God has divine connections lined up for your life. There is power in connection. Connections lead to life. When a husband and a wife come together, babies are born. When the spirit of a person and the Spirit of God come together, new birth takes place. When brothers and sisters come together in unity, God commands his blessing (Psalm 133). When the disciples came together on the day of Pentecost, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The devil fears connection. His ultimate aim is to cut you off from God and each other. He tries to split marriages, to split friendships, to divide churches, to divide denominations and to isolate people. Although our culture is more connected than ever before through the internet, phones and social media, people are more isolated and lonely than ever.
In 586 BC, Ezekiel had a vision of a battle scene; he saw Death Valley. The valley was full of bones; bones that were very dry because they had separated. They were scattered, fragmented, divided, cut-off, ‘abandoned’ and therefore dried up. The people of God were in exile and had been scattered by the enemy. They were saying, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off’ (Ezekiel 37:11). God asks Ezekiel, ‘Can these bones live?’ (v.3). The answer is yes, yes, yes.
A song of ascents.
1 “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
2 “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
3 Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
4 But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
5 May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
6 May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
7 a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
8 May those who pass by not say to them,
“The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.”
Divine connection to God
Do you sometimes feel kicked around by the enemy? Everything seems to be going wrong. You seem to be losing. You are experiencing the oppression of the enemy (v.1).
But victory rests with the Lord. The psalmist says, ‘They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young... Their ploughmen ploughed long furrows up and down my back; then God ripped the harnesses of the evil ploughmen to shreds’ (vv.1–4, MSG).
Jesus has made victory possible for you through his death and resurrection, which connects you to God.
Taming the Tongue
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Two Kinds of Wisdom
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Divine connection in a healthy community
Dry bones can live again as the bones reconnect. ‘You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy the results’ (v.18, MSG). However, there are conditions, which the apostle James sets out.
He continues to warn about the tongue – especially for those of us who teach: ‘Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards’ (v.1, MSG). It is consoling that he adds, ‘we all stumble in many ways’ (v.2) – certainly I do.
The tongue is a powerful little instrument that can do so much good, and yet so much harm. It can unite or divide: ‘By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell’ (v.8, MSG).
Relationships, even marriages, often end because of things that have been said or not said. People lose their jobs, their reputation, start arguments or even wars by their words.
Harsh, unjust words have destructive power: ‘With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in God's likeness’ (v.9). To curse means to speak evil. To bless means to speak well. Don’t speak negatively. Learn to control the tongue so that you speak words of blessing to people and about people.
Speak words of life. Your words have tremendous power for connection. You can bring healing, encouragement and edification. Your words can change a person’s day or even their life.
James goes on to speak of ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’ (v.17). He writes, ‘Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live... that counts’ (v.13, MSG).
Get rid of all bitter envy and selfish ambition (v.14). They are unspiritual, from the devil and cause all kinds of disorder and evil practice (vv.14–15).
However, wisdom from heaven ‘is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness’ (vv.17–18).
If you live like this, your life will have great influence. This is ‘the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour’ (v.18, MSG). If you work hard at your relationships with those around you, then you will ‘reap a harvest of righteousness’, and you will have a huge impact on society.
Hope for the Mountains of Israel
36 “Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord. 2 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The enemy said of you, “Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession. ”’ 3 Therefore prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because they ravaged and crushed you from every side so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations and the object of people’s malicious talk and slander, 4 therefore, mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, to the desolate ruins and the deserted towns that have been plundered and ridiculed by the rest of the nations around you — 5 this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my burning zeal I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, for with glee and with malice in their hearts they made my land their own possession so that they might plunder its pastureland.’ 6 Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations. 7 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn.
8 “‘But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. 9 I am concerned for you and will look on you with favour; you will be plowed and sown, 10 and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. 11 I will increase the number of people and animals living on you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 12 I will cause people, my people Israel, to live on you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.
13 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because some say to you, “You devour people and deprive your nation of its children,” 14 therefore you will no longer devour people or make your nation childless, declares the Sovereign Lord. 15 No longer will I make you hear the taunts of the nations, and no longer will you suffer the scorn of the peoples or cause your nation to fall, declares the Sovereign Lord. ’”
Israel’s Restoration Assured
16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ 21 I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.
22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!
33 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited. ” 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to Israel’s plea and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord. ”
The Valley of Dry Bones
37 The hand of the Lord was on 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. 2 He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know. ”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 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. ’”
7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 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, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: 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. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 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. ’”
One Nation Under One King
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him. ’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever. ’”
Divine connection through the Holy Spirit
Hope at last! Dry bones can live! We have read so many prophecies of judgment. But God is about to act. God speaks to his people and says, you are ‘coming home’: ‘I’m on your side’. Instead of death, there is going to be ‘life, life and more life’ (36:8–11, MSG). How is this going to happen? In this passage we see three divine connectors – the world’s greatest wireless connectors:
The word of God
The word of God gives you connection with God and transforms your relationships: ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones hear the word of the Lord!”’ (37:4). In my own life, I was spiritually dry. In fact, I was dead. I had lots of friends but there wasn’t a deep connection. But then I read the New Testament. I heard the word of the Lord. I connected with God and I experienced a far deeper connection with other people. God’s promise of restoration is so powerful: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws’ (36:26–27).
God can revive things that have been dry and even dead. When the word of God and the Spirit of God come together, there is resurrection life and the knowledge of God. What is impossible with human beings becomes possible with the power of God. Without God, the church would indeed crumble away as the world tells us. But with God, these dry bones will live again.
The body of Christ
The unity of the church is so important. We need visible signs of this unity, divine connections between different parts of the church and within each local church. This is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. Here the Lord gives Ezekiel a visual aid, using two sticks to communicate the unity God is going to establish: ‘Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand… one king over all of them… one shepherd’ (Ezekiel 37:17,22,24).
This is a foretaste of the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4–6). God promises, ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people’ (Ezekiel 37:27). The unity of the church will also lead to the restoration of the city (36:33–38): ‘So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people’ (v.38). This vision of restored unity gives me such hope for the church in our city, in our nation, and across the world. God never abandons his people, and his plans are always ultimately to restore and save us.
The Holy Spirit
The dry bones had ‘no breath in them’ (37:8), but the Lord said ‘“Prophesy to the breath… ‘Come… 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’ (vv.9–10). No English translation can do justice to the Hebrew word ‘ruach’. It occurs 400 times in the Old Testament (and is translated as different English words in this passage – ‘breath’ (vv.8–9), ‘wind’ (v.9), and ‘spirit’ (vv.1,14). This Spirit brings new life: ‘I am going to open your graves and bring you from them… I will put my Spirit in you and you will live’ (vv.12,14). This resurrection power lives in you, bringing you new life: ‘the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you’ (Romans 8:11).
There is a rattling sound as bones come together. The sound of divine connections forming once again. The sound of God breathing new life into his church by his Spirit. The church is a rising giant, a vast army of Spirit-filled people, full of power, unified in purpose.
‘I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’
There are many things that can harden our hearts. There are battles, struggles, disappointments and heartbreaks; even too much success can mean that pride creeps in and takes hold. God wants soft hearts that are open and responsive to him.
Verse of the Day
I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.
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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.