Can these Bones Live?
Intro: The title of my message is found in verse 3.
Can These Bones Live?
Ezekiel is faced with a seemingly hopeless situation.
God physically picks Ezekiel up and carries him out to a valley full of dry bones. Probably the scene of some great battle of years gone by.
And He asks him a very interesting question. "Son of man, can these bones live?"
Ezekiel looks out over the carnage. Bones are lying everywhere. I doubt very seriously if they were all nice and neatly arranged. They had been certainly ravaged and torn apart by scavenging animals. Then they had been exposed to the elements for any number of years.
Likely the bones of individual bodies were scattered everywhere.
Ezekiel ponders His answer. Of course had it been anyone else asking the question, the answer would have been obvious. Ezekiel's first thought was probably what yours and mine would have been. Are you joking? These bone have been laying here for years. What do mean, "Can they live?" Then Ezekiel remember who he is speaking to.
Look at verse one.
LORD - Jehovah - The self-existent one.
Then he gives his wise answer.
"O Lord GOD, thou knowest."
He answered that way because as far as he could see, the situation was plainly and desperately HOPELESS. And yet, in faith, he recognized that NOTHING IS HOPELESS WITH GOD.
God, this situation is in your hands.
The Title of my message this morning is…
The God of the Impossible
As we look deeper into this story this morning, the thing I want us to remember more than anything else is that
NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.
When Sarah was 90 years old and God told her that she would bear a son, He reminded her…
Is any thing too hard for the LORD?…
God reminded Jeremiah…
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
The angel Gabriel reminded Mary…
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Jesus encouraged His disciples…
…With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Ø There is no such thing as a hopeless case.
Ø There are no hard cases
Ø There are no problems that are too big for our God.
Ø There is no situation that we face that comes as a surprise to Him.
Did it ever occur to you, that nothing has occurred to God?
I'll remind you that Scripture has only one interpretation.
But it can have several applications.
As we examine this portion of Scripture we are going to examine, first of all, the primary interpretation, then we will look at several applications.
I. THE DRY BONES ARE A PICTURE OF ISRAEL
There can be no mistaking of this interpretation, because Scripture itself is very plain. - vs. 11
A. At the time of this writing, Judah is being held captive in Babylon.
They had been there for over fifty years.
B. Things looked hopeless. - vs. 2b, 11b
The last time Israel found themselves in this kind of captivity was their time spent in Egypt.
That captivity lasted for over 600 years.
They didn't see any way out of this. The Babylonian Empire ruled most of the known world. They weren't likely to let go their grip on this small nation.
C. But God lets Ezekiel know that no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, God is not finished with the nation of Israel. - vs. 12-14
He doesn't stop there. He reminds them time and time again that he still has plans for this nation.
But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Certainly there was a message to the captives of Israel in this passage. God had not forgotten them. All was not lost. It was not hopeless.
God sent Ezekiel to remind Israel that with God, nothing shall be impossible.
But the application goes far beyond that of Israel. Because in this story, we learn something about the character of God.
And God's character doesn't change regardless of the people he is dealing with.
And in that sense…
II. THE DRY BONES ARE A PICTURE OF LOST MANKIND.
Every person with out Christ is as dead as the bones in that valley.
It doesn't matter who it is-rich or poor, old or young. Everyone who has not come to Christ in repentance and faith is dead.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
¨ There are those who say, "Well, I'm not as bad as some other people I know"
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
¨ Some feel that as long as they go to church on occasion and do lots of good works, then certainly God will overlook everything else.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;…
ILLUS - In one of George Orwell's essays, Orwell offers a graphic image of human lostness. He describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him." The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition."
So the question come to mind…
Can These Bones Live???
Bones that have been scattered by sin and ravaged by sinful pleasures.
How can lives that Satan holds tight in his grasp be rescued?
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
A. We must go where they are.
Vs. 2 "and caused me to pass them round about."
Had Ezekiel stayed in his comfortable home, or even worshipped faithfully at the Temple and went regularly to the synagogue, he would have never encountered the dry bones.
