Thursday, April 13, 2017

DRYLANDS



DRYLANDS
Much of the West of the U.S. is dry and no greenery appears, except for a few desert flowers in spring. Many peoples’ lives are arid like this as well, always looking but never finding water to quench their thirst. Ezekiel, one of the greater prophets represented God in Israel during the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom in the 700s BCE, under Nebuchadnezzar. It was during this very dry and desolate period that God prophesied to Ezekiel and therefore to readers then and now.

 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:25-27). God promises a major change of heart and spirit. He wants to bring them and us from death to life as Chapter 37 speaks of the Valley of d
Dry Bones. “The hand of the Lord is upon 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” (Ezekiel 37:1). This was the hopeless condition of Israel in exile. They were in need of resuscitation. God told him to prophesy to the bones. “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! I will make breath enter you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord… Come from the four winds O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may live. So I prophesied as the Lord commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet-a vast army” (Ezekiel 37:4-5,10). What an image of life returning through the Spirit of God breathed on them like God did in the creation of man in Genesis.

Have you ever been dry and thirsty? I have been exhausted from over working, over playing and creating troubles in my own life. Some 27 years ago I stood in a blizzard in the headlamps of my car on the desolate road off Lake Superior at midnight. I was leading a hospital through a perilous turnaround requiring 14-16 hours a day, away from home for weeks at a time. The work required 250 layoffs and union labor unrest. Without drastic efforts the hospital would have closed and no health care would have been available for 100 miles.   Isaiah 55 says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…” This is God telling the people where to find water and rest. It was at that moment in desperation that I heard the calling of the Lord over the radio and knelt in the snow to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. Thus began a filling and empowering in the Spirit.

God has said that He will quench our thirst in a dry land. David was parched and sought the Lord saying, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

We all thirst for solutions to dry times in our lives. It is God who quenches our thirst. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).  In Psalm 107 and Isaiah 41:18 God said, “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.”

He is the One who relieves, revives and restores our souls as we lie down beside the still waters and walk through the valley of the shadow of death in Psalm 23. There is no other permanent resource. God will send us in the desert at times, but if we seek Him, He will also water us, saying “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”  (John 7:38).

This Easter Season of His Death and Resurrection to life we can reread the prophesy of Isaiah 53 saying, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering...Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own ways; and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is silent…After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied…because He poured out His life for many…and bore the sins of many” (Isaiah 53:2-7, 11-12). This Scripture and many others that prophesy His sacrifice should be enough for all people to come and worship, but it is not.

We live in DRYLANDS where the hot winds are blowing stronger and the waters are growing bitterer. When will we see? When will we know that our folly and feasting on one another will come to naught?  We should be yearning for where, “the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city (heaven). On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).  Our bones are drying and our spirits are sighing in the aridity of life for something more. Come to the waters of life.

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