What happened at the Cross?

At this season of Holy Week and Good Friday especially, we tell the story that we know so well, and find so difficult in the telling. But how well do we tell the story of what happened spiritually, behind the events recorded for us? We hear phrases like ‘divine exchange’ and the Saviour ‘dying in our place’, but do we understand it? We may have prayed the prayer asking Jesus into our life – and repeated it probably – but are we living in the fullness of it? Here is an attempt to explain the seven key blessings for us that come from a cursed and horrible execution. These have become the main strands of our new life, the eternal life secured for us by Jesus which starts now.

1. Our sins and due punishment were taken by Jesus on Himself

Jesus “carried our sins up to the Cross” – the literal meaning of “bore our sin” which Peter quotes from Isaiah:

“He himself BORE OUR SINS” in his body on the Cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you HAVE BEEN healed.” 1 Peter 2:24. From Isaiah: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… He poured out His life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors. For He BORE the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:6, 12.

In a way which is hard for us to grasp, the moral weight of our sin was laid on Jesus, who carried it – our personal sin included – to the Cross

2. The reasons for accusation cancelled

The devil’s name is ‘accuser’ and he never loses an opportunity of mounting an opportunity to accuse, whether he has a legal right to do so or not. But that legal right was taken away the moment Jesus gave up His life. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices was made. The price for us to be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God, had been paid. The sense of guilt, not being good enough, not accepted, under condemnation was broken, because the charges against us were cancelled:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the Cross. Colossians 2:13-14

Why do we still feel accused, feel condemned? We need to do two things. First, we make sure we have made Jesus our Lord and our lives are hidden in His – in effect, we went to the Cross with Him, died and then found new life in Him, as He did on the third day in the resurrection. Second, we tell the accuser he has no legal right to say those things! Speak out loud and remind him of all that happened on the Cross, and who he is trying to accuse now.

3. Our healing enabled, our reconciliation with God secured

By His wounds we HAVE BEEN healed, 1 Peter 2:24b. This is a healing of spirit, soul and body.

When Adam and Eve went their own way in the garden, following the incitement of the devil, Genesis 3, it caused a fracture, a wound, in the relationship with God. By Jesus’ action on the Cross, this fracture is mended and healed. As a consequence – the separation of spirit, soul and body is more of a human logical perspective than a heavenly one, and Hebrew thought sees much more integration – we can pray for and expect healing from every kind of affliction which impacts God’s perfect design.

4. Jesus pronounced His mission completed

When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30.

He had come to be “God with us”, the full representation of God in human form. “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father…” John 14:9-10. He had also come to defeat the devil: And having DISARMED the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:15.

The final battle is yet to come. Meanwhile, we have an active and vindictive enemy, who has power, and especially the power to cause fear. However, having power, and having power over us, are two different things. In Jesus’ last words: “It is finished!” we can tell him about the blood (below). We can tell him he is a defeated enemy

5. Jesus gave up His life – the blood

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:50. Jesus has become, Himself, the perfect blood sacrifice for us.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14, read in the context of Hebrews 9:7-15.

The price of our being redeemed, set free from our sin obligation, is more than any amount of silver or gold can purchase. It has been paid for by Christ’s blood: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19. The following verse tells us it was always planned that way.

6. The original covenants with Abraham and Moses for the Jewish nation, now became a new covenant for all who trust Jesus with their lives

At the moment of Christ’s death, a spiritual shift occurred — with signs accompanying.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. Matthew 27:51-52.

The massive temple curtain dividing off the holy of holies, where only the High Priest could go and only once a year, was destroyed. And with it the order of priesthood. Now, in Jesus, any believer can come into the presence of God and enjoy a relationship with the God who we call ‘Father’. This is a new kind of relationship where there is no need for an in-between person and no need for the rituals because Christ Himself has become our Great High Priest and called us all into a shared priesthood of all believers, where our lives are the spiritual sacrifices through us showing that we love Jesus, 1 Peter 2:5. This new and personal relationship a new and far better covenant than the one established by Moses and limited to Jews under the law.

In this new covenant the ‘law’ or the way of living that pleases God is something that the Holy Spirit leads us in – as Jeremiah said hundreds of years earlier, it is written on our hearts, Jer. 31:31 and 33. It is a new and better covenant, Hebrews 8:6-13 and the in-between person, or mediator, is none other than Jesus Himself. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15, see also Hebrews 12:24.

