Dry Bones

Read: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Text: Ezekiel 37:3 "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest."

Theme: Nothing is impossible with God.


Introduction:

Our friend Ezekiel was asked to preach to a valley of dry bones.

Jokingly, we often say that Ezekiel was called to the worst congregation any preacher has ever faced. However, it pictures something many believers face in their Christian experience - the "hopeless situation."

And, it teaches us that there is no such thing as a truly hopeless situation.

God asked Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

Ezekiel responded, "O Lord GOD, thou knowest." He answered that way because as far as he could see, the situation was plainly and desperately HOPELESS. And yet, in faith, he recognized that NOTHING IS HOPELESS WITH GOD.

Let's think about Ezekiel's experience for a few minutes this morning, and get it in our own thick heads - NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HOPELESS SITUATION. THERE ARE NO HARD CASES, NO PROBLEMS TOO BIG FOR OUR GOD, NO SITUATION HE IS SURPRISED BY... HE IS IN COMPLETE AND TOTAL CONTROL NO MATTER WHETHER WE CAN SEE THAT CONTROL OR NOT.

Let's tag along with Ezekiel as he visits the valley of dry bones...


I. The dry bones picture Israel

Ezekiel 37:11 "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts."

A. The Holy Spirit doesn't always provide such a ready interpretation.

(Some parts of the Bible are more difficult to interpret.)

B. Here, though, the interpretation is plain.

Ezekiel 37:11 "... these bones are the whole house of Israel:"

1. Israel is captive in Babylon.

2. Things look hopeless.

Eze. 37:2 "...behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry."

ILLUS - Imagine if a similar situation were to happen in America.

3. God lets Ezekiel know things are not hopeless for Israel.

Isaiah 45:17 "But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."

Romans 9:27 "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved."

Romans 11:26 "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:"

II. The dry bones picture the Lost

A. Everybody needs to be saved.

These dry bones picture the condition of those who are without Christ:

Eze. 37:2 "...behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry."
  • There are MANY lost people.
  • Without Christ, they are lost indeed.

1. Perhaps you think you're as good as anybody, and therefore you're ok.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

Romans 3:10-12 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Isaiah 64:6 "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;"

2. Perhaps you have gone to church all your life and you think that's all you need.

Matthew 7:22 "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Interestingly, when Ezekiel first preached to these bones, the result was something that LOOKED alive, but still wasn't. (vs. 8) Many have heard the gospel, but never truly responded. They look alive, but are dead.

ILLUS - Judas - looked as Christian as anybody, but lost as a goose.

3. No matter who you are, if you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, you are as dead as the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision.

ILLUS - In one of George Orwell's essays, Orwell offers a graphic image of human lostness. He describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him." The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition."

B. None are harder for God to save than any others.

C. WE sometimes think some are harder though - hard cases, hopeless cases.

ILLUS - The Apostle Paul - was there ever a harder case than he?

Acts 9:1-5 "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

QUOTE (Tom Malone, Sr.) - "There's no such thing as a hard case."

1. I have a dear loved one, though, who prides himself on being a hard case.

2. Perhaps you have someone that you've prayed for and witnessed to for a long, long, long time...

D. HOW can these bones live?
1. We need to go where they are.

Ezekiel 37:2 "And caused me to pass by them round about..."
2. We must bring them the Word of God!

Ezekiel 37:4 "Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD."

QUOTE - "God asked Ezekiel to "prophecy" to dead, dry bones, which have no ears to hear anyway. How often does God ask us to do something that seems illogical, sometimes even ridiculous, and we chafe at it. Yet God always knows best."

(AND, when we think we can preach no more, witness no more... when we are CERTAIN that our efforts fall on dead, lifeless, DEAF EARS, we need to preach some more, for THESE BONES CAN LIVE!)

ILLUS - We mentioned that Paul was a hard case, maybe the hardest ever. What influenced him prior to his conversion?

Acts 7:54-59 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

ILLUS - Many years ago in a Moscow theater, matinee idol Alexander Rostovzev was converted while playing the role of Jesus in a sacrilegious play entitled Christ in a Tuxedo. He was supposed to read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, remove his gown, and cry out, "Give me my tuxedo and top hat!" But as he read the words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," he began to tremble. Instead of following the script, he kept reading from Matthew 5, ignoring the coughs, calls, and foot-stmaping of his fellow actors. Finally, recalling a verse he had learned in his childhood in a Russian Orthodox church, he cried, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!" (Luke 23:42). Before the curtain could be lowered, Rostovzev had trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Why Christians Sin, J.K. Johnston, Discovery House, 1992, p. 121

3. We must pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit!

Ezekiel 37:9 "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. "

NOTE - Wind, or breath, is often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit:

ILLUS - Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was described as a rushing mighty wind.

