I understand that this may seem like a strange passage of Scripture to be sharing on and I can’t explain why for many years I have had a fascination with the ”Valley of Dry Bones” in Ezekiel chapter 37…perhaps God knew that I would be sharing on it today. As a nation, we have been in a very dry time and in November, the concept of hope was reintroduced into our lives and again this week we have been on another roller coaster ride. I believe that it is important at this time to acknowledge that the Lord is sovereign and we must remain steadfast in our faith. This is a time where we can be shining lights but we must not get caught up in grumbling or fear but keep turning the focus back to God. His eternal purpose has not changed and that is for hearts to be turned to Him and in a personal relationship with Him.
With this in mind let’s go to the Scripture for today. Just a little background on this text:- Ezekiel was a prophet in the Old Testament times, a prophet means that- He heard from God and then passed God’s Word or message on to the people. The name Ezekiel means “God is strong” or “God strengthens”. At the time, God’s people were in exile and the nation was divided. God’s people had been distracted by their circumstances and as a result they had strayed from their relationship with the Lord. One of the major themes running through the book of Ezekiel is God’s sovereignty and control, we are reminded of this by the repeated statement of: “then they will know that I am the LORD”. The book of Ezekiel is also often referred to as the Book of Visions- as God desired to pass on His vision for His people and that was a vision of a united nation that is restored back to HIM and full of hope.
The nation of Israel, God’s people deemed themselves in a hopeless situation and could not see a way out, so through Ezekiel God was reminding them-His people of His presence and power.
You may ask “How can we relate to this passage today?” The reason that I am sharing on it is that I believe we can relate on 3 bases:
- As an individual
- As the church family
- As a nation!
I plan to touch on each of these areas but first I would like to share that as I read through
these verses, there were common patterns that I could see and they are that there are:
- 4 elements are mentioned: tendons, flesh, skin and breath
- 4 winds: symbolising completeness
- 4 conversations:
- God questions Ezekiel
- God instructs Ezekiel
- God further instructs Ezekiel
- God then explains.
So let’s expand on this a little by setting the scene:-
Ezekiel is called by the Lord and taken to a valley strewn with bones and he is walked back and forth to show the extent of the bones though-out the valley. Why a vision of dry bones you ask? We can interpret here that the bones symbolise a hopeless situation and because they are scattered through-out the valley, this indicates a whole community or affecting many. The bones are very dry meaning that they have been dead a long time or are beyond resuscitation. The valley is a battlefield strewn with the bones of the fallen.
Enter the first conversation:- this starts with God speaking to Ezekiel and asking “Son of man, can these bones live?” and Ezekiel’s response of “O Sovereign Lord, You alone know!” In some ways, I felt that we could just stop there and ponder this conversation! We see that God’s relationship with Ezekiel is such that there is freedom in the conversation; God desires to show something to His prophet and therefore opens up the conversation. Ezekiel’s response is amazing in its humility, he acknowledges God’s sovereignty and is totally surrendered to his Lord “O Sovereign Lord, You alone know”. I also believe his heart is teachable and open to the Lord’s instruction. I ask you question here: “is your heart open to the Lord’s teaching?” and add “do you stop long enough to hear what God is trying to say?”
We move on to the second conversation – God proceeds in the conversation as Ezekiel has responded well and so God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to these dry bones “dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Finishing with “Then you will know that I am the Lord”!
Ezekiel responds with “So I prophesied as I was commanded” which shows his total obedience to the Lord. And as Ezekiel was speaking, he hears a rattling noise as the bones come together. He looks and sees that tendons, flesh and skin have appeared on the bones, but there was no breath [or life] in them. The “bones” now existed but did not have life. God first connects the bones together with tendons or sinew. He causes them to come together to form a perfect skeleton and re-establishes the perfect connection needed to hold them together-the tendons. Second, God clothes the bones with flesh- another layer added and thirdly God covers the bones with skin, so now the bones look human but lack breath. All done in an orderly way, adding layer upon layer, resulting in a partial restoration! We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
In the third conversation, God further instructs Ezekiel to speak life or breath into the bones and Ezekiel’s response is “So I prophesied as He commanded me” and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army!” This is the fourth step in the process of taking the dry bones and resurrecting them to life- they now live and breathe.
God’s army restored – God’s people with life in them again. Standing together and as I read I had an image of them together, facing the Lord and standing in anticipation…..awaiting instructions from the Lord. The question hanging in the air: Lord, what is it that You want?
So then we move to the fourth conversation, this is where God explains why? From God’s perspective He is offering restoration, hope and unity within His people “the whole house of Israel” but man says “our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”. How often does man look at the circumstances around him and says “woe is me “ but in that grumbling has taken his eyes of the Lord.
God says here in verses 12-14 that we are His people, He will open up [offer hope & restoration] and He will put His Spirit IN you and that He will live among His people. “Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it”
What an awesome passage of Scripture which speaks of communicating with the Lord one on one, having a relationship with the Lord and the obedience and surrender required in that relationship which brings blessings. The Lord offering hope and restoration to you and me.
