Summary: While Ezekiel’s vision and prophesy applies uniquely to Israel, principles can be drawn that apply to God’s people today. What are three things Ezekiel’s dry bones have in common with today’s church?
First, we need to remind ourselves a little bit about who Ezekiel was. Ezekiel was a man that God commissioned to speak His Word to the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon. Remember that after King Solomon, God split the Jews into two nations—Israel and Judah. Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Israel always led the way in rebellion against the Lord. Israel would go into idolatry and a few years later, Judah would follow. You know the story—both Israel and Judah would rebel for a while, then they would repent. They did that over and over again until God finally said, “That’s enough!” He allowed the Assyrians to capture Israel first. Then just a few years later, Babylon conquered Assyria and went into Judah. This is during the time that Ezekiel prophesied. When Babylon conquered a place, they would do it in stages. They would exile the people out of the area in stages in order to assimilate them into Babylonian culture. In their first go round, they took Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In the second go round, they took Judah’s King, Jehoichin and Ezekiel. Finally, shortly after God gave Ezekiel the prophesy we’re looking at today, Babylon completely destroyed Jerusalem and carried off more people. Those were the times in which God gave Ezekiel this vision. While his vision and prophesy applies uniquely to Israel, there are certain principles we can draw from it that apply to us here today. To discover those principles, we’re going to look at two things Ezekiel’s dry bones have in common with the church today. The first thing the church has in common with Israel is our condition. Look back with me at verses 1-2.
What a vision! In the vision, God picked Ezekiel up and set him down in the middle of a huge open valley. But it wasn’t just any valley. It was a valley covered in human bones. When verse 1 says the valley was full of bones, it indicates the ground was covered with them. They were scattered all over the place. Not only were they scattered all over the place, there were a lot of them. Verse two says, “behold, there were very many in the open valley.” But the most vivid description he gives of them was that they were very dry. When I lived out west, sometimes you could find an old skull out in the mountains. When bones are exposed to the elements, they get bleached and very brittle. Before too long they begin to crumble. That’s what these bones were like. That’s why they were a perfect description of Israel. You see, Israel had all the opportunity in the world. Of all the people in the world, God had chosen them to bear His name. They were His chosen people. He blessed them with land. When they obeyed Him, He blessed them with peace. He blessed them with His presence in the temple. He blessed them with His Word through the prophets. But what did they do with His blessing? They took it for granted. Instead of doing what God wanted them to do, they ignored Him and did what they wanted to do. Instead of looking to His Word, they looked to idols. They didn’t worship God to try to please Him. They did their sacrifices out of routine. They did them out of obligation. Because they were supposed to—not because they wanted to. They looked to God when they were in trouble or wanted to get some benefit from Him. Not because they loved Him. Not because they wanted to be obedient to their Lord and Master. So what does that have in common with the church today? As Christians, we are chosen by Jesus Christ. He has chosen us to bear His name. Especially as the church in America, He has blessed us with buildings and budgets and material wealth. Even many of our poorest churches in this country are blessed with nice facilities. God has blessed every church in our association with nice facilities and material blessings. God has given us peace and freedom from persecution. He has protected the church in America from physical harm. God has blessed us with the presence of His Holy Spirit. And He has blessed us with His complete revelation in His Word—something the Old Testament saints never had. He’s given us the complete picture. He’s given us the back of the Book. But what do we do with it? What do we do with God’s blessing? We do the same thing Israel did. We take it for granted. Many times, instead of doing what God wants us to do, we ignore Him and do what we want instead. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. The problem is that we choose not to do what God has so clearly told us we’re to do. We choose to live the way we know God doesn’t want us to. Instead of looking into His Word, we look at Oprah or Dr. Phil. We look at pop-psychology and entertainment when we should be looking to Jesus. Oh, but we do turn to Jesus, don’t we. We turn to Him when we’re in trouble. Or when we’re sick. Or when we want something from Him. When we want him to make us feel good. Or give us a little emotional tingle. So, when we act like that, how are we any different from the dry bones that God showed Ezekiel? If we’re so similar to the way Israel was before the exile, what is keeping God from turning us into a valley of dry bones just like He did with them? I think it’s obvious that the church suffers from the same condition that Israel did. But is it all bad news? If that’s our condition, what’s the cure? The second thing the church has in common with Israel is the cure. Look with me in verses 4-6: