I was born during a time of great hope:
the Assyrian menace was receding.
King Josiah brought Judah back to the ways of God.
He even “found” the book of Deuteronomy,
So we could know more fully how to be God’s people.
My priestly family was overjoyed.
But, that didn’t last. By the time I was a man, a new Empire arose and annexed Assyria and threatened us all. The Babylonians butted up against the walls of Jerusalem, and eventually we submitted.
The royal family and the priestly houses, including my own, were taken away, kidnapped…
At the age of 25 I was kidnapped, taken from the temple along with its wealth, taken as Ransom—taken away to Babylon.
Babylon, that mighty city.
That mighty city where our captors tormented us
Asking us to play them a song:
“Sing us one of those songs of your mighty Zion,” they’d say to us.
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Could we even remember Jerusalem?
Could we speak of the Joy of the LORD, so far off?
And after a time, these taunts and our responses to them, grew darker—new Exiles came to join us,
They told of the complete destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of God’s house,
When our captors laughed, “Sing us a song.”
All we could do was remember the pain of Jerusalem’s destruction.
How it was torn down,
That the walls fell
The devastation by Babylon was total.
All we could do was seek revenge,
Yearn for pay back
Even as we were captive in Babylon
Locked away in the belly of the beast.
We captives couldn’t sleep, it cut us so deeply, cut us to the core. We fought amongst ourselves, the first group of captives and the second, blaming one another, calling each other apostates.
We’d wake up numb, or in cold sweats, from dreams of the death and destruction, hearts racing.
The fetters they’d bound us with for the journey from our home to this hell never really left us, there was iron in our soul and we felt the captivity in our bones.
We felt the captivity in our bones and believed God could not cross the desert to be with us.
Then God responded.
Let us pray.
When we first entered Babylon we were overawed by the giant Lamassus that guard the gates—a giant clay figure, a mix of Bull, Lion, Eagle, and Man, a sort of Babylonian Sphinx—it made us cower at our captor’s power.
God responded by giving me a vision—Four Lamassus came in the night—tethered with invisible tethers.
Tethered as we were tethered on our trek from Jerusalem to Babylon,
as we were still tethered, our psychological bondage
—they were tethered like horses to a chariot—
What a chariot!
—the Temple itself,
—the place where God’s fullness, God’s heaviness, God’s glory resides
—the temple was the chariot—God followed us—on His inexpressible throne, followed us from Jerusalem to Babylon—God was with us, even then. God’s glory was mobile,
God’s throne had wheels.
And that vision began a new chapter in my life—
God took those feverish dreams of destruction and replaced them with visions from heaven!
And I want to tell you about one of them today.
I was plucked up by the hand of God and put down amongst the slaughtered masses of our sisters and brothers—those killed by the Babylonians—the wrecked remains of our nation—mass graves.
I saw the dusty remains of uncles and aunts, all picked clean by birds and by time—by the decades since our separation.
They were so dry—they’d been dead for so long
—we’d been separated from the Promised Land and the Temple of God for so long.
“Can these bones live?” Asked God.
“You know,” I responded.
“Prophecy to them.”
—say what you never got to say
—speak to the dead,
speak to the horror we experienced,
speak to the loss.
And I spoke.
A rattling so loud it spoke to the wideness of our anguish came up echoing in that valley. They were united together again, bone to bone, then muscle to muscle, tendon to tendon, flesh and skin together all of it.
There they were.
A mass of our relatives
—the very people of God
—there in front of me.
Yet they just stood there
It was then it hit me, they were us too
—here in Babylon, separated, a mass of men with eyes gone dead,
the wholesome spark of life snuffed out by sorrow.
just standing, but cut off from the breath of God.
We’d become just like them here in Babylon, tired inanimate corpses.
But then I prophesied again, to the wind from every time and place,
To the breath of God that has been with us from the beginning,
To the Spirit that hovered over the deep
I prophesied saying, “breathe upon these slain, that they may live, that we may live.”
And the LORD God said to me,
“This is the whole house of Israel—the people of God
They may say that their innermost being is dried up and has went away
They may say that their hope is lost,
They may say that they are cut off from the land and from my promises
Well Mortal, say this to them:
“I’m going to open your graves,
I’m going to bring you up from your graves.
You are my people!
My people, I will bring you back to the land that appears lost.
And you shall know that I am the LORD,
Because I, and I alone, am the one who opens graves
I, and I alone, bring up from Sheol
O my people.
My people, I will put my spirit within you.
My people I will enliven you.
My people I will plant you back in your native soil
Then, my people, you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken
And that I, the LORD, shall act.” Amen.