Dry Bones Come Alive!

Dry bones in the dessert? God will bring life to them. He will bring life to you!
Dry bones in the desert? God will bring life to them. He will bring life to you!

It was a sunny, hot, dry day. I had been praying when God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. It was a curious site. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! Human bones. Skeletons. They were scattered everywhere. Dry bones, bleached by the sun.

God said to me, “Son of man, do you think these bones can live?”

Believing that God can do anything I replied: “Master God, only you know the answer to that.”

He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones. Say this: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!” He continued: “I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

Being a man of God, I spoke as He commanded. There I was, standing on a dry plateau. Nothing but sand, cracked earth, rocks and small stubble for brush at my feet. As I spoke, there was a sound and, oh, the rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. My eyes got “this big!” I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.

Again, God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, Ezekiel. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come from the north, the south, the east and the west. Come breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”

Beads of perspiration formed on skin. And again, nervously, I opened my mouth. To be honest, I stuttered and stammered quite a bit. Wondering if what was happening was real or a dream or a vision of some sort.  The breath of GOD entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army. Hundreds of men. They began shouting! And marching! They were alive! The dust of the ground was kicked up in a cloud as their legs stepped off… right, left, right, left. Small desert animals awoke from naps in the sunshine and scattered in every direction.

I shook my head in wonder as I watched from the safe vista above. I smiled at God in disbelief.

Then the Father said to me, “Son of man, these bones are like the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying. They are crying out: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’

Speak! Tell them, “God, the Master, says: ‘I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. This is my plan for my people. This is God’s Decree!’”

 

The story of Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones as recorded, with some interpretation, in Ezekiel 37.

I love this image… is it a vision or did this really happen? Well, Ezekiel was a prophet, so this is likely a future vision, for the people of Israel… and for us.

Can you see what he saw? Human bones. A femur over there. A skull over there. A tibia. An ulna. A ribcage. Bleached white from years in the desert sun. As he spoke there was a noise, a rattling, as they reassembled into full skeletons. Then muscles, tendons, organs, skin, hair. Finally breath. Life! One by one these people began standing to their feet.  Until the whole desert valley was full of an army of God. Amazing! A miracle. A picture of what is to come.

Jesus says:

I tell you for certain that the time will come, and it is already here, when all of the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen to it will live!  John 5:25 (CEV)

Are you listening? I’m wondering if God is calling you to hear? Or to be someone like Jeremiah or Ezekiel? Someone who cares deeply for the hurting. And someone who will speak life into places where there are lonely souls, broken hearts and dry bones.

There’s a new song on the radio called “Come Alive!” Maybe you’ve heard it? It’s based on Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life. I watched an interview with the songwriters Lauren Daigle and Michael Farren. Their intention in writing the song was to encourage people like you and me who know others who are living a dry-bone kind of life.

Maybe they are prodigals? A daughter? A brother? Do you know a few? I do.

Maybe they are waiting to die? Do you know someone in hospice who fears what is next? I do.

Maybe they have no life outside of their home? They live in virtual deserts. They wander aimlessly. Do you know someone who is lonely? Lifeless. I do.

And yet, God…

With a heart of love God has called each one of us to speak… to pray… to sing over them with words of hope, words of healing, words of life. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:1: Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. (MSG). “His truth” is the gift of prophesy. That’s what He asked of Ezekiel. We, too, are called to speak to others the hope we have in Jesus… it is our testimony of His faithfulness and His love in our lives. And it encourages and brings life to others!

Come on, Church! Can you see an army rising up from the dry bones of the desert?

Or,

Maybe you are one of those dry bone, broken hearted children of God? Maybe your life is in ruins right now, like Jerusalem was?

Can I assure you, there is hope! You see… Jesus ultimately comes to the people of Israel… from the Tribe of Judah… all the way to Jerusalem. There is life and love in Jesus! And He will come again!

Can I speak “life” to you, Church? Trust God. Trust Him as Jeremiah did. You can be assured that God’s mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.

Are you willing to receive the life that Jesus has for you? Are you willing to receive the mission that He called Jeremiah and Ezekiel to… to be someone who speaks life to someone else? The prodigals, the dying, the lonely.

If you are in a dry bone kind of place,  receive God’s breath and Come Alive today!

In your heart AND in the lives of those you love.

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.
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The Secret to Solomon’s Wisdom? Hearing God.

"Shema Israel. Hear o Israel." Solomon asked to hear God.
“Shema Israel. Hear o Israel.” Solomon asked to hear God.

Whenever we think of Solomon we think of wisdom, right? We say that he asked for wisdom so God gave him wisdom… and more!

