God's Saving Deeds

A Bible Study on the Readings of the Easter Vigil


This book is a collection of teachings, discussion questions for families, groups, and individuals, and paintings from a variety of contributors at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, all focused on the Old Testament passages used at the Easter Vigil. Included is a series of ten original paintings based on each Script

Transcript of God's Saving Deeds

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A Bible Study on the Readings of the Easter Vigil

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A Bible Study on the Readings of the Easter Vigil

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God’s Saving Deeds: A Bible Study on the Readings of the Easter Vigil © 2015 Church of the Resurrection, Illinois. Editor: Trevor McMakenManaging Editor: Ellen M. RichardDesign: Devon PhillipsCopy Editing: Ashley Grace EmmertPaintings: Laura Tabbut, Janice WoodPhotography: Michael JohnsonWriters: Brandon Michael Burdette, Scott Cunningham, Chris Easley, Matthew Farrelly, Sarah Graham, Caleb Lindgren, Stephanie Petrich, John Raines

Scripture quotations marked NIV are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Church of the Resurrection935 W. Union Ave Wheaton, IL 60187


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5 ..................................................................Preface

11 ............................................About the Paintings

81 ..........................................................Afterword

85 ..................................................... Contributors

15 ���������������������� The Story of Creation

27 ����������������������������������������The Flood

39 ���� Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea

53 ���������Salvation Offered Freely to All

65 ������������������� The Valley of Dry Bones

21 ������������������������������������������ The Fall

33 ������������Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

47 ������ God’s Presence in a Renewed Land

59 ��������� A New Heart and a New Spirit

73 ��������� The Gathering of God’s People

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“Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

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The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the very core of our faith as Christians. Thus, the Apostle Paul teaches, “If you confess with

your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, ESV). Likewise, Paul clearly states that “If Christ ha[d] not been raised, [our faith would be] futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17, ESV). For this reason, Christians from the very earliest days of the Church have gathered together on the first day of the week, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, to celebrate and proclaim the mystery of his death and resurrection.

It was from this same resurrection perspective that Jewish Christians, who continued to celebrate the Passover each year, came to understand the deeper meaning of that ancient feast, proclaiming, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV). Over time, even Christians who did not come from a Jewish background began to celebrate the annual

“Christian Passover” we now call Easter. While the Jewish Passover (the 14th day of the month of Nissan) can fall on any day of the week, Christians chose to celebrate this annual feast on a Sunday, thereby underscoring its connection with the weekly celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul also teaches that we personally share in Christ’s resurrection by sharing in his saving death, stating in Romans 5:6, “If

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we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” He goes on to explain that when we’re baptized into Jesus’ life, we’re also baptized into his death (Romans 6:3, ESV). It is only natural, then, that the celebration of Easter is closely associated with the celebration of the sacrament of baptism.

Those to be baptized on Easter prayed and fasted to prepare themselves during a 40-day season we now call “Lent.” The culmination of this period of intense preparation was a night watch or “Vigil” of scripture reading and

prayer that immediately preceded baptism and the celebration of Holy Eucharist on Easter Sunday.

This pattern is faithful to the example given to us by Jesus himself on the first Easter. Luke 24:13–24

tells us of two disciples of Jesus, traveling together to a village near Jerusalem called Emmaus. On their journey they were joined by an apparent stranger. They took this opportunity to share with their newfound companion the profound discouragement they felt at the death of their teacher just three days earlier, and their confusion at strange reports of an empty tomb and the appearance of angels. Their still-unknown companion, who was none other than the risen Lord Jesus himself, replied:

O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

When they reached the village, they urged their companion, whom they still did not recognize, to stay with them for the night. It was only then, as they shared a meal together, that they finally recognized the risen Lord:

The culmination of this period of intense preparation was a night watch or ‘Vigil’ of Scripture reading and prayer.

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When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? (ESV)

Easter Vigil is an invitation to experience for ourselves what those disciples experienced on the Road to Emmaus the evening of the very first Easter. Like them, we are led through a series of passages from the Old Testament, beginning with Moses (Genesis, Exodus) and continuing through the prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah), while our hearts burn within us as the veil is removed from our eyes (2 Corinthians 3:16) and we see revealed in each passage the saving work of the one who died for us and

“on the third day rose again, according to the Scriptures” (Nicene Creed).

We’re also invited to recognize the presence of the risen Lord Jesus himself among us, in the breaking of the bread of Holy Eucharist.

In the early Church, those who were to be baptized were not the only ones who prepared themselves in a special way for Easter. All the faithful joined with them in prayer and fasting as they also prepared to renew their own baptismal vows. Christians today seek to “make a good Lent” by prayer, fasting, and good works, often turning to their church for guidance on how to focus and direct their individual Lenten journeys.

Church of the Resurrection created this booklet in that spirit. We’ve developed a wealth of devotional, theological, and artistic material from a variety of contributors, reflecting different approaches and styles, all focused on the Old Testament passages used at the Easter Vigil. The goal is to help readers prepare themselves to enter into these readings in a whole new way at the Easter Vigil.

Jesus himself tells us he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13, ESV). The readings of


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the Easter Vigil remind us that the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) has been at work since the very beginning of Creation (“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” Colossians 1:16, ESV). God’s promise to Israel (“You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” Exodus 19:6, ESV), has been gloriously fulfilled in us. We are now a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV). May the resources in this booklet help us to prepare ourselves to be faithful to that call.

Rev. Canon Dr. Stephen J. GauthierAssisting Priest at Church of the Resurrection

Canon Theologian for the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest

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Introduction to the Paintings

As humans created in the image of God, creating visual art is our natural birthright. In the Genesis account, God models creativity

for us. The imagery in Scripture is replete with narratives of creation, fall, and redemption. In our series of ten paintings created for the Easter Vigil scripture readings, Janice Wood and I discovered many of these micro-narrative structures throughout the larger story arc of the Old Testament.

The ten paintings were developed using a collaborative approach. Each composition was created through a process of reading the passages, doing visual research, and sketching out themes. Janice and I studied each passage for strong visual images. As we composed the images from Scripture, we started drawing out ideas. Then we would hand our ideas across the table and immediately draw over each other’s drawings. After several rounds of drawing, our compositions would blend into complete drafts. These drafts were sketched onto canvas for the painting process.

The pieces were painted using a grisaille painting technique; a foundation of black, white, and gray glazed with color. The grisaille allowed for a limited color palette, which unified all ten images.

We began painting in the old ministry center on College Avenue where Church of the Resurrection rented offices. The pieces journeyed with us through the refurbishment of Resurrection’s new building and were brought

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to a point of completion for the Consecration of our new church home on December 8, 2012. Janice has continued to develop the last five paintings, completing them for Lent 2015.

Laura Tabbut Artist

Member of Church of the Resurrection

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Introduction to the Paintings

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The Story of Creation

Although trusting God is vital to our spiritual growth, it’s something that we often struggle to do. In the Creation story, not only do we

encounter a world in its infancy, we meet a God we can trust. Creation reflects a God who cares deeply for his creation, orders it with purpose and beauty, rules it with authority, and fills it with his glory. We learn he is trustworthy because we see that he is loving, wise, powerful, and present.

God is LovingCreation has a backstory, and it goes like this: “In the beginning, God.” Before anything was created, God was there, and he was the Trinity. John calls the Son of God the Word and says that “All things were made through him,” (John 1:3, ESV). The Son is present in Genesis 1, when God speaks and creates by his Word. The Spirit of God is also there, hovering over the waters. Contemplating God as Trinity at the time of Creation teaches us of God’s love by displaying the perfect community of persons, united in one being with perfect love. Because God’s love is perfect, it is not only self-love. It acts outwardly—toward others—by creating something that is other. Thus, creation itself, before all else, is an act of love.

God is WiseImagine a piece of wood in which you can clearly see the grain running lengthwise. The wood grows that way in a tree because the long fibers that

Genesis 1:1–2:3

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give wood its grain run up and down a tree, carrying nutrients from the soil. Later, when they have been grown over, the long fibers harden and give the tree trunk stability to support its increasing size. The grain runs through the tree, gives it structure, and keeps it supplied with nutrients. This allows a tree to grow to be large.

God’s wisdom is like the grain that runs through all of creation, ordering it, upholding it, and allowing it to exist and thrive. Holy wisdom is personified in Proverbs 8, saying “When [God] established the heavens…when he assigned to the sea its limit…when he marked out the foundations of the earth, I was beside him like a master workman” (ESV). In Genesis 1, as God separates day from night, sky from surface, water from land, and as he brings forth plants and animals in a taxonomy of kinds, he sets wisdom and purpose into the order of the world. And this wisdom runs throughout all creation.

Zoom in or out, and discover elegant mathematical symmetries describing the forces acting on the matter of God’s creation. Examine the fundamental aspects of our humanity—our thoughts, emotions, and relationships—and find patterns that reflect God’s righteousness.

Creation reflects the mind of God in a way that shows skill and artistry—it stirs our emotions and brings delight. God’s wisdom does not simply sustain creation; it makes it flourish. And God’s order is not simply the best order—it’s the only order. When we move against God’s wisdom, it’s like trying to split wood against the grain—we can sometimes hack our way through, but it’s a frustrating, unproductive task.

