: Ezekiel 37:1-14
“Over to you God”
When investing in Real Estate, the mantra is location, location, location. In Australia, high end would be water frontage on Sydney Harbour. Prime real estate. Manhattan, New York, Beach front, Monaco-If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.
Then there’s Jerusalem, and specifically the Temple Mount. Now we’re talking the epee-centre of real estate. A piece of land that no amount of money can buy.
For the Jewish community, this is the holiest site on earth. The sight where King Solomon built the temple in which the high priest communicated directly with God. The site that now houses the Muslim Dome on the Rock-revered by them as the location of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.
One scholar noted that the destruction of the temple and loss of the land, and resultant inability to rebuild the temple is considered by the Jewish as a far, far greater tragedy than the holocaust. The holocaust where some six million Jews perished-two thirds of their community.
This has been hotly contested land throughout history. As it is in today’s Old Testament reading.
In the year 597 BC, a time in which the people of Israel have been gravitating away from God to that of false religions and the ways of the surrounding cultures and the time where the Babylonians successfully invaded and claimed rule over Jerusalem. After pillaging both Jerusalem and the temple of their riches, the King returned with them, and prominent Jewish officials, craftsmen and approximately 10,000 of the Jewish population-among whom was Ezekiel, to Babylon, which is in present day Iraq.
In short, this group of Israelites have been taken from their homeland and not only are they in a foreign land against their wishes. Their ability to worship at the temple, the place where God was present has been taken from them.
A situation that the group Boney M sung about in their son “By the rivers of Babylon”. Using words from Psalm 137 and their own they describe the situation:
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yes we wept, when we remembered Zion (Jerusalem). When the wicked carried us away in captivity….now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.”
They are away from home, and away from God, and now in their exile, and only in their exile have they come to truly know what they have lost, what they threw away by abandoning God and as said in psalm 137 “How they wept when we remembered Zion/Jerusalem”.
This is not a good place to be, both physically or spiritually-a seemingly hopeless situation.
They abandoned God, and now God has seemingly abandoned them. But now they weep of that loss. When we hear the word repentance we may think of being sorrowful of our ungodly actions, our sinful actions. Of course there is that aspect; we admit that in our service confessions
“Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor helpless sinner, confess to you all my sins, and repent of all the evil I have done. I have deeply displeased you and deserve your punishment in time and in eternity. But I am sorry for my sins…”.
But repentance is more than being sorry for our sins; it means to turn towards God, and in their exile, although seemingly without hope this Jewish community have now turned back to God.
They say history repeats and indeed it would seem so. When the forefathers of these people were captives in Egypt, in The Book of Exodus we are told that “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help, and their cry for rescue came up to God and he heard their groaning”, and as we know, God enlisted Moses into his rescue plan.
History repeats- In their repentance, God hears his people in Babylon and now enlists Ezekiel to prophesise to the people, to announce the Word of God to them.
“Then God said to Ezekiel, these bones are the whole of Israel. They say their bones are dried up, their hope is lost, they say they are completely cut off. Tell them…I will put my spirit in them, and they shall live, I will place them on their own soil, and then they shall know that I, the Lord, has spoken and will act, says the Lord”.
Given the gravity of the situation we might have thought that it would be appropriate for Ezekiel to enquire further as to how this may come about, but when God asks him, can these bones live-can Israel be restored, there’s no maybes, no how’s or let me think about it for a moment, not even “yes Lord in you bring life to them” but just simply ‘O Lord God, you know’.
What an answer of faith. This is a tough response to give-a response that says no matter what it looks like, and no matter what the outcome-a total trust in God’s ways and actions. This is our “your will be done” response. Your will God, no matter how confusing, no matter how hard it may be to see any goodness in it-at whatever personal cost or hardship-in trust in God-we’ll just go with it.
That trust, just going with it is not so easy, because often, very often God acts differently to how we would expect.
To slaves in Egypt, God doesn’t send down a battalion of angels, but works through a fallible human being, Moses. Likewise in Babylon, God works through Ezekiel.
Is this how you would do things? Try this one. You created the world and all its people-they owe everything to you but their response is to basically say thanks for that, but we don’t need you anymore so we are outa here. I’m glad God acts different to how I would to such a bunch.
This bunch impoverished in sin, does God justifiably unleash his wrath on them? No he unleashes it on himself by giving his Son to be beaten, tortured and sacrificed in their place. In our place.
The words we pray at the start of the weekly message in the sermon. “May the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you Lord” come from Psalm 19, but are also used appropriately in that Boney M song “By the rivers of Babylon song”. Appropriate because like in the sermon, like in the situation they faced in Babylon and like Ezekiel answered “O’Lord, you know” there is a sense of trusting in the Will of God. That God will act and will make things happen even if how he does it make no sense to us.
We do not need to know how, that by living out our Christian life as best we can, that somehow God will use it to help build His kingdom in Christ-that’s His business and we’ll just go with it. We only need to know why-that he wishes for all to be delivered from the exile of sin in this world. To give them the gift of repentance, to see and turn back to God, and to cling to the redemption and forgiveness delivered by Jesus.
That’s what we know and that’s what we have received.
Moses, Ezekiel and now all those saved in Christ-us-recruited by God to let his voice be heard by those still held in captivity. To know in faith and trust, that in our lives as Christian’s that God will use our words and actions so that his voice be heard and seen-FROM US, maybe seems a strange way of getting things done but let’s just go with it and leave the rest to Him-He’ll sought it out. Amen.