Chapter 7 The Saved

After looking at the lost, there has to be the lingering question on your mind, how are you saved? Of course that’s the goal. The goal is to make it Heaven, to see God’s throne, to meet Jesus, receive your crown, and a stone with your name on it. At least that is what we learn in nominal Christian circles. Why don’t we talk more about Heaven? Why don’t we study more about Heaven? What is with this world? We explore the oceans, dig in the earth for fossils, and remnants from lost civilizations, we’ve even sent people to the moon. We have telescopes and cameras all over the universe, but few people search out a distinct and clear view of Heaven. Why is that so?

I’ve already written a book based on visions of Heaven found in the Bible. I would consider those visions clear and accurate. It was an interesting book to dwell on and write. But books about Heaven just don’t sell. Not at all.

This chapter may not give a view of Heaven, but we will look at what the Bible says about people who are saved. How are they saved and why are the saved? This of course will not be a complete view, but a look at some of the most popular scripture on the subject. Our journey begins in Romans.

Romans 5:15-21 RSVA But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (16) And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. (17) If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (18) Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (20) Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (21) so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m sure most of you have read this chapter, or at least a few sentences from this chapter. There are three main themes many Christians concentrate on in this chapter. The first is, sin entered this world through one man, Adam. Actually sin came into this planet through Eve, then Adam. The point is, this story leads us back to another story in the Bible found in Genesis.

The part about this story that has confused me for some time is the part about sin entering this world through one man, and grace through of course, Jesus, who is mentioned as one man. What is Paul trying to get to? I had to read this many times and pray about the information Paul presented before I could begin to understand it. Paul is using a simple example. An example we should find easy to understand. To get the meaning of the story, we have to go back a review the story Paul pointed to and used as an example.

Eve was the first person to sin. Eve was of course tempted by Satan. Eve gave into a minor suggestion. Satan appeared to offer more than what God had given Adam and Eve. And Eve fell for that deception. That of course was the first sin. As far as we know, the first sin in the Universe. But Satan was busy in Heaven questioning God, looking for more, and for lack of a better term, plotting a rebellion in Heaven. We have no idea how many years of experience Satan accumulated in Heaven. We do know, Satan became an expert in deception in Heaven. Satan was in daily contact with God. Satan knew Jesus. But Satan decided that was not enough for him. He convinced himself, then thousands of angels that there was more than what God had given them. We don’t know what Satan saw, believed, or was after. That information was not recorded in scripture. We do know, Satan was able to deceive angels. Angels who saw and knew God. Angels who once worshiped in front of God’s throne. If Satan could accomplish that, what chance do we have?

There is something in the fact, Satan was able to deceive Eve. Why didn’t Satan go after Adam? When we look at scripture we see, God warned Adam about the fruit on that tree. It was Adam’s job to inform and protect Eve. Did Adam do his job? There is something mysterious about those circumstances.

Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit. Somehow Eve was able to convince Adam to eat the fruit. In other words, Eve was able to accomplish what Satan was unable to do, or maybe afraid to try. Adam took the word of his wife over God. In short, Adam sinned on more than one front.

Paul used Adam as an example for a reason. Is it because Adam took the word of the only other human being on this planet over God’s word? That could be one of the reasons. But to get to the facts, we have to follow that story a little further.

Sin of course introduced a set of curses. On the surface those curses may look simple to understand. But do we look at those curses based on the way this world chose to understand them? Or do we look at those curses from a point of view from Heaven? After all, those curses did originate in Heaven.

Genesis 3:14-19 RSVA The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. (15) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (16) To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (17) And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (18) thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (19) In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We all know, that first curse on Satan was a prophecy. It had a spiritual meaning. Why would God move from the prophetic and spiritual state to a physical state of thinking at this point? When we look at the curses as book ends, we find the answer. Adam and all men and women will return to dust. Satan will crawl along his belly and eat the dust of the earth. Put the two together and what do we have? We have Satan eating up people. Is that true? If it is, we can continue along this train of thought.