God is PowerfulGod created all that exists merely by speaking. It is a breathtakingly bold assertion of power. One of the most powerful things we experience is the sun. Every second, the sun gives off as much energy as one hundred trillion (1014) times all the atomic bombs that have ever been tested on earth. But rather than being a destructive force, the sun provides energy to the earth that sustains all the life on this planet.

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Now, imagine that the fullness of that power dwelt inside your body—the energy source of the whole planet animating your being and giving power to your thoughts and actions. It may be hard to imagine, but the truth is even more amazing. God’s creative power by which he spoke the world into being is infinitely greater than the sun’s, and it dwells in us by the Holy Spirit.

God is PresentIt’s easy to read the Creation account and imagine that when God rested on the seventh day, he was resting somewhere outside of creation. However, when the Bible speaks of God resting on the Sabbath, Isaiah writes, “Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1, ESV). God isn’t confined to the world he made, but it was always his intention to fill it with his presence. It’s no surprise, then, that God fills the Church—his New Creation—with his Holy Spirit. God’s rest on the Sabbath day shows us that no matter what, God’s presence is near to us.

The Creation story paints a picture of a God who is loving, wise, powerful, and present. Our trust in such a righteous God can falter when one of these truths begins to slip out of our picture of him. When we know God is loving, we can trust that he wants what is best for us. When we know he is wise, we trust that his plan is the best way. When we know he is powerful, we understand that he can carry out his plan in our lives. When we know that he is present with us, we find comfort in the confusing times.

Artists’ Notes for See the Story of Creation

The text of Genesis 1:1–2:3 provides the springboard into the visual representation exhibited in See the Story of Creation. This painting incorporates inspiration from the Genesis story, medieval catechesis, and William Blake’s piece, The Ancient of Days. The iconic nature of this painting communicates

The Story of Creation

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the wisdom, power, and presence of God conveyed in Genesis. The artists incorporated the establishment of all aspects of Creation. The rhythms and seasons of life are conveyed by the arching progression of the sun on the left side through the sequence of the moons back to the sun, representing the cycle from day to night to day. The main element of the painting is a disc divided into three sections, a division modeled after T-O maps, which were stylized medieval projections of the known world. In this painting, the T is upside down. In the final painting, See the Gathering of God’s People, the T-O map is upright representing the final culmination of God’s creative action. In the lower portion of the map, all animated aspects are represented: the waters, the vegetation, animals, birds, fish, and humans.

In the center of it all, the hand of God is reaching down and orchestrating the creating. This feature is modeled from Blake’s painting where God is reading down from heaven with a compass, directing the architecture of creation. Through the center of the painting behind the arm of God is a cross-like structure that demonstrates the separation of the heavens from the earth, but also visually signals the eventual and ultimate presence of God with us, his Son Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you struggle to trust God, perhaps because you struggle to see one of the attributes of God described above? Ask the Holy Spirit to make this attribute of God more real to you. Then take some time to meditate on how God revealed that attribute in Creation.

2. How do we see these same attributes of God demonstrated when God began his New Creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? What about his New Creation in us (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

3. Look at the artwork for the Creation reading. Now imagine yourself walking in that world in which God’s love, wisdom, power, and presence can touch and awe you, unhindered by sin. Receive all

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that he has to give you in that place, and know that the Holy Spirit restores it to you, in Christ.

Family Questions

Talk about your favorite part of the Creation story. Find where it is represented in the painting (almost everything appears twice). How does the painting make you think differently about that part of the story?


“O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

The Story of Creation

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The Fall

A story is told that The Times once solicited an article from G. K. Chesterton, an influential Catholic British thinker and writer, in

response to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” His article was succinct: “I am.” His starting point for considering the world’s brokenness was that he as an individual was a broken being. The story of the Fall explains the way individuals became broken, bringing that brokenness into the world after an interaction with evil. As we encounter this story while walking through the drama of God’s salvation for humanity, we are challenged to acknowledge that evil is real, costly, and will someday end.

Evil is RealEvery Sunday we gather around the altar, and as part of the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Deliver us from evil.” This is the Christian orientation to evil. We do not contemplate evil, for to try to understand evil is to imply that in some way evil can and does make sense. It does not. The killing of the unborn, the enslavement and lynching of African Americans, the horrors of Nazi Europe—there is no context in which these become sensible. God looked at creation and said that it was good. Evil is the opposite of good because its end is to undo creation itself—to bring chaos and nonsense to what God has ordered.

Genesis 3:1–24

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So we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” and this prayer teaches us that evil is as real today as it was in the Creation story when the serpent entices Eve to eat the fruit. We learn from this story that evil mounts a personal attack upon humanity. The serpent, the Devil, principalities, powers, authorities, and demons are not simply figures of speech. Humans engage in, serve, and perpetuate evil, and for this we are rightly held accountable by God. In the end, though, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against personal, spiritual forces of evil like the one who twisted God’s words to Eve in the garden. It is for this reason that the Church has learned to pray the imprecations of the Psalms (e.g., Psalms 139:19–22) against spiritual forces of evil. They are the rich echoes of our Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.”

Evil is CostlyThe intrusion of evil into the lives of the man and the woman affected every human who has since been born outside the boundaries of the garden. Their participation in evil, their sin of disobedience, had immediate and delayed effects, all of which were costly. To understand it, let us think on a familiar object lesson: a vine and branches. Branches are alive and fruitful when they are connected to the vine. Branches that are cut off from the vine produce no fruit, they wither, and ultimately die.

The immediate effect of Adam and Eve’s sin was shame. This was a defilement of their natural state. In this state, eating from the Tree of Life would have meant eternal shame, and this is why they had to leave the garden. God does not perpetuate our own self-destruction by energizing it with his eternal life.

Adam and Eve were cut off from the vine. Once removed from their source of life, the branches withered, and death crept into even the most life-giving parts of their humanity. Childbearing was darkened by fear of death and pain, and the husband-wife relationship was distorted by domination.

Evil will Someday EndGod planted a seed of hope within his curse. He spoke to the serpent about the offspring of the woman, saying, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall

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bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15b, ESV). The plain meaning is this: humanity is now locked into a war with evil, trading death blow for death blow.

This was the case for a long time in human history—even up the very first Good Friday, standing at “the place of the Skull” (Golgotha) and witnessing the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Even there, it must have seemed that for all the death blows this miracle-working carpenter had dealt to the evil systems of his world, the serpent had finally struck his heel, and its venom had done its work. But that, of course, is not the way that story ends. The One who died upon the Cross also said,

“I have given you authority to tread on serpents…and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19, ESV). The offspring of the woman struck the head of the snake, and the serpent’s venom was not enough. Evil has been cut off, and someday it will end entirely.

Artists’ Notes for See the Fall

This painting depicts Adam and Eve in the moments after their act of disobedience. The forbidden fruit lies at their feet and Adam and Eve are covered in animal skins and fig leaves, respectively. In this story, Adam and Eve succumb to sin and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Emerging from the left-hand corner of the painting are rich red and yellow curls representing the wrath of God banishing them from his presence. Prior to their disobedience, Adam and Eve enjoyed the pure, unmediated presence of God. Their sinful action resulted in a rift between all of humanity and God; we have all been permanently separated from God by our sin.

But there’s hope.

Eve is traditionally depicted as being pregnant because she was the mother of all living. If one looks closely, Eve is pregnant in this painting, too. God would continue to bless humanity. Someday, through the descendants of Eve, Jesus would be born to be the sacrifice for humanity’s sins. He died for

The Fall

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us on the Cross; this is represented by the cut down trees on the right-hand side of the painting.

Discussion Questions

1. Ask yourself if there is an area in your life in which you are being attacked by evil. Are you listening to evil, cooperating with it, even perpetuating it? What is the Holy Spirit telling you about this? Ask Jesus to crush the forces of evil that are at work in your life.

2. Think about the larger world around you. Where is evil at work in it through world-systems that oppress people, deny God’s truth, and make it harder for people to know God. Take some time to ask God to defeat these forces of evil in the world, and if it is not already, consider making this request a regular part of your prayer life.

3. In the painting, Eve is pregnant with new life. Take some time to reflect on this image and the way that even in the aftermath of evil’s destruction, God was at work, preparing the way of salvation. This was true in the case of Adam and Eve, and it is true in your case as well. Where is God at work in your life showing you grace?

Family Questions

In what ways does the picture remind you that Adam and Eve disobeyed God? What feelings do you see in the faces of Adam and Eve? How do you feel after reading the Fall and seeing the painting?


“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission

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and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Ash Wednesday”

The Fall

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The Flood

Submarine movies had their heyday in the 1990s. With movies like The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, and U-571, Hollywood

introduced us to the risky and claustrophobic world of naval submarine life. In every good sub movie, there is at least one scene when the ship comes too close to a depth charge or an enemy’s torpedo, and the hull is rattled to the core: red lights flash, alarms sound, radars panic, meters flounder, and pipes burst, soaking the crew in a combination of saltwater and sweat. The sailors are left scrambling, and there comes the point where all men are deathly still, resigned to stare up at the ceiling—to wait and hope. Before we move on, keep this scene fixed in your mind because it brings our 21st century imaginations as close as possible to the Flood narrative.