Interestingly, he actually did not ask for wisdom.

 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (1 Kings 3:9, NIV)

Yes, that collection of words translates to what we know to be wisdom, but he actually asked God for “a discerning heart.” Or some translations say “an understanding heart.” When you dig into the root of that word in Hebrew it is the word shama’ or “hear.”

If you are Jewish you say the “Shema’” prayer every day. In English it is:

“Hear O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might!”

Hear.

Shema.

So I think Solomon asked to be able to hear God… to have this open communications pipeline from God’s heart to his heart. To have one of those new fiber optic cables that has an almost unlimited bandwidth to allow God to have the fastest amount of data transfer available. From God’s lips to Solomon’s heart. Instantly.

And with that endless and open line, Solomon was indeed wise.

Do you know that you and I have that same access to God?

“Through him (Jesus Christ) we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18, The Message).

Yet, often our pipeline is clogged so that we are distracted from hearing God… with the things of the world that take our heart off of God’s best for us. With our job. Our family. Our finances. Our health. Our worries.

James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV). As you do, recall that when Solomon asked for the same thing, he actually sought to HEAR from God.

May you have an open pipeline to hear from God’s heart to your heart. May you give God all your worldly distractions. Give Him those things that choke the conduit of His grace and His love.

Then, as you hear God’s voice today, may you have the strength and boldness to act and go where He leads.

 

© 2017 Rich Ronald.

 

 

Can We Be Prayerfully Expectant in 2017?

We kick off 2017 in just a few hours! What will God do in us and through us this coming year? I’ve continued to ponder the words of Simeon who lived in “prayerful expectancy” of the hope of Messiah (Luke 2:25). I’m wondering if Simeon was on to something? What if we might expect to see Jesus every day this year? What if we earnestly looked for Him? What if we made it our goal before we got out of bed each day to pray: “Lord, may I see you today!” And what if we took it to the next level and prayed: “And Lord, when I see you, may it be as You work through me to bless others.”

Can we expect to have a daily encounter with Jesus in the New Year? I hope so. I pray it will be so.

 

 

 

To view the sermon from where I unpacked Simeon’s story,  click HERE.

God promised. So Simeon waits and watches…

Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!
The Old Man by Annu from trekearth.com   Simeon perhaps? God promised that he would see Messiah before he died. And he did!

I’ve tried to live a devout life. My parents were good Jews. They brought me up in the traditions of the Temple.  My father’s name is Hillel. We lived along the Coast of the Great Sea. Three times each year, the whole family journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts.

I married and had my own family and repeated the same traditions. We also came up to Jerusalem three times each year.  We celebrated Pesach, the Passover, in the Spring… Shavuot, Pentecost, in the summer… and Yom Kippur and Sukkoth each fall. These are special times for all of Israel, but especially for us devout Jews. It’s a time to remember how Jehovah delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt, how He gave us His Law and how he cared for us during our wanderings, before we entered the Promised Land.  Since my wife died I’ve decided just to stay here in Jerusalem.  It’s easier on this old body of mine. I spend my days near the Temple. God is present in my life every moment.  I pray. I sing. I do odd jobs for the priests. I pray for people who come by. I enjoy Jehovah’s presence in my life. I can sense His Spirit. It is real. He has blessed me more than I’ll ever begin to be able to tell you.

It was about 50 years ago… during the Feast of Tabernacles when we all came up to remember the roamings of our ancestors through the desert… we set up small tents called Sukkahs to live in for the week. And we gathered for a festive time of remembering.  It was during the worship celebration at the temple; the high priest had just returned back from the Kidron Brook with a vessel of water from Siloam’s Pool to pour out on the altar. In the frenzy of the crowd shouting “Hosanna” I heard the voice of Jehovah.  He spoke to me as I am I speaking to you now.  All the noise of the crowd went silent in my head. And He said: “Simeon. You will not die before you see my Chosen One, the Messiah, in Whom I will deliver all of Israel. From Him will come streams of Living Water, not just a pitcher of water. And He will be poured out for the redemption of all of Israel.” In the midst of this great worship service, I was stunned! Living water?  Poured out? The Messiah. Yes, we know He will come some day. But in my lifetime? How wonderful that day will be!  Will it be as Joel has promised? Will the prophesies come true?  Will Elijah truly come again before Messiah?