He would never have known the need that existed.
We have to go where the lost are.
We can never sit back and expect them to walk through our door asking us how they can be saved.
B. We must bring them the Word of God - vs. 4
God asked Ezekiel to prophesy to dead dry bones.
Can you imagine Ezekiel's natural reaction?
Lord, they don't even have ears! They're dead! They're not listening! They couldn't care less what I have to say.
How often have you felt that way about a loved one you've been witnessing to?
Yet the command was clear.
The dead bones would live. But they needed to "hear the word of the Lord."
The Word of God is more powerful than we can ever imagine.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
There is power in the Word of God.
ILLUS - Many years ago in a Moscow theater, matinee idol Alexander Rostovzev was converted while playing the role of Jesus in a sacrilegious play entitled "Christ in a Tuxedo." He was supposed to read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, remove his gown, and cry out, "Give me my tuxedo and top hat!" But as he read the words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," he began to tremble. Instead of following the script, he kept reading from Matthew 5, ignoring the coughs, calls, and foot-stamping of his fellow actors. Finally, recalling a verse he had learned in his childhood in a Russian Orthodox church, he cried, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!" (Luke 23:42). Before the curtain could be lowered, Rostovzev had trusted Jesus Christ. Why Christians Sin, J.K. Johnston, Discovery House, 1992, p. 121
It is the power of the Word of God that impacts the lives of men.
That is the power that we must bring the to the lost.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Verse 14 describes how that hearing takes place.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
We must tell them lovingly but convincingly of
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We must show them
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
We must explain to them that in order to be saved they must confess their sin, come to Him in repentance and faith confessing Him to be the Lord and Master of their life.
And most importantly, they must hear Christ's words in
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
If the bones of the lost are going to live again,
1. We must go where they are.
2. We must bring them the Word of God.
And thirdly…and in closing
C. We must pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit - vs. 9
1. The wind and breath is often used in Scripture to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
Illus.: Pentecost the Holy Spirit was described as rushing, mighty wind.
2. It is the Holy Spirit that draws men to himself.
We must take the Word of God to man. But it is the Holy Spirit that draws him to himself.
There are two extremes in the area of soul winning.
a. Those that believe that believe there is nothing we need do. The Holy Spirit will draw the "chosen" to himself.
This group of people are know in Theological circles as "Hyper Calvinists."
They ignore the commands of the Bible that implore us to tell others about God's plan of salvation for mankind.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
The believer has a God given responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.
He lays it out for us in…
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
b. Those that will resort to any manipulation to get someone to say a prayer.
This group downplays the necessity of the Holy Spirit's involvement. Oh they say He's necessary, but you can't tell it by the way they teach people to win someone to Christ.
Any method is acceptable as long as it ends in someone mouthing the sinner's prayer.
They bypass passages such as found in…
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:
C.S. Lovett in his book Soul-winning Made Easy, calls for the use of psychology to win people to Christ.
The ideas is to do or say whatever it takes to get someone to say the sinner's prayer. Or leave important ingredients (such as repentance) out of the formula if it will result in the person changing their minds.
If the prospect is reluctant to make a decision, C.S. Lovett encourages the soul winner to tell the prospect to bow his head and repeat the sinner's prayer.
Where is the Holy Spirit in that?
I've known people that have used this method.
Illus.: Lady who didn't have time to talk to the soul-winner and was asked if they could have Word of prayer.
Someone coming to Christ doesn't need to be cajoled, prodded, manipulated, or tricked into trust Christ. When the Holy Spirit in dealing with a heart, he does the prodding and convincing.
It is our responsibility to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leadership. If we see that He is working in their heart, then certainly it is natural that we would want to do what we can to encourage them to make the right choice.
3. We must pray for His intervention in the lives of those we desire to see saved.
By the way, there is no case of a lost person that is too hard for him to reach.
If you have a lost loved one or co-worker that you have been praying for, don't give up hope. These bones can live!
Conclusion: I'll close with Christ's Words in
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Appeal: If you're here and you are feeling a little like those dry bones. Dead, lifeless, without hope. There is hope this morning. He will receive you, just as you are.