Creation and FloodTo understand the Flood, we must understand it in connection to the story of Creation, for Creation and Flood are bound together. To understand them both, it is helpful to see them in terms of chaos and order. For the people who lived during Old Testament times, chaos was perhaps the thing most greatly feared. It represented complete helplessness at the mercy of a destructive and unpredictable world. Because of this, order was precious, and because everyone knew God (or for pagan cultures, the gods) ruled over

Genesis 7:1–5, 11–18; 8:8–18; 9:8–13

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creation, much of religion revolved around worshiping and serving gods who could secure it.

The raging sea, with all the scary creatures who lived in it, represented chaos. In a similar manner, boundaries, predictability, and clear distinctions in the physical world represented order, because they represented safety and security. We may not voice this as our chief concern today, but, as we will see, it is still powerfully at work beneath our deepest fears and hopes. Let’s begin by looking at the ways these themes are woven into the Bible’s story.

Order and ChaosThe Creation story is a story of order. God is continually separating—the lights from one another, created things “according to their kind,” and of course, the sea from the dry land. It is beautiful, safe, and orderly (for a poetic retelling of this theme in Creation, see Psalm 104:1–9). Because of what happened between Creation and the Flood—the Fall—God judged the world on account of the great wickedness of humanity. What happened? The waters of chaos surged over the earth—the floods came up, and the rains came down.

The Flood story is so often robbed of its tragic and heavy tone by nursery rhymes and cute stuffed animals, but before it’s a story of hope (which indeed it is) it’s somber and terrifying. The pipes burst, the alarms sounded, and the entire world became awash in a stormy haze of blurred chaos. Tragically, the Flood narrative may be understood as de-creation. If God was not merciful, this would be our end, both then and today—overwhelmed by chaos and “blotted out” forever.

God’s MercyGod is merciful. Out of sheer grace he chose Noah to continue the work of creation, not just signifying salvation for him, his family, and the animals, but also for us. Notice in Genesis 7:11–16 that God’s command was to gather each pair of animals in the ark “according to their kind,” just like in Creation. Likewise, after the flood subsides we find God commanding Noah to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” giving him the same

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commands he gave to Adam. Because of God’s mercy, the Flood is a re-creation.

Once again, boundaries were drawn in the world and humanity was given dominion over the beasts of the earth. God’s great promise to Noah and to us was that he would never again let the flood waters of chaos roar over the world. He promised that “while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22, ESV). The rainbow would remind him of this promise. This is a wonderful grace.

Chaos in Our HeartsThe biblical story doesn’t end here, and neither do the Vigil readings. Although chaos was restrained in the physical world, it still ruled in that most important of places—the heart of humanity. Even though the flood subsided and the world was re-created, God still says, in the same breath, that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21, ESV). If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that our deepest fears do not revolve around chaos in the physical world and our helplessness against it, but in the chaos that rules in our relationships, our desires, and our restless search for security and meaning in a deeper, spiritual order.

No one born into this world and grown in human skin can deny this. In our relationships and inward lives we often, sometimes for years and lifetimes, feel that the red alarms are flashing, the pipes are bursting, and our meters have been shattered. In fact, long after the floodwaters had subsided, the biblical authors would continue to use this language to describe how they felt in the midst of loss, turmoil, and crisis (for an example, see David in Psalm 69). The great cliffhanging question at the end of the Flood narrative is therefore, “How in the world could God solve that?”

King Over ChaosThousands of years later, a man would stand on the deck of a ship amidst a raging storm, utter a few words of rebuke, and calm the sea. His name was Jesus of Nazareth, and as is typical of Jesus, no miracle was performed

The Flood

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for sheer theatrics, but as a signifier for something greater. The same God at work in the Flood stepped into our human skin and our world of chaos, not just to calm the sea, but to bring eternal order into our inward being, covering with his life-giving blood what was once covered with the waters of death.

As we meditate on Christ, let us consider afresh the profound ways that Jesus brings order into our lives—with all the richness that entails—and the disastrous chaos that we experience apart from him. The Bible says that we are a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Oh the joy to consider that as we meet the Lord and are filled with his Spirit, he steps into our own chaos waters and separates, cleans, grows, multiplies, and beautifies life anew. Praise Jesus Christ, the defeater of chaos, and the Lord of order. Amen.

Artists’ Notes for See the Flood

In this painting, Noah and his family find safety from the roaring waves of the Flood in the ark. The water swirls around them, and the sea creatures lurk below the surface of the flood. These sea creatures are seen in medieval bestiary. Their chaotic nature is reminiscent of devil creatures in iconography. The image of the church appears throughout the series of paintings, but it manifests first here as the ark. The church is modeled in a Romanesque style. The ark is a ship delivering Noah, his family, and the animals to safety, sheltering them from the storm and the floodwaters, like the Church shelters the people of God. The ark sustained their lives as the Church sustains the truth of the Gospel in the lives of her people. This image is toward the end of their journey; the re-creation is imminent. The floodwaters are drying up, and Noah has sent out a dove in search of proof of dry land. Coming down from the top and center of the painting, one can see the outlines of a rainbow, promising Noah and his family that God will never destroy the world by water again.

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Discussion Questions

1. What are areas in your life that you feel are blurry with chaos and uncertainty, in need of the order of Christ? Invite Jesus to be the king over that chaos and to bring his order.

2. The painting tied to the Flood reading portrays the ark as a church, carrying God’s people above the waters of destruction. In what ways can the Church be a safe haven in the midst of a chaotic and uncertain world? How can the Church be a beacon to those who are tossed by the sea?

3. Who do you know whose life currently is full of bursting pipes, red alarms, and shattered meters, in need of Christ coming to bring order out of their chaos? Pray for them and ask the Lord how you can be an ark for them.

Family Questions

What stands out to you in this story? How is it portrayed in the painting? For a story that features lots of animals, we only see three in this painting. Can you find those three animals? What are they? Why do you think those animals were chosen?


“Almighty God, you have placed in the skies the sign of your covenant with all living things: Grant that we, who are saved through water and the Spirit, may worthily offer to you our sacrifice of thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

The Flood

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Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

The story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac focuses on two vital characteristics of God: God as tester and God as provider. Yet

these two intertwine and dance together in a way that is both paradoxical and beautiful. Abraham’s experience of these aspects of God comes with great intensity. He is placed in a difficult situation of obedience, where he experiences God’s amazing provision.

Willing to FollowThe scene opens with God calling Abraham by name; Abraham responds immediately in obedience declaring, “Here I am.” Throughout Scripture this eager reply to God represents submission and righteousness. It communicates that one is coming to God in obedience without prior knowledge of what is to come. Here Abraham presents himself righteously to God in complete submission to his will.

In light of Abraham’s willingness to follow the will of the Lord, we are prompted to ask ourselves: How often do I ask God to reveal his will to me before agreeing to follow him? Our willingness to obey should not be focused on previous knowledge and understanding that provides comfort. Rather we ought to place ourselves in a posture of obedient submission to God and whatever his will is for us. This posture of obedience comes

Genesis 22:1–18

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because of our love and trust in the Lord. We see this action modeled in Abraham’s response to the Lord.

In reply to Abraham’s obedient response, God gives him instructions to offer up his only son Isaac, the one promised to him, as a burnt offering. In obedience to the Lord, Abraham obeys as he has already committed to do. He prepares to complete the task God placed before him.

Here the story slows down, with the author giving much detail about Abraham’s actions. The change in pace invites the reader to enter into the drama unfolding, bringing us along on the journey of a father preparing to offer up his one and only son. We read as Abraham painstakingly cuts the wood for the sacrifice and slowly trudges on the three-day journey. We hold our breath as he builds the altar and binds his willing son upon it. We are on the edge of our seats as Abraham lifts the knife to take the life of his beloved son.

God the ProviderAbraham’s response to the Lord’s instruction is one of obedience, and

in doing so; he calls on God to be faithful in the midst of Abraham’s faithfulness. As Abraham’s faithfulness has been demonstrated, it is now up to God to prove himself faithful. Abraham prepares to follow God to do the impossible. Abraham understands that the Lord alone can fix the broken, bring back the dead, and restore the lost. Abraham trusts that God will provide the solution. God has promised many descendants through Isaac, and Abraham knows the story doesn’t end here.

Abraham stands poised above Isaac with knife in hand. Suddenly, an angel calls out, “Abraham! Abraham!” Abraham stops and responds to the angel with the same posture of obedient submission seen in the beginning of the story declaring, “Here I am.” Without wavering in his obedience, Abraham resolved to trust and obey God even to the point of killing his own son. Abraham’s response of obedience rightfully places God in the elevated position of the provider. Abraham loves God above all else. Through the redirection of the angel of the Lord, Abraham is not to lay a hand on his

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son; instead the Lord has provided a ram for the instructed sacrifice. The Lord reveals himself as the faithful provider.

