The Lord Declares: You Will Live!
The Festival of Pentecost
The Lord Declares: You Will Live!
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The foot bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the back bone, the back bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the head bone, Oh, hear the word of the Lord!
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Oh, hear the word of the Lord.
You’ve probably heard this popular children’s song before. Maybe you knew the anatomical lyrics before (The foot bone connected to the leg bone, etc.), but did you know the refrain and what the song is about? This old African-American spiritual is actually about the Old Testament lesson today, Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones.
Many people have heard the song and some have heard about the story, but few understand it. Today we take a look at this incredible real-life story and hear an even more incredible declaration from the Lord: You Will Live.
Imagine the most disturbing war images you have seen: pictures or paintings Civil War battlefields with bodies strewn about, mountains of Jews piled up in a ditch by Nazis, the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. It must have been a similarly disturbing and startling sight for Ezekiel as he stood in the middle of a valley full of bones. We don’t know what war or event happened in this valley, but we do know that there were dead bodies everywhere.
The Lord was toying with Ezekiel a bit, setting him up to learn something important. He asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” It was an obvious question with an obvious answer. Of course they couldn’t live! These people were dead. And they hadn’t died a few hours before either. These were bones, very dry bones with all the muscle and tissue and flesh rotted away and gone. Of course those bones couldn’t live! Yet Ezekiel the man of God responded in the positive: “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
So the Lord told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘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. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Here’s what happened: “So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them.” Then verse 10 says, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” The Lord did the impossible! He gave life to a vast army of dead people!
Several key concepts and phrases stick out: The Sovereign Lord says, the Sovereign Lord says; Prophesy to these bones, prophesy to these bones. It was the Lord and his word that accomplished this. Why? “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
This whole spectacular scene was a massively mighty object lesson for Ezekiel and the Israelites. Verse 11: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel,” and verse 13: “Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” It was the Holy Spirit and his power as God, working through God’s word, that made them alive.
The parallels to Pentecost are striking. How was it possible that over 3,000 people could become Christians in one day after hearing Peter and the disciples speak to them in their own languages? Those people were spiritually dead unbelievers! It was the Holy Spirit and his power as God, working through God’s word that made them spiritually alive and gave them faith. And that same power of God is still at work today.
We may envision this valley of dry bones and the vast army that came to life and we stand back in awe. Wow! It seems impossible! It would be as if tomorrow, on Memorial Day, the vast army of soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery would come to life again. That would be impossible!
Yet there is something even more impossible than dead people coming to life—sinners being in heaven. Wow! How can that be? It seems impossible! How could those who are imperfect be among a perfect God? How can the mortal live with the mortal? How can those doomed to die be with a God who always was and always will be? That would be impossible!
But nothing is impossible for the Lord when God the Holy Spirit works through the power of his Word. Listen to the powerful words of Jesus: “Friend, your sins are forgive . . . Father, forgive them . . . It is finished . . . Because I live, you also will live . . . Peace be with you.” Wow! How can that be? It seems impossible! After all those things I’ve done before—embarrassingly terrible things—how can I be forgiven? After all the times that I have sinned and earned the curse of death, how can I live and be in heaven? After all the times that I have disobeyed and defied my God, how can I have peace?
It seems impossible! But it’s not, because the Lord has opened our spiritual graves and brought us out of them. The Lord has put his Spirit in us and we are now alive. God has worked a faith in our hearts to trust that we have a Savior from our sins and that we have a new life and relationship with God. How is that possible? “I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”
This is the power of God. This is the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the joy of Pentecost. By his power and might God has given you a new life with him here in this world as his own child! The Lord Declares: You Will Live.
When Ezekiel served as prophet, things were not good for the Israelites. In fact, they were really, really bad. Israel was in exile. The Babylonians had swept through and destroyed the land and carried the people away. And just a few chapters before this Valley of Dry Bones Event, the capital city Jerusalem had been destroyed. Many of the Israelites had been slaughtered. The rest were hundreds of miles away from home. They were among people they didn’t know. Their dear country and capital and temple were gone. It could hardly get any worse.