This is a huge benefit and huge shift. Keeping the law was a complicated business, fraught with failure. Living for God, enabled and empowered by His Holy Spirit, is joyful and hopeful. Under the Old Covenant the law proved that man could not live righteously before God, and penalties were required. Under the New Covenant we literally receive constant coaching in how to live unselfishly and well, a fellowship of doing life together, with God and with other believers.

7. And the curse over us because of our sin was broken.

A curse in the Bible is the opposite of blessing. While blessing is a predisposition of well-being and in the broadest sense, prosperity, a curse is the opposite. It is not God’s hand on us, but the enemy’s hand against us. However, at the Cross, Jesus died not only the most horrendous and painful death imaginable, but also the most shameful. Roman crucifixion reserved for the lowest and most vile class of criminal and everything from the procession with the victim forced, like a slave, to carry the heavy cross bar, to the public and lengthy execution, served as a pillory of shame and warning to others. For a Jew is was especially shaming, as Peter reminds us in his choice of word for ‘cross’:
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the CROSS, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Similarly, in Acts: The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging him on a CROSS. Acts 5:30. The word could be used for tree, beam, or wooden construction. Jewish readers in particular would be reminded of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “…Anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” Paul quotes this and explains the divine exchange that Jesus made for us: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” Galatians 3:13.

Where there is the sense that the enemy’s hand is against us — chronic or unexplained sickness, ongoing and irrational difficult — we might need to make a firm declaration stating that we are in Christ, and Christ has been made a curse for us, and therefore so this ground for oppression is removed.

In Jesus’ words earlier: To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will SET YOU FREE… If the Son sets you free, you will be free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-32 and 36.

Giving your life to Jesus, as He gave His life for you

So much was accomplished for us in those hours of torture and abandonment on the Cross. But to be free, to live in the benefit of Jesus’ shed blood, healed, redeemed accepted and free from condemnation, we need to be among “those who had believed Him“, above. Giving your life to Jesus means accepting the exchange in which He gave His life, lit early and painfully, for us. Our acceptance of that fact is our intentionally giving the charge of our lives to the Saviour, accepting what He has done for us that we could not do or ourselves, and calling Him our Lord.

Wait for the Lord – a thought and prayer for Maundy Thursday

An important ‘Maundy Thursday’ verse is the promise Jesus made just after the Last Supper:
“No, I will not abandon you as orphans — I will come to you.” John 14:18 NLT

Let’s put that promise together with an older, enduring promise and encouragement to “Wait for the Lord”. This is is a more active and positive kind of waiting than it sounds at first:

13-14 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
No, I will not abandon you as orphans — I will come to you.
Psalm 27:13 NIV, John 14:18 NLT

“I must… increase my trust.’

“Wait” means to trust that what is awaited, will take place. Our local 461 bus service is known for its friendliness – and reliability. To wait, in this sense, is to be in a positive attitude about the bus still appearing round the corner and picking me up, even though it feels late – even abandoned.

“Wait” means to be ready for action — as the young girls were to be ready with lamps burning bright, expecting at any minute the bridegroom’s arrival (also a story from this season). We are charged with being ready for the Lord’s coming. It might be His final coming, heralding the end time. It might be His ‘coming through’ in response to the prayer. It might be His fresh word to us at this time. His covenant responsibility is — to do the coming. Ours — is to do the waiting in expectation.

“Wait” means to be thanking, not asking. Asking for the bus to arrive — or for what is needed — is not wrong unless we cannot move on from asking. Asking starts at the point of our anxiety that it might not. Thanking God, and raising Him for His covenant faithfulness “I will never leave you or forsake you” — starts at a different point. “Wait” means a response for who the Lord is, which is praise. It is an intentional choice NOT to respond to the circumstance — what we feel the Lord has or hasn’t done, recognising or limited perspective.

In the spiritual realm there can be many hold-ups and frustrations. We have an enemy who is intent in spoiling God’s goodness, causing us discouragement and provoking us into sin by blaming God, when all the time the problem was on our side. WE didn’t pray. We didn’t wait. We didn’t exercise faith. We lapsed into ‘poor me’ when the psalmist encouragement to “wait” would be to praise God who has heard my prayer.

