Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, begins with the twenty-fifth verse of the thirty-ninth chapter, and continues through to the sixteenth verse of the fortieth chapter. As we draw near to the end of the prophetic book of Ezekiel—although there are still eight chapters left after chapter forty draws to a close—I have to say that I am utterly and completely fascinated with the progression we find beginning with the thirty-sixth chapter. I have written concerning the place that exists between the covenant and the conflict, and how that place is indeed a valley. In addition to that place being a valley, it is a valley that is filled with bones scattered across and upon the valley floor—bones which were very many and very dry. I wrote how we oftentimes believe that we are supposed to move from conflict to covenant, and that there is to be nothing that exists between those two realities. We live our lives thinking and believing that we are to continually go from conflict to covenant, yet we fail to recognize that there are specific times—perhaps even specific seasons—within our lives when rather than moving from conflict to covenant, we move from covenant to conflict. What’s more, is that not only do we seem to move from covenant to conflict, but there exists between those two places and those two realities a valley that is not at all what we expected. I can’t help but wonder what Ezekiel felt as he undoubtedly transitioned from the place of hearing the Lord speak of covenant relationship with His people to being set down in the midst of a valley. What’s more, is that not only was Ezekiel set down in the midst of a valley, but Ezekiel was set down in the midst of a valley that was full of bones which were very many and very dry. How many of us seem to move from that place of covenant with the Lord only to find ourselves—not only set down in the midst of a valley, but seemingly set down in the midst of a place which is filled with nothing but dryness and decay. The more I consider the valley of dry bones, the more I can’t help but wonder how many bones were scattered across the valley floor, as well as how long those bones had been there. I am reminded of Jesus calling for the stone which lie before Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away and removed, and how He was met with resistance by Lazarus’ sister who said that he had already been in the grave four days, and that there would be a stench that would protrude from the tomb. How absolutely wonderful it is that not only is Jesus unimpeded and not hindered or prevented by death itself, but not even the stench of death has any affect on Jesus. Despite the fact that Lazarus had been lying in the tomb for four days, Jesus still ordered the stone to be rolled away and remove, and even called Lazarus to come forth.
The reason I mention Lazarus’ being present within the tomb for four days is because of the response his sister gave Jesus concerning the stench that undoubtedly protruded—not only from the grave, but also from the lifeless body of Lazarus. This bears consideration—especially in light of what we read in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel—for I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a stench that radiated from the bones which had been scattered across the valley floor. How absolutely incredible it is that the prophet Ezekiel had been taking from a place of covenant and cleansing to a place of death, decay and dryness. Please don’t miss or lose sight of this fact, for this same reality may at times be manifested within our own lives. There may be times within our lives when find ourselves being transitioned from that place of covenant with and covenant before the Lord to a place of death, a place of decay, and a place of dryness. We find ourselves moving from that place of a new heart and a new spirit to a place of bones scattered throughout a valley the Spirit of the Lord has set us in. Do not think for one moment that the Spirit of the Lord cannot take you and set you down in the midst of a valley—much like He did the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel heard the word of the Lord concerning a powerful work within the hearts and lives of His people, and immediately following that we find Ezekiel being set down in the midst of a valley that was full of dry bones. Consider if you will the language that is found within the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel—“Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A anew heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them, and ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleanse you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fences, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with the flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:25-38).
