Summary: Graveyards are not my most favorite places. There’s just something about graveyards. They speak of the dead. There is such a sense of finality associated with a graveyard.
INTRO: Graveyards are not my most favorite places. There’s just something about graveyards. They speak of the dead. There is such a sense of finality associated with a graveyard.
In Scripture, we read of one such graveyard. Turn with me to Ezekiel 37:1-3:
"The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 2And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 3And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest."
Today, with the help of the Holy Spirit I will be speaking to you on the subject: "Testimonies From A Graveyard."
In 586 BC Jerusalem was totally ruined by Nebuchadnezzer and his great Babylonian army. Solomon’s Temple, which had been the pride and glory of Israel for almost 400 years was reduced to ashes; all the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been taken either to Chaldea or to Babylon in captivity, including Mattaniah, last king of Judah who was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon (present day Iraq). They had been warned repeatedly by God through His prophets, yet they had turned a deaf ear!
Their nation’s history had begun by a miraculous delivery by God from the cruel hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh and now because of their disobedience, they are in captivity again. The Psalmist records: "By the rivers of Babylon ... we sat down, (and) we wept ....". Ezekiel adds his own lament to this bleak situation as he records in Ezekiel 1:1 that: " . . .I was among the captives by the river of Chebar."
Of all the prophets, Ezekiel (Who’s name meant "God strengthens") was probably the most colorful. He used pantomime, would cry and wail and slap his thighs, ate a scroll, and did many other unusual things to burn his messages into the minds of the people.
Historians tell us that Ezekiel was probably only about 25 years old when taken into captivity. Here was a young man who had been raised literally in the shadow of the great Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. He would follow in the footsteps of his father, a Zadokite priest. He had undoubtedly trained for this his entire life. Jewish law provided for a man to enter into the priesthood at the age of 30.
Yet, Ezekiel 1:1 tells us ". . . it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month . . . I was among the captives by the river of Chebar. . ." I don’t want us to miss the significance. The Living Bible puts it this way: "One day late in June, when I was thirty years old ..." Ezekiel had planned to be ministering in the great Temple of Solomon at the age of thirty. He looked forward to this with great anticipation. He would be revered and respected by an entire nation. Perhaps he would even become one of the chief priests of the Temple. Undoubtedly he had grandiose plans and dreams. But now, instead of being in the lofty position of priest of Israel, he find himself "among the captives by the river of Chebar". But God had a plan! He had not misplaced Ezekiel. He had not lost track of where he was. Ezekiel was not there because of some strange twist of fate. Look with me for a moment at Ezekiel 1:1,3: " Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of
the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 3the word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and there the hand of the LORD came upon him." I could stop right there and preach! The point is that he didn’t have to walk the marble steps of Solomon’s Temple to minister to God’s people. He may have felt he would never again be effective for his God; Never again would he experience the glory of God; Never again would He see the great power of God. He was, after all, in captivity. But Scripture records that it was "there (that) the hand of the Lord came upon him". It was there by the river of Chebar -- it was there in Babylonian captivity that the "heavens were opened and (he) saw visions of God". It was there, at perhaps his darkest hour; it was there when all hope seemed gone; it was there in his hour of crisis that "the word of the Lord came expressly" or "the word of the Lord came in reality" to Ezekiel. May I tell you this evening that God knows exactly where you are and He has promised that He will “never leave nor forsake us!”