Summary: God provides hope as we look forward to the answer to our prayers. We see Him work little by little as we continue to speak words of praise and thanks. Hope sustains us until the answer comes.
To Hope Again
INTRODUCTION: For years the children of Israel had experienced both good times and bad times. When their situation seemed most hopeless God would send a prophet to give a spark of hope and prophesy words showing God’s faithfulness to a rebellious and wayward people. Today I want to look back to a time in 593 BC when these people were exiled in Babylonia. God raised up the prophet Ezekiel to pronounce judgment upon them because of their sinfulness but also to bring a message of hope and encouragement. Ezekiel, himself, was taken captive in 597 BC and these verses of hope were written to the Jews in captivity in Babylon as well as to God’s people everywhere. They speak to us as well today.
At different times in our lifetime we have situations in which we feel that hope has gone and we are left to struggle hopeless and downcast. In the New Testament before the crucifixion those who were wildly waving palm branches felt that their high hopes had been shattered, and they scattered because of fear. Those people hundreds of years earlier felt the same way. The Savior had not yet come during the time these people lived.
Let’s look at Ezekiel’s message of hope and see how it applies to us also.
In the vision that God gave Ezekiel, the people of Israel were pictured as extremely dry bones, scattered everywhere in an open valley. The bones were disconnected from one another and were very dry and bleached out by the sun. There had been no moisture in them and they were as dry as dust. The Jews in Babylon were like these bones.
God asked Ezekiel a tough question, “Can these bones live?” How would you answer a question like that? Ezekiel didn’t want to say, “Well, no, that is impossible. These bones are so dried out there is no way they could live again.” He didn’t want to put limits on God. His response was, “O Lord, God, thou knowest.” I think that was a good answer. Ezekiel is thinking, “I sure can’t do anything about these dry bones, they look like they are beyond hope--but thou knowest.” These dry bones in the vision were an accurate picture of God’s people who had lost their hope--who were in captivity--a hopeless situation. What could God do about it? There were several things He said and did through His prophet Ezekiel.
1. PROPHESY--Get their attention: God said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” He was to prophesy “over” the bones and proclaim God’s quickening Word to them.
In the first part of the prophecy, Ezekiel is told to SPEAK DIRECTLY to the dry bones--directly to the hopeless situation. What was he to speak? He was to speak the Word of the Lord to them. He said, “Dry bones, HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD.” You might say, “So, what is so significant about that?” The importance lies in the fact that he needed to GET THEIR ATTENTION. He was to focus on their HEARING. They needed to perk their ears up. LISTEN. What is God trying to say? For a long time they had not heard from God. The bones were dried out and spiritually dead. They were lying out in the scorching heat of the sun. They were certainly not getting any nurturing or encouragement from anyone. They were seemingly beyond hope. They were separated from one another, and it looked as if they could never be joined together again. It was not humanly possible.
When God begins to work in a person’s life, He needs to get their attention. You might think of times when God has given you a wake up call and it got your attention.
Story: One Sunday morning a man entered the church and sat down near the front with his hat on. Noting the man, one of the deacons spoke to him, asking him if he knew he forgot to remove his hat.
“Yes,” the man replied. “I realize I have my hat on. I’ve been coming to this church for two months and this is the only way I could get anyone to speak to me.”
Hear what God is saying to you. Perk up your ears. There is more information to come. Ezekiel spoke directly to the dry bones, “Dry Bones, hear the Word of the Lord.” Many times things begin with WORDS. We may simply state a goal we have in a few words--I’m going to college. I’m going to be a teacher. I’m going to get a new car. IT BEGINS THE PROCESS.
I believe scripture teaches that we can also speak to our situation. Mark 11:23 says, “whosoever shall SAY unto this mountain, be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”