Ezekiel 37:1-14 – You’re Not a Waste

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had 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 the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.'” – Ezekiel 37:1-14ESV

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find out some interesting things about this blue ball we live on. For example, the deepest point on earth is the Mariana Trench, which is about 35,462 feet deep. Do the math. That’s almost 7 miles below the surface of the ocean. The creatures living out their lives there look like something out of a horror film. It’s hard to believe they share this planet with us.

Another interesting fact: according to a November 15, 2017, article in Forbes entitled “The Number Of Earth-Like Planets In The Universe Is Staggering – Here’s The Math”, there are potentially 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe with the potential for at least one planet similar to Earth. That’s 21 zeros after the 19. I’m not even sure how to say a number that big. Yet, so far as we can tell, Earth is the only example among all these with the opulent existence of life. And not just mere micro-organisms, but beautiful, complex, astonishing life.

Now that I’ve got fixed firmly in your mind how incredible creation is, take a look at Ezekiel 37:4-8:

“Then [God] said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them…”

Did you pick up on the enormity of what just happened here? Ezekiel was an ordinary man living in 6th century BC Babylon among his fellow Jewish exiles after Babylon conquered Israel and Judah. He would only live about fifty years, prophesying the coming redemption of Israel that he would never see. Yet the same God who thought up the weird creatures in the Mariana Trench, the same God who thought it would be fun to make however-many kajillion (or however you say that number) stars and planets, but only inhabit one with life…chose to use this simple man to raise the dead. He could have easily done it Himself, but He chose to include Ezekiel in the display of His absolute authority over all life.

What does that remind you of? It reminds me of a mission trip I once went on with a group of high schoolers where we had to re-roof an 8/12 pitch house with cedar shingles underneath two layers of tar shingles. You have to have safety lines on everyone just to stay safe on the roof. It was almost one-hundred degrees and humid in the middle of summer in central Michigan. It would have been far faster and far easier for the experienced adults to rip right through that roof and get it done. But what was important to us wasn’t just re-roofing a house for someone…it was equipping the youth with new skills and confidence to do hard things. It took us a lot more brutal days under the sun, but because of that attitude, by the end of the trip, the kids were laying shingles with hardly any help from the adults, using nail guns and cutting shingles to fit like they’d been doing it all their lives.

You see…God is our Father, not just our Lord. We are His children. He says it over-and-over again throughout the Bible. There are countless times in the Bible when He could have easily done things Himself…and didn’t. Instead, He worked with and through ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary and transformed human history and human lives for the good by doing so.

And He is still doing the same thing today…through US. Through YOU.

You are not a waste. You are not a failure. Not now that God has come to live in your heart. The same God Who defeated Egypt through the power of the son of a slave, the same God Who defeated a giant through the arm of a shepherd, the same God Who defeated a conquering army through two women not trained for battle…choses to work through you every single day of your life. He choses YOU.

  1. Do you ever feel like God doesn’t really have a use for you? Why?
  2. How do you feel knowing the God of Creation works through you?
  3. How might it impact the way you view your life if you view yourself as just as important to God as the heroes of the Bible?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Read Ezekiel 27:1-14 every day and pray for God to give you eyes to see the ways He wants to work through you this week.

Matthew 1:18-23 – God With Us

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”
– Matthew 1:18-23ESV

When I met my husband, he had already been an avid roller skater for eighteen years. And unlike my dedication to walking for some twenty-odd years, which had shown little improvement in avoiding embarrassing moments of clumsiness, he had put his years of skating to good use. He didn’t just skate… he could breakdance on wheels. I’m talking stalls, spins, backflips, jumps, and more. (If you’re really interested, you can find plenty of examples on YouTube.) By comparison, my roller blading had peaked in 8th grade at little more than desperately careening around the roller rink as fast as I could. I hadn’t skated since.

To watch my husband skate was amazing. Until that point, I hadn’t realized what was possible. Quickly, skating became a regular part of our relationship. Unfortunately, it was a rocky restart for me, and on roller skates this time. I wanted to do what my husband did, to learn to love what he loved and do what he did. Where he glided, I staggered. Where he stopped on a dime, I careened on. Where he easily dodged other skaters, I fell.

But every circuit of the rink, he was with me. He could have been dancing in the middle of the floor, drawing admiration, photos, and requests for coaching (which happened regularly.) Instead, he set aside himself to teach me, to help me up, to model the skills to me I needed to grow as a skater. Eight years later, there are still no backflips or rolling splits, but falls are rare, and I can skate on my toes and spin. I have a long way to go, but people now occasionally ask me for advice on how they can grow as skaters. That is all because Joseph set aside his chance for glory. He chose, instead, to be with me. And when Jesus entered into this world through Mary’s womb…He did and does much the same on a much greater scale.

