Summary: We need something much deeper and much more sustaining than three points and a poem to get us through the dark days when hope seems lost, something much more than greeting card clichés, something more than denominational differences and squabbles over wor
“Rattlin’ Bones and Rollin’ Stones” – Ezekiel 37:1-14
Sex scandals, decline, apathy, cancer, pain, death, hopelessness – the prophet Ezekiel could have been writing to us just as easily as the people Israel in Babylonian captivity. Perhaps our spiritual depravity, emotional bondage, and financial slavery is just as profound, just as desperate. Perhaps the rescue of God is just as necessary. Getting our arms around such a tough and confusing book is not simple. It’s tough and confusing because it was written a few thousand years ago. It’s tough and confusing because everything that happened there happened overseas in a land we still don’t understand - a place where all the wars and desperation of the Bible have not seemed to stop. It’s been 1400 years since Father Abraham. 800 years since Moses and the Red Sea. 400 years since King David became the great warrior king of the Jewish nation.
400 years later they are not doing so well. The Jews have drifted very far from the faith of their grandparents. Very far from the faith of Abraham, Moses, and David. Their kings have been lousy. Their armies have done even worse. And the faith of the people is thin. They didn’t even know to turn to God for help. Imagine being massacred without offering any prayers. That is true exile. Trapped. Prisoners. Pretty much slaves to the great armies of Babylon. Quite a humbling experience for God’s chosen people. The thing is, they never really acted very chosen. How many chances do you give a chosen people to wise up? That’s what the rest of the Old Testament is all about - chances. God’s voice continues to reinforce His plan, “I’m sending a savior from your family, your race of people. The Messiah’s coming. But people stop building towers to heaven! Stop the Sodom and Gomorrah sex scandals. Stop complaining about the manna in the desert. Listen to Moses. Stop seeking out witches for advice. Stop worshiping other gods.” Stop, stop, stop, until the chances were out. In Ezekiel 37, the picture is clear – the chances are gone. Ezekiel 37:1-2
Ezekiel was sent by God to warn people. These bones must have broken his heart. Every set representing people who would not listen. Not to Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, not even to himself. The chosen people of God got so far away from God. Remember this nation won battles they were supposed to lose. They were always the underdog. If not for great fires, gusts of wind, oceans dividing themselves, and gold boxes, they would never have won a battle. They are a living miracle. But without God, without the miracles, they are nothing but dry bones. Not just dead bodies, dry bones. That’s the picture Ezekiel sees. The people he wanted were destroyed. No vaccination can cure this disease. Why did the Spirit of God walk him back and forth through the bones? Whose faces did he see? Friends? Family members? Neighbors? Shop keepers? Children?
Not only the enormous pain of loss and horror overwhelms Ezekiel and his people but the utter hopelessness of their captivity in a foreign land completely cut off from home, family, customs, and faith. See Psalm 137. Have you ever felt that hopeless? Felt like giving up because there was no use? Feel like you just can’t go on anymore?
Not only is there the tremendous pain of a nation, but there is also the personal anguish of Ezekiel who has failed his one and only mission to save his people from destruction. He was called by God to deliver a message, to warn people so disaster might be averted. He has seen it all… the violence, bloodshed, death, chains, abuse, starvation, hopelessness, and misery. Now in captivity he is called by God to keep delivering a message to the people but a new message, one that has not been heard before, but he’s through. He can’t do it anymore. He’s on the verge of giving into despair along with everyone else when God gives him this vision and asks him a question, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
Gone is the boisterous fiery faith of “yes, Lord,” but he stops short of complete hopelessness when he says, “Lord, you alone know.” Ezekiel realizes that it’s out of his hands but God alone is the one who has the power to change their situation. It seems like a terrible exercise in speech class meant to build up your nerve. Go out to the graveyard and practice on dead people. You don’t have to worry about criticism or boos from the crowd for sure. It was far more difficult for Ezekiel. I wonder how he must have felt, how long did it take him to get the air into his diaphragm push it up through his vocal cords and pronounce the words with his mouth? Did he believe what he was saying? v. 4-10