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EZEKIEL 37:1-14 ESV
“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. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.””
Its a beautiful and vivid passage, filled with awesome power. A valley of dry bones re-organizing into whole persons; fresh flesh re-covering what once was a vibrant community; holy breath re-animating what was dead and lost. It is proof that God is not ok with broken relationships and sin-burdened people.
In our text, the people of Israel are represented as a valley of death because they were dead through their sins to the covenant God made with them. The people had been exiled from their land—a physical symbol of a spiritual reality, that through their disobedience and faith-less-ness, they would be cut off from the God who loves them. And so the people find themselves being ruled by foreign rulers, made to live in a foreign land, distant in their hearts from God. They are hopeless and afraid.
Then enters the prophet Ezekiel. God raises up the prophet to proclaim to the people that God will bring them new life. They will rise up, from the ashes of their failures, and be re-born as God’s holy community. They will not be left to their own devices—bound by sin and exile. God will cause the bones to gather, for their frames to be filled with flesh, for the life of His Spirit to be breathed into them, once again, so that they may live and live to the fullest.
All of this bears great meaning for us today because we are part of that holy community, that covenant people. As the Church of Jesus Christ, we are not to live burdened by sin, dead to life that comes from God. We are people of the promise, filled with new life, commanded to COME ALIVE by the power of the Holy Spirit! No more is sin to reign in the hearts and lives of God’s people. We are called to holy living, to divine activity, and this is all through the work of God’s grace.
The challenge for us is to hear the call to come alive. Through Jesus Christ, God has proclaimed the life-giving Gospel, making possible the resurrection of our dry bones. But will we surrender our wills, understanding that apart from God we stand no chance of real life?
And the life-giving Spirit is all around us, in the Scriptures, through prayer, and in worship. The Scriptures are the word of God that give life. Prayer is the breathing in of God’s Spirit, animating our faith. Worship is the participation in the relationship that God offers EVERY DAY. As the Spirit is breathed into these dry bones, we are animated through His word, our praying, and the worship of God.
People of God, are you content in your sin? Are you ok with the burdens you bear? Will we continue to accept the death that wrecks our lives everyday? Or, or…will we open up our mouths and let the breath of God rush mightily into our dead hearts? Will we let God gather up our whitewashed bones and cover our nakedness with His glory?
This is what the practice of Lent is all about, accepting that we are dusty, dry, dead bones, and that apart from God there is no hope. And then, then, Holy Week begins, today, as Jesus Christ marches into the holy city of our hearts and redeems the city from the sieging enemy of sin. Death loses its stinging pain and is swallowed up by the hunger of God’s love.
O, Church. Will you let the Holy Spirit remove the sin that seeks to bring death to your abundant life? Do you believe the words of Jesus when He says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10.9-10 ESV).
Let the Lord put you back together. For some of you, you’ve merely forgotten to breathe, letting the busyness of life and the mediocre spiritual diet of the world paralyze your abundant living. For others, you have been living empty, with a dryness about your spirituality, wishing the Creator God would show you you faith and fill you with peace. For both the busy and the empty: let Jesus re-create you from the bones up. Let the Holy Spirit fill you as God breathes merciful breath into the emptiness of our soul.
Listen again to v.13-14, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
This is the God we serve. This is the God who created you, who is re-creating your heart and filling it with His glory. Let it be so. Amen.