“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones”
“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”
When we read Ezekiel’s experiences with the Lord this day, we are captured by the wonder of God’s sovereignty! The Bible tells us that God literally took Ezekiel to this valley, carried him by His hands! Ezekiel’s proclamation that the hand of the Lord was upon him indicates the essential nature of genuine relationship with the Lord. Genesis records the events of creation as we see the spoken word of God move across the vastness of darkness and bring life into a lifeless planet. In this process of creation God decided that the creation of man would be a different. Not only would the spoken word (the breath of God) be needed to create man, but God set a precedent when he began to form man out of the dust of the earth with His own hands. It is no longer just God’s word at work, but God got his hands involved!
The greatest indicator of your relationship with God will not be solely based upon the word’s influence in your life. With so many denominational persuasions in our world, the only way for God’s people to shine in a dark world is to allow God’s word and God’s hand to lead us! In contrast to traditional Christianity, the apostolic movement can not afford to become intellectual. Although I believe in education, Ezekiel could have never experienced revival with a sermon! But once the hand of God was upon him, Ezekiel began to prophesy! I’m asked on a regular basis, by people who do not understand Christianity let alone Pentecost, it must be hard to get a new sermon every week right? My response is always the same, it’s not hard because I pray for God to give me the word I need. I pray for the hand of God to empower me, not to sermonize but to prophecy!
Once the hand of the Lord carries Ezekiel to this valley of bones, there is an interesting transition in just 12 short verses. What began as an attempt to awaken an army from the valley, ends with God assuring Ezekiel that He will in fact open their graves. Often we miss this critical transition as we scurry through the chapter trying to fulfill another day’s Bible reading. However, we must take a moment and understand what the Bible is really teaching. You see these people were once living thriving beings, they were God’s people. Yet over time these people found themselves in a valley.
Perhaps the most overstated observation in Christianity is simply “becoming a Christian doesn’t mean life will be easy”. So for the sake of beating a dead horse allow me to approach this from a slightly different angle. Of course we all know that there are valley’s in life, perhaps most of us feel like we’re in one now! However, it is in these valley’s where life can sometimes take an unfortunate turn. You see we are all programmed to believe that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel; that every valley leads to a mountain top. But it’s when the light never shines or the mountain is never reached where we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.
Wait, I can already hear you say “are you saying I may never come out of this?”. That’s not at all what I’m saying. But look at Joseph for a moment, how do you think he felt after 20 years? Yet there was something that would never allow him to give up on his dreams even though reality told him it was over. So what is the missing factor that prevents people from giving up in the valley and succumbing to the haunting cries of the adversary telling it’s too late? What is the key to holding on through seemingly unbearable trials and unfortunate circumstances? What can prevent me from allowing my valley to become my grave?
John the Baptist’s ministry was critical to the New Testament. John single-handedly prepared the way of the Lord, by fulfilling his calling of destiny. John was the first to recognize His deity by proclaiming in the Jordan river “Behold, the lamb of God!” Yet John , after doing the will of God mind you, found himself in a prison awaiting his death. Imagine the thoughts that John entertained as he sat there day after day. The weight of this “valley” almost proved to be too much for this anointed prophet to bear. John sends disciples to Jesus asking him an odd question. “Are you he, or should we look for another?” Are you he? John you know better than anybody who He is! As a baby in your mother’s womb you leaped at His presence! As a successful prophet you declared that there’s one coming after me who is preferred before me! You told the people that His shoes, you weren’t worthy to unloose! You preached the kingdom of heaven is at hand, knowing that this Jesus was not just another prophetic figure in the history of religion, but that He was God manifest in the flesh! But now all John sees are the walls of his prison, and he is questioning everything he’s ever believed was right!
Jesus, understanding the position John is in, responds to these disciples by confirming His deity: “The blind can see, the deaf can hear and the dead are raised to life again!” That would’ve been enough for John, but as John’s disciples were about to walk away, Jesus gave them one last message to take to John in the prison. Oh and tell John, “blessed is the man, who shall not be offended in me.” Wait, John never said he was offended? But Jesus knew something we mostly have a hard time admitting, sometimes the valley is offensive.
“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
Wow! An offended spirit is destructive! Offense causes you to close off your emotions and you become cold and callused. King Saul loved David as his own son, yet one song changed everything. The ringing of “Saul has killed his thousands and David has killed his ten thousands” haunted Saul every waking moment. Before Saul became offended, David’s harp brought peace into his life. After the offense however, as David played that harp, Saul launched a javelin his direction hoping to kill the man he used to love. It was an offended spirit that led Saul down a deranged path of poor choices. Because offended people are consumed with one thing, getting even! How, you may wonder, does this apply to my valley? Nobody has done me wrong, nobody has offended me! Allow me to explain…
Perhaps nobody knows valley’s quite like Job. The Bible said he was a perfect man, one who eschewed evil and daily he made sacrifices for his children. Yet one day out of nowhere Job’s life is turned upside down. His children are dead, his servants are dead, his cattle stolen, his possessions gone. In a matter of moments Job had absolutely nothing. Everyone close to him accused him of some wrongdoing, as if the trauma of life wasn’t difficult enough. His won wife told him to just curse God and die already; all the while the only reprieve Job found was in a broken piece of pottery.
Job himself vented his frustrations in Job 23 exclaiming “Even today is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him! That I might come to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments… Behold, I go forward but he is not there; and backward, but i cannot perceive him: On the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that i cannot see him!” Job’s trial had finally forced him to get offended in God it seems. It looks as if Job may finally be on the verge of cursing god and dying! It looks as if the valley has established another epitaph of a fallen child of God!
Yet as Job’s words poured out of his heart, the devil was not prepared for what Job said next! Job admitted his frustrations, he acknowledged that he’s so lost he can’t find God anywhere! Yet before Job allows an offended spirit to engulf him Job counters with this… “But He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job how can you say something like that after everything you’ve been through? How can you be so sure that God will bring you out of this valley? Job continued, “My foot hath held his steps, his way have i kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandments of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”
Job didn’t allow his valley to become a grave, because Job didn’t allow his spirit to get offended in the valley. If you are in a valley today, hold on to God’s promises! Allow His word to nourish your soul, and most importantly never allow your spirit to get offended!
Proverbs 19:11 ESV
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
“Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.”