"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' And I answered, 'O Lord God, you know.' Then he said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live'" (Ezekiel 37:1-5).
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Dry bones. We all have them. In fact, we likely all have a pile of them building in our lives. Now, before you write me off and think that's a strange statement, I have someone I'd like you to meet. I'd like you to meet someone from the Bible whose story we can use to learn some compelling truths.
Let me introduce you to Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was one of God's brightest and best. God called him to be a cheerleader for the brokenhearted. He was a priest by profession, but was called by God to be a prophet as well. He was to pastor a scattered, wandering flock of Israelites and prophesy to the spiritually depressed. That’s like being a cemetery chaplain whose parishioners are corpses.
Ezekiel 37 (as noted above) describes this cemetery. As a former pastor, I've preached in some dead churches to some dead congregations, but nothing like this. Ezekiel was preaching to a pile of bones. He was trying to inspire a stack of skeletons. Have you ever felt church to be dry and boring? . . . Ha! Ezekiel shows us dry and boring.
Are bones really that important to talk about?
We don’t put much stock in bones. However, we do believe that the bones of Jesus are important and that it’s no coincidence that they have never been discovered. When Jesus stepped out of the tomb on Easter morning, his bones were re-animated with sinews, flesh, skin, and breath, just as Ezekiel had predicted. He then stayed on Earth for 40 days, just long enough to convince his followers that his resurrection wasn’t a parlor trick. He did this to show us that there’s more to life than what we can see. His visible presence proved God’s invisible presence.
In performing an external resurrection, Jesus invited us to experience an internal renovation. Ezekiel wasn’t about restoring our bone marrow; he was talking about restoring our “bone (to)morrow.” This is TODAY stuff, not just tomorrow stuff. It isn’t for the cemetery crowd; it’s for living people who are spiritually dry and whose hope is dead.
We often try to revive our dry bones with life's external pleasures.
Let me put flesh on this Scripture for you. You and I live in a world that believes people are created from the outside in. Our society emphasizes the externals. Physical beauty. Academic and professional achievement. Social status. Physical talent. Financial security. Material comfort and sensual pleasure. But all of these things are only skin deep. Not one of them contains the ruach (Hebrew: the breath of God), the power of spiritual rebirth. They all make promises they can’t keep. To make things worse, if we pursue them or even attain them, our inner emptiness only increases.
Nothing material can relieve our spiritual emptiness. It’s like dressing a skeleton in designer clothes and expensive jewelry. Dressed up on the outside, but empty on the inside. In the end, we look ridiculous.
The Spirit of God is the only power that can truly make us alive again.
The Spirit of God is the only power that fulfills its promises. It casts aside the externals and moves into our innermost places. The rebuilding process that Ezekiel describes begins on the inside and then moves outward. It’s a process that all the pleasures of this world can’t duplicate. God’s breath (ruach) enters us and animates us from deep within. The Holy Spirit starts on the inside and moves to the outside. External change doesn't produce faith, but faith always produces external change.
So, where is your valley of dry bones?
What is dead and dry in your life right now? What dreams have you left for dead? Maybe it's your marriage. Is it dry and devoid of life? If so, you should know that the breath of God is the only power on Earth that can revive dead marriages. And he will if you respond to his Word and open yourself to God’s breath. Notice that Ezekiel’s vision is activated when God’s Word is spoken. Without God’s Word, there is no spiritual resurrection. If we expose ourselves to God’s Word, he gives us a second wind.
Where else in your life do you find dry bones? Maybe your pile of bones is the lost hope that you will ever find a fulfilling job. God’s breath revives collapsed careers by moving us beyond professional performance and into personal peace.
We each carry our own bag of dry bones, filled with disappointments and lost dreams. They lead us into Death Valley. But the Holy Spirit sweeps into this valley and fulfills Ezekiel 37. God breathes on us. You may not see him, but he’s there. His Spirit is upon you. You may not feel his breath, but it’s there, all around you. God hasn't left you for dead.
God desires to give you a new life in him.
You may not have experienced God's breath yet, but the Spirit is there blowing on the back of your neck. Sooner or later he will fill you with new life. If you desire that second wind, just ask the Lord to fill your old bones with new life. What the world deflates, God inflates. God is good with bones. If you've never met him, I encourage you to open your heart to him today. He can fill your emptiness and give you a new life in him! Will you let him?