Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Blogger: Ezekiel and the Dry Bones

I was sitting with my friend, Heather, sipping coffee in her home while my kids played in her backyard. We caught up for several hours, and during that time, she shared this story with me. I asked her if she would share it, and she was happy to oblige. Thanks, Heather!

Our church was struggling.  Leaders and members were disgruntled and leaving.  Our elders were aware of tough issues and hurt feelings, and were making long-term plans.  But long-term plans take a long time to plan and carry out.  My heart ached Sunday after Sunday, weekday after weekday, at the unmet possibilities of all the Godly people who were in our church, and of how difficult it had become to go there to worship our Lord.
One option the elders worked towards was a merge with a young, growing church which had been started a few years past out of a Bible study from our church.  Familial and spiritual relationships thrived between members of the two churches.  Reading Ezekiel 36:36-38, I began praying these verses for our church, as the verses themselves seemed to invite:
“Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate.  I am the LORD: I have spoken, and I will do it.  Thus says the LORD GOD; this also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock.  Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people.  Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
The verses following this passage tell an amazing story of Ezekiel being taken to a burial valley, full of dry, human bones.  But God asked Him “Can these bones live?”  Unlike mine might, Ezekiel’s answer didn’t include a plan for God of HOW to raise them!  He simply answered “O Lord GOD, you know.”  Then God raised the bones and gave them life!
This seemed perfect to me!  I felt as if we were a nearly dead church, and I wanted God to bring us instantly to life as He did with the dry bones!  All He had to do was bring the other church into our midst!  Just as Jerusalem would be normal nearly all year, the three annual feasts would bring men, women, children and animals from all around the country to worship God.  The city went from normal to overflowing in only a few days!  The flocks greatly multiplied because people would bring their animals to sacrifice to God.  This is what I wanted for our church—from normal to bustling and overflowing with only a vote from the churches!  
But God had other plans.  The vote did not pass, and our churches did not merge.  Bitterness deepened.  Hopelessness appeared.  God had to remind me many, many times that He is sovereign, and in control even of church votes.  
And He continued to speak to me through Ezekiel.  I admit, it did take me a few months to return to praying from this passage.  He reminded me that when I first read the words, “This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them:  to increase their people like a flock,” He had allowed me to pray for Him to increase our people like a flock.  But He hadn’t told me He’d let me choose HOW.  So I continue to pray.
Two years later, the children’s Sunday morning lesson was Ezekiel 37.  Reading and meditating on the passage for the lesson, the Holy Spirit showed me important details I had missed:  the bones revived, and came to life, but in steps!  First, Ezekiel prophesied, then the bones came together, then sinews came over the bones, then skins covered the insides.  But they were not breathing.  God and Ezekiel both spoke again before God’s breath came into the bodies and “they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
Amazed, I could only kneel down, cry and worship God, because I easily could see steps He had taken in our church family.  We are now united, as if the bones have come together.  He is healing our minds and hearts and spirits like the sinews.  He is setting up new church structure and methods.  He has shifted authorities in the body.  And He is even adding young, new life to our fellowship!  I look forward to worshipping Him with others again!  
Ezekiel and the skeletons continue to remind me tangibly of what God is doing spiritually and physically in our church body.  Praise to God, who continues to work in our church body, and who does not give up His work in me, either.  I hope and pray to trust Him more tomorrow and each day after, because He and His plans are trustworthy.

~Heather Neumann

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