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Satan has one goal in mind. To take as many of us into the pit he is responsible for making. He goal is to eat up people, the dust of this earth. Now let’s go onto the next curse.

There will be a hatred between Eve and Satan. Eve is given the role of a warrior. Her hatred for Satan is the key Eve needs to protect her family. Eve made a mistake she can never make up for and she can never correct on her own. But one of her offspring will crush Satan’s head. Satan heard that. Satan knows that. And of course, Satan did everything in his power to save his own skin. But he failed.

Eve was also cursed with the pain of giving birth. Every woman who has given birth knows about the physical pain. Every good husband has witnessed that suffering and knows how unqualified he is to relieve that pain. There are a host of spiritual lessons attached to those physical attributes. After birth, Eve had to protect her sons and daughters from Satan’s relentless and never ending attacks. Let’s look at the odds. A third of the angles in Heaven were cast down to this planet. They had nothing better to do than to tempt and torture a few human beings. Can you imagine the pressure Adam, Eve, and their family faced? Can you imagine the spiritual pain and suffering Eve had to face everyday of her life knowing she was responsible for the condition of this world. Eve had no choice but to live with it. We can see how that child bearing pain went way beyond the few hours it takes to bring a new life into this world. The curse was no doubt spiritual.

The curse on Adam was of course also spiritual as well as physical. God reminded Adam, he listened to his wife, and took her word over the direct instructions he received from God. In a sense, that hurt God. That struck at God. Adam didn’t fall to the temptation Satan laid on Eve. Adam received his temptation second hand. That made it worse. Sin was rolling downhill and gaining momentum. Now we can begin to see one of the points Paul was making in Romans. People have a choice. They can follow after Adam and take the word of someone who has not received a direct command or message from God, or we can go to Jesus who has chosen to live every minute of His life on this planet being open, willing, and able to receive instructions, knowledge, and wisdom from God. In most cases, which path do people prefer to choose? How can we miss that point in the example Paul laid out for us in Romans?

The curse on Adam gets deeper. The soil Adam, the tree, and that fruit came from was cursed. When God created soil, it was good. Sin changed all of that and more. Thorns and thistles popped up all over the earth. A direct reference to other stories in the Bible and a clear description of the fallen angels who now had a new planet to call their own.

Adam was sentenced to a life of toil. A life of hard word. How else would you describe the relentless attacks those fallen angels launched on the only two people on this planet. Raising a family was not going to be easy. In modern terms, we can never hope to remove all the thrones and thistles in our hearts and lives. That is a never ending battle. Caring for a garden is a prime example. Pull out all the weeds, and you are sure to miss a few. After a few weeks, new weeds pop up all over the place and you find yourself back on your hands and knees sweating just like Adam. At times it all seems hopeless. Paul offered an alternative. The God who created the ground knows how to clean it up once and for all.

Eventually Adam would physically return to the dust God formed him from. The Lord gives and takes away. God knew how to make a man out of dust. And God knew how to make dust out of men. Something we should never forget. God didn’t want Adam to forget about Him. God didn’t want Adam to forget who created him, and who is always in control. That was one of the points Paul was pointing to on his letter.

Paul also mentioned grace in his letter. If we base our salvation on a few choice verses, Romans chapter 5 would contain one of them. Some people look at a verse or two and walk away with the impression, Jesus died for their sins. Jesus fixed what was broken by Adam and there is nothing for anyone to do. That’s not what we learned in previous studies in this book. Finding out about Jesus is only one step in a long journey. Jesus talked about that journey and John recorded key components to that process in his Gospel. But who wants to learn about a process with a number of key steps when the church down the street advertises an easier one step process.