I am an old man now and I have dreamed dreams of His coming again. I’ve spent the rest of my life watching, waiting, wondering… who could it be? Will he be like Moses or more like Joshua? He must be a young adult, at least, and God is shaping Him into our powerful King and Messiah. Every time I see Herod speak before the crowds I look around and ask myself… could Messiah be a Jewish officer in Herod’s castle waiting to be revealed? What mighty legion of soldiers does he lead?  Or maybe he is a governor, or a synagogue ruler by this point in his life?

Some have said he will come from the Galilee. Ha! There’s nothing but farmers and fishermen up there!

Whoever he is, I know I will recognize him in the blink of an eye. He will be as strong as David when He routed the Philistines! He will be as wise as David’s son Solomon.  He will rule our people with power in one hand and grace and love in the other. He will deliver us from the oppressors, be it Rome or Egypt, once and for all. Isaiah says he will come to heal the brokenhearted. And those who mourn in Zion? They will rejoice!

Ah, look. There is a couple with a young baby. They always want a blessing, these new parents. I must go into the temple.  Funny, the priest is quite capable. But he always asks me. “Simeon. Come bless this new child,” he says.  “They rather have the old man’s blessing than the priest’s.”

So, I will go.  And I will keep looking. Yahweh promised me… I’m confident He will be true to His word.

I wonder if they are of the tribe of Judah?  Maybe the father is someone special?

 

The actions and musings, perhaps, of Simeon, the one who blessed Jesus and his parents, at the temple on the appointed day. As recorded in Luke, Chapter 2.
Is there a promise you are waiting and watching for God to answer? Have faith that He will keep His promises!
(C) 2016 Rich Ronald

We followed a star and our lives changed forever.

 

Following a star... lives changed forever.
Following a star… lives changed forever.

We have just left the place where I, personally, experienced the most significant event in my life! We saw Him, the infant, the child, the true King of Israel, indeed the King of all kings!  And we gave Him gifts. And we worshiped Him. And we are changed forever.

Let me back up for a minute. My name is Geshnavadar. I am a Magi of the east, from Babylon in Persia. I have two companions with me, one is twenty years my senior, the other is twenty years my junior. They call us “wise men,” and I guess, we are just that, but we are not kings, we are Magi.

Our people go back to the prophet Daniel, who was one of our own. He prophesied about a Messiah. Although Daniel was a Hebrew, we are Gentiles. But we love the same God as those of the 12 Tribes of Israel. He has given us this unique gift of interpreting dreams. Some also call us astrologers, for we study the stars in the sky. But we do so with a specific purpose and anointing, as we believe they point to what God is doing now and in the future.

Recently, something strange occurred in the night sky… three stars lined up and pointed to the West, right to the city of Jerusalem in Palestine. And what was significant about these stars is they were of the constellation Aries, the Ram. Three stars, from a ram, pointing to the City of David?

Ever since King Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah into captivity in our home country, we have known of the stories of God’s deliverance of His people. One oft-told account recalls a ram, stuck in a thicket that God provided as a sacrifice. It was on Mount Moriah in what is now Jerusalem. The intended sacrifice was Abraham’s son, Isaac. But God had another plan. And we have heard that one day God will deliver all of Abraham’s children, both Jews and Gentiles, by way of a ram, or a lamb.

So, the stars pointed to Jerusalem and we, along with a cavalry of slaves and servants, ventured out to seek the meaning of the stars. You should know that some have called us Magi “king makers” for no king in all of the East became royalty without the blessing of our little fraternity. And if the stars were calling out that a new king had arrived, it was our job to sanction his monarchy. Yes, we knew Herod was the so-called “king of the Jews” in Palestine, but that was merely a title bestowed on him by Caesar Augustus so he would have some clout in collecting taxes.

We arrived in Jerusalem a couple of months, and over a thousand miles, after our departure from Persia. When Herod heard we were in town looking for a new king he was shaken and irritated. Was his make-shift reign coming to an end? He called for a meeting with us immediately. We told him of the prophesy and the stars. He was familiar with the Ancient Word, but had no knowledge of the night sky pointing us here at this time. He suggested we search the neighboring town of Bethlehem, for his advisers recalled the Biblical text of Micah that says “You, oh Bethlehem, will be the birthplace of my King…” He told us to return to Jerusalem and let him know if we found this new monarch so that he might worship this King as well.

It took just a day and a night to reach the sleepy little village. Again we sought the night sky for direction. Another star appeared, and its travel actually stopped and reversed and stopped again… right over a simple peasant home in Bethlehem.

