May 20, 2018
Pastor John Hering
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 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.’”
7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: 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.13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 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.’”
A car full of teenagers make the tight turn speeding around the corner of your street and throw two empty Miller Lite cans on your front lawn and you just might say to yourself, “They’re a lost cause!” The Kingdom Kids teacher would like to have a new cabinet for her supplies. You go to Office Max and find the one she’s looking for and get two boys to help you assemble the thing. After about three hours of intense instructions, explanations and constant bickering you just might say to yourself, “They’re a lost cause!” I bet you have experienced a lost cause before too! A car that keeps breaking down and finally it’s not worth fixing. A task so challenging it’s not worth trying. An argument so fierce it’s not worth having.
I suppose one might say the same thing about the disciples. Jesus had risen from the dead, proven his victory of sin, death and the devil, had shown he was in really in control. Then a few days later he ascended into heaven and what was swimming around the minds of the disciples?: “Jesus going to establish his earthly kingdom NOW?” O my goodness! “They’re a lost cause!”
But, wait, now it’s your turn. You’ve experienced the joys of Easter, the power of Jesus’ victory and the promise of his return any day! So, does that excite you down to your bones to avoid either the busy-ness or the complacency of summer months and eagerly pray, praise and give thanks to the Lord? Or does your Christian faith seem at best okay and at worst silly? I would think Satan works hard on your to tempt you to think that your relationship with God is a lost cause because you’ve skipped your church’s worship event for a worldly event, or forgot to pray for someone in need because you could only remember own selfish deed, or just gave up being loyal to God and committed the sin because your head said, “I just chose the lesser of two evils” or “It’s not like I do that all the time!” Sounds to me like the Lord has every right to look at us and sadly declare, “You’re a lost cause! You’re acting like a Valley of Dead Bones!”
Sounds like the times in which the Prophet Ezekiel lived. The Babylonians had descended on Judah with their crushing power and taken all the talented people into captivity. Faith in God and all his promises might have seemed pretty much like a lost cause. But, God sent Ezekiel with some news. No matter how bad things seemed to be…even if they appeared to look like a Valley Full of Dry Bones…the Lord Has Life For Lifeless Bones
When You Were Dead
When You Were Delivered
War is horrible, but we really have a distaste for dirty bombs filled with gas that chokes men, women and children to death. When nations use bombs like this, that’s a line that is crossed and armies move in to stop the slaughter. The pictures of mass graves pull at our hearts because of the horrible consequences of evil people. So is the picture for Ezekiel.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.”
There is no good place to be in this picture, either standing on the side looking across, or top looking down, but the Lord placed Ezekiel smack dab in the middle. Don’t take a step or you’ll crack the brittle bones! Who can deny what death has done! It sapped the life out! There was no life, no hope, no future, and only death! “They’re a lost cause!”
Right in the middle of this hopeless situation (where the Lord most often steps in to take over), he asks Ezekiel the all important question—even foolish question from our viewpoint,
“3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
If Ezekiel was drinking coffee at this question he would have spewed it out in response! “LOL Lord! That’s a good one! What rock have you been living under? Lord only knows dry bones can’t live!” But, Ezekiel gave a better answer,
“I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Do you know what he means? St John (Rev 7:14) had a very similar answer to God’s question to identify those in white robes. That would be an easier question to answer than the question posed to Ezekiel for he was viewing a situation that would be humanly impossible to fix. How would you answer the Lord’s question,
“Can these bones live?”
Maybe we answer the way Jesus did when talking about a camel walking through the eye of a needle
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The Lord knows alright! So, he responds to Ezekiel’s comment,
“4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones….”
If Pastor Ledermann had asked me to go and preach at the graveyard today, I would think he just wanted me to get some more practice before anyone actually heard me preach! Maybe Ezekiel was thinking the same thing! “Why preach (that’s what it means to prophecy – to proclaim God’s Word to them) to a bunch of bones!?! They can’t hear anything! They’re a lost cause!”