There is an apparent progression that takes place within the final portion of the prophetic book of Ezekiel—one that in all reality begins in and with the thirty-sixth chapter. If you go back and reread the words which the Lord declared unto and through Ezekiel, you will discover that this place of covenant begins with and includes the Lord sprinkling clean water upon His people, and from that place of coming in contact with clean water, they would be clean. This cleansing which the Lord spoke about would touch all their filthiness, and all their idols, for the Lord would cleanse His people from both their filthiness and their idols. This new reality of covenant carries with it a wonderful promise of being cleansed from all filthiness and from all idolatry, for there can be no covenant without the eradication of idols and idolatry within the heart(s) of the people of God. What’s more, is that this place of covenant carries with it a tremendous and wonderful promise that the Lord would give His people a new heart, and a new spirit would He put within them. The Lord would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and would give them a heart of flesh. The covenant which the Lord spoke of was something that would be brand new—something that would be fresh and completely different from the Old Covenant which the children of Israel experienced. What I so love about this new covenant which the Lord would enter into with His people is that He seems to take a tremendous amount of responsibility upon Himself. If you compare the two covenants mentioned within Scripture—the Old Covenant and the New Covenant—you will quickly discover that the weight, the burden, and the responsibility of the Old Covenant fell upon the people themselves. Under the Old Covenant, men and women were met and faced with a litany of commands, statutes, decrees and precepts. Under the Old Covenant men and women were responsible for not only understanding all the statutes, all the laws, all the decrees of the law given to Moses, but also walking in and walking according to them. Perhaps one of the greatest differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is that when we discover the New Covenant, we find the Lord Himself become involved in an even greater measure. With the New Covenant, there would no longer be sacrifices of bulls, rams and goats, but one single sacrifice, which would be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. With the New Covenant, the Lamb of heaven would be sacrificed upon the cross of Calvary, and the full weight of the judgment and punishment of God would fall and come upon Him. With the New Covenant, not only would the Lord Himself be the sacrifice that would make atonement, but the Lord would also send His Spirit to remind men and women of the words which Jesus spoke, and to come alongside them to help in walking in obedience to the commands, the statutes, the decrees and the law of the Lord. What’s more, is that the Lord also provided a powerful example of what walking in obedience to the law of the Lord truly looks like in and through the person of Jesus Christ.
Do you understand how absolutely marvelous and wonderful it is to live under the umbrella, and under the shadow of the new covenant? Do you understand how blessed you are to live during the days of the New Covenant? I am convinced that far too many times we take for granted the fact that we live under grace and during the days of the New Covenant. I am convinced that there are far too many times when fail to truly understand how blessed we are to live on this side of Calvary, and on this side of Pentecost. The New Covenant would be a covenant that would being on Passover, and would have as the lamb which was sacrificed the very eternal Son of the Father. The New Covenant would have with it the outpouring of the Spirit of God from on high upon all flesh—an outpouring that would be about more than simply speaking in tongues, and being endued with power from on high. When speaking of the release and outpouring of the Spirit from on high, Jesus declared that the Spirit would come upon us, and that we would be witnesses unto Him—first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria, and finally to the uttermost parts of the earth. Did you know that being a witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth is about more than simply preaching the gospel with our words. In all reality, the outpouring of the Spirit of God enables us to be witnesses unto the Lord with, through, by and according to the way that we conduct ourselves. The Spirit was poured out for a great purpose than simply our speaking in tongues, and I would dare say that we place more emphasis on the gifts of the spirit than we do on the fruit of the Spirit. CONTENT WITH THE GIFTS, YET LACKING THE FRUIT! Oh, how many men and women are content living their lives and spending their days living in the reality of the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, yet they want absolutely nothing to do with the fifth chapter of Galatians. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the first epistle he sent unto them—“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
These were the words which were written in the apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians congregation, yet consider if you will the words which the same apostle wrote to the Galatian congregation. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revealing, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:13-26). One thing we must recognize is that the same apostle who wrote about the gifts of the Spirit also wrote about the fruit of the Spirit. If the apostle Paul were hear today in this generation, and if he were to be asked which were the greater of the two, I am convinced he would speak of the fruit as being of far more significance and importance than the gifts ever would or could be. We seem to interpret the manifestation and outpouring of the Spirit as being solely about gifts within the lives of the people, and that the Spirit is all about power to walk in the gifts. I am utterly and completely convinced that the single greatest manifestation of the Spirit within our lives is to make us witnesses in the earth—yet not witnesses according to our own definition and standard of being a witness. If you study Scripture, you will discover that the greatest witness within and upon the earth—the greatest witness to ever walk upon the face of the earth—was and is to this day the eternal Son of God. The only way we can be the type of witnesses the Father desires upon the earth is for the Spirit to transform us into the image of the ultimate witness who is the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Spirit was poured out and released upon the day of Pentecost to make us witnesses upon and throughout the earth, yet the greatest demonstration and manifestation of that witness our obedience to the commands of Jesus. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke in the Upper Room when speaking to His disciples—“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know Him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:15-17). “If a man love me, He will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” John 14:23). “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Pay close attention to these words, for while it is true that Jesus declared that we would do greater works than these, He also declared that we would demonstrate our love for, and our friendship with Him through and according to our obedience to His commands.
