The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones become living people again?’
‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I replied, ‘you alone know the answer to that.’
Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, “Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
Then he said to me, ‘Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.”’
So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army.
Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, “We have become old, dry bones – all hope is gone … ” Therefore, prophesy to them and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again … I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land.”’
This part from Ezekiel, though not our actual New Year promise, was closely linked to it, and I spoke on it on the night that the Word was given. It has been really living for me. In my Bible it is headed A Valley of Dry Bones: A Renewed People (NLT), and it spoke to me so much of the church of Jesus Christ and of ourselves. Hopefully we are not the dry bones! I hope we’ve not become absolutely desiccated by being away from church but rather the opposite: that we are not dry. But we can identify so much with this. It speaks to me of the church in the wilderness. What we have been going through (and this true across the world) is in some ways as the church of Jesus Christ in the wilderness, because of the restrictions and at times being forbidden even to meet in God’s house.
If you think of this, God always has a plan for your life and mine, and a plan for His own church – and a plan for our church, which is a lovely thought. But the enemy has a plan, and his plan for the church of Christ is that she becomes like dry bones scattered in a wilderness, desiccated, good for nothing, dead. That’s what he wants, and to have us all scattered apart. And that’s what this pandemic has done: at times we weren’t allowed even to see each other. But there comes a breath of the Holy Spirit into that valley of dry bones that Ezekiel saw, and the bones weren’t dry any more: they formed into people, and the breath came into them, and they became as a mighty army. And that is God’s plan.
In the words of another verse:
Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? (Song of Songs 8:5)
No matter how much we have found God during these days (and some will have found His presence more easily than others), we miss being together, and the strength and the sense of forward movement that comes from being in His house. Who is this that comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? It is your life and mine. It is His church. Pray God she will come up out of this whole experience leaning upon her Beloved. Whom else should we lean on? Whom else should we look to for guidance but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself? Because He has been there: He has been in the wilderness. He was there at Calvary. He was there in that hour when He was like the goat that took the sin of the people and went out into the wilderness. He was there in the days of His sojourn on earth, the forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, being tempted and tested and tried of the enemy. There the enemy planned to leave Christ as dried bones, finished. But that wasn’t God’s plan.
God’s plan was that Christ the perfect Man, perfect Son of God, within that wilderness, wrestling with the enemy, wrestling in His flesh against the power of the enemy, wrestling against the temptation to give in and just bown down and worship Satan, should instead triumph gloriously. Christ’s triumph in that wilderness won for you and me the power to overcome temptation, the power to resist with faith in the living God and to discover the sense of faith that is the faith of the Son of God. So whom else should we come out of our wilderness leaning upon but on Jesus Christ? He came up from His baptism in the Jordan and He went into the wilderness full of the Spirit, forty days and forty nights without food, and we only read of the temptations that came at the end; we don’t know what happened during these forty days and nights. We know that He was so weakened in His body that angels came and took care of Him at the end. We know the temptation to doubt that Satan tried Him with there at the end. But as we read of Him going up from the banks of Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, driven of the Spirit into the wilderness, we also read that He came out of the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes at the beginning of this lockdown when I pictured us coming back to church, I thought: ‘We’ll be war-weary by then, we’ll be tired, a bit wounded, and oh! the joy of the restoration of then coming together again!’ But actually I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think we’ll be like that at all. I don’t think that’s God’s plan. That’s more like Satan’s plan, which is that we never come back together. But he’ll not win on that. What is God’s plan? That we will come out as full of the Spirit as we went in. In fact Christ came out, speaking reverently, stronger than He went in – if we can say that of Christ, because He was always strong. But in His calling and ministry and in His manhood he had been tested and had overcome. And He came out winning for us the laurels of victory, winning for us the power to overcome temptation, winning for us the power to worship God because He would not worship Satan, and He won for us the power to bow down and worship the holy God, and the power to remain full of the Holy Spirit, even as He was. Tremendous is His provision for us.
In praying one night I felt overwhelmed by the sense of His victory, the anointing of His Spirit, the fulfilment of His Word: I will pour out of My Spirit. And as His Spirit is here with us, among us (not dry bones, but any bit of us that has got dried), as the breath of the Holy Spirit is here, call upon Him. You don’t even need another to prophesy over you. Call out to Him yourself, saying: ‘O come, Thou breath of the Holy Spirit, fill me, flood me, overflow me.’ And when that day comes that we are together, when we are together fully and without any restrictions (whether or not we come back before that, but when we come back like that), or in any form, we’re full of the Holy Spirit and of the victory of Jesus Christ – ours today. O may that Holy Spirit flood us, come into our homes where we are, that you may feel Him as He is in our church, where the atmosphere is always rich – even when it’s empty, still rich with His presence.
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