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Dec. 18th, 2019
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Eze 37:21–23)
Across the street from my house they’ve torn down a big nursing home complex and now this space of land sits full of dirt, rock and mud, surrounded by ugly chainlink fence. I drive by it daily, often wondering what’s next for this lot. Will they put my favorite coffee shop there? Or what about a BBQ restaurant? Right now that land is vacant, with signs hanging on the fence warning us of caution and telling us to “keep off.” But soon, hung like an ornament against that chainlink fence will hang a sign, with an architectural design picturing what will soon occupy that space, and the anticipated words, “coming soon!” I look forward to that sign. That sign will turn my annoyance into anticipation. That space full of dirt will soon have a destination. Looking at a fence will become a longing for a future.
Ezekiel 37, and many other passages throughout Scripture put up this sign of destination. The Lord gives us a heavenly anticipation of “coming soon.” In fact, this season of advent is really a refocusing our attention on what has come, pointing us to what is coming. This season moves our imagination from seeing a land of dirt into a heavenly city. From a broken relationship, to one of peace. From a wandering heart to one of wholeness. We are not just patches of dirt that will be left encircled with fence, ugly and unappealing, purposeless and full of pain, but we are purchased people who are being shaped and formed into the image of the most beautiful Person imaginable, God’s Son, the incarnate King. Paul says it like this, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.” (2 Co 5:2–3)
I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, trudging through the pain and death and destruction of the Israelite people and surrounding nations. All throughout this book, the theme is reiterated over and over, the Lord wants His people to know that He is the Lord (he says it 57 times in the book!). In chapter 37 the focus shifts from the desolate and exiled land to the hope of redemption coming to the people. The first half of the chapter is the prophecy of the Lord rebuilding and breathing life into the dead and dry bones, bringing life where there was death, bringing hope where there was exile, bringing light where there was darkness, and freedom where there was captivity. Then the Lord gives a second prophecy about a reunited Kingdom, where no longer they will have two nations (Israel and Judah) but only one. And their hearts will be changed, their sins will be forgiven, and shalom will be restored.
But here is what sticks out to me about this… we are the rocks, dirt and vacant space, not nearly as glamorous as our Christmas cards make us seem, but the Lord sees great value and worth in us. He has given us the image of what we are becoming, promising to build us into something real. He makes glory from ashes. We see it all throughout this passage: “I will take them… and gather them… and bring them… and make them… and give them one King… I will save them… and I will be their God.” Up until this point the Israelites have done nothing but rebel. But their rock bottom of exile was the starting point to something worth remaking.
This advent season, we look to Jesus, who came as Lord and Savior, and came to remake us and this earth. He bestows on us this hope of a “coming soon” sign, pointing to our future glory and future redemption. So as we sit in the sadness of the dirt and experience the pain of being rebuilt, remember something glorious is coming. Something so glorious, we should chime in with the saints, Come Lord Jesus, Come.