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Summary: There is always hope when God breathes new life into the dry bones of our lives.

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Title: Restoring What Once Was

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Thesis: There is always hope when God breathes new life into the dry bones of our lives.

Lenten Series: Reflecting, Repenting and Returning to God

The Lenten Season is a time for reflection, repenting of our sin and returning to God.

Introduction

I have not been a watcher of crime scene television despite the enormous popularity of CSI Miami and CSI New York series. But I have recently become interested in the Fox series, Bones.

The series is based on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. The episodes are always about FBI cases concerning mysteries regarding human remains in the investigation of crimes.

Special Agent Seeley Booth is the FBI guy and he teams up with forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan. They, along with the other cast members are a quirky and entertaining bunch who are always up to their elbows in human remains.

A recent episode involved attempting to identify the victim after seven pairs of feet washed up on a beach on the U.S. – Canadian border. Six pairs of feet belonged to research cadavers from a nearby body farm… but to whom did the seventh pair of feet belong?

I wonder what Ezekiel thought when God set him down in the middle of a body farm of sorts in our story today.

I. Sometimes God shows up in unlikely places

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. Ezekiel 37:1-2

The story begins with the “hand of the Lord” taking Ezekiel and transporting him to a valley strewn with dry bones. God is the initiator of the action and the implication is that in bringing him “by the Spirit,” God was giving Ezekiel a vision.

In his vision, God did not take Ezekiel up onto a high mountain overlooking a valley strewn with bones, thus giving him a panoramic view of things. God took Ezekiel down into a valley and had him walk among the dry bones. That says something about the way God works. God made sure Ezekiel got an up-close and personal view of things. Then God took Ezekiel on a walking tour back and forth so he could see just how desiccated and disjointed the bones were.

Between the years of 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Pol Pot killed and buried upwards to 2.5 million people in Cambodia. There are at least 20,000 identified mass grave sites. If you saw The Killing Fields you may recall the vivid images of skeletal remains exposed by heavy rainfall along the path of Dith Pran as he walked to escape the murderous Khmer Rouge.

Nearly every day we hear of another mass grave discovery along the U.S. – Mexican border region. The Christian Science Monitor reported that 60 bodies were discovered by authorities about 80 miles south of Brownsville, Texas… evidence of the ongoing conflict between Mexico’s violent drug gangs. (Sara Miller and Nacha Cattan, Staff Writer and Correspondent, Mexico mass graves add fuel to public’s anger over drug war, The Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 2011)

Recently the remains of dozens of Jews who were killed by Romanian troops during the holocaust were discovered in a mass grave. On April 6 the victims were reburied in a Jewish cemetery. (JTA, Holocaust Victims Reburied in Romanian Jewish Cemetery, April 6, 2011)

On April 9 the Herald Sun reported, “Mass Graves Discovered in Ivory Coast.” UN human rights investigators have found more than 100 bodies in the past 24 hours in western Ivory Coast… evidence of ethnically motivated killings. The story is repeated in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the African Continent.

In his vision, God took Ezekiel to just such a scene of horrific death of catastrophic proportions. The bones of the dead were strewn across the floor of a great valley. The victims were never buried. They were simply left where they fell to be picked clean by buzzards and for their bones to bleach in sun.

This is truly an unlikely thing for God to do. Ezekiel had been a priest in back in the day before Judah was carted off into exile to Babylon. Now he was a priest turned prophet. The time was around 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament Law of Moses was all Ezekiel had ever known… and God takes him to a valley strewn with the remains of the long dead.

The fact that God took him to a a plain or an expansive valley must have been shocking to Ezekiel. The place to which God took him was obviously not Israel and by all appearances it was ancient Mesopotamia… it looked very much like modern day Iraq. This had to be off-putting to Ezekiel and to any good Jew who believed God made his home in Jerusalem. What was God doing in a pagan place.

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