One of the most compelling stories in the Old Testament, I think, is Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones found in the book of Ezekiel’s 37th chapter.
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
The chapter goes on to explain that the dry bones represent the nation of Israel and their restoration to the land after exile. It speaks of the power of God to bring about life from the most hopeless situations. And I think that is why so many look to this passage as a means to raise hope and expectation for the deadness in their lives. And lest we forget, this passage also parallels God’s saving work to bring us out the deadness of our sin, create new life in us through the work of Christ and join us together with others into an army called the Church. So whether we apply this passage to ancient (and modern) Israel, our personal circumstances or the existence of the Church on earth, we can draw inspiration to see the greatness of God at work.
But, you have to ask the question (at least I did), what is this army to do now that it is alive and ready? Well, let me offer what may seem at first a disconnected thought, but hang in there with me. If I look at it from the vantage point of the individual believers that make up the Church, then the question is, “what does Jesus expect us to do”? I turned to His parable of the wedding feast for one answer.
A king is throwing a wedding feast for his son, but after the initial guest list reject the king’s invitation, he says to his servants, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. (Matthew 22:9, ESV). That is the image that captivated me – invite as many as you find to the feast. So I put these two word-pictures together – God has created an “army of inviters!” God is throwing a party, centered on Christ – the wedding feast. Through His death and resurrection, through His work on the cross, Christ has created a Bride for Himself! It’s time to celebrate that. He wants as many people as possible to enjoy it, and He’s using us to be the inviters!
You see, I can understand inviting people. It’s fairly simple. We actually do it all the time. “Hey let’s have lunch together.” That’s an invitation. “Why don’t we go to the beach?” That’s an invitation. But what if we start doing that with a purpose? What if, instead of just inviting people to some event, we start inviting people to enter into our lives to see what the Christian life looks like? I don’t mean that every conversation ends with a presentation of the Gospel, but it means living genuinely to let people see how and why a relationship with Christ is meaningful. That same invitation to lunch could mean, “I care about your life.” That invitation to the beach could mean, “You’re worth spending time with.” That invitation to a round of golf could mean, “I’m willing to listen.” The question isn’t just inviting people to social events; the question really is “why are you extending that invitation.” Eventually that might even turn into an invitation to church or to Bible study or to youth group. It’s a natural progression in sharing our lives. And it might lead to an invitation into a relationship with Christ – to enjoy the wedding feast.
But it all starts with recognizing that you are called to be in the army of inviters. Who have you invited today?