Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ezekiel 37: Revival by Word and Spirit

Ezek 37:1-14 The hand of the Lord was upon 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 back and forth 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, "O 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 from the four winds, O breath, 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 whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'"  

There are two actions that Ezekiel did that revive a valley of spiritually dead bones:
  • He prophesied to the dry bones: This is akin to proclamation of the Word of God to the people. But notice that this revival preaching is not called teaching but prophesying. In other words, the preaching that will bring life back to a spiritually dead people is prophetic - the "rhema" word, God's word to a particular people for that particular moment. Revival preaching is prophetic in that it declares God's specific word for the specific people--it is not some generic teaching, but must be based on the Spirit's revelation. It is not just "thus says the Scripture" but "thus says the Spirit". So, the first part of revival is prophetic ministry of the Word.
  • He prophesied to the winds: This is akin to prayer for the Spirit to come and fill a people. The preaching of God's Word will bring the bones together and cover it with flesh and skin, giving the body of Christ the potential for life. But without the Spirit,  it remains just a potential not the reality. So, we need the prayer ministry of the Spirit as much as the prophetic ministry of the Word. Once the body of Christ is filled with God's life through the ministry of the Spirit, the church will be revived and become a powerful army ready to go to war.
Unfortunately, many churches have time for the ministry of the Word, but leave little or no time for the ministry of the Spirit at their Sunday Services. Sometime this is a matter of tradition, but other time it is the constraint of time. We planned the Spirit out of our program. It's better to have a shorter preaching ministry of the Word to make time for prayer ministry of the Spirit than to have a long Word ministry with little or no time for the Spirit ministry. We have seen many Christians who are full of head knowledge of the Word but have little power in their life and ministry because of this one-sided ministry.

Whenever people of God gather, there must be time for ministry of the Word (teaching) and also ministry of the Spirit (prayer). When I say prayer, I don't mean intercessory prayer. I mean ministry prayer -- for the people in front of us through the laying on of hands. Only the Spirit can give life: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). We were told when we were young believers: "If you have the Word without the Spirit, you will dry up. If you have the Spirit without the Word, you will blow up. If you have the Word and the Spirit, you will grow up!"

Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19 when put together speak of the need for the Word and Spirit ministry to produce the fruit of true worship, defined by "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs":
  • Col 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (ESV)
  • Eph 5:18-19 "be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart" (ESV).

We can only have a church of true worshipers who "will worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23) when the church makes time for the Spirit and Word ministry.

Father, thank You that You have not only given us the Word of God on Christmas Day but also the Spirit of God on Pentecost Day in order that we might be true worshipers who worship God in spirit and in truth. Amen.

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