Ezekiel 14:1-11

            “One day, some of Israel’s leaders came to me and asked for a message from the LORD.  While they were there, the LORD said:  Ezekiel, son of man, these men have started worshiping idols, though they know it will cause them to sin even more.  So I refuse to give them a message!”
 
            Just because someone asks or inquires what the Bible says, does not necessarily mean that person intends on living according to it.  It just might be that the opposite is true.  We can, of course, see and sniff out hypocrisy in others, but might be blind to it in our own lives.  Whenever we go to church and sit under the preaching of God’s Word but have no intention of really doing anything but getting spiritual brownie points through attendance, we must locate ourselves along with the hypocritical men who came to Ezekiel.
 
            Listening to God’s Word, reading it on a daily basis, and even talking about it really means nothing unless we take a humble posture of intending to do what it says.  So, what are the idols in our lives?  What things hinder us from doing what the Bible says to do?  What will we do about it?  God is looking for repentance and faith in Jesus, and not us keeping up appearances to righteousness.
 

 

            Holy God, you desire a penitent heart, sincere faith, and an obedient life.  May it be so in my life to the glory of Jesus through the energy of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ezekiel 2:8-3:11

            When I was a kid my brother and I watched All-Star Wrestling every Saturday.  One of our favorite wrestlers was Rufus R. Jones.  Like all wrestlers, he had a signature move, a lights-out-nobody-is-getting-up maneuver that would always end the match.  Rufus’ move was the head-butt.  Slamming his hard forehead into the head of his opponent always brought raucous behavior from us.  We would act out the head-butt scene over and over, always a bit fearful of smacking each other’s heads.  The hardest head always won.
 
            God gave a message to the prophet Ezekiel concerning the stubborn hearts and hard heads of the Israelites.  The Lord was looking for repentance, for the Jews to turn their hearts and minds back to true worship and a real humble relationship with their God.  The prospect of facing such a task, such an opponent, seemed daunting to Ezekiel.  So, the Lord assured him:  “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them… Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.”
 
            Ezekiel was told by God to pull-out the signature wrestling move and do the lights-out head-butt maneuver.  The promise Ezekiel possessed was that God was going to give him the harder head – there was no way he was going to lose the match.  Like Ezekiel, we are to speak the Word of God with the promise that we will not lose.  Prideful ungodly stubbornness will get us knocked-out, but godly, gracious, and bold stubbornness which determines to do the will of God shall always win the day.
 

 

            Almighty God, you give strength to those in the wrestling matches of life.  Embolden my witness for you so that I will speak and act boldly in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ezekiel 11:1-25

            Ezekiel is one of those Old Testament prophets that thoroughly uncovered the true state of the heart.  Through a series of visions given to Ezekiel for the Israelite exiles, one of the main messages of the prophet is that God would give them a new heart.  “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them.  I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
 
            The human heart is fallen, often dark with evil shadows of pride and selfishness.  At best, the heart apart from God contains a miniscule vestige of its ancient Creator’s image; at worst, the heart is desperately wicked and on a highway to hell.  The issue, then, is whether the heart only needs to be modified, or whether we need a complete heart transplant.  The prophet makes it quite clear which option must be done.
 
            Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross so that we could be transformed into new people.  He did not come to tweek a few things in your life and improve it – he came to change and transform your heart.  If all we needed was a motivational speaker who would inspire our hearts to live better and reach our personal goals, then we would have not needed an incarnation, a crucifixion, a resurrection, and ascension.  Jesus is the risen Lord and Savior who replaces our hard stubborn hearts with a soft new heart of flesh.  We need transformation of life, not life modification.
 

 

            Awesome God, you have graciously and surgically removed my old heart bound for destruction and replaced it with a new heart oriented toward living and loving like the Lord Jesus.  May my heart always be inclined to the doing of your will, in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1

            Our view of God determines our view of life.  A small view of God limits our lives in what we can be and do. Seeing God as little more than wishing for people’s obedience through paltry sacrificial oblations only makes one wonder if God is really able to do much in this world.  But if we have a very large view of God, then there is nothing he cannot do or accomplish in his great big world.  So huge is God that the earth is merely his footstool.
 
            The prophet Ezekiel was given a very grand, majestic, and large vision of God in his majesty and royalty.  The glimpse of God which Ezekiel received was so immense that the prophet struggled to put it into words.  Indeed, God is so huge that he cannot be contained or even described by mere words or language.  Now this is the kind of God which Christians serve:  a God so colossal that, like the prophet, it causes us to fall prostrate in the face of such enormous glory and holiness.  Although we must seem very small in God’s eyes, yet he still notices us.  “Stand on your feet, and I will speak with you,” said God to Ezekiel.
 
            Unless we have a staggering and realistic sense of God’s towering massiveness we will wallow in life’s vicissitudes as if they are giants we cannot overcome.  It was Jesus who said that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed in such a God to command mountains to move, and they will obey.  It is not the size of our belief that matters, but where that faith is located.  And if it placed rightly, in the gargantuan God of the entire universe, then we can ask anything in his Name and it shall be done. 
 

 

            Holy God, you are grand and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.  Who am I that you should notice me?  Yet, you have called me and spoken to me.  I only want to be found full of faith and obedience each and every day you give to me through the power of your Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 1:1-2:1

            If anyone ever tells you they are certain about everything in the book of Ezekiel, don’t believe them.  This chapter and initial vision of God seen by Ezekiel is an incredible view.  It almost defies description.  In fact, it does.  It is as if Ezekiel was trying to somehow communicate with the limitation of words exactly what he saw. 
 
