Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel. That is to say, the Babylonians had defeated Jerusalem and Judah and taken many captives and deported them to Babylon. Daniel went in the first wave. Ezekiel in the second. Jeremiah prophesied in both locations. Together they paint a more complete picture of these times when God’s people were humbled by their enemies.
All of these prophets note that it was the turning away from God and his laws and his righteousness that resulted in God lifting his protection from their enemies. Collectively there were a whole mess of warnings, followed by “I told you so’s” followed by promises of restoration.
Today we focus on Ezekiel and one special pericope. Ezekiel was unique in that he prophesied not only the removal of God’s glory from the temple and his people but the restoration of both. God’s people would know God’s glory once again.
Ezekiel is unique in that he prophesied not only to God’s people but to Edom and Egypt, to mountains, and surely to God’s own people.
This 37th chapter presents imagery of what might have been the in a place once called Topath or Ben Hinnom but which the Lord told Jeremiah would henceforth be known as the Valley of Slaughter.
This was a vision of a place that left God’s people desolate and void of joy. Imagine our countryside covered not in wheat fields and hay bales, cattle and windmills, barns and farmhouses, but desert and dry bones. Imagine that a battle was waged here, and the bodies of soldiers were too numerous to evacuate and give a proper burial.
Imagine defeat so tragic that we would not even bring our veteran’s bodies to a proper resting place. Year after year the uniforms wear off, scavenger birds eat the flesh, and sun and wind bleach and wither the skeletal remains.
You probably are thinking, “Hey! Enough of that. We have a fellowship meal in a little bit.”
I doubt had Ezekiel planned his own day, he would have wanted to be brought to this place either, but he was. He was brought there in the spirit—in a vision—that the Lord had given him. This was nothing new to Ezekiel, he prophesied time and again for the Lord, but this was a unique vision and conversation that followed.
The Lord says, “Son of man—speaking to Ezekiel—can these bones live?”
Ezekiel sort of knows that this is a trick question. It’s like there is no way these bones have any future but dust, but then again, I am having this conversation with the Lord, so what can I say?
Oh Sovereign Lord, only you know!
The Lord doesn’t just say, “I got this.” He instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. He says tell these bones that I will put them back together and breath life back into them.
Ezekiel does what he is told and as he is speaking there is this rattling sound of bones coming back together. You might be thinking that this chapter should be accompanied with the soundtrack to Thriller.
But there is more to this than just skeletons coming back together. Tendons and flesh and skin are reconstituting these once desolate bones. Yet, these creatures are not alive. There is no breath in them.
So the Lord instructs Ezekiel to . Let it come from the four winds. Ezekiel did as commanded and and they stood and came to life.
Now that’s some stuff right there, but God was not just showing off. He told Ezekiel that these bones were the whole house of Israel—not two kingdoms but one—who had given up hope.
God said that he would restore his people—people who were now captives or living among the rubble of their once proud lands. To understand the imagery of the bones, we must turn back to .
Again, the Lord gives Ezekiel prophesies. He says that he will gather his people from all over the world and restore them to the land promised them. He will take out their hearts of stone and replace it with one of flesh. These people will be receptive to the Lord’s ways.
None of this will be because the people earned restoration. They did not. The Lord said that they should be ashamed of their conduct. The Lord will do this because he is the Lord and so that the people will have no doubt that he is the Lord.
The nations that scorned God’s people will also know that he is the Lord and he does what he says he will do. The Lord does what he says he will do.
It’s a cool story that we should all know. It helps us understand Israel’s history and prophecy. It gives us insight into a time long ago, and…
Perhaps it gives us some hope for the year to come. In the whole of my life, I have never seen such insanity as I have seen this year. I have never seen such disdain for the one true God and his holy word. Whether it is celebrating a right to kill a child or change your gender on a monthly basis or just ridicule someone who professes God’s word as a hater or racists or some other derogatory term yet to be conceived, the world is moving farther away from God.
We are blessed to live where we do but we are not immune from the depravity of the world. I don’t think that I have lived through a year that had as much hate, animosity, acrimony, and general discord as this one.
I don’t think I have known a year with as much narcissism, condemnation of others, and just general depravity as this one. You might just want to throw in the towel on this whole living right business.
We might look around and see a world full of dried bones. We might see ourselves as having already moved beyond the tipping point. We might just say, the end is surely near. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and we had just as well enjoy the ride.
We might prophesy to the dry bones. What would we say? Has the Lord given us words to say to these dry bones around us now?
He has. What if we spoke his words to the dry bones of this age? What if we spoke words of affirmation to each other? What if…
How about .
Here’s one that you might have heard a few, dozen, hundred times.
What if we challenged each other every week with this one?
What if we encouraged each other with this one?
What if we proclaimed this one to the world—even a world of dry bones?
What if we reminded each other of this one?
What if we starting speaking the words given to us by God and did it on a regular basis? What if we talked less about the Sooners and more about ?
What if we talked less about politics and more about
What if instead of ranting on the price of gasoline, we reminded each other that .
How about when we need to encourage each other or are going through some stuff, we remind each other:
Or we remind each other of Joseph’s words to his brothers when we have been wronged by someone.
Or when we just can’t seem to hold on and be that overcomer that we want to be…
What if in 2019, we started speaking to the dead bones all around us. What if we spoke to those living with apathy and ambivalence to the one true God? What would we say?
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
The world is a mess. It is moving farther away from God. We are a little better here than in some places, but the love of many is growing cold, even in our refuge.
We must speak the words of the Lord. We have so many from which to choose. We speak to each other to challenge and encourage and to the lost and disconnected in hopes that they will know the grace of God that we do.
But speaking the words is not enough. We must have the breath. We must have the Spirit of God leading us, guiding us, prompting us to speak his words.
The Holy Spirit must accompany our every word whether we are quoting scripture or not. We must . As we look forward, let’s make more of those words that we speak, the words of the Lord. Let us prophecy to the dead bones around us with words that we have already been given.
Let us with affirmations found in the word of God.
Let us .
Where do we start? Let’s go with this while you start putting your plan to speak God’s word more next year.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Happy New Year and Amen!