Formed and Filled / Day 1

BIBLE READING

Ezekiel 37: 1-11

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’

I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’

Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

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.”’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.

Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” 

SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE

Ezekiel was a prophet during the 6th century BC. Israel constantly committed idolatry which is spiritual adultery and eventually God’s hand of protection and blessing is lifted off from them. They end up getting invaded and their people are carried off to Babylon. One of these captives in Babylon was a young priest in training called Ezekiel, and he, along with other prophets like Jeremiah and Daniel prophesy during this 70 years of exile. They speak, decree and declare God’s Word into their situation.

GRABBED BY GOD

“God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones.” (v. 1 MSG)

In the middle of a foreign land, in the midst of the routine of an ordinary day, God took hold of Ezekiel.  He put his hand on him and lifted him up and out of his normal life. There’s moments in our lives where God grabs us – grabs our attention, grabs us back to Himself, grabs us from danger and harm.

When we are grabbed, we are repositioned. Brought out of something and brought into something. There’s a reorientation taking place, a shifting, a turning, a new vision emerging, a new perspective coming into focus.

DRY AND DEAD

“He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” (v. 2) 

Ezekiel is set down in a valley, but this is no ordinary valley with green grass and flowing rivers. It's like a scene from a horror movie - a valley full of dead people’s bones. They are very dry, indicating that they’d been lying in public display, exposed, bleached and baking in the hot sun for a long time. It’s a picture of death, devastation, hopelessness and helplessness.

God is giving Ezekiel a vivid picture of Israel’s spiritual condition. We see that in verse 11:

“Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” (v 11)

God’s people are spiritually dry and dead. There is no spiritual life in them whatsoever.  No vitality, no passion, no devotion.

Maybe that’s where you find yourself at this time – feeling spiritually dead, lifeless, no passion, no purpose, no sense of God’s presence.  

SPEAK TO WHAT SURROUNDS YOU

“He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley…” (v. 2)

Everywhere Ezekiel looks he sees death, defeat, discouragement, desperation and despair.  Ezekiel is not hovering above it, He’s right in the middle of it, ankle deep. He surrounded by it on every side. 

Maybe that’s a better description of your life.  You’re surrounded by situations and people that are draining the life out of you.  Like these scattered bones, things just aren’t working, stuff just isn’t coming together. 

Surroundings are important. What’s around you seeps into you and begins to shape you.

“He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’" (v. 3)

God asks Ezekiel a question and the obvious answer is, "No."  They’re beyond dead.  It’s absolutely impossible for them to come to life.  But Ezekiel knows enough about God to know that his God is the God who makes the impossible possible. So Ezekiel just answers: You alone know.  

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (v. 4)

To prophesy simply means to declare the word of the Lord.  To speak what God says.

God says: "Stop speaking ABOUT what you see and start speaking TO what you see. Call your surroundings into line with how God says it should be."

Some of us need to stop talking ABOUT our problems and start speaking the Word of God TO our problems.

Stop speaking about what WE SEE and start speaking about what GOD SAYS until what we see lines up with what God says.

YOU SENSE IT BEFORE YOU SEE IT

“So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” (vv. 7-8)

Ezekiel does what God commands and speaks life to the dead, dry bones. He declares the Word of the Lord. He prophesies their potential. The first thing that happens is that there’s a noise. He doesn’t see anything. He just hears something - a rattling.

Often before we see the change, we sense the change. We know that something is shifting, we feel like there’s something stirring.

SPEAK LIFE

The sound intensified until it became a movement. Things that were apart started coming together. Order out of chaos. The dead things, the dry things, the scattered things start joining up.

As the Word of the Lord is spoken, things start shaking and shifting. As the prophetic word is declared, things move to line up with what God has said.

As we speak His word into death, despair and darkness – it replaces them with life and hope and light. 

There’s two types of prophecy: (i) FORETELLING – which is declaring what God says is going to happen at some stage. It’s predictive in nature, and (ii) FORTHTELLING which is where you speak out what God’s desire and will is - and the prophetic decree actually causes things to move into line with what God has said. 

We need to know how powerful our words are – but much more than that, we need to understand how powerful God’s Word is when we speak it.

FORMED BUT NOT FILLED

“I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” (v. 8)

When the Word was declared, there was structure to the bodies – bones, tendons, flesh, skin – but there was not life in it.

It had all the looks – but no life. It has been restructured – but it hadn’t been revived.

That's a picture of what dead religion looks like? Religion looks good on the outside – but there’s no life in it. It has all the structure – but no Spirit. It has all the form – but it’s not filled. As Bono famously said: "Religion is what you’re left with when the Spirit has left the building."

THE BREATH OF GOD

“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.”’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” (vv. 9-10)

Again Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy, this time to the wind.  He calls on it to come and fill these dead bodies with new life. The Hebrew word is RUACH which can be translated breath, wind or spirit.  

As absolutely important as the Word of God is, we also desperately need the Spirit of God. We don’t just need to be formed by the Word – we need to be filled with the wind.

When the Word of God and the Spirit of God come together we have structure and life, we have a body filled with breath, we are resurrected and revived, we have form which is filled.

YOU SEE BONES, I SEE AN ARMY

“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” (v 10)

As the Word of God is combined with the Spirit of God – it brings both resurrection and revival. These dead, dry bones are totally transformed, not just into a random collection of individuals, but into a vast unified army - a powerful, Spirit-filled community.

Duncan Campbell describes revival as “a community saturated with God.” Isn't that what we long for in our own community? That it would be completely saturated with the presence and glory of God? 

Revival begins in our own lives and hearts. We cannot give that which we do not have. Years ago Keith Green sang:

Rushing wind blow through this temple

Blowing out the dust within

Come and breathe your breath upon me

I've been born again