Christ the SacrificeThis story provides the reader with a picture of what is to come centuries later. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, Son of God, cries out to be delivered from the suffering and agony before him. When the cup is not taken from him, he responds with humble, quiet obedience because he loves the Father above all else. Jesus knows that true life is only to be found for humanity through his death. He is taken to his slaughter as a willing and obedient sacrifice for all humanity. Christ’s sacrifice parallels that of Isaac; however, Jesus’ death does come. Obedience takes him all the way to the grave, and it is here that God shows himself to be the ultimate provider. Through death he brought life, the ultimate action of faithful provider.

It is here in the midst of blind obedience and faithful action to God, that one is brought into the reality of a never failing faithful God. He dwells in the midst of times of testing, hears the calls that come in desperation, and provides for the needs of his children. It is not our role to be sovereign; it is the role of humanity to obey the will of the Father in spite of our uncertainty about the future. It is the role of humanity to walk in faithful obedience and love in response to a trustworthy Lord, to go when called by a God who serves as tester and provider. It is in this reality that one moves forward in obedience with joy, hope, and assurance.

Artists’ Notes for See Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

This painting takes us directly to the moment of Isaac’s salvation. In this story, God wants Abraham to prove that he loves God above all other things. He does this by testing Abraham- asking him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham and God have a covenant where God promises to bless Abraham and bless the whole world through him even though he knows Abraham’s descendants will be unfaithful (Genesis 15). It does not matter; God is

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determined to redeem the world, and he has chosen Abraham’s family carry out his plan.

God wants to know that Abraham values the Giver above the gifts. There will always be gifts, but there is only one Giver, and all honor and respect is due to him. The angel dramatically sweeps down from the right corner of the painting to stop Abraham’s knife, the focal point of the piece. All the activity converges on the knife. Isaac is laid on the bound sticks, and Abraham is poised over him, ready to make the sacrifice. As the angel saves Isaac, the ram is caught in the bushes, caught in a crown of thorns. The Lord has provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac. The image of the ultimate sacrifice caught in a crown of thorns brings to mind the eventual sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the descendant of Abraham and the redeemer of the world.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you try to understand God before you agree to be obedient to him? How can we actively live in obedience to God without knowing his plan in its entirety?

2. How does living in the reality of God being the tester and the provider challenge your thinking? Where else in Scripture do we see God’s testing and provision in close unity?

3. Why is this story important to our understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice?

Family Questions

This story reminds us that God delights in faithfulness. What do you think both Abraham and Isaac were thinking and feeling during this story? Talk about it with your family. How does the painting show those thoughts and feelings? In what ways do you find it hard to be obedient to your parents or to God?

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“God and Father of all believers, for the glory of your Name multiply, by the grace of the Paschal sacrament, the number of your children; that your Church may rejoice to see fulfilled your promise to our father Abraham; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

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Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea

The Exodus is nothing less than the account of Yahweh’s glorious victory over Egypt and its Pharaoh, the world superpower and enemy nation

that had enslaved his people for 430 years. This moment at the Red Sea sealed the whole work that God had begun in Egypt prior, including the plagues and the Passover, which were judgments on the people and all the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12). It is the finale of one of the most dramatic and gripping moments of salvation history. But in order to plumb the depths of all that this moment meant for Israel (and for us), we must strive to understand it from Israel’s perspective, and in relationship to Christ and the Church.

For Israel, the Exodus was more than the defeat of one enemy nation. It would become the pattern of salvation whereby God would defeat all enemies that rebel against him and harm his people. Exodus was viewed as an act of new creation that, later, Christ himself would fulfill in a new and ultimate act that opened the way to new life and freedom for all people.

Creation and the ExodusFor Israel and all her ancient Near Eastern (ANE) neighbors, the sea was the symbol of darkness, disorder, chaos. In Israel’s creation account, we are given a picture of earth as a watery chaos that God subsequently ordered, giving it form and function (purpose) through his creative Word and Spirit

Exodus 14:10–15:1

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(Genesis 1:1–3; John 1). The seas represented the formlessness from which God called all creation to completion. Thus a clear distinction was made between the good, beautiful, ordered creation, and the disorder to which it was susceptible if it rebelled against the God who gave it life and purpose.

Other scriptures vividly describe God battling these seas, which were eventually depicted as the great sea monsters Rahab and Leviathan (a seven-headed chaos monster in the ANE) and also came to represent the enemies of God. With undeniable echoes of Genesis 1, Job 26:12–26 records that it was “by his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding [cf. to the Logos] he shattered Rahab. By his wind [recall that the Hebrew for “wind” can also be rendered breath and spirit, even God’s Spirit] the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent” (ESV; see also, Psalm 74:12–17; 89:9–10). This fleeing serpent, Rahab, would later be identified as Egypt and its Pharaoh (Isaiah 30:7; 50:9–10; Ezekiel 29).

In the Exodus narrative, three important elements parallel the Creation account: the sea, the dry land, and the Spirit. Like Yahweh’s ordering of creation, we see Yahweh “in the pillar of fire and of cloud” (Exodus 14:24, ESV) pushing back the seas once again, now to vanquish his enemies and deliver his people on dry land in an act of new creation (see Exodus 14:21–27). In a fitting, though no less pitiable end, Egypt and its Pharaoh are swallowed up by the seas that reflect their own disordered, rebellious, and hardened hearts. Israel, however, is saved and once again made distinct, separate (cf. Exodus 11:7; 8:22; 9:26; 33:16) as they rise from the waters Yahweh’s newly-redeemed people (14:27–30).

In Exodus 14:30, we see that “the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (Exodus 14:30, ESV).

Made manifest in the sight of the people of Israel and the known world (see Joshua 2:8–14) was the final defeat of Yahweh’s great enemy. No longer was Israel a slave, but they were Yahweh’s freed “son” (Exodus 4:23; Hosea 11:1)! But this was only the beginning: Yahweh would draw Israel ever closer

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to himself at Mt. Sinai, calling them to their fuller purpose as his special covenant people (Exodus 19–24). He was doing a new thing in Israel that they did not yet fully understand: he was calling them to an even greater freedom.

Exodus as God’s Pattern for SalvationAs the Exodus from Egypt would become the pattern of salvation, it was only the first of many Exodus moments to come. At the cusp of entering the Promised Land, Joshua led the new generation of Israel through the Jordan River, whose waters part at Yahweh’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 3). Before the prophet Elijah was taken to heaven in the presence of Elisha, he “took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8, ESV). Once Elijah was taken up, Elisha “took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?’ And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over” (2:14, ESV).

Isaiah also spoke of a future time when Yahweh—whose self-named epithet is he “who makes a way in the sea”—would save his people again, accomplishing a “new thing” patterned after the Exodus of old (Isaiah 43:16–21, ESV). Biblical prophetic vision can be likened to bifocals, two lenses to see both near and far. Isaiah’s vision foretold of how Yahweh would make a new path through the waters, freeing Israel from their Assyrian and Babylonian captors, but this near-sighted prophetic word did not find its terminus there. Yahweh would act with a greater Exodus to come.

Jesus and the New ExodusGod would ultimately fulfill the word of Isaiah 43 through the person and work of Jesus Christ. God would make a way through the waters and create a way in the wilderness, bringing new life to all that was barren and waste, disordered due to sin. It is in the baptism of Jesus himself, the new Israel and

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Son of God, that we see this new Exodus begun. When Christ is baptized, the Spirit descends upon him in the water. Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, hallows the waters in baptism, and inaugurates the new creation.

Paul, the Church, and the New ExodusAs Christ shared in Israel’s Exodus experience, the Church, Christ’s Body, shares in his baptism and new Exodus. The apostle Paul understood Israel’s Exodus through the Red Sea as a baptism. Recall two of the three most important elements paralleled in Creation and the Exodus were the sea and the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 10:1–2, Paul writes, “I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (ESV). Note that Paul says that they were baptized into Moses (the first covenant at Sinai) in both the cloud and the sea. In Christian baptism we are baptized into Christ (the second, new covenant), through water and the cloud (the Holy Spirit: see Exodus 14:24; cf. John 3:5; Ezekiel 36; Acts 2), becoming sharers in his death and resurrection (Romans 6).

The Church is the new Israel, delivered through the waters of baptism to a new creation life in union with Christ. All sin, evil, death—all dark powers that rebel against God to which we were once enslaved—no longer have dominion over us (Galatians 4:3, 9; Colossians 2:8). The good news (Gospel) of Easter is that God has vanquished these through Christ’s holy cross and resurrection, effecting victory and true freedom for all through his new and final Exodus from sin (Galatians 5:1; Romans 6:22; 8:2, 18–23). Sin has been defeated, buried deep in the heart of the sea (Micah 7:19). This freedom he offers to all. Let Moses’ words speak deep in our being even now: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. Yahweh will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13–14, ESV, emphasis added).

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Artists’ Notes for See Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea

According to the Book of Common Prayer, this is the most integral story to the Easter Vigil. As the above teaching demonstrated, God’s people are reminded over and over throughout the biblical narrative and salvation history of this grand moment of salvation. The painting, See Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea, captures the Israelites at the moment of both extreme peril and a divine miracle. Moses is front and center with his staff held commandingly over his head as he leads the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land. The people follow behind him between the walls of water. The water, depicted by sweeping blue and white spirals, is piled on either side of them. The Egyptian gods who have been defeated by the mighty hand of Yahweh are shown drowning in the water.

