Reflections on Ezekiel 37 and Romans 8
Two of the readings set for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 1-14
In 597 BC a Babylonian army captured Jerusalem and carried away into exile the leading members of what was left of the Jewish nation. When this happened these people suffered great loss materially, in status and in identity and now found themselves being held in a strange country hundreds of miles away from home. Not surprisingly, morale was very low, as we see from the opening words of Ps 137 “by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion”. It’s a psalm which expresses their deep sense of mourning over their loss of homeland and above all of Zion, the focus of their worship from which they were now separated.
Ezekiel was probably born into a priestly family and was one of these exiles. And he was called to bring the Lord’s word to these dispirited people. Much of what he had to say to them was hard, for the people had for years drifted away from wholeheartedly serving the Lord. But he told them that despite all this, God had not given up on them. There was hope. The Lord had not deserted the nation - although no doubt it seemed to them at the time that He had done so. He still loved them. He was with them in their suffering and eventually He would restore the nation to its homeland.
We have here in this reading expressed in a particularly dramatic way this great prophecy that the Lord would restore the nation to its homeland and renew the spiritual life of both individuals and the nation as a whole. It’s a message of great hope for the future.
So they knew the Lord had not given up on them. He was with them and He would restore them. God is with His people - He won’t give up on them - His love never fails
I believe this is a message for us to hold on to today. Whatever we are going through, whatever may be the medical outcomes of this Covid-19 pandemic, and whatever may turn out to be its economic consequences on a world wide scale, let’s remember as we face all this, that our God remains a loving God. As He was in Old Testament times so now He remains with His people, those of us living in relationship with Him. He loves and cares for us and will go on doing so as we go through whatever we are experiencing now and may face in the days ahead.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness. Lamentations 3.22,23
Romans Chapter 8 verses 6-11
Turning now to these few verses from Romans, verse 6 asks us a big question: what is our mind set on? How are we to understand this? It’s asking us what are we allowing to be foremost in the way we perceive life right now. Is our current life view based solely on the worldly, materialistic, secular (which is what Paul means when he says “setting your mind on the flesh”)? If we are thinking like that we are likely to become increasingly pessimistic and fearful about the future. As Paul tells us starkly, that way leads to death.
Or are we perceiving things from the standpoint of what Paul calls ‘life in the Spirit’ – which he says is ‘life and peace’. That is a life of faith, of living in relationship with Christ.
The point here is that we are faced with a choice. Between having a mindset dominated by fear and leading to death. Or, a mindset leading to life and peace.
So which to choose; Fear and Death or Life and Peace? I must say that put like this, surely this choice is a ‘No Brainer’!
So let’s choose faith not fear. And take to heart these words Paul wrote to encourage the young Christians in Philippi at a time when their life was far from easy.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
Philippians 4 verses 4-7