It seems we have a choice. We can follow Adam’s lead, and take the word of another human being, or we can choose to accept what God has told us with His own voice. But this world seems to teach us that, God has left this world on its own. Is that true? Did God leave Adam and Eve on their own? Or did He continue to look over them, and talk to them? If Adam heard God, why don’t we accept that aspect of Adam and make it part of our own lives? God talked with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, a host of prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and more. Why not you and me? Is God selective, or is it one of our problems? We do have a host of religions who insist, God only talks with a few choice people. Or, after the Bible was finished, there was no reason for God to talk to anyone on this planet. There are a million excuses and false conceptions people have about God. Just because they have a license to preach, a wall full of diplomas, and other credentials handed to them from who knows where, does that mean they have an open line to God we can’t have? Come on now. Let’s look at God and accept Him and His written word with an open mind. Does God love any less than He loved Adam, Eve, Samuel, David, Moses, or His own Son? Could God love one person less than He loves another? Does God have a way of measuring His love and rationing it out? If God’s love is limitless, so is His communication.

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Paul outlined a choice. We can either choose to face death, or the free gift of righteousness. Do we need to work for that free gift? What happiness do we receive from any gift if we don’t open the package? Is there work involved in the free gift Jesus has prepared for us? We would have to dig into the subject to find out. Now to ask one question. Is studying the subject of grace work? Would studying grace and learning more about God, Jesus, the plan of salvation, and other related subjects disqualify us from receiving the the salvation Paul wrote about?

Romans 11:29-36 RSVA For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (30) Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. (32) For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all. (33) O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (34) “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (35) “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.

It wasn’t by mistake Paul blended mercy with the unsearchable wisdom, knowledge, and judgments of God. It’s true, God has to make a decision. Not everyone will be saved. Paul tells us, we are not going to find that judgment process easy to find nor understand. God’s judgment is way beyond the understanding of this world. Does that mean we give up? Does that mean we leave the search to qualified and specially trained individuals? Who do you think Paul was wring this letter to? When we look at the last chapter in Romans, we see Paul wasn’t writing to institutions of higher learning or church leaders. Paul was writing to common, everyday people. Paul was writing to people who didn’t have all the answers, but were interested in finding them. As a matter of fact, Paul sent them to a place in scripture so they could find a portion of that answer.

Isaiah 40:10-18 RSVA Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (11) He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (12) Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (13) Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? (14) Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? (15) Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. (16) Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. (17) All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. (18) To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

We can instantly see the connection between Romans chapter 11 and Isaiah chapter 40. We should be able to see how Paul was influenced and inspired by Isaiah. We know God is coming. We know God’s strength. Or at least how God’s strength exceeds anything and everything in this world. We also know how Jesus feeds and cares for His flock. What we have to learn is, how this world fails to know God. We have to face the fact, many people prefer to rely on themselves. We learned this lesson when we looked at Genesis. Adam took Eve’s word over God. After that, God explained that mishap in a number of different ways. It is repeated in the Bible so many times, we know this is an important point. No one can do what God has done, can do for us, or is going to do with this world. All we can do is hope to find God, and gain a little more understanding about God. Is that what being saved is all about? Would you consider that a form of works? Of course – searching for God requires a bit of effort. But when Paul tells people to search out God, and blends it in with grace and salvation, do we start messing with the ingredients, or do we follow the recipe?

Who is saved? Paul and Isaiah agree, that is not for us to decide, and difficult for us to understand. Do we avoid teaching about subjects we don’t understand? It is wrong to present yourself as an authority on a subject you know little about. On the other hand, it is healthy to share. There is so much information on the subject of salvation, none of us could learn all the details in a lifetime. But we can share what we know. And we can learn from other people. Isn’t that what Paul told us to do?

This is one story in a short book that looks at visions of Heaven recorded in the Bible when prophets were actually in God’s presence. I can’t see why people at this time in earth’s history would not be interested in a vision of Heaven. Why concentrate on where you are stuck for the time being. Why look at the history of this world when you can look at the promise of the future.

Ezekiel and the Sanctuary Ezekiel 37

Ezekiel 37:1-14 NLTse The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones. (2) He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. (3) Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign LORD,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” (4) Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD! (5) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! (6) I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'” (7) So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. (8) Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. (9) Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.'” (10) So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet–a great army. (11) Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones–all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ (12) Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. (13) When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. (14) I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!'”