Maybe you have a loved one that you have been praying to be saved and you want to come pray for the Holy Spirit's intervention in their life, this is your opportunity.
Tonight: Part 2 of this message.
III. THE DRY BONES ARE A PICTURE OF THE DRIED UP CHRISTIAN.
A. Remember back to the time when you were first saved.
Nobody had to talk you into going to church.
No one had to shame you into reading your Bible.
No one had to guilt you into telling others.
B. For some reason that newness wears off.
There are many reasons that we lose the freshness of our life with Christ.
1. Sin gets in the way.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Illus.: Solomon at the beginning of his reign was on fire for God. But he began to be led away by sin. He allowed himself to become unequally yoked with godless wives and he drifted from God himself.
We read last week that by the time his grandson was in power, Israel was not even close to a God fearing nation.
I've known godly Christians who have fell prey to sin in their lives.
They think it can never happen to them. They begin to toy with sinful pleasures and before long they are out of church and serving God altogether.
Illus.: In 1982, "ABC Evening News" highlighted an art exhibit. It was a chair with a shotgun affixed to it. It was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and staring down at the gun barrel. The gun was loaded and was set on a timer to go off sometime in the next one hundred years.
The interesting thing was that people lined up to sit and stare down the shell's path.
They knew full well that they could be shot at point blank range. But the odds were so great that they thought the exhilaration of staring down the barrel of a loaded gun was worth the risk.
We hear that story and we think, "How foolish." Yet how many people who would never dream of sitting in that chair, live a life of gambling with sin. Oh they know the risks, but they're not going to sit there for long.
They sit and toy with sin until it ultimately destroys them.
When the Christian allows himself to toy with the pleasures of sin, he is not only risking his own self-destruction, but he also forfeits the joy of his salvation.
Being a child of God doesn't have the excitement it once had.
Another reason Christian can dry up is that…
2. Life gets in the way.
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Ø There is so much to do in the world today.
(Unfortunately, very little of it would please Christ.)
Ø There is so much to look at
(Unfortunately, too much of it takes our eyes off of Christ.)
Ø There are so many tasks vying for our attention.
We allow ourselves to become so busy that before long, God has taken a back seat.
¨ It starts by missing our daily quiet time.
¨ Then we start missing services here and there.
¨ Then we don't seem to have enough in the bank account to tithe this week.
Before you know it, we have drifted completely away.
Another reason Christians get dry is that…
3. Boredom sets in.
ILLUS - British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham wasn't a great admirer of the music of his fellow Briton, composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. During the rehearsal of a Williams symphony, Beecham seemed to be doing little more than listlessly beating time. In fact, he was still beating time after the orchestra had stopped. "Why aren't you playing?" Beecham mildly asked the first violinist. "It's finished, Sir Thomas," came the reply. Beecham looked down at his score. "So it is!"
Have you ever come to the point in your Christian walk that you felt that you were listlessly beating time?
Your going through the motions of having devotions.
Your spending the necessary time in prayer, but you wonder if your prayers are even reaching the ceiling.
You come to church, but it is more out of duty than a genuine love for God.
If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you've been in the place that I'm describing. You see, as much as we would like to deny it…
C. There is a valley of dry bones in the life of every Christian.
1. It's a dry place - there is no joy there.
2. It's a dead place - there is no fruit there.
3. It's a dangerous place. - no believer should ever stay there.
I'm reminded of God's question to Ezekiel:
D. Can these bones live?
When we as Christians find ourselves in the valley of dry bones, is there a way out?
Can these bones live?
There may be one who would say, but you don't understand. I'm too far gone. I'll never have the abundant life that I once had.
It's impossible. I'll bring to your memory the truth that we revealed at the outset of this message.
Nothing is impossible with God.
Let me give you three things to do when you feel like you are in the "Valley of Dry Bones."
Step #1: Admit the problem - vs. 1
You can't fix a problem till you face it.
There was no denying the situation that Ezekiel found himself in.