What’s so striking about this painting is the resolve portrayed on the face of Moses and the peace that the people evoke. God has been faithful to the Israelites and has heard their pleas for rescue. God has not left his people to suffer under the burden of slavery; instead, he has delivered them to live in the freedom of his land and rule.

Discussion Questions

1. Is there any particular image in the Exodus story that stood out to you? Why, do you think? Quiet your heart and invite the Lord to speak to your heart about this image. What might he be saying to you?

2. The Exodus story is a story of victory and freedom. There are times when it feels like we aren’t all that victorious or free. Is there something in your life for which you want greater freedom in the Lord? Take it to Christ and invite him into this place. Let Moses’ words minister to your heart: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today. For

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the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. Yahweh will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13, ESV).

3. We tend to think that God’s work of salvation is only for humanity, when in fact, it is for the entirety of his creation (Romans 8; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15–20; 2 Corinthians 5:14–21). In what ways is God calling you to bring Christ’s new Exodus work of freedom and new creation to your corner of the world?

4. Often, when we experience fear, insecurity, and what seems like God’s absence, we question his goodness and his plans for us (see Exodus 14:10–14). Is there a place in your life right now that you are finding hard to trust God? Is God calling you to a place of greater service and surrender, but you are finding the old ways of life hard to let go? Ask the Lord for the faith to follow him.

Family Questions

This story and painting help us understand the mighty, saving acts of God. What do you think it was like for the Israelites to walk through the sea on dry land? Can you find all the Egyptian gods in the water? The Israelites and the Egyptian gods were on two different sides of God’s power. How do you think both groups, the Israelites and the Egyptians, felt about being on their side of God’s power?


“O God, whose wonderful deeds of old shine forth even to our own day, you once delivered by the power of your mighty arm your chosen people from slavery under Pharaoh, to be a sign for us of the salvation of all nations by the water of Baptism: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may be numbered among the offspring of Abraham, and rejoice in the inheritance of Israel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

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God’s Presence in a Renewed Israel

Have you ever fiercely anticipated something? Perhaps, when you were a child, you got so excited for Christmas because you knew that, maybe,

underneath the tree on Christmas morning would be the toy that you had wanted all year long. You waited with eager anticipation for Christmas to arrive. You could hardly sleep. You woke early in the morning and bothered your parents until they got up. You just couldn’t wait to unwrap your gifts and find what you had been waiting for all year long.

That feeling of anticipation and longing is the background for Isaiah 4:2–6. For Israel, that feeling of anticipation and expectation was even stronger and deeper because they were waiting for the fulfillment of a generation’s old promise while in the midst of experiencing the Lord’s judgment. Isaiah had already prophesied that Israel had forsaken their covenant with God and turned to the worship of material things, pleasure, and false gods. As a result, God was sending a foreign army from Babylon to lay siege to Jerusalem, the holy city where God’s own Temple was located, and burn it to the ground. The Babylonians were going to carry off most of the people into exile in Babylon. But that is not the end of the story.

Always TrueGod always remains true to his word and steadfast in his promises because

“the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”

Isaiah 4:2–6

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(Psalm 103:8, NIV). Even as God was sending an army to punish Israel for its sin, he was already laying plans for their rescue and renewal. God promised that “in that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious” (Isaiah 4:2, NIV). He is referring to the Day of the Lord, when God will come to earth and establish his kingdom. The “Branch of the Lord” refers to both the remnant of God’s people in Israel during the Babylonian exile, and the coming Messiah, a king in the line of David, who embodies a faithful Israel free of sin and made right with God. In that day, when God establishes his kingdom, the land will burst forth with abundance, and pride and glory will return to God’s people. They “will be called holy” and “the Lord will wash away the filth” of sin from his people “by a spirit of judgment and…fire” (Isaiah 4:3–4, NIV). Not only will God make his people right with him once more by removing their sin, but his presence will rest with his people and “it will be a shelter…and a refuge” from the vicissitudes of life (Isaiah 4:6, NIV).

For Isaiah, this was prophecy and expectation, a hope that someday this would come to pass and Israel would be reconciled to God. For us, this is a present reality in Christ. The Lord has come among us and established his eternal kingdom on earth in us. He has washed away our sins and brought us back into a right relationship with God, and his presence is with us in every moment through the Holy Spirit that dwells in us as believers. This word —spoken to Israel in the face of impending disaster—finds its fulfillment in Christ and in our living experience of salvation in him. We as his church are the “survivors in Israel,” who are called “holy” (Isaiah 4:3, NIV). Just as God’s presence was with his people as a “cloud of smoke by day and…fire by night” when he rescued them from Egypt, today God is present to us through his Holy Spirit, and he is a “shelter and…refuge” for us from the storms of life (Isaiah 4:5–6, NIV). But even that is not the end of the story.

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The Eternal KingdomWe look forward to the day when Christ will return and God will establish his eternal kingdom on earth. When the Lord returns in judgment, he will make all things new. Even we, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,” still eagerly anticipate this future day when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay,” and we will experience “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:20, 23, NIV). Though we have the first installment now, we are still waiting for the day when Jesus returns and God will make all things new.

So, as we read this passage our response should be twofold. First, we should rejoice and give thanks and praise to God for his faithfulness to us in Jesus Christ. Through him we have salvation and the first phase of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision: God has established his kingdom on earth in Christ and his presence dwells with us in the Holy Spirit. Second, we can join with Isaiah in eagerly anticipating the return of our Lord, when all things will be made new and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4, NIV). Just like Isaiah did, we look forward to God’s return and, in the words of Paul, “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” for the coming of the Lord (Romans 8:23, NIV). With the same ferocious excitement and anticipation of children waiting for Christmas, we wait for the coming of the Lord, even as we enjoy the blessings of his presence with us now.

Artists’ Notes for See God’s Presence in a Renewed Israel

This painting conveys the sweeping nature of this passage by drawing together images of the Church and the presence of the Lord. In the center, the eye is drawn to the artist’s rendering of the Ark of the Covenant that the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness and placed in the Temple. On the top of the Ark structure is the representation of the Church that is carried throughout the paintings, which first appeared in See the Flood. The

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gathering of these images into one picture is meant to evoke the progression of God’s presence with Noah and his family on the Ark, to God’s presence with his people in Israel represented by the Ark of the Covenant, and finally, in this era, the presence of God in his Church.

The font in the front left stands for the washing away of our sins in baptism, as the Lord promised to cleanse the people of Jerusalem. The mythological tree combining both a fig tree and a grapevine envisages the

“Branch of the Lord.” As mentioned above, this “Branch of the Lord” is Jesus Christ. This tree—like Jesus—is the “pride and glory of survivors in Israel” (Isaiah 4:2, NIV). Flanking the ark-church, on the right, is the pillar of fire, and one the left, is the pillar of cloud. The glorious branch covers it all acting as “shelter and shade from the heat of the day” and “a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain,” as the Jesus does now for his people (Isaiah 4:6, NIV).

Discussion Questions

1. What does this passage tell us about the character of God? How does it influence the way we understand Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God?

2. How might we respond in faith to the promises in this passage and the fulfillment we see in Christ? What do you think God is saying directly to you through this passage? Use this passage to respond to him in prayer.

3. How do these passages relate or expand on Isaiah 4:2–6? Psalm 130 Luke 13:18–30 Romans 8:22–25 Revelation 21:1–6

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Family Questions

This passage and painting reminds us that God wants to make his people new. What in the painting sticks out to you? Notice the different parts of the painting. Look for the things that may remind you of other Bible stories, the other paintings, or the church building.


“O God, you led your ancient people by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: Grant that we, who serve you now on earth, may come to the joy of that heavenly Jerusalem, where all tears are wiped away and where your saints for ever sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

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Salvation Offered Freely to All

Come. Come and accept this invitation of God’s grace. This is an invitation for you, for all people—rich or poor, Jew or foreigner—to

have new and abundant life in God, found in the water of salvation. Isaiah asks us four times in the first two verses to come to the waters, where there is free food and drink. At the waters we can freely “delight in the richest of fare,” and have abundant life without working or paying for it (Isaiah 55:2, NIV). What is this water, and how do we get to it?

The Water of SalvationWater is used throughout Scripture to demonstrate God’s grace because water is so basic and essential to all human life. People from all places and times can understand its power to grow and sustain life, to cleanse and heal our bodies. God floods the earth to cleanse it from its corruption during the time of Noah and saves Noah and his family through the ark (Genesis 7). The Lord delivers the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt by parting the waters of the Red Sea, creating a passage for salvation (Exodus 14). The prophet Ezekiel has a vision of water flowing down from the Temple that causes new life to spring up, and whose trees provide leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47). When Jesus died on the Cross and a soldier pierced his side, blood and water flowed down (John 19:34). This water from his side is the water that

Isaiah 55:1–11

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flows from the Temple (Jesus’ body), that gives all those who come to him new and eternal life.

