Got Dry Bones?

Posted on Jul 6, 2016 in Sermons

Sermon: February 28, 2016
Got Dry Bones?
Ezekiel 37:1-14

 
This story calls to mind movies of the recent past, like Sinbad, the Mummy, Pirates of Caribbean, etc. (armies of skeletons…….). Or maybe one of those video games that our children and young adults are playing these days. So in order for this story to speak to us seriously and more clearly there are a couple of things we need to know.

First, it helps to know that the Ezekiel received most of his prophetic messages from God in the form of visions. For example, he saw a vision of four creatures in the middle of a storm, of a giant eagle and a vine, of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, just to name a few – all of which had corresponding messages of importance for God’s people. So this vision of a valley, filled with the dry bones of some long-lost civilization, isn’t as odd as it might seem to us at first hearing. There is no biblical claim that this literally happened; it was a vision that was given for divine purposes.

Secondly, and this is very important, Ezekiel lived and prophesied during the days of Judah’s exile in Babylonia. In 722 BC (Northern Kingdom), Israel, fell to the Assyrians; and in 586 BC (Southern Kingdom), Judah (Jerusalem / Ezekiel), fell to the Babylonians. And those who weren’t killed were taken into captivity in those foreign lands.

The reason was that, collectively, the Hebrew people had long ignored all the warnings of the various earlier prophets that they needed to turn from their idolatry and disregard for God’s decrees. And now they were exiled in a strange land, living among strange people, with only what they had carried on their backs when they were forcefully escorted out of their native land.

Now, over the years we’ve all seen movies, documentaries and various other depictions of how Africans were captured and taken from their homelands during the 18th and 19th centuries when slavery was prominent in America and Western Europe. (Roots) And we can imagine what it must have felt like for them.

Separated from everything that was familiar to them, maybe even their own family; grossly mistreated; stripped of everything they owned – their homes, their land, their personal possessions, their dignity, everything! Though they were physically still alive, in their minds and hearts it must have felt as though their lives were essentially over; there was nothing to look forward to; all hope was gone and they might as well have been dead.

Such was the plight of the Israelites at the time Ezekiel was delivering his prophesies to them. In fact, in verse eleven it tells us specifically that they said of themselves: “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Not only had they been alienated from their homeland and everything they knew, they also felt as though they had been completely abandoned by God – all hope was lost!

But then God showed Ezekiel this vision of a valley full of human bones that had dried out and bleached in the sun, completely devoid of any flesh, any life. These people, whoever they might have been, had long since perished. So God asked Ezekiel if he thought those bones could come to life again. In reality, what God was asking Ezekiel is if he had enough faith in God to believe that he could bring those bones back to life.

Ezekiel wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that question, as I suspect most of us would react; so he simply said: “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” He trusted that God had the answer but he wasn’t willing to commit himself. So God said: “OK, this is what I want you to do. Preach to these bones. Tell them that I have said I will make breath enter them again and they will come back to life.”

So Ezekiel, though, I’m sure, quite uncertain of himself, obediently did what God had instructed him to do. And sure enough, the bones came together; then tendons, flesh, and skin appeared; and after calling upon the Holy Spirit, as God instructed, breath came into their bodies and they stood up on their feet, alive!

Then God said to Ezekiel: “These bones represent all of Israel. They think that their lives are over, but I’m going to give them new life, I’m going to return them to their homeland. Then they will know that I am God and I have done these things. This is what I want you to tell the people of Israel.” So Ezekiel brought the Israelites this message of hope, encouragement, and promise. And, in his perfect time, God kept his promise!

So, what might we be facing right now, or what might we face some time in our future, that might make us feel as though our hope is gone; as though our lives are effectively over; as though our bones, in a sense, are dried up? Perhaps the loss of a loved one, the diagnosis of cancer, a broken marriage, the loss of our employment – the list is potentially as long as the number of people in this room – you fill in the blank.

But the Lord is saying to us today, just as he did to the people of Israel through the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah: “I love you – you are mine! The waters will not sweep over you, the fire will not consume you! I can restore you no matter what you may be up against! Trust me! I want to give new vitality to your seemingly hopeless lives! Have faith in me, and wait on me – I will act when the time is right, and you will know that it is me who has delivered you. I will give new life to your “dry bones”!

God has given us life itself! When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God gives us new life in the Spirit, rescuing us from the destruction of our sinfulness! (RO 8:6-11); the assurance of resurrection and eternal life! And God can and will give us “new life” following the tragedies we encounter while walking through this life. Don’t ever give up on the Lord because he will never give up on you!

Now here’s another thought for you to contemplate: One of the ways in which God comes along side of us in our times of trial is through other believers. God expects us to be there for one another! How many times did Jesus say to his disciples, “Love one another?” He didn’t mean simply to feel good about one another – love is an action verb! And the apostle Paul wrote: “Praise be to God, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort others in their time of trouble.” (2 COR 1:3-4)

When we feel that our bones are all dried up and our lives seem hopeless, we should be able to turn, not only to God, but to other believers, whom God will use to give us new life. Conversely, we should be open and willing to let God use us, like he did Ezekiel, to give comfort, encouragement and hope to those who are struggling with “dry bones” in their lives. A Christian should never have to face a challenge alone unless we isolate ourselves, afraid to ask for or accept help; or unless we are unwilling to be there for someone else when they need us!

And one last point: Jesus also instructed his followers to love our “neighbors,” and even our “enemies.” So this offering of comfort, encouragement and hope is not intended to be limited only to our fellow believers, but to anyone and everyone whom we might possibly be able to help in any way to deliver them from hopelessness!

Friends, there is no trouble that God cannot overcome – even death! The Bible
says: “We know that in all things,” all things – even those we can’t understand – “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” (RO 8:28)

“Can these dry bones live, Ezekiel? Can they live “your name”? Any of you – can they live? I pray that every one of you are able to answer this question with a heartfelt, resounding YES.