Jim Ludlam - 37 Ezekiel - Oak Lodge, Australia Convention - 1976

It is a great privilege to be among you today, and my privileges have been great. As I was thinking of this meeting this evening, the 37th of Ezekiel came to me again and the condition that was found in that chapter seemed to appeal to me very much. Verse 1, "The hand of the Lord was upon me and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about; and behold, there were very many in the open valley, and lo they were very dry. And He said unto me, 'Son of man, can these bones live,' and I answered, '0 Lord God, Thou knowest.' Again He said unto me, 'Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, "0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord."' Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.' So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them. Then said He unto me, 'Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, "Thus saith the Lord God, 'Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.'" So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."

I believe most of you will be familiar with this chapter. The condition that Ezekiel found these bones seemed to appeal to me today. It said that there were very many bones and that they were exceedingly dry. Perhaps it was because of the condition of Israel at that time that the Lord gave His servant encouragement, showing him what could be accomplished by the word of God. We today can also take encouragement in these same verses, for I believe the Lord would try to fill our hearts and minds these days with the exceeding greatness of His power and His grace and mercy and love towards us. Perhaps in all the scriptures there would perhaps not be a more hopeless case than this valley of dry bones. Yet to the Lord and to the power at His command, these bones became flesh, and they became an exceeding great army. I have seen dry bones in the last battle of World War II and there were many, many deaths and I have seen a great heap of dry bones from that battle. To see such it seems a hopeless case, something that is final, so final, and yet I believe that the Lord through His servant was trying to show the possibilities that lay ahead for everyone.

There was an exceeding great number of bones, it says, an exceeding army. Perhaps that would include all the problems and all the sins of mankind that God because of all that is in the world and all the problems and sin that is in the world that the Lord in His mercy is able to cover such, He is able to cover such. Those bones were exceeding dry. An exceeding hopeless case, yet the Lord worked and He spoke unto His servant that he would prophesy upon those bones. As he began to prophesy, there was a work begun and the bones came together and then the flesh, the sinews came on to those bones stage by stage, step by step, and then skin came upon those sinews and breath was given to those bones. This is a picture to me of the condition, of the stages of salvation. We have already heard this convention so wonderfully of the mercy and truth, the truth the mercy and the love of God. Perhaps we may feel that our case is beyond the help of God.

I was thinking today and also in the afternoon meeting, we heard a similar message that there is no condition beyond the help of God, and that God knows us and will accept us as we are if there is repentance. God sees us, God knows us, and God will accept us if we are willing for His mercy. It seems to very hard for some people to realize that God will accept them as they are and all the past, no matter what it may have been, God will accept you if there is repentance. If God will accept us, why should we doubt, why should we wait any longer for that help and guidance and mercy of God?

There is a verse in Proverbs 23 that says, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." That is a very good verse that I often like meditating upon because I know that I need the mercy of God so much and that He covereth his sins. Somehow in the human heart, there is a desire to hide from God and to justify oneself before others and before God. That is a very human trait but when we are those that will justify ourselves before others and before God, we will not know of this pardon that the Lord is offering unto us no matter how desperate our case might be. He that covereth his sins will not prosper and I cannot afford to miss the mercy of God because I need it so much, and others need, to confess and forsake that I have committed that is sin so that, the Lord can deal with it.

This valley, that valley of dry bones, a very exceeding number, and they were very dry bones and as the servant of the Lord prophesied to that hopeless state, that valley filled with dry bones, a work was begun and that is just typical of what God can do in us all. There will be a work begin, step by step and stage by stage, until we know of the blessing and of the salvation of the Lord. A brother was telling me one time of a problem he had; it was a matter of he was not able to forgive another brother and it worried him for a long time, and knew he would never get peace in his heart until he put it right, but he lacked the courage and for quite some time he sought to justify his actions but he could not get peace. He told me that through convention, a softening effect of the Spirit of God was life still bringing his wrong before him, he got courage and he went to that brother and he put that mistake right and apologised and he said all the problems that he had, all the feelings inside, frustration and the Lord being silent to him, he said when he started to put things right it was just like a jigsaw puzzle coming together and that the Lord forgave him his sin, cleansed his heart and brought a very great joy into his heart. I feel that is true of us all as the Lord deals afresh with us, that as we have already heard, the Lord will meet us before the mercy seat; and it takes courage to come to the light. It takes courage to be convicted in our hearts and it takes a greater courage still to put things right and, as the servant of the Lord.