In the Sacrament of baptism, water is used as the visible sign of God’s grace for the forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ. In the waters of baptism, we are united to Christ—both in his death and in his resurrection. Through Christ’s death, we are cleansed from our sins. We are united in his resurrection as we receive the promise of a resurrected life with him, a life that is sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit. The waters of baptism are the tangible image of salvation in Christ. A person leaves the baptismal waters a completely new and changed person, having been cleansed from sin and given this new life in Christ through the continual work of the Holy Spirit. In this unity with Christ, we have the complete fullness and richness of life—a life that no money, power or earthly significance can buy. This is the life Isaiah is describing. The waters are the baptismal waters—the lavish and free gift of salvation in Christ.

Who Is the Water For?Isaiah makes clear that there are no requirements or disclaimers on the invitation to come to the water. All that is needed is a desire for the water, a thirst for Jesus. All who are thirsty, all who desire the Lord and the richness of a life with him are invited to partake in a life with him.

In verses 1 and 2, Isaiah focuses on the economy of the waters—everything is free and available for all. It does not matter if you have money or if you don’t. Everyone pays the same price: nothing.

In verse 3, the Lord promises to make an everlasting covenant with his people, the covenant promised to David in 2 Samuel 7. This covenant that gives people life is fully realized by David’s descendant, Jesus. He is the one who reigns forever. The water will never run dry. In verses 4 through 5, we realize that the everlasting covenant and the gift of this water is available for all people from all nations. This gift we have of new life in Jesus is meant to be shared and offered for all. The splendor of this new life comes not from ourselves; it comes from the beauty of the Lord.

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How Do We Get to the Water?Coming to the water is not a passive act. We must renounce our sin, and turn towards Christ. In verses 5 through 6, Isaiah asks us to “seek the Lord,” “call on [the Lord],” “forsake their [wicked] ways,” and “turn to the Lord” (NIV). Yes, at the waters, our sins will be washed away, but they will not be washed away unless we repent, turn away from them, and go to Jesus. In this beautiful picture of God’s grace, we are not mere puppets, whose every movement is controlled by the puppeteer. Instead, we are invited to participate and enter into life with our Maker, on our own free accord. If we repent, the Lord will “have compassion” on us and “freely pardon” us (Isaiah 55: 7, NIV).

Why Does God Offer Us New Life?Why does God freely pardon us? The Lord’s answer is humbling. For God is so much greater than we could ever possibly imagine, and we cannot comprehend the mind of the Lord. We cannot understand why the Lord would do this for us. And yet, God’s unfathomable greatness also makes this offering of grace that much more staggering when we realize our smallness compared to him. Only through God’s unfailing love and faithfulness, demonstrated through Christ’s death and resurrection, does this invitation actually hold weight. There is salvation to be found through Jesus. This abundant life in Christ can be lived out by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and the giver of life.

God promises that this gift he is offering is real—it is not just an empty offering or a pretty picture without any substance. Verses 10 and 11 say that none of the Lord’s words return empty. They accomplish what he desires. God and his words are one. There is no separation between what God says and what happens. There is no discrepancy between who God is and what He says. God created the world by his voice. He spoke things into being. At the command of Jesus, the wind and the waves are stilled, the evil spirit flees, and the woman is healed. God’s words have substance; they are living words.

Salvation Offered Freely to All

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The water, this gift of salvation through Jesus is truly offered to all of us. Come. Come to the stream of living water.

Artists’ Notes for See Salvation Offered Freely to All

This painting portrays both the presence and provision of God for his people. This painting particularly depicts the Israelites in the wilderness eating and drinking the nourishment provided by the Lord while journeying under his protection. The people of God needed food and drink while they were journeying to Canaan. God provided both because he is not a God who would deliver his people from slavery and then leave them in the wilderness to starve. He is a God who is present. His power and presence are reflected in the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that appear behind the people in the painting. In the wilderness, God guides his people by day and night, never leaving them to fend for themselves. The people in the painting can be seen gathering manna and drinking from a stream that bursts forth from a rock. Both are examples of how God provided for his people physically while they were in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

One can also see in the background of the paintings Mount Sinai where the Israelites received God’s instructions for how to be his people. God’s presence and provision are available to us today through his Son, Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as both the bread of life and the living water (John 6:35; 7:37–39). As God provided for his people in Israel, he continues to make provision for his Church in the life and death of his Son.

Discussion Questions

1. Where else in Scripture is the image of water used? How does that water relate to God’s grace?

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2. Why is it so hard to accept God’s free gift of salvation? How do you try and earn God’s grace? What instead are we asked to do?

3. Read Isaiah 55:10–11 again. How are the Lord’s words like the rain and snow that come down from heaven? Do you believe that the Lord’s words are always fulfilled? If that is true, what does that mean for our world, our community, our church, your family, you?

4. What are areas in your life that you need to be cleansed from sin? Imagine coming to the stream of water and ask Jesus to wash away those sins that are binding you. What does it look like for you to come to the water?

Family Questions

How are the passage and painting related? What are the different people doing in this painting? Why do you think they are doing those different things? What would you add or change about the painting from this story?


“O God, you have created all things by the power of your Word, and you renew the earth by your Spirit: Give now the water of life to those who thirst for you, that they may bring forth abundant fruit in your glorious kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

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A New Heart and a New Spirit

One of the most difficult things about being human is…well, being human. We’re imperfect, we make mistakes, and we’re easily led astray.

In Romans 7, Paul commiserates with believers on precisely this point. He mourns the fact that he is unable, by himself, to do good. “For I do not do the good I want to do,” he complains, “no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19, NIV). This is a universal reality for every human being, we all have experienced the frustration of being unable to act the way we want to act. But we are not alone in this. God will not leave us to our own devices and bound in our sins. We know this because God made this promise to his people through the prophet Ezekiel.

The prophet Ezekiel lived in a tumultuous time in Israel’s history. Its people had turned away from the Lord and worshiped foreign gods. After trying unsuccessfully for generations to bring his people to repentance, God finally brought the judgment on Israel that he had promised to bring if they forsook his covenant with them. God brought a foreign army to destroy their cities and capture the people of Israel. Now, they were exiled in a foreign land, in a culture that did not know God. It seemed that God had forgotten them, and consequently, many of the people of Israel forgot the Lord. Into this situation God called Ezekiel to speak to his people, to remind them to return to the Lord, and to communicate God’s message

Ezekiel 36:24–28

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that he had not forgotten his promises to Abraham, Jacob, and David. God would restore the fortunes of his people, but instead of starting with their circumstances, he would start with their hearts.

ForgivenessWhen Ezekiel first delivered this message, the people of Israel must have been deeply stirred. Anyone who is living far from the place they call home is likely to become emotional when they think about returning to where they belong. That is exactly what Ezekiel was prophesying that God would do. God promised to “take [his people] out of the nations” and “bring [them] back to their own land” (Ezekiel 36:24, NIV). But that is not all; God was going to forgive his people for abandoning him. He promised to cleanse them of “all [their] impurities and from all [their] idols” that had brought God’s judgment in the first place (Ezekiel 36:25, NIV). But God was going to do so much more than that. He was going to bring a complete change to the people of Israel.

Because God knows that human beings are prone to sin, a more drastic measure would be required in order to be sure that his people would be able to remain faithful to him. God promised not only to return them to the land and to wash away their sins. Incredibly, he also promises to “give [them] a new heart and put a new spirit in [them]” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV). God not only renews the outward circumstances of his people, or even the consequences of their sin, he renews the very innermost being of his people by sending his very Spirit into them (Ezekiel 36:27).

God knows his people, and he knows that they had a history of being a stubborn, “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9; 33:3; Deuteronomy 9:6; 2 Chronicles 36:13; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51). No half measure would do, so God was sending his very Spirit into them to change them from the inside out to “move [them] to follow [his] decrees and be careful to keep [his] laws” (Ezekiel 35:27, NIV). God would change the very hearts and desires of his people in such a way that would make it possible for them to follow him. Once they were transformed from the inside, all of God’s

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promises would be fulfilled, and his people would once again “live in the land” promised to their forefathers. They would be God’s people again, and he would be their God (Ezekiel 36:28, NIV).

Fulfillment in ChristThis should sound familiar to you because we see the fulfillment of this beginning in the New Testament with the saving death and resurrection of Jesus (1 John 1:7) and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). God cleanses his people, the Church, from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross. He places his Spirit within us, replacing our “heart of stone,” our old sin nature, with a “heart of flesh,” a new, redeemed nature in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s empowerment is what allows us to resist temptation and choose not to sin. When the Holy Spirit enters us, God renews our very desires, shaping us to be obedient and loving followers of Christ (Romans 12:2).

So, when we are confronted by our humanity and the sin nature that we have all inherited—when we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do and unable to do the things we know are right—we ought to pray that the Lord would keep his promises and renew our desires by the power of his Holy Spirit. We should pray earnestly that God would replace our stony, recalcitrant hearts with new, living hearts of flesh that beat in time with the rhythm of his own heart. If we believe and follow Jesus Christ, “we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6, NIV). Instead, we have been “set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” by the power of his Holy Spirit working in us to renew the desires of our hearts (Romans 6:18, NIV).

Artists’ Notes for See a New Heart and a New Spirit

The movement from death to life that God promises his people in this passage is demonstrated starkly in this iconic painting. The Church

A New Heart and a New Spirit

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appears again as a glowing representation for the presence of the Lord. His redemptive power is radiating from this structure. On the left side of the painting, one can see the vestiges of a broken and destroyed Jerusalem after the Babylonian invasion.