In the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we encounter a prophetic word concerning a new covenant the Lord would enter into with His people—a new covenant that would not only come with a new heart and a new spirit, but would also carry with it the very person and presence of the Spirit of the Lord to help us walk in obedience to and keep the commandments of the Lord. IN the thirty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we encounter the words of the New Covenant on the pages of the Old Testament, while in the thirty-seventh chapter we encounter Ezekiel’s being set down in the midst of a valley that was full of bones—bones which were very many and very dry. What I so love about the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Ezekiel is that within this chapter we read of the breath of the Spirit coming from the four winds and breathing upon those slain that they might live again. IN the previous chapter we read of the release of the Spirit to enable us to walk in the statutes of the Lord, and to keep the judgments of the Lord. IN the very next chapter we actually read of the breath of God—the very Spirit of Almighty God—being breathed upon those that were slain in order that they might live again. Immediately following the prophetic word concerning the placement and giving of a new heart and new spirit we read of those that were slain coming back to life. Despite the fact that Ezekiel was set down in the midst of a valley that was full of bones that were very dry and very many, we find that which was slain coming to life once more—coming to life because of the breath of Almighty God coming upon and being breathed within them. Although Ezekiel found himself in a valley immediately following a declaration of the covenant of the Lord, it was there in the valley when all those bones which were scattered before him would be joined together, bone unto his bone, and flesh, sinews and skin coming upon those bones. What’s more, is that there in that valley Ezekiel would find himself transitioning from a place of dry bones scattered upon and across the valley floor to lifeless corpses which were now before him. What an absolutely incredible reality it is to consider that all those bones which scattered across the floor of the valley came together, and now instead of bones being before Ezekiel, we find corpses before the prophet. THE PATH FROM SCATTERED BONES TO A STANDING ARMY! That which brought about the coming together of all those bones was the prophetic word of the Lord being spoken within that valley, and that which caused corpses coming to life was the breath of God. There within he valley we notice the prophetic word of the Lord being spoken and released—not once, but twice through the prophet Ezekiel. IT was the prophetic word of the Lord that caused scattered bones to come together, and it was the prophetic word of the Lord that caused lifeless corpses to come to life. There in that valley which existed in the place between the covenant and the conflict, we notice that scattered bones are joined together, and lifeless corpses are brought to life before the prophet. What’s more, is that not only do we discover scattered bones coming together, and lifeless corpses coming to life, but we also notice that which was divided being joined together once more. Please don’t lose sight of this reality, for despite the fact that there exists a valley in that place between the covenant and the conflict, it is within that valley where we find transformation, resurrection, as well as unification. The Lord brought the prophet from the place of covenant into a place of dryness, death and decay in order that transformation and resurrection might take place within the earth.
If you read chapters thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, and even forty, you will notice that when we come to the fortieth chapter we begin to discover a revelation concerning the Temple of the Lord. Beginning with the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we read of a new Temple that would be built within the city of Jerusalem—a Temple that would be completely different than the Temple which once stood upon mount Moriah. There has been much speculation as to whether or not the Temple which Ezekiel saw was the second Jewish Temple, or whether it would be the third Jewish Temple which is yet to be built. I am inclined to believe that the vision of the Temple which the prophet Ezekiel saw was indeed the third Jewish Temple which would be built upon the very same Temple Mount where the first and second Jewish Temples once stood. Now, you would think that you would transition from the place of covenant to the place of rebuilding the Temple, right? You would think that you would move from the place of transformation and resurrection to rebuilding the Temple, right? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, you would be surprised to find out that the answer to them both is a resounding “No!” If you read chapters thirty-sixth through forty of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, you will notice that while we begin with covenant and end with the Temple, we don’t immediately experience the Temple directly from the place of covenant. In between covenant and conflict there is a valley, and in between the valley and the Temple there is a conflict. The more I read these particular chapters within the prophetic book of Ezekiel, the more I am convinced that the conflict precedes and comes before the rebuilding of the Temple. What I mean by this, is that it is the conflict itself that paves the way and makes possible the rebuilding of the Temple. There has been much talk about when and how the third Jewish Temple can and will be rebuilt, yet the truth of the matter is that the third Jewish Temple cannot and will not be built until the conflict of Gog and Magog first takes place. WHEN CONFLICT PAVES THE WAY FOR THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE! WHEN CONFLICT BRINGS ABOUT THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE! WITHOUT THE CONFLICT THERE CAN BE NO REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE! There would be those who think that the third Jewish Temple can and should be rebuilt right now in this moment of time, yet if you read Scripture, you will discover that before the rebuilding can come, the conflict must first come. We cannot, we should not, we dare not presume to think that this can and/or should happen any other way. There is a reason why within the prophetic book of Ezekiel we read of the conflict of Gog and Magog before the rebuilding of the Temple of the Lord which would stand in the midst of Jerusalem.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which we find in the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles concerning David—David in whose heart the desire to build the first Jewish Temple had entered. Consider if you will the words which David spoke unto Solomon his son towards the end of his life—“My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies rounda bout: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever. Now, my son, the Lord be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of thy God, as he hath said of thee. Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God. Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed. Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto. Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance, he wears and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work. Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee” (1 Chronicles 22:7-16). Mark the words which David spoke to his son Solomon well, for David was prohibited from building the Temple of the Lord in the earth because his hands had shed much blood upon the earth. Davids hands were hands of war and bloodshed, and it was precisely because his hands had shed much blood and waged many wars that the Temple could not be built by his hands. With that being said, however, it was because of the blood he shed, and because of the wars he fought that the Lord was able to give him rest from all his enemies—and not only rest for David, but also a rest which would be experienced and enjoyed during the days of his son Solomon. During the days of David, Israel was engaged in much conflict, many battles, and many wars in order that the dominion, the authority, the government of heaven could be established upon the earth. It was precisely because of, and precisely from that place of government that the Temple could be built—and not only could the Temple be built, but the glory of the Lord could and would fill the house.
