Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 36:33-39:29
It’s HOT right now! I don’t know about you and where you live, but here in Indiana it is hot and dry! The once lush and fresh green grass in our yard now has large brown dead patches that just happen to be in all the sunny spots where it is the hottest. The ground has large cracks in it that have opened up and beg for the moisture from heaven to come and quench its thirst. But there is no rain to answer the ground’s prayer. It reminds me of the verses about the shrub and the tree in Jeremiah 17. The LORD tells Judah
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
The first part of this verse sounds so harsh, CURSED is the man… shrub in the desert… no good will come his way… dwell in the parched places… wilderness… uninhabited. Yet look at WHY that man is cursed and living in parched places, his HEART has turned away from the LORD. If you read down to the very end of this section of Jeremiah 17 to verse 13 we may understand a bit better why turning away from the LORD would cause dryness.
Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water…. Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 13-14) It’s funny; I’ve never noticed the significance of how Jesus began His conversation with this woman, “If you knew the gift of God.” The gift of God, THE stream of living water that springs up from within us, the Holy Spirit! (John 7:37-39) And KNOWING that gift, personally, intimately, its like nothing on this earth!
I’m still just beginning to learn how to tap into this spring of Living water and draw from the well of the Living, breathing Spirit of Life. The Holy Spirit was never really something we heard about much in church or Sunday school, when I was young or even still. Plenty about Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, but mostly I just remember learning a LOT about how to be a good person. I’m only just now learning, through searching on my own, how being a good person is a FRUIT, a consequence of knowing this gift of God the Holy Spirit. A few years ago I was blessed beyond measure with the gift of speaking in tongues (read about this in more detail here).
Speaking in tongues is one of those things that I remember reading about in my Bible late one night in high school and thinking to myself, “You know, it’s too bad that things like that just don’t happen anymore. That’s really a miracle!” Up until only a few years ago I was completely clueless that there are entire denominations of Christians that not only believe in speaking in tongues and actually have the gift to do it, but they speak in tongues during their church services even!!! I had no idea! In Acts whenever the apostles came upon anyone who was a believer in Christ and hadn’t received the gift of God, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they would lay hands on the believer and pray for them and they would not only receive the Holy Spirit but they would then immediately begin speaking in tongues and prophesying. The apostles saw this gift as a critical one for all believers. Why? I’m still not sure, but I’m working on it! All I know so far is that it was important to them to make sure that everyone received this gift, so it MUST be an important one… which is why I’m passing all this information onto you! The Holy Spirit, in at least the book of Acts, always came and then as if to prove that He was dwelling within that person allowed them to speak in languages that they did not know AND caused them to prophesy something reserved only for prophets until Jesus came along!
One day a man came to Jesus and asked Him “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20) This phrase “lay his head” is a very unique phrase in the Greek and it’s only found one more time in the Bible, you wanna know where??? At the most pivotal moment in all of history, the cross! “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed his head and gave up His Spirit.” This verse is so profound I have to take it slowly and allow us all to savor this bite of spiritual steak for a moment. “When Jesus had received the sour wine,” Let’s first focus on “sour wine”. In the Garden of Gethsemane in Jesus’ last few moments of freedom He prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” That cup Jesus is speaking of, it’s not a literal cup of wine, it’s a spiritual cup, a cup filled with the grapes of wrath, all of The Father’s wrath and judgment poured out into that cup. While on the cross when Jesus was given a physical cup of sour wine, it was pointing us to remember the spiritual cup that Jesus was accepting on OUR behalf in that moment. And Jesus received it. He didn’t refuse it, because He certainly could have, but He didn’t. He then said “It is finished.” Not many words on this earth are more musical to our ears than those! Jesus took that cup of wrath, drank down the whole entire sour thing, slammed it down on the table in front of Satan and said IT’S FINISHED! They are paid for; they are free and clear, clean and MINE! And it is at THIS point that Jesus lays down His head. The man that wandered this earth for the last three years with not a single place to call His own and lay His weary travel-sore head down to rest, on the cross He finished His work and He rested. He wasn’t able to rest until WE were free! Jesus started this life free, but He would not rest, He refused to rest, until every last drop of that sour wine had been drunk down and sat there in His perfect belly. He drank the poison just for you. But wait, that’s not the end of the story! There’s still more to tell! Because then, after He bowed His head to rest, He “gave up His Spirit”! The words “gave up” in the Greek are so beautiful! It’s the word par-ad-id-omee, and it means to give over into (one’s) power or use: to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage,