Ezekiel ministered among some of the first exiles from Jerusalem and Judah. Those people needed help and encouragement. It pained God to give up His people and city. Judah needed a new beginning. Judah drifted so far away, it was humanly impossible to bring back the nation. There comes a time when too many people with too many poor influences effects a nation in such a negative way, the few people God has left can become a far greater influence when everything is taken away, and people have no where else to turn. Ezekiel was a living testimony showing God still had people in Judah, and they were willing to work along side God, and suffer with the population in a effort to rebuild one nation under God.

Ezekiel experienced a number of visions. The exiles he lived with needed those stories to help them through the day to day toil, misery, the shock of losing everything, and finding themselves as nothing more than slaves. That wasn’t supposed to happen to them. God made a promise. What happened? Why did God chose their generation to turn them over to Babylon?

The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Visions of Heaven
The Tabernacle, Temple, and Sanctuary: Visions of Heaven. Now you can download the eBook direct from the author.

The dreams Ezekiel received centered on rebuilding. Ezekiel had the task of not only teaching Judah how they were placed in that spot, but why. They had to experience a rebirth. Visions Ezekiel received dwelt with that rebirth.

Before this vision, Ezekiel was told how God planned to redeem Israel, cleanse them. And teach them what they did wrong. It was not going to be an easy process. God needed their cooperation. People may ask, “why do we have to follow God’s laws?” Here we see the choice. We can either fight against God and His laws, or one day face the consequences. The education and rebuilding process was not much different than any education system on earth. It required time, dedication, and cooperation. The higher the cooperation level, the quicker and less painless the process with be.

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. Then you will remember your past sins and despise yourselves for all the detestable things you did. But remember, says the Sovereign LORD, I am not doing this because you deserve it. O my people of Israel, you should be utterly ashamed of all you have done! “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When I cleanse you from your sins, I will repopulate your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone will again be farmed. And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’ Then the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do what I say. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock. They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 36:24-38 NLTse)


 

God didn’t give up on his people, He promised to gather them up, and return them to their land, after they reviewed the sins they committed, and saw the damage it did. Some people prospered in sin, but most of the population was destined to suffer. Eventually it seemed the only way to get ahead in Judah was to join the dark side. That seemed to level the playing field for a time, ut Judah was running out of victims, and God was running out of patients.

The change required a new heart, a total change on how people looked at themselves. The change required a deep examination and searching of one’s soul. Israel was lost because they confused the world’s standards of success with God’s acceptable standard of success. The rich and successful people made the poor worth more in God’s eyes than all the riches and wealth Jerusalem could flaunt. The change God needed was 180 degrees away from what Israel coveted and worshiped. How could God stand by and do nothing about the millions who were suffering and continue to allow the top 2 percent of the population to believe their blessing came from Heaven? It was a religion that had to be extinguished.

Ezekiel looked out over a valley covered with bones. They were easily identified as human bones. Ezekiel could identify skulls, arm and leg bones, rib cages, and smaller bones that looked like they were from hands and feet. It was the first time Ezekiel saw every bone in the body and was amazed how many there were, and the shape of each.

God lead Ezekiel from one end of the valley to the other. There were bones everywhere. Ezekiel had to be careful not to step on any. There was a certain amount of respect Ezekiel had to show for the dead, and didn’t want to find out what happened if he became unclean by touching any bone in God’s presence. It was a difficult task for Ezekiel to observe and remember everything he saw while looking out where he stepped.

Ezekiel was an experienced prophet. He knew how God delivered messages, and how he was expected to remember and deliver those messages. Ezekiel also knew the questions people would ask, and the look of doubt in some of their eyes. Ezekiel thought that was strange to stand among so many empty skulls while thinking about looking into human eyes.

