Last week I blogged about my convictions regarding human nature and the state of the human heart, saying that I don’t believe the evidence supports the claim that we’re fundamentally good. After looking at Jesus’ words in Mark 7, I said this:

“Our hearts are like sewage plants, pumping out this putrid refuse that wells up within us. We don’t need any external stimulus to teach us how to sin – it comes all too naturally to us, from right within our hearts.”

No amount of education – of teaching people the “right” way to live – is going to save humanity, because it’s not our ignorance that’s the problem: it’s that we love to sin. The Apostle Paul uses a really graphic image to describe our natural state in Ephesians 2: he says that we’re spiritually dead. Helpless, enslaved to sin, unable to lift a finger to improve our situation. We’re like corpses queuing up for the graveyard.

I can’t help but feel that Paul is drawing on the imagery of Ezekiel 37 – the Valley of Dry Bones. It’s a passage that ought to be familiar to all Monkey Island fans, being the inspiration behind the traditional spiritual song which in turn became the famous “Bone Song” at the treehouse:

Ezekiel is given a terrifying vision of a valley filled with the sun-bleached bones of a vast army of the slain. Not a scrap of flesh is left upon them after the vultures have had their way, not a hint of life. When God commands Ezekiel to preach to the bones and command them to live, Ezekiel must have wondered if God was having a laugh. Command these bones to live? It’s hardly the kind of attentive audience that preachers dream of!

But Ezekiel does preach, and a remarkable thing happens:

“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.”

So God tells him to preach again, this time to the “breath”, or to the Spirit. Literally shouting into the wind. And yet, once again, something incredible happens:

“the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”

Through the preaching of God’s gospel message, these parched bones have been brought to life again. It’s a miracle of the highest order. God explains the significance of this vision like so:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

This was spoken to the people of Israel whilst in captivity in Babylon for their centuries of sin against God. And yet even in this most hopeless of situations, where the problem of sin seemed insurmountable, God promises them a future with him. Through the power of his prophetic word brought by messengers such as Ezekiel, God is going to raise his spiritually dead people from the grave and give them new life.

That’s why in my Old Testament adventure game I don’t want to merely teach people the right way to live, or put people in situations where they have to “choose the moral course of action” – I want to preach God’s word. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to bring life to the spiritually dead, and it’s by preaching that message that people are going to be saved. Of course that doesn’t mean forcing it down people’s throats when they don’t want to hear it – you need to win your hearers round. But if we stop short of actually telling people about Jesus then we shouldn’t be surprised if our fruitfulness is severely hindered. And if we do find a way to preach that message, then amazing things may just start to happen – like spiritually dead people coming to life.


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