NOTHING can stand in the path of prayer - it is OMNIPOTENT - ALL POWERFUL, for when we pray, we call upon and appropriate the very OMNIPOTENT ALL POWERFUL GOD Himself.

James 5:16 "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Matthew 17:20 "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Jeremiah 33:3 "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

NEVER GIVE UP on the hard cases in your life, Christian.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE with God!

These bones can live!

III. The dry bones picture the dried up Christian.

A. Do you remember the childhood of your salvation?

ILLUS - I had a dear friend in New Jersey. He lived a long life of sin and worldliness before being wonderfully saved in his later years. He told me that when he got saved late in life, he went home and read the Bible all the way through. IN ONE SITTING, breaking only for necessities. When he finished, he started in again!

When I was first saved, I couldn't get enough of the Word either.

NOBODY MADE ME GO TO CHURCH... I couldn't get enough of it.

I wanted to witness to people... I wore a little pin that challenged people to ask me about my faith.

I carried a great big Bible along with my school books.

I led Bible studies, at church and at school.

I COULDN'T GET ENOUGH OF GOD, CHRISTIANITY, GOD'S WORD, CHURCH, GOD'S PEOPLE, OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAD TO DO WITH MY FAITH. I WAS SAVED SAVED SAVED.

B. For some reason, that newness wears off.

1. Sin gets in the way.

Matthew 24:12 "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

ILLUS - Solomon - in the early days of his reign - ON FIRE FOR GOD (READ HIS PRAYER at the dedication of temple... but later in his reign, lured away by a life of sin.

I have known Godly Christians who fell prey to sin in their lives, and never recovered. Maybe it was guilt, maybe it was feelings of failure, maybe it was the belief that they had besmirched the name of Christ and could therefore no longer live openly for Him... whatever their reasons, they quit serving.

Unfortunately, many believe it will never happen to them:

ILLUS - In 1982, "ABC Evening News" reported on an unusual work of modern art--a chair affixed to a shotgun. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and looking directly into the gunbarrel. The gun was loaded and set on a timer to fire at an undetermined moment within the next hundred years. The amazing thing was that people waited in lines to sit and stare into the shell's path! They all knew the gun could go off at point-blank range at any moment, but they were gambling that the fatal blast wouldn't happen during their minute in the chair. Yes, it was foolhardy, yet many people who wouldn't dream of sitting in that chair live a lifetime gambling that they can get away with sin. Foolishly they ignore the risk until the inevitable self-destruction.

Oh Christian, flee sin, for when you allow it into your daily life, it forever removes that childlike innocence of your faith...

2. Life gets in the way.

Mark 4:18 "And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."
  • There is so much to look at in our world today.
    (Unfortunately, too much of it takes our eyes off Christ.)
  • There is so much to do in our world today.
    (Unfortunately, little of it would please our Lord.)
  • There are so many tasks vying for our attention as believers.
    (Unfortunately, few of them are tasks God has laid out for us.)

All too often, we let "... the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in..." cool our love for God.

3. Boredom sets in.

ILLUS - Please forgive a personal illustration. I use myself here, for I would never want to use another for this particular illustration. I don't use myself out of pride, either, but rather out of abject shame. You see, I mentioned earlier that there was a day when I couldn't get enough of the Word. I absorbed it like a sponge. I bought Bibles like they were gold. As I was preparing for this message I did a quick inventory and found 26 Bibles on my shelves. I also have 3 PC Bible programs, one with multiple Bibles on it. I have a web site that I created on the internet... it contains many sermons and references to Biblical references works and Bible studies. I used to spend hours working with this web site, seeking out new and fantastic resources on the internet which would enable me to preach better and study better and know God better.
YET, and may God forgive me... these days I find it difficult to concentrate on the Bible. I don't enjoy reading like I once did. When I force myself to read it, I sometimes realize that although I've just read several chapters, I don't remember any of it... I wasn't concentrating at all.
Is it possible that I'm bored with God's word?

ILLUS - British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham wasn't a great admirer of the music of his fellow Briton, composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. During the rehearsal of a Williams symphony, Beecham seemed to be doing little more than listlessly beating time. In fact, he was still beating time after the orchestra had stopped. "Why aren't you playing?" Beecham mildly asked the first violinist. "It's finished, Sir Thomas," came the reply. Beecham looked down at his score. "So it is!"

Sometimes, I must confess, I feel like I'm "listlessly beating time" in my devotions.

ILLUS - Please forgive another personal illustration. I used to love to pray. I attended prayer breakfasts every Saturday morning. I prayed every night for long periods of time before turning into bed. I even had a REAL prayer closet... I mean, I actually went into my closet, got down on my knees in the dark, and prayed... sometimes for long long periods of time. I kept a prayer journal, and prayed over missionaries, church members, friends, family members. I prayed for my country, my president, YOU NAME IT, I prayed for it, over and over and over.
YET, and may God forgive me again... these days I find it difficult to maintain that sort of rigor in my prayer life.