When my husband and I had been dating for about a year, Christmas came around and I wanted to give him something that would tell him just how much I desperately loved him. I racked my brain trying to think of something that he would like but nothing was coming to me. Then one night when I lay down to go to sleep I snuggled up with one of the stuffed animals that he had gotten for me and looked at my ragged old white teddy bear “Snowball” that I had gotten when I was small and had slept with every single night since I got him. And then I knew what I would give him. The night came when the two of us exchanged gifts, I don’t remember what he gave me, but I’ll never forget what I gave him. I ran upstairs to my room and carried Snowball down behind my back and somewhat un-cerimonially handed him to Sean. He got the strangest look on his face so I explained to him that “since I now sleep with the stuffed lion that you gave me I no longer “need” Snowball, so I thought you would like to sleep with him so that it would remind you of me every night.” As I was explaining this my heart was ripping in two and the tears just flowed. Giving away my precious bear was much harder than I had expected it to be,(Garden of Gethsemane) but I wanted to show Sean how much I loved him and this was the way, I knew it. So I did it anyway. I was giving over into Sean’s power my beloved possession for him to keep, use and take care of. And while no where NEAR the sacrifice that Jesus made, I think it perfectly illustrates what He was doing in that moment on the cross. Jesus gave up His most precious possession, the thing that made Him who He was, who He IS. He gave up His SPIRIT. He gave it up for us to receive. It’s like we were sitting with Jesus at that table across from Satan and the Father and Satan is pointing his boney accusing finger in our direction and reminding the Father of every single thing that we’ve ever done wrong and trying to get the Father angry enough to pour out that sour wine into the cup and serve it to us. And He did. And so there we all sat at this table, with a cup filled with sour wine before us, and a cup filled with sweet Holy Spirit wine before Jesus and He reaches across the table and exchanges our sour wine for His sweet wine! Take, drink, this is My blood poured out for the forgiveness of many! And yet here we are, still today, only sipping away on that beautiful cup of sweet Spirit before us, allowing ourselves to become dry and crusty and dead. When all the time, there, right in front of our faces is a cup FILLED with LIVING WATER! It’s amazing to me.
In today’s reading God takes Ezekiel out to a valley filled with dried lifeless bones and tells him to prophesy (or speak a message from God) to these bones. It was WHAT God had Ezekiel prophesy over them that caught my attention this morning. “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37:5) That word “breath” in Hebrew is the word ruach and means breath, wind, or spirit! But get this! Only a mere nine verses later God uses this very same word again when He says “And I will put My
Spirit within you, and you shall live,”
The scriptures make it very clear that the bones Ezekiel was speaking to were “very dry” (v. 2), yet all Ezekiel did was speak the Word of the LORD over those dry lifeless bones and they came to life. Yet it tells us that they still didn’t have “breath” or “spirit” and so the LORD God tells him, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath. Thus says the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” God was having Ezekiel speak straight to the Holy Spirit to COME, breathe on these afflicted souls and bring them LIFE! The Spirit of the Living God brings LIFE! Drink Him up today! Soak Him in! Drain that cup before you, down to the very last drop! He is desperate for you and a relationship with you, do you want Him? Are you dry and thirsty and need a drink from the well of Living Water? Speak; prophesy to the four winds, “O Breath, breathe on me that I may live!” Ask the Holy Spirit to come, to fill you with His Holy fire! He is a gentleman; He does not go where He is not wanted, so you must ask Him from your heart, from your belly, your innermost being to COME. Speak it out with your lips “COME”, no more is necessary, just “Come”. He knows your heart; He can hear that it beats for Him.
As I am finishing this final edit before I post this, it is raining! Hallelujah! May the Holy Spirit rain on ALL the dry and thirsty souls today! May He FILL YOU UP with His sweet wine of victory! Amen!