They seem so small.
But when it comes to making an impact, they have a habit of punching above their weight.
The most obvious role that words have is revelation. When somebody says something to you, it is a way of passing on information and you will either know something new, or will have been reminded of something that you already know.
When we speak about prophecy, most of the time this is what we mean. Somebody speaks a word from God, and that word reveals something about reality, either by reminding us of some scriptural truths or by drawing attention to some particular current circumstances. These prophetic words are powerful and can really help individuals and churches move forward in their walk with the Lord.
The way these words make change tends to follow this path: (a) somebody senses God reveal something to them; (b) that person shares the thing with others; (c) those people listen to the words, weigh them and gain new understanding; (d) based on this new understanding, they make decisions to change something. This is a wonderful thing, and we could call it the indirect way that God's words effect change.
The Creative Power of Words
As we read the Bible, we find that revelation is not the only role that words play. Time and again throughout the scriptural story, it would seem that words are also God's chosen mechanism for shaping reality in a more direct way.
In John 1, Jesus is described as the Word, and we are told that, "all things were made through him."
As God made the world in Genesis 1, we see that he spoke it into being. "God said, 'Let there be light'... God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters'... God said, 'Let the waters under heaven be gathered together into one place'... God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation'... God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night'... God said, 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures'... God said 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds'... God said, 'Let us make man in our image'."
When Jesus calmed a storm, he did so by speaking a word. When he raised a dead girl, it was by saying, 'Talitha Koum'. The Roman Centurion was commended for his faith when he said, "only say the word and my servant will be healed." As Paul explains to the Romans about faith, he writes, "faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ." When Jesus spoke to Lazarus, he stopped being dead and started being alive again.
In short, God's word not only reveals, it accomplishes.
In Isaiah 55, the Lord says, "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall me word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
The Creative Power of Prophecy
When the Spirit of God led Ezekiel into the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, the instruction that he gave to Ezekiel was this: "Prophesy over these bones". Ezekiel was to speak to the bones, and the purpose of doing so wasn't the conveying of information or revelation (what use would that be to dead bones?) but that as Ezekiel spoke, God would breathe life into those bones.
Just as the world was created by God speaking, and Lazarus was raised through the words of God on Jesus' lips, so these bones were raised through the word of God that was prophesied to them by Ezekiel. The prophetic has power to both reveal God's heart and to shape the world to reflect that heart.
A few observations about Ezekiel's prophesying:
1. He spoke as led by God. As the chapter begins, we see that the hand of the Lord was on Ezekiel, that it was the Holy Spirit who led him into the valley of bones, that it was at God's instruction that he spoke and those words that he said were the words that God gave him. It is God's word that shall not return to him empty, and so Ezekiel sets a great example in being led by God and being true to what God had given him to speak.
2. He spoke into an impossible situation. As hopeless as some situations that we encounter may seem, few of them can be as desperate as standing in the middle of what is essentially a massive graveyard. And yet as impossible as the situation appeared to human eyes, it is here that the power of God through prophecy was made manifest.
3. Things changed as he prophesied. As Ezekiel spoke out God's words to him, the situation around him changed. Bones started to come together. Then sinews came upon them. Then flesh and skin, but there was no breath. Then they began to breathe and they lived and they stood on their feet, and before Ezekiel there was a great army.
4. He carried on prophesying. After Ezekiel's first burst of prophecy, he had seen a big win. The bones had come together with sinews and flesh and skin. He could have stopped at this point knowing that he had made a difference and nudged things in the right direction, but at the Lord's instruction, he continued to prophesy and this time spoke to the breath, instructing it to come into them. By continuing to prophesy even after he had seen some success, Ezekiel was able to experience God's word doing everything that it was purposed to do.
5. It was symbolic of his wider ministry (and ours). Ezekiel's commission was to speak God's word to those who are dead, and we too have been sent to proclaim God's message to those who are dead in their sins. We need the power of God to work as we speak, to bring sleep and bones together and to breathe life into those we are speaking to.
In our day, the word of God is no less powerful than in Ezekiel's day. Prophecy still has the power to bring life and to shape reality, and indeed we are in an age where all of God's people can prophesy. As Peter quoted from the prophet Joel on the day of Pentecost, "And in the last days, it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy..."
We are in a privileged age, and as we step out in faith and prophesy the words that the Lord gives us, let us be expectant that those words will bring both revelation and transformation, and will not in the least degree return to him empty but will accomplish that which he purposes.
They seem so small.
But when it comes to making an impact, they really have do have a habit of punching above their weight (especially when those words are from God).