C. I believe that there is a valley of dry bones in the Christian life.

1. It is a dry place - there is no joy there.

2. It is a dead place - there is no fruit there.

3. It is a dangerous place - no Christian should stay there.

D. HOW can these bones live?

1. LOOK AT IT!

Ezekiel 37:1 "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about:"

You can't fix a problem until you face it.

We Christians spend too much time denying our frailties. Many of you looked at me in horror when I said I was bored with my Christianity... and yet you are too. WE MUST FACE OUR SITUATION IF IT'S TOO GET ANY BETTER!

"God forgive me... I'm in the valley of dry bones..."

2. The Word is still vital.

  • READ IT, even when it seems dry as the bones in the valley.
    ILLUS - Jack Hyles likes to tell how much he hated Okra as a young boy, and how his "momma" would force him to eat it. She would say, "Jackie Boy, eat your okra!" He hated it. It was slimy and gross to him. He would say, "But Momma, you don't eat okra, you just suck it down." But she insisted and he sucked it down, grimacing the whole way. Somewhere along the line, he claims, something interesting happened... he found himself starting to like okra. He goes so far as to say that today, if you put a big juicy steak in front of him and a plateful of slimy okra, he will choose the okra everytime!
  • LISTEN TO IT, when you get tired of reading it.
    Radio, TV, sermons on tape, Bible on tape, gospel music.
  • FIGURE OUT A WAY to absorb the Word of God into your life, often and always.
    ILLUS - A man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. Evangelist Robert L. Sumner tells about him in his book THE WONDERS OF THE WORD OF GOD. The victim's face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was just a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, I can read the Bible using my tongue. At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had "read" through the entire Bible four times."
    ILLUS - Anatoli Shcharansky, a dissident Soviet Jew, kissed his wife goodbye as she left Russia for freedom in Israel. His parting words to her were, "I'll see you soon in Jerusalem." But Anatoli was detained and finally imprisoned. Their reunion in Jerusalem would not only be postponed, it might never occur. During long years in Russian prisons and work camps Anatoli was stripped of his personal belongings. His only possession was a miniature copy of the Psalms. Once during his imprisonment, his refusal to release the book to the authorities cost him 130 days in solitary confinement. Finally, twelve years after parting with his wife, he was offered freedon. In February 1986, as the world watched, Shcharansky was allowed to walk away from Russian guards toward those who would take him to Jerusalem. But in the final moments of captivity, the guards tried again to confiscate the Psalms book. Anatoli threw himself face down in the snow and refused to walk on to freedom without it. Those words had kept him alive during imprisonment. He would not go on to freedom without them. from Discipleship Journal, Issue #43 (1988), p. 24

    May God help us to find a way to love His word that much.

3. Prayer / the Spirit of God is still essential.

Zechariah 4:6 "... Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."
  • If you are in the valley of dry bones, pray for personal revival.
    As Christians, prayer must be one of our first disciplines:
    QUOTE (C.S. Lewis) - "The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in."
    QUOTE (Martin Luther) - "If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith."
    QUOTE (Abraham Lincoln) - "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day."
    QUOTE (Robert E. Lee) - " Knowing that intercessory prayer is our mightiest weapon and the supreme call for all Christians today, I pleadingly urge our people everywhere to pray. Believing that prayer is the greatest contribution that our people can make in this critical hour, I humbly urge that we take time to pray--to really pray. Let there be prayer at sunup, at noonday, at sundown, at midnight--all through the day. Let us all pray for our children, our youth, our aged, our pastors, our homes. Let us pray for our churches. Let us pray for ourselves, that we may not lose the word 'concern' out of our Christian vocabulary. Let us pray for our nation. Let us pray for those who have never known Jesus Christ and redeeming love, for moral forces everywhere, for our national leaders. Let prayer be our passion. Let prayer be our practice."
  • If you are in the valley of dry bones, ask others to pray for you.
    1 Thessalonians 5:25 "Brethren, pray for us."
  • Whether you are asked or not, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, that they don't find themselves in the valley of dry bones.

Conclusion:

The dry bones picture "the whole house of Israel." Though things seemed so hopeless to Ezekiel and to his contemporaries, yet God had their salvation in view.

Ezekiel 37:12 "Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel."

BUT, the dry bones also picture the lost. There are many of them, and they are dead in their sins. Perhaps you are one of them... if so, please know that Jesus can save you today, right where you are... Perhaps you are concerned for loved ones who are lost, and think they are hard cases, and nearly impossible to ever see saved... "Son of man, can these bones live?" YES!

The dry bones also picture the dried up Christian. They picture me sometimes. Do they picture you? God, help us believers to be revived in our faith... to experience the joy of salvation once again, to see the dryness and the deadness when we are in the midst of it, that we might seek your face, your forgiveness, and your vitality once again. Revive us Oh Lord, that we might serve Thee.


Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 2000 William E. Johnson.