All the bones were bleached white by the sun. Then Ezekiel noticed something. Not a single bone showed any signs of being disturbed by any animal. Not a single bone was broken, cracked, or chewed on. None of the bones seemed to be in order. None of them lay on the ground in the form or shape of a human. It appeared like some force, the wind, maybe a flood dumped all those bones in the valley and this is how they settled.

After reaching the other side of the valley, God asked Ezekiel a question. “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” That was the last thing Ezekiel would have thought about. How could life return to those dried out bones? Not even an insect was seen in the valley. No signs of animals or any birds. Grass grew between the bones. Ezekiel thought, maybe when they break down, the bones will somehow nourish the soil. But that wasn’t the question. God asked if those bones could become living people again. In other words, turn back to their previous form. Ezekiel replied, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know the answer to that.”

God didn’t waste any time getting directly to the message. “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD!This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'”

Ezekiel knew God created life from the dust of the earth, but to hear God talk about recreating life was something else. Ezekiel knew God could put new flesh on those bones if He wanted to, but to hear God talk about such a thing was rather unexpected. It seems creation, and now recreation were the best witnessing tools any prophet could ask for. How to properly use them, when, with whom, and why, were other questions. If people had the wrong heart, all of God’s creation, and all the recreation He would perform would not make a difference to people who just refused to believe. But this was something new. Ezekiel knew how God brought light, plants, birds, fish, and animals into the world with just a word. Now God wanted Ezekiel to talk, and those bones would transform into human beings. Why would God want to give Ezekiel the power to bring life to those bones?

Ezekiel had to hesitate for just a minute to gather his thoughts, and repeat the message just as God gave it. With such an awesome responsibility, Ezekiel didn’t want to take the chance of making a single mistake. As soon as Ezekiel began speaking, the earth shook, the bones began to move around on the ground, coming together in the shape of a human. How did those bones know where to go? That showed how God remembers every detail about us, where every bone is, and where every bone belongs.

As soon as the bones were together, red flesh began to cover them as if it came from the air around them. The flesh formed into muscles in front of Ezekiel’s eyes as thousand of skeletons took on the shape of men. Soon they stood in front of Ezekiel, all of them red flesh. Then skin began to form over the bodies as they took on individual features. Ezekiel began to see how alike we all are. Only a thin layer of skin differentiates one of us from another.

God wasn’t finished, and neither was Ezekiel. Next Ezekiel had to bring life to those bodies. “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.'”

What a privilege Ezekiel was receiving. All he had to do was repeat what God said, and life would return to those bodies. Why didn’t God do it Himself? Why did God want Ezekiel to bring life, or at least play a part in bringing life to those bodies? There had to be a lesson in that.

Ezekiel did what he did best, he followed instructions, spoke the words God told him to say, and the winds began to blow. First from one end of the valley to the other, then back again. Then one side of the valley, up the hill on the other side, then back down again. The four winds swirled around those bodies for a while, then they all stood up at attention. An army ready to serve the LORD.

Ezekiel stood amazed at what he saw happen in front of him, still wondering why he had such an important part to play. Before he could give it another thought, God told him what the scene represented. “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones–all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!'”

In an instant everything became clear to Ezekiel. It was only a vision. A vision God used to show Ezekiel how important the message is. Israel was lost, broken, forgotten, nothing more than slaves in a distant land. They were torn away from their homes, friends, family, everything they had. Their lives changed in a flash, now they had to learn why. God didn’t want them to suffer. God’s compassion told Him to comfort His people. Ezekiel had to see how important the message was, how much God depended on him, and how much God trusted him. Everything had to come together like those bones did, also the muscles, and skin. Then there had to be breath, the Holy Spirit to give them life. God knew the sequence, there was no doubt, God could do the job, but there had to be that union between God and man to accomplish what needed to be done.

