Pentecost Transformation

Posted on 20 May 2019

 

Pentecost Transformation, Part 1

Ezekiel 37: 1-14

Illus: A missionary couple once brought some African pastors to the Unites States for a big meeting. During their free time, these pastors wanted to go shopping. Even though they were in a small town, the missionary knew there was a chance one of them might have some difficulty finding their way around or get lost. So the missionary gave each pastor his phone number in case of an emergency. In less than an hour the missionary’s phone rang and one of the pastors said, “I am lost.”

The missionary replied, “Lay the phone down, go to the street corner, find out the names of the two streets, and come back and tell me.” In a few minutes the African pastor returned and reported, “I am at the corner of ‘Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk.’”

The trials of life sometimes make us feel lost and unstable—we feel directionless and don’t know which way to turn. Sometimes it even seems that there are no good options. It’s as though life has knocked the breath right out of us…

…An unexpected loss of job. The sudden loss of a loved one. A relationship that you thought was good, goes bad. A medical report from your doctor that you were not expecting. And the list goes on and on.

Often times these events can also knock the breath out of us spiritually speaking. Where was God when this happened? Doesn’t He care that I’m hurting so badly?

Some life events have caused people to walk totally away from God. While others are adrift spiritually speaking, not sure which way the wind is blowing. And for others, life has spiritually gone cold and dry…no spark, no fire, and no seeming movement of the Holy Spirit at all.

This is where the Children of Israel found themselves on various occasions. Whether it was in Egypt or Babylon, they went through difficult stretches that certainly knocked the breath out of them.

Let’s consider what happened to them in Babylon.

God’s people have been carried off into exile. The people have been banished from the very land promised and provided them by God. This caused great confusion and soul-searching.

The Babylonian captivity or exile refers to the time period in Israel’s history when Jews were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. It is an important period of biblical history because both the captivity/exile and the return and restoration of the Jewish nation were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies.

God used Babylon as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him. There were actually several different times during this period (607-586 B.C.) when the Jews were taken captive by Babylon. With each successive rebellion against Babylonian rule, Nebuchadnezzar would lead his armies against Judah until they laid siege to Jerusalem for over a year, killing many people and destroying the Jewish temple, taking captive many thousands of Jews, and leaving Jerusalem in ruins.
During this time…

God’s people probably asked questions like:

  • Why this exile?
  • Has God abandoned us?
  • Have the Babylonian gods defeated our God?
  • Is there a Future for us?

Throughout the Old Testament, God used prophets to speak to His people about how He felt about them and what He intended to do for them. One of these prophets, Ezekiel, received this dream/vision from God regarding His people. It’s found in Ezekiel 37…

Ezekiel 37: 1-10…

Here in (Ezekiel 37) we see that God had taken Ezekiel into a strange place. God brought him to a valley. This valley was covered with bones. There had been a tremendous battle that had taken place sometime back – because now there is nothing but bones scattered in this valley.

Ezekiel looks at these bones. I can imagine as he looks to the left and he notices a skull that is lying in a crushed helmet. He then looks to his right and he sees a bony hand that is still gripping a rusty sword. He looks out and he sees that the bones have been picked clean by the birds of the air.

He notices that these bones had been washed by the rains; they had been bleached by the sun. Now they are baked and they are very dry. These bones were scattered out all over the valley.

Ezekiel stands there and looks at this impossible sight. As he stands there and looks on, God begins to speak to him. Notice what the Lord said to Ezekiel in {37:3}- “Can these bones live?”

I believe that when God asked Ezekiel this question, more than likely he was tempted to say, ‘No, that’s impossible.’ But that’s not what he did. Ezekiel made a wise statement: “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” And God did know! God was about to show Ezekiel that indeed those bones could live.

Let’s look at the next four verses of Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37: 11-14…

 

If one reads the prophecy of Ezekiel carefully, one can find answers to the questions that  we can hear the people crying: “We have been cut off. We are like dried-out, lifeless bones. We have been tossed aside. We have been abandoned. We are landless, hopeless, and breathless.” (37: 11) For them, it does seem hopeless.

But through Ezekiel, God gives His people hope once again, through the work of God’s Spirit…let’s together at verses 12 and 14…in these verses God promises that the work of His Spirit can bring new life…

37: 12 & 14

  • The Holy Spirit
  • Promise of New Life

Through the Prophet, God tells His people that He is sending his Holy Spirit to restore, refresh, and breathe life and hope into the community.

To a people cut off from home, God promises a return to the land (vv. 12, 14).

To a people who feel they have been cut off from God, God promises open graves and the experience of new life (vv. 12, 14).

