“A New Life”

Ezekiel 37:1-14


            Dead end! Just think about those words for just a moment. Dead end. Those have to be two of the most ominous words out there. Dead. End.

            There is the dead end of bankruptcy. The dead end of cancer. The dead end of depression. The dead end of sexual abuse. The dead end of lonely, loveless relationships. The dead end of unemployment and heart disease and family conflicts.

            What does Ezekiel call his dead end? Dry bones.

            Ezekiel finds himself in a desperate situation. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). Israel was at a dead end. They were exiles in Babylonian captivity. Their land was ravaged, their temple destroyed, and their families were scattered. They were refugees in a strange land. They regarded this political and military defeat as an irrevocable historical judgment by God.

            The LORD says, “Son of man, these bones are whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are indeed cutoff’” (Ezekiel 37:11). Wanna talk about Death Valley! This is an absolutely gruesome scene. Maybe worse than any wartime battlefield. Bones are scattered all over the place. Bones as far as the eye can see. And God is going to use these bones to teach Ezekiel and us a few things.

            One is that bones have no ambition. Try to discover the purpose, the goals, and the dreams of a pile of bones. Bones can’t execute and carry out plans. Bones don’t have a future. Bones only have a past. There is no get-up and go, no fire, no emotion, no heart, no driving force in a pile of bones.

            Bones have no awareness. Ezekiel could have had a heart attack and been at the point of death, but these bones could have cared less. They would not have been aware of the situation. In fact, they weren’t aware of any situation.

            Bones have no activity. More than likely, standing among the bones, Ezekiel saw some activity in the valley. He probably saw some grass blowing in the wind, maybe a scorpion or a snake slithering through. But from the bones themselves? Nothing.

            Ezekiel stands there in this valley and looks at this impossible sight. As he stands there and looks on, God begins to speak to him. Notice what it is that the Lord asks him. “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).

            Really? Really Lord? Ezekiel shudders at this horrific scene. He shudders not only because as a priest, he was prohibited from touching a human corpse, but because, according to God’s law, bodies were left unburied as a sign that they had fallen under God’s curse. These people, these bones, they were not only dead, but they were condemned. They were without hope. Talk about a dead end!

            But God calls upon Ezekiel to go out, to stand in the middle of the cemetery, to climb upon a tombstone, with neck bones, thigh bones, and wish bones as far as the eye can see. “Then he said to me, ‘Prophecy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:4).

            Now I can just see Ezekiel, as he takes a deep breath, and then beings to say, “Ahem. My dear bones. I’m so happy to see so many of you out and about today. As I stand here before you, I’m so thankful that I feel a whole lot better than you look.”

            Obviously that isn’t what he said becuase God gave him the words to say. “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:5-6).

            Now don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled by these dead bones and dead ends. Don’t trust your eyes or ears. Don’t bet on pretty ponies, powerful kings, or piles of money. Don’t believe it when the fat lady sings because it’s not over. Actually, it’s far from over when you have hope in God.

            For when you’re out of power, when you’re weak, when you’ve run out of options, when you’re dead … there is still the breath of God. Brittle bones will band together and be blown full of life. A dried up old man and a barren old woman will give birth to a son. Water will come from a rock in the wilderness. A virgin will bear a son. The garden tomb will be empty and the dead will be resurrected!

            God’s Spirit, He still rattles old bones. Stone cold drunks will breathe sober, and those embalmed with greed will be alive with compassion. Both poverty of spirit and pocketbook will be flush with richness. And those dry with depression and anxiety will be drenched with deep laughter. Refugees will dance of justice and mercy and peace, and death … death won’t have the final word!

            “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

            We hear in Acts 2, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire.” (2:2-3). The Holy Spirit came roaring in like a tornado and with flames of fire. And what did the wind and fire do? Dry bones came to life!

            Then Peter, Peter of all people, Peter says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit gives visions and dreams of life from the dead. It’s beautiful. It’s lovely. We’re free! We’re alive! Do you get it?

            Oh, I know … “But I’m just an ordinary person. I sit in the bleachers, not the box seats. I go to church potlucks, change diapers, and by my groceries at Aldi and Wal-Mart. Chauffeurs don’t drive me around. Doormen don’t greet me. And security personnel doesn’t protect me.”

            Here’s the thing … God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extra-ordinary. The Holy Spirit took 120 ordinary people and made them extra-ordinary. They spearheaded a movement that exploded like water gushing from a fire hydrant.

            It spilled out into the streets of Jerusalem. It overflowed into Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, Athens, and finally, in the book of Acts, the Gospel of Jesus Christ arrived in Rome!

            How did these people become alive? Listen again to what Peter says, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:23-24). Jesus stepped up, stepped out, went forth and rocked the world. He did miracles among the beggars and the blind. He loved people that others despised, dismissed, and discarded.

            “Thus says the LORD God: ‘Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD’” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).

            I don’t know what’s dead in your heart. I don’t know where death has a grip in your life. I don’t know how dry and brittle you are. But I do know this, the will of God is that life will come out of death. Our faith is not a naïve optimism or a confidence in the power of the human spirit … no, our faith is in the breath of God. The breath that breathes new life even in dead ends.

            Our confidence is not in our genetic pool, our good fortune, or our earnest efforts. Our confidence is that God will do a radical new thing … He will change dead ends into new beginnings. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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