Ezekiel prophesied - there was power in those words and there was a miracle performed and everything came together in its right setting and God gave life. Just a picture of what God can do even tonight. It says there was a noise as those bones came together, everything coming together in their place, in their right order. Perhaps there has been a wilderness, we have perhaps felt we have been in a wilderness and we have perhaps felt that the Lord has been far from us, and there will be a reason for such, whether we have not yet known the help of the Lord or whether we know the Lord and have sinned in His sight the Lord will put it right as we face the issue and as we are willing to pay the price for the conditions the Lord asks and all those bones, all those things will come together in their place and a miracle will be performed and the Lord will bless and the Lord will give life. A very, very beautiful picture to me of the work of the gospel, and I am glad of the dealings and the strivings that the Lord has had with me, showing me what is right and the little by little I have come to understand in my own heart and what is there, and it is not easy for one to confess their faults, not easy for one to seek for forgiveness, willing for repentance, willing to put away the wrong that has been hindering and destroying the work of God within my life.

Thinking of that word "repentance" today, the word repentance can refer to three different changes that take place in every true heart, and the Lord works and the Lord deals and the Lord convicts there will be three different changes that take place that mean repentance. Some people think that repentance is just being disappointed for the past failures and it is a desire to do better, but the word repentance has a meaning far, far deeper than that. I have been trying to think of it today. Repentance refers to three different changes that take place in our experience.

The first change is a change of heart. There must be a change of heart, that is the first stage and, as the Lord deals with us before the mercy seat trying to show us His statutes and His mind and His will for us and of the standards that He requires for every person to seek to come up to to, that is the mind of Christ. We receive His mind on the matter, His judgments on the matter and that is very, very vital. We need the mind of Christ in this matter of seeking forgiveness. I remember well as I listened to the gospel and little by little, the Lord showed me His mind and will. Perhaps I did not understand so much at the time but I well remember the things He did speak to me and there was a desire to pay the price that I might receive salvation. There was a kind of change of mind, forsaking our own mind our own will on the matter and coming and receiving His mind and being willing to come into line with that mind.

The next change that refers to repentance is the change of lordship. That is the next step in this matter of repentance and we have the lordship of this life of ours, we are in control, we can please ourselves how we live this life, that choice has been given unto us, we have the lordship of our lives, but every person that comes and hears the gospel and hears God's mind and will on the matter, we realize that the lordship must be given unto Him and we must lay these lives down at His feet, willing for His control, for His kingship in our lives and when we are willing for this change of lordship, giving our lives back to Him and willing to become a servant unto the Lord, that is a difficult thing, but without paying that price we can never, never know the meaning of repentance and of the blessing and favour of God and of the change of mind, change of lordship.

The third change is the easiest if the Lord has set up His rule and reign within our lives, the third change is a change in our living. Whether it is in the home or in the office or in the factory or at school or wherever every child of God might be when the Lord is in control of life, the Lord will bring changes in every phase of our living. This is something that I need so much and this change from the old and the change into the new and I feel indebted to the Lord that He sent His servants to prophesy unto me and it is a marvellous thing to think that the Lord softened my heart, opened my eyes, revealed His mind and will to me, the Lord gave willingness even to submit unto His lordship. I am very grateful unto the Lord for all these gifts and I feel I want to know the greater change in this life of mine revealing in my life the things that He has made known unto me, for His sake.