The Babylonian captivity had one very significant impact on the nation of Israel when it returned to the land—it would never again be corrupted by the idolatry and false gods of the surrounding nations. A revival among Jews took place after the return of the Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of the temple. We see those accounts in Ezra and Nehemiah as the nation would once again return to the God who had delivered them from their enemies.

Just as God had promised through the prophet Jeremiah, God judged the Babylonians for their sins, and the Babylonian Empire fell to the armies of Persia in 539 B.C., once again proving God’s promises to be true.

The seventy-year period of the Babylonian captivity is an important part of Israel’s history, and Christians should be familiar with it. Like many other Old Testament events, this historical account demonstrates God’s faithfulness to His people, His judgment of sin, and the surety of His promises.

And if you consider verse Ez. 37: 13, God’s also brings the…

Ezekiel 37: 13…

  • Promise of Knowing and Experiencing Him

What was true for the Exile community was also true for the disciples awaiting the promised Spirit between the resurrection and Pentecost. And what was true for them is true for us.

Acts 2: 1-4…

Before the Holy Spirit was sent to Jesus’ disciples, there was probably confusion and wondering. Wondering when Jesus was going to return? How they were going to move forward? What and where was the Presence that He had promised them?

Both Ezekiel 37 and Acts 2 speak to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

 

Maybe you feel cut off from God right now? Maybe it’s happened because of your own decisions. Maybe for other reasons. But know this, just as God brought revival to the Israelites following their captivity, he can do the same for you!

 

Illus: Years ago in the Civil War battle over on Kennesaw Mountain a 20-year-old Union captain was terribly wounded. He lay bleeding upon the battlefield with his chest “blown open.” A medic stopped, saw his condition, bent down to try to detect a heartbeat and concluded that the young officer was dead. That battlefield, marked by heaps of bleeding flesh, was another valley of death.

The wounded captain had been left for the night in a pool of blood with no bedding but the ground, no roof but the canopy of heaven, no pitying eyes but the stars, no sound but the call of a nightingale, no companions but his fallen comrades, and no hope but the power of prayer.

Back in a New England village the young soldier had a mother and father who were devout Christians. They believed in the power of prayer and had been interceding for their son all through the months of fighting.

He went to Yale University and had his faith challenged and destroyed. He became a rebel and was known and registered as an infidel. There were those who would have rejoiced if the battlefield had claimed his life. That body, however weak and wounded, held on tenaciously to the slightest remnant of life. A myriad of thoughts marched through his brain in dramatic succession that night on the battleground.

The instruction and admonition which he had received from his godly parents came back to him. That battlefield suddenly became an altar and that young man was saved by the power of a sovereign God. In the midst of a theater of death, God breathed into him the breath of life.

At the breaking of dawn the next morning a platoon of soldiers came to retrieve the dead and found the captain still breathing. They took him to a hospital. As soon as he was able to make a request, he called for a chaplain and told him of his conversion and of his intention to be a committed Christian.

Everyone thought the bleeding soldier had been mortally wounded. The medic had left him for dead. The stretcher bearer gave him no hope of survival. His comrades thought him to be no longer among the living.

However, God, in His grace and power, saw fit to lay His hands upon that boy who had been shredded by shrapnel. Jesus, the One who walked in Galilee, took a stroll through that battlefield that night and entered the heart of a boy whose only hope was in God. That which was accomplished on that field of battle was of God – a divine performance.

By the way, who was that bleeding boy and whatever became of him? He was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1879. He served as pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia and later founded the Baptist Temple, developing it into one of the most important churches in America. He started a night school for young preachers which subsequently became Temple University. This man also founded Samaritan Hospital in 1891. He wrote 20 books which have been widely read and marvelously influential.

Because of the life of this man, Russell Herman Conwell, thousands of souls have been saved and many more have been enriched because of his invaluable contribution to this land we love. When you speak of divine performance, you are speaking of a blessed, beneficial intervention of God. What Russell Conwell did for the cause of Christ and the good of man resulted from the touch of God upon a life that appeared to be no more than a corpse in a field of death.

Perhaps you need the touch of God upon your life. Perhaps you need to experience the divine inspiration that occurs when God breathes into you His quickening power. He can enliven you to be a part of a mighty spiritual army. He can quicken you so that you can become a vibrant, vital soldier of the cross.

Faith in Action: Is your spiritual life dry? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Pentecost Transformation is putting yourself in a position to receive God’s presence on a regular basis: worship, prayer, Scripture, service.

We have heard His Word. Are you ready to believe His Word? Let’s respond to Him and ask Him to invade this place and to invade our hearts…God wants to breathe into your life today. Will you let Him?

Illus: Tightrope walker, Harry Blondin…