He’s right, you know. And actually it’s even worse! Speeding kids, nagging teens, worship haters and disloyal people all have the same problem by nature. St. Paul speaks about it in Ephesians 2:1
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
You were dead! Of course he’s talking to people who were born with sin—making us spiritually dead as bones in God’s sight. Separated from God. Enemies of God. Blind, without hope, no comfort, no life, just dead, lifeless bones ready for the flames of hell.
Dear friends in Christ, calling all of you dead bones is a tough message to preach. However, if you don’t realize what it is you were and what you deserved because of your sinfulness, you won’t actually appreciate the inconceivable love God has shown to you in Christ Jesus! You see, God did not bring Ezekiel to the Valley of Dried Bones so that he and all Israel would fall deeper into despair! No! He said,
“4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” The Lord wanted him and all people to see the magnificent power of the Word!
It is the powerful Word of God that brings life to dead bones. The Word brings with it God’s love, mercy, peace, hope and LIFE! Yes….. The Lord Bring Life for Lifeless Bones,
When you were delivered
I suppose I could yell at those kids speeding down the street. I suppose I could yell at the teens bickering about which screw goes into what hole in the cabinet. The Lord God didn’t call Ezekiel to yell at Israel, but he did call him to do this:
“4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 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.’”
Can’t you just hear the compassionate tone of the Lord when he says,
“Dry Bones, hear the word of the Lord!”
Tell them the wonderful Word of the Lord and watch with amazement the things that the Word will accomplish! God loves to take dry bones (really just molded dust) and create life. Bones, tendons, flesh, skin and breath. Do you know why God’s Word is so powerful? Because he never sends it all by itself. The Lord God always brings himself with that Word. It was the Word that created the world, and the Word took on flesh and lived among us! It was the Word that Peter proclaimed on that first Pentecost and the Holy Spirit was the power behind the proclamation. Take some earthly element like air (voice) or water (baptism) or wafer and wine (communion) and have the Lord God Almighty attach himself to it by his Word and see what happens! Forgiveness of sins, Eternal life, and deliverance from the devil! That power of the Lord working through the Means of Grace delivers life to lifeless bones! Just listen!
“7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 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 delivering power of the Lord God, and especially on Pentecost as we think about the main work of the Holy Spirit being sanctification (creating and sustaining faith) of which Jesus was speaking at his Ascension when he told the disciples,
“For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”
Ever since that first Pentecost the same power of the Holy Spirit has been working through the means of grace to convert spiritually dead bones to spiritually alive children of God. Listen to the Lord’s promise,
“I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.”
These were very important words for the people of Ezekiel’s day to hear. They were the remnant living in captivity wondering and waiting when they might go home. God promised them he would not abandoned them, he would return them to the promised land so that he could send the Savior, Jesus. That is really what all of this was about. They needed the Messiah to deliver them, and so did we.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to point us to Jesus. Think of the words of the gospel lesson,
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:26, 27
Can you imagine! The Lord looked at us, his believers, through Christ Jesus and said, “Not only am I going to breath my life into you, but I’m here to remind you that being a Christian is never a lost cause! Christ has died! Christ has Risen! Christ will come again! You are delivered!
You will want to have this confidence deep down in your bones when you need to give a testimony to your faith to someone who has fallen away from Jesus. You will want to have Jesus’ deep down in your bones when the doctors tell you that your life on earth is about over, or one of your children is very sick, or when the phone call comes to tell you that your loved one’s life is about over, when tragedy strikes, when sorrow comes from living in this broken world.
Shame on us when we forget that Jesus has delivered us from sin, death and the devil. When we act like our faith is nothing but a source of embarrassment, when we forget the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, when we act like our Christian faith is just a lost cause. Shame on us, but we are not a lost cause. No, because of his great mercy and grace God sent the Holy Spirit to restore our life for Jesus’ sake!
Kids with cars doing dumb stuff, sibling rivalries, disloyal Christians, yes, people just like you and me will always have those days when some might like to yell, “You’re a lost cause!” But, for Jesus’ sake we know better. God keep his promises for lost causes like you and me. We believe the words the Lord gave to Ezekiel,
“14 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.’”
When you were dead, the Lord delivered you by giving you life for your lifeless bones! Amen!