Summary: Through a powerful vision the LORD showed Ezekiel the source of spiritual life for God’s people. Only the Word of the LORD can make spiritually dry bones live!
To those who study them bones tell stories. Anthropologists who study the history of animal life read stories in the bones they find. They may find evidence of some species that has long since become extinct and look at their bones for the story behind why they died out. Human bones may also have a story to tell. If a human skeleton is discovered police investigators will study the bones to find out if there was a crime committed that caused the death of the person to whom the bones belonged. Historians sometimes study the bones of ancient peoples to see what humans ate at a particular time in a particular place. From a skeleton they may also be able to determine what type of health care an ancient civilization had or what activities were common among its people. From bones archeologists have uncovered information about everything from ancient battles to lost farming practices. A person’s bones may reveal to a researcher his or her sex, age, and even race..
In the Word of God for our sermon this morning there is a message in the bones that Ezekiel saw. The LORD delivered a message to the people of Judah and also made a promise through the vision of dry bones that were brought to life. The dry bones in the valley were a picture of the spiritual condition of God’s people. They were those skeletons. They were spiritually dead and unable to serve God in any way. The story their bones told was a record of their sinful rebellion against God and their disregard for his Word. Sin had killed them—their sins had sucked the spiritual life out of them. The second message in the bones that Ezekiel saw came from the miracle that gave them new life. That was a graphic picture of what God would do among his people through his powerful Word and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Although we are separated from Ezekiel by at least 2500 years the message that the LORD gave to him in the bones that he saw applies to us. The prophet calls out to us:
“DRY BONES, HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD!”
I. Let Him show you that sin steals your spiritual life
II. Let Him give you the Holy Spirit as the source of new life
One significant event divided the prophetic work of Ezekiel. It was the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. Up to that point Ezekiel forcefully proclaimed God’s judgment on sin and he called his fellow countrymen to repentance. However, once Jerusalem had fallen and the Temple was destroyed, Ezekiel’s mission became one of consolation and hope. The spiritual danger after the fall of Jerusalem was not stubborn and proud rebellion but utter hopelessness and despair. Under those circumstances Ezekiel was directed to proclaim the hope of God’s forgiving grace and his promise of salvation.
The bones that Ezekiel saw in his vision didn’t have a pleasant story to tell. Let’s just suppose that Ezekiel called in a coroner to determine the cause of death of the people to whom the bones in the valley belonged. What would he have found out? What story would they have told? From those bones he would have discovered that their diet, lifestyle, and environment led to the spiritual death of God’s people. Instead of the milk and meat of God’s Word the Israelites fed on the junk food of human ideas and pagan philosophies. They starved themselves of the truth that God had revealed to them and wouldn’t drink from the water of life that he offered. They chose to listen to the lying tongues of the false prophets and so were spiritually malnourished. And instead of living their lives according to God’s will they flocked to sin like moths to a bright light. Their love for sinful thoughts, words, and actions sucked the spiritual life out of them. They lived like their pagan neighbors for so long that in time they became just like them—a lifeless pile of dry bones.
Once God’s people became set in their rebellious ways and showed no signs of spiritual life God unleashed his judgment on them. He allowed the Babylonians to come in and destroy Jerusalem and even the Temple. Ezekiel’s vision of a once great army reduced to dry bones was not far from what had actually happened to Judah. They had been soundly defeated and taken into captivity. That is why they were saying, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Although they could ignore God when everything was going well they couldn’t ignore him when their nation was in ruin and their lives were threatened. They needed to see what they had become. They were dry bones.
That was the message in the dry bones that Ezekiel saw. They told the story of God’s people. They had been great in number and strong in faith. They were useful to God and served him faithfully. But in time they let sin steal their spiritual life and they became nothing more than a pile of bones. As dry bones they needed to hear the word of the LORD declare that truth to them.