In Matthew 1:18-23, Matthew highlights a prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Of all the titles Jesus could claim and would claim, the one He chose to prophesy His coming hundreds of years before it would happen is “God with us.” He is the All-Mighty Creator, King of the Universe, Commander of Angels, Vanquisher of Evil, Lord of the Earth, Knower of All, worthy of all “glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11). Yet the name from prophecy, the name by which generations of people would look forward to his coming…was “God with us.”

Jesus wanted us to know He is the God who is with us. The God who will sacrifice all He is entitled to so He can have a relationship with us…with you. He speaks love into your life by revealing His character in the Bible, by speaking through the words and actions of the people around you. He summons you back to Him and pursues you into your darkness, seeking you out to heal you…even in the darkest corners of your life. No matter how hard and fast and far you fall…the cold, scratchy, filthy cradle in a cave in poverty-stricken Ancient Israel is a testament to your “God with us”.

Fearlessly, He demonstrated how far He is willing to fall to lift you up. The God who spun out the cradles of the stars chose to be born, helpless and weeping, into a brutal world on the first Christmas. He walked in the shadow of the cross His whole life on earth…to be where you are for all your days…on both sides of eternity.

  1. If you could choose any name to be known by, what name would you chose for yourself?
  2. Jesus chose “God with us” to be the name we first knew Him by. What does that tell you about what kind of relationship He has with you?
  3. Many people view God as far-off and detached from what happens in our world. Knowing our God is “God with us”, how does that reframe how you view Him?
  4. Challenge for the Week: If God is with you always, that means there is evidence of Him at work in your life all the time. Spend some time each day intentionally looking for the little ways He is at work in your heart and in your environment. Keep notes of what they are so you can reflect on how God might be trying to speak into your life.

Matthew 6:25-33 – God’s Character

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:25-33ESV

I was a horse girl growing up. Some girls liked dolls or makeup or playing dress-up… but for me, it was all about horses all the time. Naturally, the majority of my toys were plastic horses, and there aren’t enough pages to record all the stories I wove out of their flashing hooves and flowing manes. At one time, I think I remember counting around 250 horses of varying sizes and colors stashed in my closet (the “barn”).

Inevitably, in these valiant horse-stories, there were also casualties. Sparring stallions sometimes broke legs. A foal slipping from careless fingers would lose an ear. My favorite toy horse (a black stallion named Spark) even had two broken legs. My horses were well-loved, thoroughly played-with, and they showed it. Broken legs, in particular, were a cause for tears. How can a horse with broken legs roam free?

But I always knew where to take my anxiousness. His oversized coffee-cup proudly proclaimed him “Mr. Fix-It”…and in my world he was better known as “Dad”. I knew if anyone could fix my horses, he could. I also completely trusted him to never turn me away. He never had before, and even if it took a long time, I knew my horses were well-cared-for in his hands.

In Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus tells us “do not be anxious about your life.” It is easy to get caught on these words and frame the rest of what He says in the context of an impossible command. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with anxiety constantly. I am uncomfortably familiar with the knotting stomached, pounding-hearted, sleepless nights that leave you feeling exhausted and even more worried the next day. Viewing this passage only as a command would easily leave me anxious about trying not to be anxious.

But to stop at “Do not be anxious” would be to miss the life-giving truth Jesus points us to over and over again throughout this passage:

  • verse 26 – “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Emphasis mine).
  • verse 30 – “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…” (Emphasis mine).
  • verses 31 & 32b – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Emphasis mine).

Jesus is reminding us not to be anxious because we don’t need to. I didn’t need to be anxious about my horses’ broken pieces because I knew the character of my father. He loved me and wanted to help me. In his hands, I knew my horses would be fixed.

We don’t need to be anxious our lives because we can trust in the character of our God, who…

  • is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13),
  • is patient (2 Peter 3:9),
  • created all things (Genesis 1:1),
  • is more powerful than anyone on earth (Isaiah 40:23),
  • provides all good things (James 1:17),
  • sacrificed His only son to save us (John 3:16),
  • keeps promises (Numbers 23:19),
  • is perfect (Psalm 18:30),
  • is compassionate, gracious, and righteous (Psalm 116:5),
  • and even more!

Compared to our anxiety, our God is far more mighty and able to handle what we cannot control. The creator of the universe, in the midst of your anxiety, taps you on the shoulder and reminds you “Look at me. Remember me.” He whispers quietly in your ear “I am with you always, to the end” (Matthew 28:20b).

 

  1. What are the things causing you anxiety right now? It may be helpful to list them out.
  2. Search for a list of bible verses about the character of God online. How do the characteristics of God speak to your list of anxieties?
  3. When anxiety is ruling you, how does that impact your decision making?
  4. Challenge for this week: using the bible verses you found about God’s character, pick one characteristic that really spoke to you and spend a little time each day reading Bible passages that explore this characteristic of God.