“Wait for the Lord” is a choice to believe, and live as one trusting the Lord’s promise never to fail us or abandon us, but to be with us and come to us.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord… who will never fail you… never abandon you.” Psalm 27:14 and Hebrews 13:5

Prayer of blessing especially for small businesses and owners

Lord God, You are good, always working Your good purposes out above and beyond the difficulties that are confronting us. You tell us that a grain of faith is effective against a difficulty that seems the size of a mountain. So we come before You today on behalf of all in cash flow difficulty while their businesses are on hold or restricted.

We bless with Your blessing our neighbourhood businesses, our friends’ businesses, the businesses we rely on and that serve our community.
We say with them, that “Yours is the greatness… because everything in heaven and earth is Yours… wealth and honour come from You… In Your hands are strength to give strength.”

We bless with Your strength our small businesses and those who serve through them.We bless them with different ways of operating, and new sources of income, known to You if not yet known to us.

May they, together with everyone, be prompted to turn to You and acknowledge You as helper and provider: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord…

On earth we are constantly hearing bad news but we choose to tune in to heaven’s channel, because Your word to us always brings good news of Your good intentions, and we choose to be influenced by what You say.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here’s a Bible study on the quotations above. God has given us His enduring word, the Bible. He also speaks His ‘now’ word to us, and it usually comes through what we already on the record, the Bible.

Matthew 25:1-13; Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; John 14:18; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 121.

We, too, can have Jesus’ inner peace

This message was given by Rev. Ifor Williams, a respected minister in Brecon (many would know him through the Brecon Beacons Filling Station). It speaks directly to the present pandemic, and the anxiety that affects all of us for a variety of different reasons. There is something in this Scripture and in this message that we can ask for, and receive, as Ifor explains very clearly.

Palm Sunday, April 6, 2020

Our Palm Sunday reading is from Luke 19:29-42. Why not pause and pray before you read further, and ask God to speak into your heart and your life. God’s word is not irrelevant to our daily life, and today, when so many people are deeply worried about their health, their families and friends, their jobs and incomes, their present and their future, let’s pray that God will speak peace into our hearts in the midst of the coronavirus storm that is raging across the world.

Image credit: United Methodist Church, Western Jurisdiction

Luke 19:29-42

29-31 As [Jesus] approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32-34 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35-38 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

39-42 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

The inner peace the donkey recognised

Thirty six years ago, in 1984, Penny (my wife) and I took our two young children to a local agricultural show. There was a special challenge in the main ring. The challenge was to ride a young donkey, and stay on its back for 60 seconds. The prize for anyone succeeding was £5. That year I took out a mortgage on a bungalow which was valued at £21,500. Today it would be worth ten times that amount. Using the same equation, the £5 prize money would be worth £50 today. Not surprisingly there was a long line of eager hopefuls queuing up to have a go at winning the prize money. Some stayed on the donkey’s back for 10 seconds, some 20, 30, even 40 seconds, but no-one managed to stay on for a whole minute. Sixty seconds is a long time on a donkey that’s never been ridden before.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus instructed the disciples to fetch him a young donkey (a colt is a young male donkey) which had never been ridden? Most of us would have ended up on the floor in a matter of seconds, yet Jesus rode this young donkey into Jerusalem, through streets crowded with thousands of people shouting praises to God, and waving palm branches right under his nose. And the donkey carried Jesus without even fidgeting! How did Jesus do it?

The answer is that Jesus was full of inner peace, and the donkey knew it. The sort of inner peace which calms others, and calms nervous animals, and can even calm a raging storm. Once, when Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small boat, a fierce storm sprang up, and the disciples, experienced fishermen among them, thought they were going to drown. Where was Jesus? Asleep in the bow of the boat. How could He sleep in the middle of a raging storm? Because He was full of inner peace. When He stood up and said to the storm, “Peace, be still!” He spoke the peace that was in Him, the peace in His mind, heart, soul and body, into the storm. And the storm immediately died down, and the disciples were afraid.

For all of us who have fears and worries about coronavirus, may God speak his peace into our hearts and minds even now.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem, He came to die on the Cross and then rise from the dead. He came to take our sin upon Himself, and in so doing take our sin away from us. When our sin is taken away we have peace with God, which manifests itself in a deep inner peace. Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When Jesus came to Jerusalem He wept over the city, and said in effect, “If only you could see what would bring you peace — but you just can’t see it.”

