Summary: Exposition of Ezekiel 37:1-14
Getting Your Hopes Up
This morning I want to talk to you about the Christian virtue of hope. But before I do, I want to warn you that it’s easy to think about, talk about or sing about hope and still miss its reality.
Hank Williams is a name synonymous with country music. In his brief, tragic life, he wrote thousands of songs, performed in front of maybe millions of people, defining country before country was cool. One CD anthology of his work is entitled “Turn Back the Years” and consists of 3 CDs: Drinkin’ Lovin’ and Prayin’—3 themes that still define much of modern country music. His most famous “prayin’” song is “I Saw the Light” in which he sang, “I saw the Light, I saw the Light, no more in darkness, no more in night….Praise the Lord, I saw the Light.” The words seemed to express a joy that most Christians experience when they put their hope in Jesus Christ as the Light of their lives. But Hank Williams never personally experienced the hope he sang about. Toward the end of his life, Williams was so drunk one night in San Diego that he stumbled off stage after finishing only two songs in the first show of a two-show gig. Minnie Pearl and the promoter’s wife drove him around town trying to sober him up enough to do the second show. They tried to get him to sing along with them to revive him. He sang only one verse of "I Saw the Light" before stopping. "Minnie," Williams said, "I don’t see no light. There ain’t no light."
One of the great tragedies of Hank Williams’ life was that he could write about and sing about a hope he didn’t possess.
You and I face the same danger today. You can read the words of hope in the Bible, sing the precious hymns of hope as loud as anybody else, yet still remain blind to the hope that Jesus Christ can give you. You can lose hope for your marriage or family, lose hope in the Bible or the church, even lose hope in God Himself. You can sink into the dark hopelessness that cries out, “I don’t see no light. There ain’t no light.”
I want to talk to you today about how to find hope, either for the first time or the fiftieth time. We’re going to look at a vision given to the nation of Israel during perhaps their most hopeless moment in their history. We’re going to see how God helped them get their hopes up and how God can help us get our hopes back up again. Turn with me please to Exekiel 37:1-14.
To begin with, let’s get our bearings in this section of the Bible. Ezekiel is one of what are known as the major prophets (because of its size.) His ministry spanned the years just before and just after the Babylonian exile of Jerusalem and the rest of the nation of Judah.
His first messages (1-32) predict God’s judgment and the exile, along with several prophesies concerning individual nations.
His second set of messages ( 33-39, which include the one we’ll read today) are given during the exile, and are meant to revive Israel’s hope in God. The final chapters (40-48) of Ezekiel describe God’s blueprint for Israel’s future. The book of Ezekiel is full of both warning and promise, both judgment and hope. Our passage this morning is meant to bring hope to these defeated, discouraged people. How?
First of all, Ezekiel’s vision faces a sober reality: Life can seem hopeless. (v. 1-3)
Have you ever felt hopelessness slither into your heart? I recently read about a young lawyer who descended into depression. Things were going so poorly for him that his friends kept all knives and razors away from him for fear he could commit suicide. In fact, during this time he wrote in his diary, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I fear I shall not.”
There is no denying that no matter how optimistic you try to be, there are times in life when everything seems hopeless. Ezekiel’s vision paints a very vivid picture of the hopelessness of the nation of Israel.
There is an inescapable eeriness to this vision. Ezekiel is transported by the Spirit (it’s unclear whether in his mind or physically) into a large, dark valley full of human bones. Imagine the shock of finding yourself ankle deep in skeletons and skulls, lying everywhere you look. As he staggers through the grisly scene, he notices these bones are very dry, indicating that they have been dead for a long time.
The questions must flood Ezekiel’s mind: what am I doing here? Where am I? Who were all these dead people? Then the Lord speaks to Ezekiel, not giving answers, but asking a question: Son of man, can these bones live?