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‘So I Prophesied as He Commanded Me’

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
‘So I Prophesied as He Commanded Me’
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

I’m trying to imagine Ezekiel seeing himself standing amidst Israel’s scattered toe bones, hip bones, and head bones. He’d heard the Jewish exiles grieving, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Now, before his eyes, he saw them as they were, the dead-hearted congregation he’d preached to all along. They loved his preaching, but they did not know their covenant-giving God, Yahweh.

Nonetheless, at God’s command, Ezekiel preached to them again,

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (Ezek. 37:7-8)

Bones assembled and embodied. A genesis of re-creation. Yet they remained lifeless. Not corpses. Not zombies. Not sleeping. Neither dead nor alive. Like Adam once, or Jesus on Saturday.

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; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (vv. 10-11)

Ezekiel lifted his head and shouted to the deathly still sky, “Come ruach!” And as if it had been hovering just over the hills, breath swept in over them from every direction. I don’t imagine it being a 70 m.p.h. wind, but rather God exhaling, perhaps like when Jesus breathed on his disciples after his resurrection.

The bodies began to gasp as newborns do. Color came to their skin. Their eyes fluttered open. Their bodies stirred, straightened, and stretched. And a vast, formidable army came to life, the revivified nation of Israel, marshalled to depart Death Valley for their God-given homeland.

There in the midst of them stood Ezekiel, their breath-blown prophet, their preacher whose God-given words had raised the dead! Ezekiel, our preaching forefather with an extraordinary story to tell.

Imagine him at a timeless reunion of preachers. “What was that like?” one asks. I wonder if Ezekiel wouldn’t look at us and say, “Me? What was it like for me? You preach to the living and breathing saints of God every time you open the Scriptures! I would have given anything to preach as you do, to the saints of God, living and listening.”

“Well, they’re not all that energized,” one pastor mutters, “We preach to some spineless and heartless people ourselves.”

“Oh, my friend,” Ezekiel might say, “but you open the Scriptures to them—every word, every page, as truly God’s as when I prophesied, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ You bring out the treasures of God, old and new, and so many of them listen to you! They’re changed. They obey God’s word. And sometimes you even wake the dead! Your people hear you and they know that our God is the LORD!”

It’s natural to read Ezekiel’s vision and wish we could rattle some skeletons like that next Sunday, that we could summon the Holy Spirit with such a shot of holy oxygen that our congregation would snap to attention, wide-eyed and gasping. But things are not always as they seem. Preach the Word.

Your Bible has all the authority of Ezekiel’s prophesying. Your prayers invite the Holy Spirit of Pentecost. Your people—most of them—stand ready and waiting for you to speak. And for that …

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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