What would bring them (and us) peace is to acknowledge Jesus Christ as King and Lord in our lives, and then to trust Him daily. Jesus had entered Jerusalem many times before, but when the crowds saw Him coming on a young donkey, they remembered the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice… Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

A king riding a donkey was not only prophetic, it was highly symbolic. In those days if a king came in war, he would ride on a war horse. If he came in peace he would ride on a donkey. For Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on a young donkey symbolised that He was indeed the long awaited Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour promised from long ago.

The crowd recognised the symbolism immediately, and cried out “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd also recognised He was coming in peace to save them and cried “Hosanna!” which means ‘save us’. Yet despite their excitement and enthusiasm, the crowd didn’t get it. They thought the occupying Roman army was what they needed saving from, and they thought Jesus was going to lead a revolution and drive out the Romans and so bring peace and prosperity to Jerusalem.

Within a week, when it became evident that wasn’t His intention, they were crying, “Crucify him!”

Today it’s not the Roman army that is the foremost problem in peoples’ minds, it’s coronavirus. If only we could find a vaccination or somehow get rid of coronavirus we would be safe. Or so we think. We could start repairing the mess of the last few months, and hopefully see peace and prosperity return. The message of Palm Sunday is that if we want real inner peace, and the prosperity that comes from a just and fair society, then we need to acknowledge Jesus as King, as Lord and Saviour in our hearts and lives. Only then will we find that deep inner peace, the peace of God which transcends all understanding.

On Palm Sunday Jesus presents Himself as the Prince of Peace and the King of kings. The king who comes in peace to bring peace to those who accept Him and trust Him. Jesus comes to you today on a donkey. God comes to you in Jesus, humble and gentle, and says, ‘Will you accept Me as your King? Will you believe what I have done for you on the Cross and in the Resurrection? Will you trust Me, even in the midst of coronavirus, when you worry for your health, your family, your income, your future? “Seek first the kingdom of God” – accept Christ as your King and acknowledge Him in all your ways – “and all these things will be given you.”

Don’t just get excited and wave palms on Palm Sunday. Pause, be still, give him your heart, and acknowledge Jesus as your King. Receive the peace of God into your heart, the peace of knowing that God is on the throne — and then turn to a world full of anxiety and worry, and speak peace into the storm.

— Ifor Williams

I can rely on God’s love for me

Image credit: Ian Greig

Psalm 118:1-2
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good — His love endures for ever. Let Israel [those who know Him] say: “His love endures for ever.”

What’s the message here?

We have clear ideas about whether people are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, usually based on their behaviour and treatment of others. We say that so-and-so who is generous and forbearing is ‘good-hearted’ or if we don’t always agree with them, ‘not a bad person’. If they are ‘bad’ we are more reluctant to say why — there is a natural desire not to judge — but it comes down to a perception of unfairness, not being trustworthy, and harsh. Therefore ‘not a good person to be around’.

Our Father is off any human scale for being good-hearted and generous. This is what He is like:
Exodus 34:6-7 NIV
And [the LORD] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

The Bible words in His own description (unlike our own self-descriptions, entirely accurate!) are: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful love, faithfulness, slow to anger, forgiving.

But what about judgment? Judging actions are in there, too.

To us, a ‘bad’ person is one who quickly forms a judgment about us, probably I’ll-founded and unfair. Whereas a ‘good’ person, in our terms, accepts us as we are.

God clearly does judge — His holiness demands a separation with no blurring of the lines between what is in accord with His values, and what would seek to overturn them. But it is not a snap judgment, not even a timely judgment of a situation; the LORD is “slow to anger”, which means He is reluctant to come to that judgment because the person may yet turn and change — which is where the vitally important “forgiving” of our wickedness, rebellion and sin comes in.

God’s presumption, or preferred view, is the forgiving one. There must be judgment because without it, there is no distinction, no separation and therefore no holiness. But it is a slo judgment, with many breaks and deferrals built in. It is set in a context of His unconditional love, which always looks for reasons to forgive, to be compassionate and to graciously treat us better than we deserve.