In verse 11 the Lord gives us an insight into their thoughts: “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Despair was setting in. They were giving up hope. They felt cut off from the Lord and saw nothing but death and damnation in their future.
What is your level of hope like these days? How hopeful have you been? Have you maintained hope through all of your problems? Have you kept hope through the roller coaster ride that is American economy? Are you hopeful about your retirement? Are you hopeful about the coming presidential election? Are you hopeful about the future of the United States? Are you hopeful that counter intelligence will be able to prevent future terrorist attacks?
Or might you have had some thoughts creep into your mind lately—When will this ever get better? Won’t this ever end? How much can I put up with and endure? What is God doing here? Will this really be for my good? Has he forgotten about me? Is he going to help me? Am I all alone here?
It doesn’t take much for us to start despairing and losing hope ourselves. We might not be in Babylon in exile, but sometimes it feels like we are exiled to a life of loneliness and sadness and heartache and suffering.
Like Israel of old, we quickly forget the power and might of our God. Weak and feeble hearts forget what God has promised and forget what God has done in the past. Vile and contemptible hearts then will even become angry with God that he would “let this happen to me.” Sometimes when we feel cut off from God, we take the extra step and cut ourselves off from God.
This was the point of the valley of dry bones. Verse 11 again: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”
It seemed impossible! How could this happen? How could they possibly escape from exile and return back home? They were as good as dead! But again, the same emphasis comes forward: The Sovereign Lord says, the Sovereign Lord says. The Lord has spoken. He will do it. This is what he declares! By his power and might the Lord was promising them a future life that seemed impossible. They were going to return from exile and be God’s people in the Promised Land!
As we stumble and tumble our way through this life, any and all hope might seem impossible. How could it happen? How could things possibly get better? But Ezekiel’s same words ring clearly to us two and a half millennia later: The Sovereign Lord says, the Sovereign Lord says. The Lord has spoken, so he will do it. This is what he declares.
So when Jesus that though our sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, then our sins really are washed away. And when Jesus promises that because he lives, we will live, then we really will live in heaven. And when Jesus promises that there will be no more suffering or pain or sadness or tears in heaven, then there will be only happiness and joy. The Lord has spoken. He will do it. This is what he declares.
This is the power of God. This is the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the joy of Pentecost. By his great power and might, not only has God given to us a new life here, but he also has hereafter in heaven. The Lord Declares: You Will Live.
Sometimes God works in such miraculous ways that we can only take a step back and fall before him in humble awe and worship. How incredible it must have been to stand in the valley of dry bones and watch bone after bone attach with tendons and skin covering them, breath entering in, and then a vast army coming to life. How incredible it must have been on Pentecost to listen to Peter boldly proclaim Jesus and watch as thousands of people were baptized and came to faith on one day.
So we today, just 47 days away from the five year anniversary of Christ the King, take a step back and fall before the Lord in humble awe and worship. How could a church and a school possibly grow so fast? How can so many people learn about Jesus at the same time? How can so many lives be touched in so few years?
Then we finally take a step back and fall before the Lord in humble awe and worship one more time. How could God love me so much? How could he forgive so many sins? How could he make someone spiritually dead and doomed to hell become his own dear child bound for heaven? It seems impossible! How could this happen?
“Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord . . . I will put my Spirit in you and you will live . . . Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”
Forgiveness, new live, and heaven seem impossible. But they aren’t! The Sovereign Lord has spoken. He has done. It’s yours. This is what the Lord declares.
Posted on May 31, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Arlington National Cemetery, Church, Eternal Life, Ezekiel, Ezekiel 37, Holy Spirit, Life, Live, Memorial Day, Pentecost, Sermons, Valley of Dry Bones, Work of the Holy Spirit. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.