The Old Testament prophet Haggai speaks of a Jewish Temple that would be rebuilt within the city of Jerusalem in the days which were to come, and releases absolutely incredible words concerning that Temple. “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land- and I will shake all nations, and the the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former saith the Lord of hosts: and In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:3-10). Through the prophet Haggai the Lord spoke of the glory of this latter house as being greater than the glory of the former house. I am completely and totally convinced that there is tremendous significance in the glory of this house being greater than the glory of the former house, yet not because the glory itself is greater than the former glory, but because of what we read in the prophetic book of Ezekiel. What I mean, and what I am speaking of is simply that the glory of this latter house can be greater because prior to the rebuilding of that temple the nation and people of Israel faced their greatest conflict ever within and throughout their history. In all reality, I would dare say that the greater the conflict that takes place within your life, the greater the glory can and may very well be. Isn’t it rather peculiar that immediately before the prophet Ezekiel reads of a Temple that would be rebuilt within the city of Jerusalem, he sees a vision of the single greatest conflict that nation and people of Israel have ever and will ever face? Within the prophetic book of Ezekiel we not only see the path and place between covenant and conflict, but we also discover the reality that before the rebuilding of the Temple, and even before the glory of the Lord returning, we encounter and discover the greatest conflict. That nation and that people who would rebuild the Temple of the Lord would emerge from the single greatest conflict they would ever experience and face, and it would be from that place of supernatural intervention from the Lord of hosts that they would emerge to rebuild the Temple of the Lord upon mount Moriah where it rightfully belongs. THE GREATER THE CONFLICT, THE GREATER THE GLORY! CONFLICT PAVES THE WAY AND MAKES ROOM FOR GLORY! If the first Jewish Temple could not be built until and unless David had engaged in all the wars, battles and conflicts he and the army of Israel engaged themselves in, what makes us think that this Temple could be built apart from conflict? How many of us seem to prepare ourselves for glory, and perhaps even greater glory than before, yet we aren’t willing to prepare ourselves for conflict? We want and we desire greater glory than before, yet we aren’t willing to engage ourselves in and experience greater conflict than before. CAN GOD ENTRUST HIS GLORY TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED CONFLICT? The Tabernacle was built in the wilderness after the children of Israel had emerged from slavery, bondage and oppression, and after they had seen the salvation of the Lord in the wilderness. The first Temple was built after David and the army of Israel had engaged in countless battles, conflicts and wars against the enemies round about Israel. The Second Jewish Temple would be rebuilt after seventy years of captivity, and after the first Jewish Temple would be destroyed by fire. The third and final Jewish Temple would be rebuilt after the second one was burned to the ground with fire by the Romans, after the Jewish people were scattered among the nations of the earth, after the Temple Mount would be absent the Temple of the Lord several centuries, and finally, after the greatest conflict Israel has ever and will ever face. Dear brother, dear sister—there are those who would say unto you “Prepare for glory,” yet I would say unto you, “Prepare for glory via conflict, for conflict prepares one to encounter and experience the glory.” GLORY VIA CONFLICT! GLORY BY WAY OF CONFLICT!