Let us take this to the 3 levels mentioned earlier:-
As an individual where have you felt “dry” or helpless”? Look at your physical, emotional, mental and Spiritual fitness and ask yourself “is any of
these areas “dry’?” And if so will, you ask the Lord to restore back to you “tendons, flesh, skin and especially breath” Will you seek Him for restoration in any or all areas? You may have been through a tough season in your life and feeling dry but the blessing [if you look for it] is to press even deeper into the Lord! Ask Him your questions but then allow Him to answer…… await His instructions! As with Ezekiel, it may mean a “back and forth” conversation over time as the Lord reveals piecemeal what He wants you to hear and receive. Let that conversation take place in your life.
How as a church family, can we work on standing together with an air of anticipation waiting for instructions from our Lord? We are His “army “ – His hands and feet in this battlefield called the world. He desires to breathe life into us so that we are effective, but we need to be brought together: tendons, flesh & skin. The final unifying element being the Holy Spirit: breath. But do we allow circumstances to distract us and tear us apart? How often do we fire arrows at one another? The leadership is questioned instead of encouraged! Stuff that relates to the world takes precedence over matters that have eternal value. There is a question that I am asking of myself quite a lot recently: “does this have eternal value?” If it does then it is worth pursuing, if not then am I allowing the world to distract me from serving my Lord and being effective within the church family.
As a nation- we need unity of purpose and that means keeping our eyes firmly fixed on the Lord. We are called a Christian nation- but do we live as one? As a nation on Monday, we cast our vote for candidates to lead us here on earth- an earthly government. I think this election has had more prayer covering than any other- we asked for change, we cried out for hope. On Wednesday at my Home group, the question was asked “what is different from my hope in 1999, 10 years ago to my hope now- nothing seems to have changed?
What we do not realise or easily forget is that the Lord is fighting battles on our behalf in the Spiritual realm! We are not aware of what strongholds there are over this nation- we find that uncomfortable and therefore do not want to “go there”. We have offered up prayers for this nation and thus we need to trust that the Lord has His hand over us. We do not understand as our picture is limited but God sees the whole picture and He knows what is best. We prayed for what we wanted but God gives us what we need! You may find that very hard to understand or accept but our TRUST has to be in the LORD. We can and must continue to pray, press into prayer -do not give up!
Elisha reminded us a couple of weeks ago about Daniel who despite his circumstances looking bleak did not change or waiver in his faith. Daniel continued to pray as was his habit of doing- he was not afraid of what man could do but knew it was vital to seek the Lord.
Mark asked the question last week “which voice do you listen to: the father of lies who sows doubt and fear or your Heavenly Father who promises never to forsake you or leave you.
To quote Nicky Gumble: Many people see only a hopeless end; but with Jesus you can enjoy an endless hope.
Hope is one of the three great theological virtues – the others being love and faith. I heard an explanation recently that faith, hope & love are , like three sisters. Two of them are grown and the other is a small child. They go forward together hand in hand with the child hope in the middle. Looking at them it would seem that the bigger ones are pulling the child, but it is the other way around; it is the little girl who is pulling the two bigger ones. It is hope that pulls faith and love. Without hope everything would stop.’
Faith releases hope, joy and peace in our lives. Doubt steals our joy and peace. Faith means trusting in ‘the God of hope’. Paul prays, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow [“bubbling over”, AMP] with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (15:13).
The origin of hope is ‘the God of hope’. The reason for hope is Jesus. The source of hope in you is the Holy Spirit. This hope is not wishful thinking. It is rooted in what God has done for us and is doing in us.
This hope is the driving force for our day-to-day living. As Erwin McManus comments, hope ‘lifts us out of the rubble of our failures, our pain and our fear to rise above what at one point seemed insurmountable. Our ability to endure, to persevere, to overcome is fuelled by this one seemingly innocuous ingredient called hope.’
So today I pray you leave encouraged and that your hope is renewed- out there is the battlefield but we are called to be a shining light. Yes it is exhausting and you may feel battle weary but return to the Lord constantly – read His Word, pray-talk honestly to the Lord, meet with fellow believers, come here on a Sunday but be in the world. It is ‘out there” that we are called to make a difference, speak the Gospel of Hope.
I wonder if today, as I look out -am I looking at a “valley of dry bones”? If so, we will allow the Lord to put us back together: firstly in our personal lives as an individual [then you will know that I am the Lord], then restore the church family [then you will know that I am the Lord] and then and only then as a nation [then you will know that I am the Lord].
God offers hope and restoration but the starting point is you and me! In this passage, God started with bones, He added the sinew, then He added the flesh, then He added the skin and finally when that was done- He added His breath. This is a process, and processes take time and we tend to be impatient: – we cry “God why haven’t You acted yet? “ How Long O
Lord? Trust requires waiting upon the Lord – He knows and He sees everything.
I am reminded of the words to a song which say
“My life is in You- Lord! My strength is in You- Lord ! My Hope is in You Lord- I will praise You with all of my life I will praise You with all of my strength, With all of my life, with all of my strength, All of my hope is in You”
Acknowledge that the Lord is Sovereign over your life, over the church and over the nation. Once you have done that, live like it.
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!” “Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord”
Shall we pray.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 15:13).