Summary: Only the Spirit of God can reverse the process of spiritual death and can make dry bones live.
This is a crazy time of year with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all stepping on each other’s toes. You have probably noticed the Halloween display at the corner of Elm and Metcalf with its grave stones and skeletons. According to Monday’s paper, the owner says she enjoys setting it up and makes no bones about it.
One of my favorite skeleton jokes is “Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?” “He didn’t have the guts.” All of us understand how skeletons get that way. What we don’t understand is how that process can be reversed, but this morning I think I hear the rattling of bones.
Recently, Sue and I attended the 50-year reunion of our Iowa Mennonite School class. Our reunion was a three-day event with 75% attendance from as far away as Oregon and Florida.
I suppose reunions can seem long, but this was the most uplifting event we have attended in a long time. The noise level in the room was almost deafening. And it was amazing how mature everyone turned out to be!
As you can guess, in a class of 55 students, a few were rebellious back then, some were spiritually alive, and some were what we might call spiritually dead, but I heard the rattling of bones. I remember this fellow as a happy-go-lucky guy, not rebellious, but also not interested in spiritual things. It was this guy who caught my attention over breakfast, because it was obvious he had completely changed.
He worked at a big hospital as a psychiatric aid and always carried his New Testament with him. He didn’t tell patients that he was a Christian, but somehow they knew. Some asked to talk with him. He would step out on the veranda with them and minister to them there. Doctors told him that when these patients came in, their lives messed up, the doctors expected the patient to be there for months or even a year, but sometimes they were ready to go home in three days! They couldn’t figure it out. “I knew,” he said, but he never told the doctors.
So what changed him? He told us that at one point he had become so depressed, he knew he needed the power of God in his life, so he went to the Bible and started to pray about each part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, confessing where he knew he was falling short. His load began to lift, but finally, he realized that he needed to confess his root sin and give his life completely to God. And the Spirit of God changed his life.
Ezekiel 37 is not just about one person who is transformed by the Spirit of God, but about the whole nation, or today the whole church, if you will. Because of their disobedience to God, the Israelites had been taken into captivity and Jerusalem had been destroyed. They were crushed militarily, separated from each other, abandoned by the Lord, and as good as dead. (Douglas Stuart. The Preacher’s Commentary.)
But just a couple of chapters earlier we see promises of revival. In Chapter 34 God promises a new shepherd to lead his people. God says in 34:23, “I will set up over them one shepherd…and he shall feed them..”
In 36:8, God promises renewal, “But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot out your branches, and yield your fruit to my people.”