Summary: Without the Holy Spirit, we labor in vain.
What does it take to Live?
I have had the opportunity to hear some unbelievable music in my life. A marvelous concert by a handbell choir comes to mind. During that concert, I suddenly became aware of a lovely young lady standing on the very end of the choir with just one little bell. Although she stood patiently alert, bell in hand, I noticed that not once in the very lengthy and complicated selection had she ever rung that bell. The music rose to a brilliant climax of sound and suddenly, at the very peak, the director turned toward that girl. She rang her bell; just one…clear, beautiful sound that hung in the air and gave meaning to the rest of the performance. As far as I could tell, she didn't ring that bell again the rest of the concert. I am still captivated by that event. My mind returned to my high school and college days of drama and music. I had some lead parts, but I also had my share of one-liners. It was the one-liners that created the most tension, and although they gave substantial meaning to the play, they had the most potential for goof-up. Mostly we are one-liners on the stage of this world. Very, very few of us ever play lead parts. We have our one line and when the director turns toward us and points His finger -- we either do well or… goof up. Maybe it all depends on how we see ourselves. I was reminded again that the one line, the one shot, the one ring of the bell is critical to the total. Maybe that is why Jesus said: "Watch" -- be alert -- you never know when the Master will come. Or when it will be time to say your line. (His line)
A Vision of Dry Bones
The prophet Ezekiel has a vision where he is taken by God's Spirit into a valley filled with dry bones. It’s a bizarre vision. The valley is full of human bones and Ezekiel is led in silence all over the valley. You can only imagine the feelings that would emerge if you had to have such a powerful confrontation with human mortality. The silence is broken by the voice of God.
"Mortal -- can these bones live?"
There could be only one answer under normal circumstances. "Of course these bones can't live. Dead is dead and the condition of these bones suggests that these have been dead a long time. The devastation must have been horrible." Can these bones live? Of course not!
Unless... unless something extraordinary, something supernatural should take place. Only a miracle could bring these bones to life.
And so Ezekiel's response to the Lord God is not the normal human response, which would be, "Of course not." “DUH!” Because he is speaking with the Lord, Ezekiel says:
"O Lord God, you know."
And isn't that just like us in so many ways? We are confronted with some of life's toughest times and wonder what the outcome will be. You have probably used the words, "God only knows!" When we encounter the seemingly impossible. It’s then we have to recognize; God alone has both the knowledge and the ability to see and control the outcome. One of the amazing things that happens in Ezekiel's vision is that God does not simply say, "Watch this.." and zap the bones into life. Ezekiel is to have a role in the miracle that will take place in the valley. It is the prophet who speaks the words of God to the bones. God gives the words and the prophet delivers the words. The prophet speaks the message of God that brings life to the dry bones. There is an essential concept in God's giving the words to the prophet to deliver to the bones. The messenger of God delivers the word of life. There is a strong connection with the "Word become flesh" which brings life to the people of God. Note 1 John 1:1:
"We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--"
The prophet or the preacher has no new thing to say to the bones. Only the message given by God and delivered by the messenger is effective to bring life to the people of God. Also, there is no life apart from the word of the Lord.
Now before I continue and before you get the idea that the prophet or the preacher is someone elite in the faith, let’s look at “Prophet.” The ordinary word for prophet in the Hebrew was “nabi” it comes from a verb that means “To bubble forth” like a fountain; or a giddy teenage girl. So the prophet is someone who announces or “pours forth” the declarations of God.