We approached cautiously. A carpenter appeared in the doorway, amazed at our large caravan. Could this be the man we were seeking? He assured us, no, he was but a simple man. However, his son… his son…

We entered the home and immediately we knew. We just knew. The Spirit of God was in that place. God’s peace was overwhelming. The boy’s mother was radiant. The child, now at least a year in age, sat in her lap. He was not the King we expected, but He was most certainly the King that the God of the Hebrews had anointed. We were instantly humbled in His presence. We offered Him gifts we had brought, although honestly they seemed insignificant… the gold, the frankincense and myrrh… a lifetime of gifts, if you will.  And we bowed before Him, no we fell before Him and worshiped… worshiped… worshiped… The little child alternated his gaze between us and his mother. And he smiled.

We stayed as long we could. Our lives and hearts changed forever. Transformed, really.

We are heading back to Babylon, by a different route. God has told us in a dream that we must protect the new King and not tell Herod of His whereabouts. Not really sure what we will do once we get home. I know we cannot merely go back and live the life we had been living. No, it will be different. After almost 500 years, He is here now! We sought out the new King, and we found Him! We found Him!

And we will tell the people of Judah living in our land that they, too, must seek out and find their new King! And if they let Him into their life, and into their heart, they will be completely transformed as well.

 

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of one of the Magi of Matthew, Chapter 2.

(C) 2016 Rich Ronald.

While shepherds watched their flocks at night.

shepherd
The shepherds’ encounter with Jesus began just like every other day. They were nearby, working as they do — all day and all night. They were going about their ordinary life. And into one average night angels appeared with Good News of great joy! “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

It was just another night, really. Nothing too special about it. The sheep were grazing or sleeping on the rolling meadow, just north of Bethlehem. The air was cool, but not cold yet, so we let the animals continue to stay out in the fields rather than finding a cave for shelter.

My name? It’s not really important, for I am a lowly shepherd. There are none in all of the Land of Judah that think of our people as anyone special. We do not command much attention and merely go about our work in a quiet, nondescript manner. We feed the sheep and goats. We water the sheep and goats. We guard the sheep and goats. We move them about so they will find plenty of grass to eat and just the right amount to drink. And this we do day in and day out.

I’m almost 60 years old and shepherding is the only job I have ever had. I know my sheep, and they know me. As of today, I have 109 sheep in my flock: 32 rams, 41 ewes, and 36 lambs. There are another 88 goats. Everything I own is in a pack on my donkey. It’s not much. Another tunic. Some candles and pottery. A few ropes and animal skins. A small bag of nuts and raisins.  Oh, and my flute.  I so enjoy the gift God has given me to play music. It is a joy to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all while simply blowing across hole in a hollowed out piece of wood. I think the sheep like it as well.

My brother has his flock just over there. My brother-in-law is along that ridge.

So, about “that” night… The air was crisp. The moon was full. The sky bursting with bright stars. We had just thrown another log on a small fire. We kept watch for coyotes, for this is the time of the year when they prey on the members of our flock. We were talking about heading back to our village and meeting up with our families as it was the season to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. Of course, we do not ever get to go to the Temple, for we must be out here. But some in our family are blessed to be able to make the short journey to Mt. Zion.

We were making our plans when suddenly the night sky became very bright, as if it was the middle of the day. The sheep were startled and began to cry and low and move about anxiously. The three of us, did our best to keep them calm, all the while our hearts raced frantically. We had never seen this happen before. We had heard of earthquakes but had not experienced one. Was this that? Or some other natural phenomenon?  Was this some sort of army moving across the plains? The dogs were barking, the sheep bleating, the donkey braying. We were terribly frightened.

Through the bright light a man appeared… a man like we had not ever seen previously. His first words? “Do not be afraid!” And yet we were terrified!  It was truly a challenge to slow our heart rate and calm our breathing.

He said he was a messenger bringing good news, joyful news. Our Savior was born this very night and we were to go quickly down to the village of Bethlehem and see this new baby. A baby? Our Messiah? What was he saying? Who was this man? While he didn’t tell us he was an angel, we quickly figured that out when a multitude of others joined him and they started singing. Singing! Right out there in the open fields! And proclaiming the birth of our Savior.

“Glory to God!” they sang. “Peace on earth!” echoed across the valley, amplified by the night air.

We asked each other: Who were we to hear this message? We are not priests or rabbis or Pharisees or King Herod. Maybe they should go and proclaim this news to people of stature?

And just as quickly as they appeared, they returned again into the heavens.

So, of course, we did what they told us to do. We gathered our things; rounded up the flocks. And we ventured across the meadow in the middle of the night, down the rocky path to the village of Bethlehem. We looked and searched all over town. Can you see us? With our sheep? And our goats? And our donkeys? And the shepherding dogs? Oh, what noise we made as we meandered through the village in the middle of the night.