Two Pieces of Wood

Ezekiel 37:15-28 NLTse Again a message came to me from the LORD: (16) “Son of man, take a piece of wood and carve on it these words: ‘This represents Judah and its allied tribes.’ Then take another piece and carve these words on it: ‘This represents Ephraim and the northern tribes of Israel.’ (17) Now hold them together in your hand as if they were one piece of wood. (18) When your people ask you what your actions mean, (19) say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take Ephraim and the northern tribes and join them to Judah. I will make them one piece of wood in my hand.’ (20) “Then hold out the pieces of wood you have inscribed, so the people can see them. (21) And give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: I will gather the people of Israel from among the nations. I will bring them home to their own land from the places where they have been scattered. (22) I will unify them into one nation on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule them all; no longer will they be divided into two nations or into two kingdoms. (23) They will never again pollute themselves with their idols and vile images and rebellion, for I will save them from their sinful backsliding. I will cleanse them. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. (24) “My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and be careful to keep my decrees. (25) They will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, the land where their ancestors lived. They and their children and their grandchildren after them will live there forever, generation after generation. And my servant David will be their prince forever. (26) And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever. (27) I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (28) And when my Temple is among them forever, the nations will know that I am the LORD, who makes Israel holy.”

The wooden sticks Ezekiel used reminded him about the staff Moses used to perform all those miracles. As Ezekiel sat down to carve the names into the side of each piece of wood, Ezekiel could see Moses walking into Pharaoh’s court, and how Pharaoh hated to hear the sound of that staff on the marble floor every time Moses tools a step.

When Israel complained, Moses had the leaders of every tribe carve their name on their staff, then placed all the staffs inside the Tabernacle over night. To show God chose Aaron and his family to serve as priests, Aaron’s staff budded. It came alive just like those bones. Israel had been divided for generations. Now God was promising to put them together when He calls all His exiled people together.

A lot of thoughts went through Ezekiel’s head as he sat down to carve those names in those sticks. All they were, were sticks. Dead pieces of wood. But God was about to use them as a sign in his hands to remind Israel, God was still with them.

God made David a promise, his kingdom would last forever. That dynasty lasted one generation past David. His son Solomon decided to forge a stronger nation by marrying hundreds of woman from every nation known to Israel. Instead of forging an alliance with the God who gave Solomon all that wisdom, Solomon misused that wisdom to come up with a better plan of his own. That plan backfired big time. Although all those women had much less power, authority, and wisdom than Solomon, their bits and pieces of influence proved to be more than Solomon was prepared to deal with. Dark forces working in the back ground banded together in unholy conferences to plot Solomon’s demise. Solomon’s son had to pay the price.

Like his father, Rehoboam thought he could change the course of history by his own hand, and the strength of his army. He collected his army to march on Israel and take back what he felt was his. God stepped in and stopped Rehoboam in his tracks. That didn’t stop all the battles between Judah and Israel. Many men died in a futile attempt to alter God’s decision.

Common sense would have told anyone, Jeroboam should have been thankful when God handed him the majority of Israelite tribes to lead. Jeroboam had a disagreement with Solomon and had to flee the country. Ezekiel couldn’t be sure what Jeroboam learned in Egypt, but he carried that influence with him back to Israel. Unlike Solomon who knew he was not qualified to lead Israel, then prayed to God for guidance, Jeroboam leaned on his experiences in Egypt for direction, leading Israel straight into idolatry, worse than Solomon ever did. The people sucked it up faster than Jeroboam could produce idols, temples, and alters to sacrifice on. No one wanted to listen to God. They couldn’t see how God was offering them anything they wanted, which was their freedom to lead the way they wanted to lead.

Rehoboam wanted more money, more control, more taxes, his people under his thumb, following every order without question. Jeroboam wanted to do everything his way, no questions asked. He used to be a supervisor overseeing the construction of Solomon’s temple and palace. Solomon had the habit of making constant changes. Rehoboam disagreed with some of those changes, and didn’t appreciate any of them. Rehoboam looked at Solomon’s changes as a form of disrespect for the work Rehoboam completed. A fight between them broke out, and Rehoboam had to flee for his life.