Most religions are about finding actions which will appease deities who are fickle and hard to please, not one who want to forgive and find ways to show unconditional love. Religions are about finding ways to satisfy conditions.
The alternative is not a different religion, but a relationship with a God who is disposed to see what we can be, even when we fail, and whose whole disposition is forgiving — because He wants a cause relationship with us, for His own pleasure. God is not hard to please — we are not good at living for Him, and relating to Him, but the reality is, He is “slow” and hard to anger

• What’s the good news?

God has made a way for any one of us to know Him through His Son Jesus, who showed what God looked like in human form. We come to God and know His abounding love, through accepting Jesus and what Jesus has done out of His love for us, to make us right with God.

• What’s the take-away here?

  1. Is Jesus for us the hold-up and the barrier — or the way and the gate as He said? That’s probably about our pride, which resents having to rely on what someone else has done. So confront that pride and say ‘yes’ to Jesus!
  2. Do we need God’s love or are we self-sufficient? We tend to find what we are looking for!

Inspired words expressed in faith carry God’s power

Image credit: stockfreeimages.com

Read John 11:1-45

One focus of this story is what Jesus heard from His Father and then carried out. The verses selected below bring out that part of the story.

As a reminder, Jesus taught earlier that He “saw” in the Spirit and in the place of prayer what later turned out to be a sign and a wonder:

John 5:19-20
Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; He can do only what He sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, and He will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”

So His holding back, when a report reached Him that his friend Lazarus was sick, was confusing and difficult for the family, but Jesus knew God wanted to bring a sign of His glory and an endorsement of His Son, showing Him to be Lord of life and death itself. To pursue the Father’s purpose, He would have to go against what He undoubtedly wanted to do – be there at once.

5-7 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then He said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

14-15 So then He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

17 On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.

25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

38-39 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said.

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41-42 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent Me.”

43-44 When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

What is the message for us today?

Raising the dead is unlikely to be a test of faith for us, not early on, anyway! (However, the pre-world-war 2 healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth is said to have seen more than a dozen people raised from the dead over the course of his ministry, as well as other ‘signs’ that were not dissimilar to the healings of Jesus.)

The message for us is a straightforward one. Jesus heard what His Father was telling Him (and showing Him) and spoke the words He was given to say – with great effect.

How does God bring change, and particularly how does God bring His kingdom order? By which we mean removing the control of the enemy of our souls from a situation, and giving it over to the Lord for His just rule and ownership.

Of course, God can do anything He wants – after all, He spoke the world into existence. But the story told throughout the Bible is the story of His partnership with people. Sometimes they were people with a particular call – the great names we all know. Sometimes they were rather ordinary people called to exercise faith at a particular time, a bit like Gideon.

And many of these used words to convey God’s intentions – like Elijah and the prophet s of Baal, or the proclamations of the prophets.

We can’t speak any old words, tack on “in Jesus’ name” and expect to see great change! But if we discern, prayerfully, that God is saying something which could be voiced by us – we should. In any event, our words of faith agree with heaven and our words of unbelief agree with the “god of this world” – they have power for great good, but can also be destructive.

Actions speak louder than words, but there are times when words are what are needed to impact the spiritual realm, and then, in ways we do not understand, their effect filters down to changes that just seem to happen around us. Not completely different from Lazarus clambering out of the dark tomb: God is always in the resurrection business.

What is the good news here?

What Jesus did, filled with the Holy Spirit, is what we can do – we start small, make mistakes, battle with doubts but we learn how God works in partnership with those who believe Him.

• What is our take-away?

  • What situation has God put on your heart?
  • What is He saying about it? Does this fit with a verse or a story in Scripture? Is there “another witness” like a friend or prayer partner who has has the same prompting?
  • How now will you turn the natural ‘asking’ prayer into speaking out words which relate to God’s purpose which you are discerning?

Where might God be bringing resurrection – through us?

In the apple orchards – new leaves, new life. Image credit: Ian Greig

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 again

God has Ezekiel participate in a dramatic picture of hope

Ezekiel 37:6 [God said:] “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”
9-10 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.’”
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them…

What’s the message for us today?

This was a vision, but it was as real to Ezekiel as an action he was involved in — like when we watch a film on the big screen and become part of the action ourselves.

To put ourselves in his shoes, he was a prophet who worshipped and listened to God, remaining faithful while in exile, enduring a foreign land and hostile culture. He could see no apparent prospect of return. The holy nation of Israel, dedicated to God, was finished.
Then God showed him a vision that completely overturned that sense of failure and finality – with hope.

