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‘Then You Will Know …’

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
‘Then You Will Know …’
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

It wasn’t that he couldn’t preach. The fact was people loved his preaching. They said he was like “one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice.” He preached his heart out, but God’s verdict was, “My people … sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice.”

Tough crowd! Take it from Ezekiel. They were dead as doornails. But then,

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. (Ezek. 37:1)

That was Ezekiel’s congregation. Bones past reforming, past repentance, past the point of no return.

Ezekiel, like Daniel, had been among the second wave of exiles carried off to Babylon. Twelve years had passed when “a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has fallen!’” (33:21). The temple was gone, the walls were rubble, they had no king, and the few remaining inhabitants were dead or scattered. God’s verdict:

Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done. (Ezek. 33:29)

But in one of his grace surprises, God’s messages to those exiles changed from desolation to hope. In fact, chapters 33-37 are called the Gospel of Ezekiel, and includes Ezekiel’s vision of bones and Breath:

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.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!’” (Ezek. 37:1-4)

When Erwin Lutzer, long-time pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, taught homiletics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he liked to take his class to a little cemetery in nearby Deerfield.

I have them all gather around a certain gravesite. I point out the name, and then I tell one of the students, "Preach the gospel to Mr. Smith here.” They look at me like I'm nuts. So, I preach to Mr. Smith with enthusiasm: "Sir, Jesus died for your sins, and you must put your faith in him."

Then I look at the students and tell them, "This is no different than preaching the gospel to unsaved people. The Bible says that they are dead in their sins. You can preach your heart out, but nothing will happen unless God does a miracle to give them the life to listen."

So, it was with the evangelist Ezekiel. At the end of his bone-rattling, body-building, Breath-giving vision, he watched as Israel “came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” An army! God said, “My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” And God’s reason?

Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.” (37:14)

God repeated the phrase, “Then you will know that I am the LORD,” fifty-eight times in Ezekiel alone, three time just in this vision.

Pastors, whatever scriptural words God summons us to speak in any of our pastoral work, the outcome must be, “Then you will know that I am the LORD.” Pray for the Word and the Spirit to make the LORD, the Covenant-Keeper, clear through you.

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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