In nearly 40 years of public speaking, I have spoken to a few dry crowds in my life–you know, the kind where no joke prompts laughter, no turn of a phrase incites an “aha”, and no poignant anecdote stirs an emotional reaction. Tough audiences are just part of the deal.
But none of those can compare with Ezekiel’s congregation! God gives the Old Prophet a vision. He paints a vivid, panoramic view of an arid, dry valley full of sun-bleached parched bones…and then says, “Ok, Zeke, let ‘er rip. Preach to the bones!”
That is a tough crowd!
But as the story goes, Ezekiel preaches, the bones start a ‘rattlin and before long, the desert valley is a theater of war and the dry bones are a mighty army.
That is a great sermon!
In light of my history, his story always sends me on an exploration: What does restoration really look like?
It is when God puts the pieces of our lives back together the way He wants them–the way he designed and desired them to be. But in the dry desert, He has removed the stuff in our lives which kept us from reflecting that design.
There is a new heart filled with His life and fresh spirit inhabited by His Presence. He gives back what was lost, heals what was broken and replaces what was stolen. He gives new increase, breathes new vitality and builds new connections. There is a keen awareness of His favor and sense of His pleasure.
Why does God restore like this?
For the sake of His name.
It is how He shows off His true character. He removes the distortions of what He is like created before the world by the bad behavior of His people.
He proves that His joy is to heal, His delight is to renew and His pleasure is to prosper.
Once He has removed from us the grounds of our destruction He is able to restore to us the glory of our destiny.
God wants to display before the world the extremity of His grace. So he restores people who do not deserve it…a scandalously beautiful display of what God is really like.