The land is left desolate and lifeless, dark and dry. In his act of restoration and re-creation, God establishes his Church. From the Church springs the life-giving water that is also portrayed in the previous painting where the children of Israel are nourished from the rock. This river bursts from the foundation of the Church as Ezekiel prophesied (chapter 47). This river provides the needed nourishment for vegetation to grow. On the bank, the papyrus plants, grapevines, fig trees, and palm trees flourish in a new Eden. The Holy Spirit hovers in the center of the Church, represented by the dove.

Discussion Questions

1. What does this passage tells us about the character of God?

2. In what way does this challenge the way you think about sin and redemption?

3. What might God be saying to you through this passage? How will your relationship with God be different in the light of the truths in this passage?

4. Does this passage remind you of any passages in the New Testament? How do the following passages relate to or expand on Ezekiel 36:24–28?

Deuteronomy 4:25–31 Psalm 32 Matthew 7:7–12 Acts 2:1–11 Romans 7:14–25

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Family Questions

What do you think it means to be given a new heart and a new spirit? Where do you see new things in the painting? How have things changed from one side of the painting to the other?


“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who are reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

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The Valley of Dry Bones

Exiled. Hopeless. As good as dead. Israel had been exiled from their land; their Temple (God’s dwelling place in the midst of his people) was

destroyed; their identity and hope was lost. Yahweh’s treasured possession, kingdom of priests, and holy nation (Exodus 19) had long ago forgotten who they really were, having fallen headlong into idolatry, turning from the God who had created and called them so long before (Ezekiel 15–16). And despite Yahweh’s overtures through the mouths of the prophets for Israel to repent and return to him, they did not. Thus they experienced defeat and death at the hands of enemy nations. Israel was lost, homeless and hopeless in the land of their exile.

The nation of Israel, descendants of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and heirs of the covenantal promises Yahweh made with them, would be a new, corporate Adam through whom God would draw near to himself (Exodus 19–24) and transform them through their relationship with him so that through Israel all the nations of the earth would see their God, be drawn to him (Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 4), and be blessed (Genesis 12). This “blessing” ultimately means nothing less than the defeat of the evil one (Genesis 3:15), the salvation of the whole human race, restored to relationship with God and recreated in the likeness of God again. But how in the face of their dismal and hopeless circumstances would Israel (Ezekiel

Ezekiel 37:1–14

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37:11), themselves as good as dead, be restored in order to be that nation through whom all nations would be blessed?

The Hopeful Vision: Life“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3, ESV). Yahweh’s question to Ezekiel sets in motion the prophetic vision that results in the revivification of the people of Israel, for whom the bones represent (37:11). And so Ezekiel prophesies as he is commanded (37:7–10), and the bones come together: bone to bone, sinews reattaching. Flesh enveloping the once dry and lifeless bones and skin gives each its character and shape. But despite all this, none yet live. Though they are bodied once again, they remain mere corpses without the breath that will give them life. In both Hebrew and Greek, the word for breath also means spirit or wind, at times God’s Spirit. It is not until Ezekiel prophesies to the breath—the Spirit—at Yahweh’s command that they live again. So they do (37:9–10), and so they will again.

Just as Adam’s exilic experience and subsequent death is echoed in Israel’s corporate life, Israel’s revivification echoes the first creation of Adam. Adam, too, was created, shaped by the hand of the Maker, but it was only after he received the divine breath that he became truly and fully alive (Genesis 2:7). Only after his sin did he experience exile and ultimately death, for to sin is to turn from God, the Source of our life (Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 30:20). In a great and glorious reversal, Israel is given a vision of their re-creation in the midst of their exile: sleeping the sleep of death, they are given hope, a vision of new life. Ultimately, this vision is not for Israel alone: the hopeful dream given to Adam in Genesis 3:15 of the destruction of the author of death, the evil one, should rise within our hearts as well.

This hopeful dream has been called the “protoeuangelion,” or the “first good news—gospel”: the “seed” or offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. Israel, a corporate Adam, is given a foreshadowing of what will be true both for them and the whole human race (recall that Adam means “human,” generally). Although Israel will experience restoration to their land at the time of the Persians in the rebuilding of the Temple (see

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the end of 2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah), this is only an intermediate fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophetic vision. The ultimate fulfillment would only come with the person and work of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In Christ, Alive! Resurrection Life for All.Likely with Genesis 3:15 in mind, the apostle Paul is clear to note that

“when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman…that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, ESV). Mary, the “new Eve” says yes when Eve, the first “mother of all the living” said no. Now, Mary, fullest “mother of all the living,” brings forth the Son of God who will defeat death and bring life to the whole world. Paul says,

“In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14, ESV). In this manner God would redeem the whole human race through Israel.

Like Israel and Adam before him, Christ himself would experience his own exile. In the wilderness of Judea, he was exiled by the Spirit to be tested for forty days by the evil one (Mark 1:12–13 and parallels), only unlike his predecessors he does not succumb to temptation. By his faithful life, his atoning and reconciling death, he tastes death for all and defeats it once and for all by his glorious resurrection (Hebrews 2:9). He thus becomes the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), offered to all who would be united to him by the Spirit, and become sharers in his death and new life (Romans 6). It is in this way that the word given to Ezekiel is fully and finally fulfilled:

Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise your 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

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spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:12–14, ESV).

God created Adam, humanity, in his image and likeness, to share in his life. But sin marred the likeness of God in us all. Israel’s vocation was to be the people of God for the sake of the world, but they too experienced death through sin. It was only through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ that would fully accomplish this great reversal: restoring and transforming Israel and Adam in himself. Like Israel in Ezekiel’s day, we need God’s Spirit, God’s breath, to enter us to give us life. The Spirit is God’s own personal, empowering presence that gives us life. By the Spirit we are joined to Christ and become sharers in his divine life through the power of the resurrection (2 Peter 1:4).

Can These Bones Live?“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5, ESV). Prophesy to the breath; prophesy son of man.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV).

Christ is the true and new human, the second Adam in whom we find ourselves truly human (Romans 5). And so in Christ, God fulfills Ezekiel’s vision once and for all. It is an Easter vision wherein we all can become new, can be made alive again, and can begin to taste now what will fully and forever be when we “put on our heavenly dwelling” in God’s new land (2 Corinthians 5, ESV).

Artists’ Notes for See the Valley of Dry Bones

When we read this passage, we can almost hear the clank and clamor of dry bone hitting dry bone and dry earth as the remnant of Israel settles

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into their exile in Babylon. The border at the top of the painting echoes the border at the top of See the Creation. In that painting, creation is ordered and God gives life; in this painting, the border is the image of creation being reversed and pictured by dry, lifeless bones. Exile is the death of Israel, but God prophesies through Ezekiel that he yet has life and purpose for Israel. He will re-create them. God gives Ezekiel a vision where Ezekiel speaks and through the Breath of God, Israel is brought back to life.

The eye is drawn to the center of the painting where a powerful and sweeping Ezekiel is prophesying to the bones, “Come, breath…that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:9, NIV). In the foreground of the painting are the skeletons, which are being put back together but have no breath in them. The wind in the top right hand corner of the painting represents the coming of the Spirit into the breathless bodies, which means they become the dancing and lively people who are orange and yellow in the center of the painting, slightly under Ezekiel’s left elbow. Behind Ezekiel, the saints are rejoicing at the work of God.

Discussion Questions

1. When we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This often feels like the absence of God in our lives—an exile of sorts. Of course, God is present to us still and desires our repentance and return to faithful communion with him. What is it in your life that might be getting in the way of God’s Spirit of life working in you? Invite him to show you that place and ask for the grace to change.

2. Do you feel that it has been a long winter since you’ve known freedom and joy? Could you open yourself now to God’s Holy Spirit, and ask him to breathe new life into your life where you feel particularly cold and stuck?

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Family Questions

Do you remember other passages or paintings that teach us about breath coming into people? What other passages or paintings teach about God putting his Spirit in his people? Which part of this painting shows the breath and Spirit coming into the dry bones?


“Almighty God, by the Passover of your Son you have brought us out of sin into righteousness and out of death into life: Grant to those who are sealed by your Holy Spirit the will and the power to proclaim you to all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

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The Valley of Dry Bones

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The Gathering of God’s People

As the city of Detroit continues to navigate an uncertain economy, it faces an unusual and painful problem: tens of thousands of its buildings

have fallen into disrepair, including several architectural treasures that hearken back to the city’s days as a center of industrial power. For each of over 40,000 structures, there are two options: remove or restore.

In this reading, the prophet Zephaniah looks over Jerusalem and sees a similar problem; a kind of decay is chipping away at the city of God. Zephaniah proposes two options: remove or restore. Although the conclusion of this book rings out with words of hope, we can only see the wonder of God’s decision to restore his people if we return to Zephaniah’s earlier prophecies.

The ProblemThe problem that Zephaniah addresses is the infidelity of God’s people. They have turned away from God; they have sinned. He proclaims:

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God. (3:1–2, ESV)

Zephaniah 3:12–20

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A Family MatterZephaniah speaks about the people’s sin within the context of God’s longstanding work and presence among them. God’s words here come not to just any people, but to his people; the people he had chosen and blessed for generations. Judah and Jerusalem inherited the promises of Abraham, the Law of Moses, and the Temple of David and Solomon. No one else on earth enjoyed such an opportunity for intimate connection with God.

