2 March 2017Ezekiel 37:1-14
“And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.” (vv. 13-14)
Psalm: Psalm 118:1-9
This is Lent, a season of fasting and self-examination. Our understanding of Lent is shaped by the account in the Gospels, of Jesus encountering temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). It's a story of barrenness, wasteland, and preparation for fruitful (albeit difficult) times to come.
Ezekiel's vision is similar. He was a prophet in exile - one of many thousands of Israelites to have been forcibly removed from their homeland by their Babylonian overlords. By the time of this vision, Jerusalem had fallen, and the temple destroyed. These were difficult, wilderness times. The exiles may not literally have been fasting, but they were deprived of their home, culture and worship. Ezekiel, as a priest, must have felt the loss of the temple particularly deeply.
In the midst of such wilderness, Ezekiel's vision was one of hope. The time of exile would not be endless. God would act, and God's people would be restored to fullness of life. Like the dry, long-dead bones coming together and being covered with sinews and skin, God's people would be brought back together, and be given the structures and systems of their national life and worship.
But a reassembled body is not a living body, and so further action of God was necessary, to bring breath. In the vision, this came through Ezekiel's prophecy to the winds (verse 9). The Hebrew word for 'breath' or 'wind' here isruach. This word is rich in meaning; it can be translated 'breath', 'wind' or 'spirit'. The breath which entered the bodies, via the four winds, was symbolic of the Spirit of God which would enter the regathered people of God. What was promised was not just the structural restoration of a nation, but that the nation would live again as God's covenant people, following God and remaining true to God's word.
As so often, the experience of wilderness or exile was a chance to reflect on what had gone wrong in their faithfulness to God, a chance to re-examine their national life, and, eventually, a chance to begin again, renewed and revitalised.
- Which parts of your life feel as though they are in the wilderness? How much potential can you find in that, or does it just feel like barrenness?
- How will you use the wilderness time of Lent to breathe new life into your faith and discipleship?