JAN 18 WORDS OF LIFE
· Words have power – give various examples
· No word is more powerful than God’s Word. God’s Word speaks creation into existence. Jesus is God’s Word clothed in human flesh.
· Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking about discipleship. Disciple means “one who learns.” Would beg the question “Learns what?” Answer: to know God through God’s Word. The Word of God reveals the character of God.
We learn the Word of God in order to know the God of that Word. God’s Word informs our mind and transforms our lives.
· This passage from Ezekiel reveals the power of God’s Word. Way back in Deuteronomy, as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses prepares them for their future. And he reminds them that the laws they have received are God’s Word to them. He says to them, “This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life.” (Deut. 32.47)
· Background on Ezekiel’s situation.
Words are powerful. If you’re a married woman, you, no doubt, recall the moment your husband spoke those words “Will you marry me?” If you’re a father you probably remember the day your wife said those words, “I think I’m pregnant.” If you’re a teen, you likely recall the first person who crushed you with those words, “But, we can still be friends.” Words are powerful. They can change our lives and redirect our futures. We know that destructive words coming from a parent; words like, “Why can’t you do any better; you embarrass me” are disparaging words that a child will carry with them for the rest of their lives. But, words can also build us up, like when a coach or teacher says, “I can see you have a special gift.” Words are powerful. Even the simplest of words like, “I’m sorry” or “thank you” are critical building blocks of healthy relationships.
And no word is more powerful than the Word of God. In Genesis God speaks and life begins: earth and sky, animals, plants and people. In Genesis, chapter 1, each step of creation is preceded by the litany, “And God said…”
In Deuteronomy, as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses preps them for what’s to come. And he reminds them that the laws they have received in the wilderness are God’s Word to them. He says, “This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life.” (Deut. 32.47) And when the Israelites do, in fact, violate and disregard those Words, God calls forth prophets, like Ezekiel, to reiterate his Word.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be talking about Christian discipleship. Disciple is more than a label applied to those twelve guys who followed Jesus around. We, too, are called to be disciples and we can discover quite a lot about what that means if we examine those disciples in our gospels. The Greek word for disciple simply means: “one who learns.” Yet such a definition begs the questions, “What are we to learn and how should we learn it?” Well, although we often focus on Jesus’ miracles in the gospels, Jesus was a master teacher, a teacher of God’s Word. Notice how often Jesus is addressed by the title “Rabbi;” a title used to describe those who taught God’s Word. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” covers three full chapters and our narrator concludes with these words, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority…” (Mt. 7.28-29) Within the gospel of John, Jesus goes beyond speaking God’s Word; he becomes that word made flesh. In John, chapter 6 – the passage Mary read for us this morning – Jesus’ words elicit a moment of decision: Will those who have been listening and learning from his teaching continue to follow him? Or, will they throw in the towel and decide it asks too much of them. But, before they make that decision, Jesus wants to be sure they understand what it’s really about. He says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” In other words, here’s what you’re really deciding to accept or reject; this is a decision about life. God’s Word, my friends, is the source of life. Where God’s Word and God’s Spirit intersect that is the point at which new life begins.
In this morning’s Old Testament reading, that is the reminder that Ezekiel receives. And God employs a pretty graphic and powerful “reminder.” Ezekiel is a prophet and, as I’ve mentioned before, prophets aren’t “future tellers.” Rather, they are those who speak God’s Word on God’s behalf to God’s people. This vision that Ezekiel sees when he is caught up in God’s Spirit comes to him during a difficult time in Israel’s history. The Israelites have been conquered by the nation of Babylon. The city was ransacked; the Temple destroyed. The brightest and the best of Israel’s citizens were carried away into exile. For them at that time, God lived in the Temple; it was where he resided. And now, that Temple and God’s city, Jerusalem, are no more. Ezekiel and his comrades are without hope. Their “confession of faith,” so to speak is this: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost…” Everything that was before; everything they believed maintained their relationship with God is now gone. It is as if their lives are over. And in a certain sense, they are. But God wants to communicate to them that it’s not really over because God is the creator and the giver of life; God is in the business of creating life out of nothing… and that life is revealed where the Word of God and God’s Spirit intersect. It is prophecy, Words of God that Ezekiel speaks in that desolate valley. It is prophecy, Words of God that reassemble all those skeletons. It is prophecy, Words of God that cloth them with muscle and skin. They get put back together again through the hearing of God’s Word. It seems impossible; it seems ridiculous. But, just as God spoke at the beginning of time and life began at the command of his Word; here, in this dry, barren valley, through God’s Word, spoken by the prophet, life begins again. It is new life; a fresh start for those Israelites who’d lost all hope in the future. But it never could have happened without God’s Word. God’s Word has power. And when it is made known, there is no telling what kind of wonderful surprises we’re in for.
My friends, disciples of Jesus are those who listen and learn God’s Word because we come to know God through his Word. You see, we learn the Word of God in order to know the God of that Word. Bible study isn’t just about accumulating information; it is about transformation. As God’s Word informs our minds it transforms our lives. We learn the Word of God in order to know the God of that Word. The Word of God never goes forth empty; it always carries with it the potential for renewed life.
Friends, I believe in new life and I have hope. But if, as a church, we are going to experience growth and restoration and renewal, we need to become a lot more focused on God’s Word. We need to read it; we need to study it; because God will speak a message to us through his Word; God will renew us through his Word.
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