A man named Jacob came to greet us. He asked what we were doing wandering around? We told him of the angels and the singing and the bright lights in the sky.  We shared the message of good news they had shared with us. He was stunned and had this look on his face I’ll never forget. It was a look of disbelief and belief all at the same time… like something very real and very special just dawned on him.  With an eager jump in his step he led us to a small, dark, dank cave. He apologized as he motioned for us to enter.  Inside were a few animals and a woman, who he said was his wife, lying in some straw. Her face was illuminated by a single candle. And she nursed a new born baby.

“Miriam!” he whispered with enthusiasm.  “These men… they saw angels who told them to come find us… to find him… our son.”

We looked at each other with doubt in our eyes. Is this our Messiah? Our king? The savior of the world? But wouldn’t he be born in a royal palace attended to by a multitude of nurses and midwives and servants? Wouldn’t he be wrapped in silk or fine linens, not these swaddling rags?

Jacob could read our thoughts as our faces betrayed our skepticism. “He was born in this simple cave,” he said with humble honesty, “because he was born for you.”

“But we are lowly shepherds,” we explained. “And he is a king?”

“Yes,” Jacob replied. “Yes, indeed. He has been born for you and for them. You, however, you are the first to see Him. His name is ‘Immanuel. God with us.’ Go! Go tell everyone you see what a great thing God has done for all of us.”

And so, we did. Our suspicions turned to great joy. We returned to the fields and we praised the God of our Fathers … for the angels, for Jacob, for Miriam, but mostly for this baby, our Savior, born this very night!

 

Some of the actions, words and thoughts, perhaps, of the shepherds and others as found in Luke, Chapter 2.

 (c) 2016. Rich Ronald.

“Have mercy on me, oh God…”

You do still love me, right?
You do still love me, right?

I know a lot of things. It comes with the territory. God speaks to me. He reveals His truths to me. And He puts me in positions to hear and to learn of things. He then calls me to act.

And right now, He has graciously given me the assignment of watching over our king.

My name is Nathan. And I serve in the royal court of David, the King of Israel.  Our majesty has a good heart. He truly does. Like all of us, sometimes he is selfish, and his pride gets in the way of God’s best.

Such is the case of the shepherd boy turned monarch and his major lack of judgement. I honestly had trouble believing it when Bathsheba confided in me. Certainly I could understand how any man would be swayed by her beauty. But first it was one thing, then another and another… and as she unveiled each new plot twist of the story my heart broke for both of them.

By now the whole kingdom knows what kind of man our sovereign is… He is a voyeuristic, lustful, conniving, wife-stealing, adulterer, who committed murder to cover up his wretched ways.  Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? And, indeed, it is. Who wants a ruler like that? Aren’t those in power supposed to be above the fray of life’s messes? Or, do we, just maybe, prefer someone in a seat of power whose day-to-day family life is as chaotic as ours? Could it be that it shows how human and ordinary they are?

Time elapsed and worry increased. Fear of being caught began to enter the scene. When confronted with his sin, David had two choices… more coverups, more lies, more asserting his standing and power, more murders, perhaps? Indeed, as I spoke to him in quiet whispers that cool day in his chambers, I wondered if my own life might be at stake… Or, the other choice: David could open his heart and concede to his disgraceful acts. When the Lord revealed David’s muddled mess to me and I challenged the king about it, our ruler did the right thing. The gravity of his actions began to make his heart race and his lips quiver. He uttered six words: “I have sinned against the Lord.”  And he began to sob uncontrollably. He fell to his knees and grabbed my tunic.

As his mentor and friend, can I say I’m proud of him? Lessor men, like his predecessor Saul, are full of excuses. Certainly David could have suggested it was a combination of Bathsheba’s and her husband Uriah’s doing. David might have blamed it on his wife Michal and her coolness to the way he worshipped before God. David could have invoked some sort of royal privilege, I suppose. No. Our king confessed.

He later showed me how he wrestled with Yahweh about this terrible sin. You know, David really connects with God through worship. So, the musician wrote a song that began with this plea: “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your unfailing love…”

David knows that God and only God can blot out man’s transgressions. Only God can wash away our iniquities. Only God can restore to us the joy of His salvation.

God’s judgement against David and Bathsheba was to take the life of their son. Again, that is horrible. But God’s grace is new today, and every day. The royal couple will have another son soon. And God has assured me that His hand will be on this heir, in ways that reflect God’s steadfast spirit and astute wisdom. They will call this child “Solomon.”

 

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Nathan the Prophet and David the King from 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Psalm 51.

 

(c) 2016 Rich Ronald