And Ezekiel is the one used in the vision to bring that hope, that new life: “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.’”
What can we learn from the vision?

God’s enduring purpose is bringing life. He loves us and has provided a way of salvation we can choose, by acknowledging what our efforts cannot achieve and accepting what Christ’s sacrifice achieved for us. At that point, like Ezekiel, we begin to see things beyond ourselves, both the problem and the remedy – and we become part of the solution as proclaimers of God’s spiritual life to our world.

What is the good news here?

What we see and know is social breakdown and godless selfishness – but we are empowered to bring new life. We are empowered to turn back this present pandemic, with its rising death rate, and bring life and health.

God has a vision for his world – and He lets us into to His vision from time to time.

We have God’s word but He needs us to use our words

What’s my take-away from this?

  • How do we use words of faith? What words is God giving us at this time?
  • There’s a picture that is being shown on our news media of a world in fear and confusion; and there’s another picture, another scenario, that is heaven’s intention. Which are we studying?
  • Are we ready to partner God and to do in faith exactly what He would have us do, like Ezekiel?

Speaking “life” and “health” where the Lord shows us

Dry and lifeless, yet able to be restored: Image credit: Ian Greig

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel in a vision was told to ‘speak forth, in faith’ to dry, dead bones – which then came alive. With a relationship through Jesus, we can hear God’s call and respond to it with our words, backed up by heaven. We can speak “life” and bring change to situations the Lord shows us. 

 1-3 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. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, You alone know.”

4-6 Then He said to me, “Prophesy [speak forth in faith] to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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.’ ” 

What’s the message for us today?

Resuscitation and ventilation are words we are hearing a lot at during this current epidemic. Doctors and nurses must be feeling “harassed and helpless”, in Jesus’ words, because very poorly and infectious respiratory patients need a lot of hospital time and skill.

Jesus’ words are in Matthew 9:35-36 NIV and they are in the context of the Lord’s compassion for those struggling with sickness: 

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

We are not without a shepherd. We have Jesus, God’s Son and by our choice, our Saviour, who is full of compassion, and whose rule, or kingdom, is the very opposite of epidemic sickness, fear and hopelessness. And in Jesus we have His Holy Spirit in us – the power that raised Jesus from the dead, the power to bring life and hope. 

The fear all around us today, is that death is stalking us and that we have no answers. But that’s a lie: we look to a God who sent His Son as Saviour to conquer death, and to offer us new life in Him. 

 We can address that fear thought and name it for what it is. “Fear, I speak you as one who is in Christ Jesus. You do not rule me – He does. You are a lying thought, sent by the father of lies, and I stop you right there. My shepherd is the Prince of Peace and the Victor of the Cross and so I disarm you and banish you now, to go to His feet. I call down life and peace to occupy the ground that was held by fear, and to hold that ground for the Lord of life and peace. Amen.” 

Ezekiel saw at first a picture of hopelessness. He saw the bones of the defeated army of his ancestors and the reason for his exile. It was not a nice picture. But God doesn’t leave him there — He instructs him to do something about that picture, to change it. 

He is to speak over the bones, to literally speak life — physical and spiritual life — into them. Today, we have a similar role. To use our words of faith to bring God’s kingdom order, especially where the enemy’s disorder is staring us in the face. 

Our God is the definition of love. He is also a giver of life, and wants to draw us in to partner with Him, as He did with Ezekiel.

• What is the good news here?

We may feel harassed and helpless, but we are NOT sheep without a shepherd – Jesus is our shepherd and that gives us confidence. And equips us to act. 

• What is our take-away?

You may have made that choice many years ago, but you can tell Jesus again today that You want Him to be your shepherd and Saviour – and your voice of truth against all the lies and fears trying to dominate your thinking. His life in you makes you a lifegiver!  

  • Ezekiel, in his vision, had to trust God and do what He said. Are we prepared to do that?
  • Ezekiel was shown a picture of complete hopelessness. He was challenged to confront that picture and see it with God’s eyes. What is God saying to us about how we see the present epidemic and its sufferers?
  • What is the “word of the Lord” i.e. what is the Holy Spirit saying about the “dead bones” of national faith and our spiritual awakening to see this frightening epidemic situation from God’s perspective?