God wanted Ezekiel to know just how dead these bones were.
He wanted Ezekiel to realize that the problem was too big for Ezekiel to handle.
The problem most Christians face is that even though they may find themselves in a valley of dry bones spiritually, their pride keeps them form admitting it.
Step #2: Read the Word
Wait a minute Pastor! Didn't you hear me! I'm bored with the Word. It doesn't seem to impact me the way it once did.
Read it anyway. Even when it seems as dry as the bones in the valley.
Illus.: Karen and Rich and Pinto Beans
Whether or not we "get anything out of it," the Word of God is still vital.
Determine to read it even more until it does speak to your heart again.
ILLUS - Evangelist Robert L. Sumner in his book THE WONDERS OF THE WORD OF GOD tells about a man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. him. The victim's face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was just a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read Braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in Braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the Braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, I can read the Bible using my tongue. At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had "read" through the entire Bible four times."
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: ~. Jer 15:16
And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
Oh, that we would have that kind of love for the Word of God.
ILLUS - Anatoli Shcharansky, a dissident Soviet Jew, kissed his wife goodbye as she left Russia for freedom in Israel. His parting words to her were, "I'll see you soon in Jerusalem." But Anatoli was detained and finally imprisoned. Their reunion in Jerusalem would not only be postponed, it might never occur. During long years in Russian prisons and work camps Anatoli was stripped of his personal belongings. His only possession was a miniature copy of the Psalms. Once during his imprisonment, his refusal to release the book to the authorities cost him 130 days in solitary confinement. Finally, twelve years after parting with his wife, he was offered freedom. In February 1986, as the world watched, Shcharansky was allowed to walk away from Russian guards toward those who would take him to Jerusalem. But in the final moments of captivity, the guards tried again to confiscate the Psalms book. Anatoli threw himself face down in the snow and refused to walk on to freedom without it. Those words had kept him alive during imprisonment. He would not go on to freedom without them. from Discipleship Journal, Issue #43 (1988), p. 24
May God help us to find a way to love His Word that much!
Step #3: Pray for personal revival
If we are going to experience personal revival, it won't be because we talked ourselves into it. It will be as we prayer for the power that only His Spirit can give.
…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
No matter how dry we may feel, prayer must be our first discipline.
QUOTE (C.S. Lewis) - "The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in."
QUOTE (Martin Luther) - "If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith."
QUOTE (Abraham Lincoln) - "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day."
QUOTE (Robert E. Lee) - " Knowing that intercessory prayer is our mightiest weapon and the supreme call for all Christians today, I pleadingly urge our people everywhere to pray. Believing that prayer is the greatest contribution that our people can make in this critical hour, I humbly urge that we take time to pray--to really pray. Let there be prayer at sunup, at noonday, at sundown, at midnight--all through the day. Let us all pray for our children, our youth, our aged, our pastors, our homes. Let us pray for our churches. Let us pray for ourselves, that we may not lose the word 'concern' out of our Christian vocabulary. Let us pray for our nation. Let us pray for those who have never known Jesus Christ and redeeming love, for moral forces everywhere, for our national leaders. Let prayer be our passion. Let prayer be our practice."
Step #4: Live as though the victory has already been won.
So many Christians spend their lives praying for victory in a certain area of their lives when the victory has already been won.
Jesus Christ died and rose again in victory over sin, and death and grave, so that we too could have victory.
The victory is there. We don't have to fight for it or even pray for it. We merely have to claim it.
Oh Victory in Jesus!
My Savior forever
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood.
He loved me er'e I knew Him.
And all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood!
Conclusion: Dear friend, there is victory offered to you this morning.
There is victory for the believer who has allowed his Christian walk to slip into a mundane routine.
There is victory for the Christian who has allowed sin to rob him of the joy of his salvation.
There's victory for the believer who has let the cares of this world distract him from his walk with Christ.
There is victory for that person who is lost this morning.
If you're here and you have never trusted Christ, maybe you're feeling a little like those dead dry bones.
Whatever the reason, these bones can live!