life in the new heaven and the new earth?  There seems to be the subtle blending and telescoping of the near and the distant future in this vision which is common in many of the prophesies and visions that God gave to the prophets. 


We humans have always lived in a time frame and we are used to seeing pictures of events happening at a certain time.  But often God’s pictures or visions of things that are happening seem to be a work in progress -a  changing picture of an event that is happening now then blurring on into the future and blending back with the past and moving past the end times and into timeless eternal glory!.  These visions of actions that move outside of time and into eternity confuse us since we have always been time bound.


Ezekiel had more prophetic visions, but these two: the vision of the valley of dry bones and the end time vision of God returning to his new temple with the River of living water coming out from it are both visions and promises that may seem to be made just to Israel!  What about the rest of us who aren’t Jewish?  Are we left out?


 Ezekiel clearly states that the people who have circumcised hearts (people who repent of their sins and want to follow God) are the same as Israel .and are Israel(chap 43) He even goes as far as to say that the Jewish person who does not have a circumcised heart will not be among the Israel that will be receiving his promises.  The spiritual mysteries exposed in the book of Ezekiel are impossible to understand with the rational mind.  . 


  Scripture also says that because of Christ and his sacrifice for our sin that things are now different.  “For there is now no distinction between Jew and Gentile, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”  (Romans 10:12)  We are all one in Christ.  The wall of separation between Jew and Gentile has been broken down through Christ.  (Ephesians 2:14)  And the Jewish nation has been pictured in Scripture as an olive tree that has been cared for and we Gentiles are pictured as a wild olive tree.  Scripture goes on to say that the Gentiles who are believers are said to be “grafted into the cared for olive tree” (Romans 11:24) 


The promises of Ezekiel’s two visions here are for all of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior.  God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones first before He brought them back to life.  And God tells us to pray in faith over our problems and then He will answer.  Our prayers and our faith are important to God and He has chosen to use them in His work. 


We each have our own personal valley of dry bones!  Problems that have been around so long that we’ve given up.  Dreams that are dried up and scattered and hopes that died long ago.  But God has promised to breathe new life into the dry bones and valleys of our lives even if we have to wait until we are standing by that River of Life on the other side!


Scripture says: “Know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  For the trumpet shall sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.  And death will be swallowed up in victory!”  (1 Corinthians 15:58b,52b, and 55)  It doesn’t get any better than that!

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