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"De'm Bones"

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Rev. Alan Taylor

Feast of Pentecost, series B
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, May 27, 2012 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel prophesied during one of the worst times in Israel's history.  Because she had enjoyed such a long period of peace and prosperity, Israel had become complacent toward God.  Many people had rejected their covenant God, the One true God, in favor of false gods.  "I have been broken (God said) over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols."

Ezekiel delivered a stern word of warning from God.  Ultimately he called Israel to repentance.  "Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.  Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols.  And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars."

By the time we come to Ezekiel's message here in chapter 37, Israel could only be described in terms of her deadness toward God.  Thus she is depicted as a valley of dry bones.  "The hand of the LORD was upon me (writes the prophet), 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."

It was an eerie, macabre sight.  "Son of man," God said, indicating Ezekiel's essential smallness in the grand scheme of things, as well as his inability to fix Israel, I want you to tell me something.  "Can these bones live?"

It was a troubling question and an impossible situation.  Ezekiel had preached and preached.  Still, he had seen God's people wander away from God despite his words of warning.  He had seen cold-hearted, presumptuous people put God to the test time and time again.  He had to be somewhat frustrated, not just by God's question about the dry bones, but, by the seeming futility of his ministry. 

God laid out a scenario that left him speechless.  Can the dead be brought to life!?  Can Israel be restored!?  Ezekiel was powerless to effect that kind of change, to work that kind of miracle.  Rightfully, therefore, he bowed to God, imploring Him to answer His own question.  "Lord, he said, you know." 

God then said to Ezekiel, "prophesy to the bones!" That is, keep preaching My Word to them and something marvelous is going to happen.  "I will cause breath to enter (them), and (they) shall live.  And I will lay sinews upon (them), and will cause flesh to come upon (them), and cover (them) with skin, and put breath in (them), and (they) shall live, and (they) shall know that I am the LORD."

What a powerful word of Scripture that is.  God is the One who gives life, both physical life and the new birth in Christ!  Jesus, my friends, is "the author and finisher of your faith," for, "you did not choose Him but He chose you."  "You were (as the Bible says), (like Israel), dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedienceóBut God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved (you), even when (you) were dead in (your) trespasses, made (you) alive together with Christ." 

If I was not a Lutheran, at this point I would say "can I get an Amen!?" Wow!  God brings the dead to life!  By His grace and mercy and through the power of His Spirit, He causes dead, dry bones to live and not only to live, but, to live in communion and fellowship with Him! 

Martin Luther, in explaining the meaning of the third article of the Apostle Creed, whereby we Christians confess our faith in the Holy Spirit, said, "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, My Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith."  Thus, as you confess the Apostle's Creed, you confess that that you cling to Christ for forgiveness, life and salvation because God called you by the Gospel.  In other words, you confess that your faith in Christ is completely and solely God's work in you! 

Unfortunately, much of Christendom these days refuses to confess such a thing, thus, they refuse to bow before God as did Ezekiel.  Remember, the question asked of him was, can these dry bones live?  Ezekiel said, "Lord, you know." 

Since about the 18th century, the American religious scene has been infected by the prideful notion that dead, dry bones can come to life by the sheer force of their will and by the good intention and the purity of their choices.  Those choices, some believe, can be influenced by human persuasion, and even by cleverly devised gimmicks.  Where, one has to wonder, did we ever get the notion that dead men can make choices, or, that the dead can "will" themselves back to life!?

The fact is, with Jesus having come into the world to save the world from its sin, if a person remains dead "in his trespasses and sins" his condemnation is his own.  If, however, he comes to faith in Christ, all glory, honor, thanks and praise, belong to God, for, He, and He alone can bring the dead to life!  I want you to understand that this more than just splitting hairs, and its more than an academic distinction.  Why?  Well, because even though we have been brought to life through faith in Christ, our old dead, dry bones continue to cause us grief and pain and they continue to try to draw the life of Christ right out of us. 

David said it: "All my bones are out of joint" (Ps 22:14).  Hezekiah said it: "Like a lion he broke all my bones" (Is 38:13).  Habakkuk said it: "Decay crept into my bones" (Hab 3:16).  These men, mind you, weren't talking about arthritis, although they may have had that too.  They were talking about sin and its effect on their vitality as children of God.

My bones have ached, as I know yours have too.  In Psalm 32, David says that much of the wasting away and the aching of his bones was from his failure to confess his sin before God.  "My bones (he said) wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Israel too finally heard the preaching of Ezekiel.  She cried out: "Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone" (v 11).  What seemed to be words of death were, in fact, words of life!  Israel, you and I, confess that we aren't what we'd hoped we would be.  We aren't even what we thought we were.  Rather, we are sinners before a righteous God, always fighting against the goads, always struggling, always wandering.  Thus, to the degree that we succeed, we, in fact, lose, for, in our un-repentance our hope is gone and our "bones are (indeed) dried up." 

"De'm bones, de'm dry bones."  God has rattled them to life!  Thanks be to God that He has asserted His power in us, that though we were dead, "he has made us alive together in Christ." 

"Come, holy Comforter,

Thy sacred witness bear

In this glad hour!

Thou, who almighty art,

Now rule in every heart,

And never from us depart,

Spirit of power."

In Jesus' name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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