In my artist’s mind, inspiration can come from literally anywhere. From dreams, to the swirl in my coffee, to a random conversation. If you catch me staring into space, chances are it’s because something just inspired a plot twist or new artwork. But my favorite inspirations always come when I’m reading scripture. This time was no different: I opened to Ezekiel 37, and an image appeared in my mind’s eye.
In Ezekiel 37, God transports the prophet Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones.
The hand of the Lord was on 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. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-6
Kind of creepy, right? Creepy like the painting that’s forming at the right of your screen. Andrew came home from work and viewed my painting in this early stage. As I asked what he thought, I could see the list of questions scrolling behind his eyes. He simply answered “oh, that’s nice. Kind of creepy.” Yeah, I’m not all joy and butterflies.
God doesn’t shy away from “creepy” situations either. He’s not scared of going into dark places. A graveyard with bones scattered every which way. Bleached white from the sun. Ripe for Halloween decorations.
I imagine a foggy mist circling around Ezekiel’s legs. Wind creaking the bare tree branches at the edge of the battlefield. The smell of bitter death singeing his nostril hairs. Hey, horror movies originated somewhere!
But then God spoke. He lay His mighty hand on Ezekiel and the prophet wasn’t afraid. Ezekiel never quaked, shivered, puked from the smell, or ran away like a bat out of hell. Instead, he walked “back and forth” and listened intently to what God had to say.
Man, I’d love to be that attentive. My mind would be imagining the skeletons grabbing at my ankles, pulling me down into hell. Or I’d imagine who these people used to be and why they never had a proper burial. “I’m sorry, God, what were you just telling me?”
But Ezekiel listened. Then He did what God commanded: he spoke to the bones.
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. Ezekiel 37:7-10
Beyond the incredible imagery, this passage invokes a deeper message.
Words. Words are such powerful weapons.
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21
Death and life. Ezekiel saw both. I think we all have seen both in one form or another. I’ve talked before about hope and joy bringing life into our situations. I’ve also discussed how fear can bring disaster.
There have been many, many times I wish I could take back the words I’ve spoken. A simple sentence ending a friendship. A mixed-up line relaying a message I never intended. A shout in anger. Or even words I never said but should have.
Can you relate?
How about harsh words spoken over ourselves? I’ve called myself a loser, unwanted, not excepted, ugly, fat, disgusting…you get the idea.
If there’s anything to be attained through Ezekiel 37, it’s that words really are POWERFUL.
God could’ve brought life to the bones on His own. He could’ve said “watch this, Ezekiel” as He breathed life.
God also loves a good parable. He could’ve just TOLD Ezekiel the message in story-form. “There once was a vast army brought down by a mighty kingdom. The army lay waste in a dark valley where vulchers picked the bones clean. A man came wielding the power of the almighty God, and he spoke life into the bones. Just as I will bring the people of Israel out of their graves and into Jerusalem once again.” Simple as that. Done and done. Point across.
But, nope. God always has a bigger picture in mind. He doesn’t do a SINGLE THING in vain. This wasn’t just a message to Israel about how they’ll live again. It’s a message about the power of our words. – As well as other messages, I’m sure. – Because the word of God is living, breathing, and ever speaking.
God only commanded two things in this text “Prophesy to these bones and say to them…” Prophesy and say.
The definition of prophesy is to “say that (a specified thing) will happen in the future.”
The definition of say is to “utter words so as to convey information, an opinion, a feeling or intention, or an instruction.”
To sum this up, God commanded Ezekiel to utter words that would instruct something to happen in the future. Then He said the words.
All through scripture, we see God telling us to speak, to hold our tongues, and instructing us how to use words.
God told Moses: “speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.”
God told Jeremiah: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.”
Jesus told His disciples: “For it is not you who speaks, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
As a result of these revelations, I’ve been watching what I say more and more lately.
I’ve never been a big talker. And since I’m an avid reader I have what’s called “reader’s dialect” where I say words differently in my head than speech. I get embarrassed quite often by how I mispronounce words. I’m not the best listener either because my mind loves to wander. But I do love to observe. My mind is a wonderland. A muscle that gets overused quite a bit. And I’m attempting to steer this muscle to mull over words before they exit my tongue. It’s quite a learning curve, to put it mildly.
Speaking what God wants us to say comes with a combination of listening and actions. I need to sit still long enough to listen. And not be distracted by the field of bones, or the mist blinding my vision. Then I need to act by saying the words, and saying them with authority over the situation. Because these words “instruct what will happen in the future.” Giving power to faith, righteousness, hope, and LIFE. Rather than death and fear.
Read Ezekiel 37 again. God told Ezekiel EVERYTHING. He gave him the exact words with His instructions, and then went on to even tell him what He meant. All God asks is for us is to agree, then act. Have faith! Don’t listen to any other voice besides God. And we agree with Him by saying the exact words God says.
Our faith becomes effective when we know who we are in Christ. Each bone in that field was created in God’s image. Each person. EVERYONE. Yes, even you are beautiful. Blessed. ALIVE in Christ. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
And, like Ezekiel, we have authority to speak life into the people around us. Like I hopefully am doing to you, dear reader. You are so loved. You are so beautiful. You are God’s chosen. Chosen to do mighty mighty things. Jesus said that His people would do greater things than He did while on Earth. Believe that. You are His masterpiece. Let Him breath life into your tired bones.
And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them. Ephesians 4:29
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and the evolution of my painting. Like most of my paintings and writings, the end result was similar yet worlds different than my initial vision. Just like our lives often are.
I struggled with the clouds and the grass, trying to manipulate the paint to my will. I used different tools, brushes, paints, and techniques. I layered and layered. And as I neared the finish line, I realized that each layer added a definition to this work. Each supposed mess up created depth. If I’d quit, then I never would have come to this final result. And I wouldn’t be sharing this now with you all. There’s lessons to be learned everywhere. Even at the end of a paint brush.
Be encouraged, and live your life to the fullest! Until next time, look for the art in life. 🙂