God gave Rehoboam what he wanted, total control. Rehoboam’s idea of total control didn’t include God. So Rehoboam took the lifeless gods from Egypt and introduced them to Israel. Those idols made of metal, stone, and wood represented freedom to Rehoboam and all the other leaders in Israel. God let them have their way for a while, but eventually Israel had to fall.

Assyria showed Israel how far idolatry will go. Millions of people were slaughtered. Woman and babies were sacrificed to their gods on their alters. Israel knew those gods of stone had no powers, no way of answering, no way of hearing, or seeing what was going on. Idols were nothing more than a way of controlling people, man made rituals invented in the imagination of men so far away from God, all they knew was how to flee further away.

God waited a few generations to see if Judah would learn the lesson when she had to see her sister carried away as a slave, and sacrificed on altars. Eventually Babylon showed Judah how far idolatry will go to gain control of every aspect of life. Idolatry wants to control the sun, moon, rain, wind, temperature, life, and death. Idolatry thrives on an after life that does not exist. Idolatry takes the war between God and the devil, turning it into a promise of an after life that does not exist beyond legends, stories, and fables in man’s imagination.

Those fables distorted human minds to such an extent, God had to find ways to present the truth to mankind in a way they could accept and appreciate it. After seeing the full effects of idolatry, neither Israel, nor Judah were willing to leave it all behind. They both wanted to follow the example of Jeroboam and carry pieces of idolatry with them into a new life. That was not what God wanted. God had to use some of the symbols of idolatry to show Israel what a useless, lifeless system it is, and will always be.

Idolatry used dead bones to see the future. Much like God used plagues in Egypt to show He is able to control the elements people thought idols could control, God used symbols and messages to show, He is still in control. Magicians used bones to see the future, produce curses, cast spells, and a host of other superstitions. God went a step further, taking an entire valley of bones and creating a living, breathing army from them. People should have seen the point God was trying to make, but as usual, they wanted to merge what they thought was the best of two worlds. That was not going to fit into God’s plans.

Those bones showed the people, God has the power to raise anyone from the grave. David died a long time ago, but that didn’t matter to God. He made Adam out of dust, a pile of bones was no problem for God. He knew the design, and had the breath of life. No idol could do that, or ever attempt to do such a thing. All idols delivered was death.

Who did the people really want as their king, David, or one of those who followed him? God was offering Israel more than what they asked for. Israel was praying to get their lives and land back, for things to return to what they considered normal. Israel was so far gone, they had no idea how much better life could be. To Israel, the day to day toil and struggles to survive in the promised land was like Heaven. Taxes, laws, crooked laws, judges who took bribes, officials taking more than a fair share of taxes, thieves, liars, and adultery were all a normal way of life. Broken hearts and dreams were expected, and to one degree or another appreciated. They could not see what God was offering them. And they couldn’t see the other side of God’s plan, to bring pagans into the land God was preparing for them. Israel was stuck on a short sighted view that placed them inside of some sort of exclusive club membership, a ticket to Heaven. Israel was so blind, they couldn’t see there was little of no difference between themselves and the world around them. Ezekiel thought about those bones and muscles. Nothing distinguished one from another until a thin layer of skin was added. Israel was like that — only a thin layer made them any different than all those pagans. Israel had a much better view of God, more knowledge about God, but how were they using it? The hand is covered with flesh and skin. Fingerprints are unique, but what really separates one person from another is how they use those hands. That was what God was looking for.

God offered Israel much more than land, a king they respected, and of course protection. God invited Israel into His Sanctuary. God offered to relocate His Temple to this planet, after making a few changes. What does it mean to you when someone invites you into their home? It is a show of trust. A form of friendship that extends into a type of family experience. Opening a home to someone is much more than opening a door to see the inside. It is a sign of sharing meals, conversation, company, meeting new friends, the warmth of a home, an introduction to the entire family. God told Ezekiel to use simple symbols everyone should have the ability to understand. Symbols from life people have used to and experienced. Symbols reminding us whose image we were created in.