When God saw the people of Judah falling into sin, he didn’t deal with them as he would strangers who knew no better. He dealt with them as family, as people who have known the worship of the Living God in its beauty and power. Their sin is personal—it’s a betrayal of the God who has dealt with them so faithfully and patiently over the years.

As the people turned to other gods (Zephaniah 4:1–5), their infidelity brought evil to the whole city. Rather than protecting the vulnerable and dealing honestly and fairly with one another, they practiced “violence and fraud” (1:9, ESV). The government officials, judges, and clergy likewise abdicated their responsibilities and abused their power (3:3–4). The personal sins of individuals calcified into social patterns of injustice and the city of the presence of the Lord became a haven for hypocrisy and exploitation.

Us, TooAs followers of Jesus Christ, we find much in these passages that mirrors our own experiences. We have a connection with God that only those who know Christ can have. We do not sin out of ignorance; we know the ways of God and, at times, depart from them willfully. We, too, are “rebellious,” defying the goodness of God and find ourselves “oppressing” others, using our powers of influence against them. The institutions we lead—including the Church—are vulnerable to self-righteousness and corruption. Throughout the centuries, Christians have agreed, saying in the liturgical prayer of confession:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you

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in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We, like the people of Judah, have run amok of all that God has entrusted to us.

Two SolutionsIn the opening verses of Zephaniah, God laid out the removal solution to the consequence of sin. He pronounced judgment against his people; he would simply remove them from the earth, he says, explaining, “‘I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth…I will sweep away man and beast…I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth…I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem’” (1:2–4, ESV).

In light of the failures of Israel, the removal solution certainly seemed fair. God made us; it’s his prerogative to sustain us or to do away with us. The buildings were worn-down and damaged; it was time to call in the wrecking crew.

In Detroit, the alternative—restoration—is quite costly. Many buildings don’t have a market value high enough to justify the cost of repairs. Yet sometimes an investor sees potential, like with the David Whitney Building. A developer named David Di Rita has footed the $92 million bill to restore the skyscraper back to its original glory.

At the end of Zephaniah’s book, God shifts away from judgment and announces his own plan of restoration: “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then…you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly” (3:11–12, ESV).

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God’s way of removing decay isn’t to remove the building from the neighborhood; it’s to remove the decay from the building. God solves the problem, not by wiping away sinners from the face of the earth, but by removing the sin from the sinners. He takes away their pride, leading them into humility. He redeems them from their own failures and transforms their character (3:13).

God’s restoration in Zephaniah went beyond just one building; he laid plans to reestablish the whole city. He promised his people that he would

“restore [their] fortunes,” making Jerusalem again a place of “renown in all the earth” (3:19–20, ESV). It would become a place of refuge, where the weak and forgotten find a home free from fear (3:19).

In the light of the Gospel, we come to see that God has also footed the bill for his plan. Christ “has taken away the judgments” against us by bearing them in his own body on the cross. He has given us the power of his resurrection in the Holy Spirit, who teaches us to depart from rebellion and oppression and to walk in humility and love. The promises of a restored Jerusalem are caught up the words of a New Testament prophet:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4, ESV)

In Christ, God will restore his whole universe, putting to right all that has been ruined by evil and sin. Zephaniah imagines this restoring power as a song: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will

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save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (3:17, ESV). The prophet calls his listeners to sing, and his own poetry crescendos with layers of blessing:

“Sing aloud…shout…Rejoice and exult with all your heart” (3:14, ESV). The only way to respond to the good news of God’s work of restoration is to join voices with him as he sings over us.

Artists’ Notes for See the Gathering of God’s People

Finally, the painting series ends where it begins. First and foremost, the eye is drawn to Jesus coming down from the clouds to the earth to gather his people to himself and establish his Kingdom once and for all. The earth is represented by the medieval T-O map that appeared in the first painting, See the Creation. The map is finally turned right-side up to represent God ultimately bringing his creation to complete perfection in his Son and the advent of his eternal reign.

At the top of the map, one can see Jesus standing on the earth with his feet once and for all crushing Satan and the forces of evil, represented by the serpent. Accompanying Jesus are the saints in heaven. Represented among them (from right to left) are Peter and Paul; pilgrims carrying symbols of baptism; the depressed, the crippled, widows, orphans; the deaf, mute, blind, and barren; saints throughout history; and Moses and King David. The T-O map depicts the Church throughout the world. The top half of the map represents Asia, where salvation history began with the Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the pyramids of Egypt. One can spot the Ark of the Covenant, representations of the Roman Empire, Babylon, Bethlehem, and significant historical churches.

In the bottom right fourth of the map is Africa, where churches from Ethiopia to obscure villages are depicted. In the bottom left fourth of the map is Europe, where churches throughout the continent are represented,

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including the church that inspired the series, Vezelay Abbey. Primarily, this painting is a grand reminder of how far-reaching the Church is and how exciting it will be on that day when the Church is united throughout space and time in the Kingdom of God.

Discussion Questions

1. “Judgment” is often condemned in our society as something bad. What does it mean for God to judge his people? Can this judgment be a good thing?

2. Reread Zephaniah 3:12–20. In what ways does Christ’s coming fulfill the promises of these verses? Can the knowledge that God will restore the whole world have any effect on how you live your life? What kind of effect?

3. Both Zephaniah and Revelation emphasize that restoration occurs when God dwells with his people. What does it mean for God to

“dwell with us” now? When Christ returns?

Family Questions

Who are God’s people? From where do you think they are coming? Where do you think they will be gathered together? Where in the painting do these things appear?


“O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that

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all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Book of Common Prayer, “Easter Vigil”

The Gathering of God’s People

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These Bible passages from the Easter Vigil are a truly cosmic account of history, spanning from the moments before Creation to a picture

of eternity. But in the midst of this sweeping scope, they are also intensely intimate. They tell the epic story of God coming to the rescue of a creation and a people he loves and gathering them around himself to live in his love forever. God never gives up on those he loves. God will never give up on you. God will never give up on me. He is a God who always comes to our rescue.

In the Nicene Creed, we read that it was, “for us and for our salvation [that] he came from heaven.” God is a “for us” God. He so delights in his creation, he entered into it as a member, participating in our suffering in order to bring restoration from within. That which he wonderfully created, he has even more wonderfully restored.

In these readings we meet the God who is “for us.” We also meet ourselves. We are male and female, created in the image of God, made for eternity but shackled to dust. We are the hungry who cannot afford bread, the thirsty for whom there is no living stream, the ones with bound hands waiting for the knife to fall, and the skeletal remains of what could or should have been.

While we were waiting, helpless to help ourselves, the God of history brought his plan of salvation to completion in Jesus. In Christ, the shadows

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burst into glorious light as God’s love for us, and his commitment to our rescue, are made tangible. The “for us” God comes to die our deaths, so that he might rescue us from our graves.

We, like the people of Israel, enter into the waters of death and find that in Jesus it becomes the way of resurrection. For we “were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4, NIV).

There is no response but to worship God with mind, body, soul, and strength. As our communion liturgy proclaims: “Christ our passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast!” Our deliverer has come. Rejoice! If God is for us, who can stand against us? Join in the festival with dancing, songs, and shouts of holy noise. Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne in glory forever and ever! We are his people, and he is our God!

Let us give ourselves in worship to the God who gives himself for us. In giving our hearts to him, we receive him afresh, and he places within our hearts his “for others” heart. He gathers us together to become a “for others” people. He works his saving deeds through his people so that each of us can be invited into the feast.

He sends us to the hungry, the broken, the dry, and the drowning. These are the ones he came to save.

We, who have been so gloriously rescued, now tell the story of God the rescuer.

Tell it to the world. Tell it until every person has heard. Tell of God’s saving deeds in your own personal salvation history and for all of our histories. He will never give up on you. He will always come to your rescue.

Rev. W. Trevor McMakenDeacon, Church of the Resurrection

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The Story of Creation | John Raines

The Fall | John Raines

The Flood | Scott Cunningham

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac | Stephanie Petrich

Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea | Matthew Farrelly

God’s Presence in a Renewed Israel | Caleb Lindgren

Salvation Offered Freely to All | Sarah Graham

A New Heart and a New Spirit | Caleb Lindgren

The Valley of Dry Bones | Matthew Farrelly

The Gathering of God’s People | Chris Easley

Family Questions | Brandon Michael Burdette

Artist’s Notes | Ellen M. Richard


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So begins the great Vigil of Easter service found in the Book of Common Prayer. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are led by the Church through the Old Testament to see how these passages point us to the saving work of the Resurrected Christ. These readings tell the epic story of God coming to the rescue of a creation and a people that he loves and gathering them around himself to live in his love forever.

This book is a collection of teachings, discussion questions for families, groups, and individuals, and paintings from a variety of contributors at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, all focused on the Old Testament passages used at the Easter Vigil. Included is a series of ten original paintings based on each Scripture reading. Our hope is that this study will help readers prepare themselves to participate fully in

“Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history�”