            But even though we might not understand or comprehend everything in this vision does not mean we can lose sight of the big picture of what was happening.  Ezekiel got a glimpse of God in his glory, which would explain why it is such a mysterious vision.  Reading over the vision slowly, one can gain the sense of immensity, hugeness, grandeur, and awesome glory.  The Hebrew word “glory” literally means “heavy.”  In other words, God is so large, bright, and holy that he carries a great deal of weight.  As we used to say back in the ‘70’s: “Heavy, man, heavy!”
 
            This was much more than just a neat experience for Ezekiel.  It completely had him undone.  Ezekiel fell on his face because that is about all one can do when encountering such an incredible appearance.  Sneaking a peek of God in his glorious splendor is an awesome sight.  So, when God speaks from the place of his glory, there is nothing to do but listen and obey.
 
            Meeting God, this same God whom Ezekiel encountered, is no small thing.  When we truly catch a glimpse of this holy God, it will forever change us – and this is a good thing.  If we want to hear the call of God upon our lives we need to see God’s glory, otherwise we can too quickly forget him and neglect doing what he says.  May the Lord be gracious in allowing you a glance into his throne room – and may you never be the same again because of it.
 

 

            Glorious God, you carry such great weight that all creation bows to your every word and each move.  I bow before you, and I will stand up so that I might hear what you have to say to me.  Speak, Lord, for I am listening to you.  Amen.

Revival

 
 
In a vision that God gave to Ezekiel, the Lord made it known that a valley of dead dry bones represented the whole house of Israel (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  They were spiritually dry with seemingly no hope. But how did ancient Israel get to the point of being so dry and dead that only a miraculous act of the Lord could revive them?
 
            After God brought Israel out of hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, he led them to the Promised Land with Moses as leader.  Moses died and his young protégé Joshua took over and led Israel in her military campaigns to take the land that God had promised them.  God held to his promises and went before them so that the pagan nations were judged and Israel gained the land.  However, although Israel had geographically taken the land, they did not completely dislodge all the pagan peoples living there as God had told them to do.  In other words, Israel partially obeyed and was content to be in the land without dealing with all the remaining people.
 
            Whenever we read in the Old Testament of Israel’s relationship to the land, it often also serves as a metaphor for the church and her faith.  Israel saw the land simply as a possession, as something to have, rather than as something to be used and developed for the glory of God.  If and when God’s people in any age look upon their faith as only a possession to have instead of a dynamic relationship between themselves and the Lord, then the beginnings of spiritual rigor mortis begin to settle in.  So, we get this haunting narrative in the book of Judges after the people took the land and Joshua died:  “Another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.  Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD….  They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt.  They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them” (Judges 2:10-12).  The land became something not to lose instead of something God wanted to use to grow them into his faithful people.
 
            The day the Israelites took the land was both the day they rejoiced in victory, and the day that they died because they were content with the land as a possession and did not exercise their faith to see God work among them.  The Old Testament is a long drawn out story of a disobedient and obstinate people who continually forsake their God and live like the nations for whom they did not exercise their faith to completely overcome.  God, being longsuffering and patient, went century after century sending his prophets to call them back to a living faith; but with each passing year they would die a little bit more.  Eventually, the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, took over the land, and deported most of the people away from the Promised Land into exile; the people were like a valley of dead and dry bones.
 
            On the day we begin to treat faith as merely a possession to have, and go through long established routines with no faith-development and no life, is the day those routines lead to ruts which leads to never changing which leads to death which leads to dry bones. 
 
The church of Jesus must look upon faith as a wonderful opportunity to spiritually engage the world, exploring all the dimensions of knowing God through putting itself in situations where God can show up and take the land.  If our goal is to just keep some semblance of looking like a real Christian, then there are probably some dry bones in the closet.  If we become more afraid of making mistakes than we are of missing God-given opportunities, then the time is right for revival.  God does not send us to safe places to do easy things; he breathes in us to send us to places where revival is needed.
 
              The need for new life and resurrection presupposes that there is death.  Praying for revival, renewal, and reawakening means that something is dead and needs life.  But here is the thing about God:  nothing is impossible for him, and when disaster happens, he is ready to be gracious and restore, even when things are as bad as a valley of dry dead bones with no life at all because he specializes in resurrection.
 
            God not only gives life; he restores life.  And this is an important truth to know and remember in the inevitable dry times of our lives and our churches.  God is not just a helper; he reanimates us from spiritual rigor mortis to lively resurrection through breathing on us.  And he does this for a reason.  Jesus came to his disciples after his resurrection and said, ‘“Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’  And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:20-21).  In other words, God resuscitates us for a purpose, so that we might be sent into the world to love God in it through loving our neighbors.  Faith is not only a possession to have, but a gift to be used to glorify God in loving one another and loving the world as Jesus did.  God could have resurrected the dry bones without Ezekiel’s being a part of it; but God used Ezekiel and had him participate in the revival by speaking to the bones. 
 
God has you living where you are living so that you will bring life to your neighborhood.  Who will pray for your neighbors if not you?  Who will be concerned for our communities and campuses if not us?  God has you working where you are working so that you can speak to the places of dead dry bones and see them become animated and living.  Who will make a difference at your workplace if not you?  God placed you in your family and in your school so that you can bring life to it.  God places us in the church so that we will bring spiritual life and vigor to it.
 

 

            Ezekiel’s vision allows us to see that:  revival can only come by an act of God; and, God wants to use us to see the miracle of new spiritual hope and life take place.  Take some time to consider whether your church or ministry organization really needs another program or campaign initiative; perhaps what is needed is a heaven-sent, Spirit-breathed, glorious revival to new life in Jesus Christ.  I am praying with you for it to be so.