Blog / Book of the Month / "Can These Bones Live?" / Ezekiel 37:1-14 / Guest Preacher Rev. Terry Defoe, read by Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht / March 26th, 2023/ The 70th Anniversary March Special Service

"Can These Bones Live?" / Ezekiel 37:1-14 / Guest Preacher Rev. Terry Defoe, read by Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht / March 26th, 2023/ The 70th Anniversary March Special Service

Posted in Lent / 2023 / ^Ezekiel / Audio Sermons / Sermons / Rev. Terry Defoe

"Can These Bones Live?" / Ezekiel 37:1-14 / Guest Preacher Rev. Terry Defoe, read by Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht / March 26th, 2023/ The 70th Anniversary March Special Service



Occasion:  The Year of Mount Olive’s 70th Anniversary
Preacher: Pastor Terry Defoe

Date:                    March 26th, 2023

Text:          Ezekiel 37:1-14

Title:          Can These Bones Live?


Our sermon text this morning is found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter 37. I'm reading verses 1 to 3:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley – bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" (New International Version)

+     +     +


Today's text brings us to one of the lowest points in Israel's history. It describes events that took place about 600 years before the birth of Christ. Ezekiel was God's prophet. God called him to preach to a disobedient and rebellious people. At this point in its history Israel was living in exile -- removed from its homeland and taken to the land of Babylon, 800 miles to the northeast. Israel’s temple had been destroyed. Its religion was in tatters. God’s people had been forced to live in a strange land, with strange people who worshipped strange gods.


Ezekiel was taken to Babylon with the rest of the people of Israel. At this time, as you might expect, the people of Israel were weighed down with a sense of hopelessness and despair. They felt the full weight of God's wrath. Everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. Here, at this most difficult moment, God had an important message for Israel. May God richly bless our consideration of his Holy Word this day.

+              +              +

Ezekiel, chapter 37 records a vision – a critical message first delivered to the prophet who passed it along to God’s people. In the vision, Ezekiel was transported to a distant valley – a now quiet former battlefield from a long-past war. As Ezekiel walked around that eerie place, with only the hot desert wind to accompany him, he surveyed a scene of absolute destruction. Surrounding him were bones -- human bones -- bleached white in the hot desert sun -- the earthly remains of real people, warriors, patriots, individuals who died in the prime of their lives, bodies abandoned, now long dead and forgotten. Ezekiel could almost hear the sounds of the battle that took place here and, in his mind’s eye, could visualize the horrors that had taken place. He must have been thinking: “This was all for nothing. Israel was defeated in the battle that took place here, and was taken away in exile, to Babylon.”


The vision dramatically illustrated Israel’s dilemma. There in Babylon, far from its ancestral home, Israel stood defeated – humiliated – ashamed. In the vision, Ezekiel stood at the graveside of Israel's hopes and dreams. After he had a chance to take it all in, God had a question -- simple but profound as well -- "Can these bones live?" Imagine for a moment that God asks you that same question. Ezekiel had no way of knowing. So he said, with all honesty, "Lord, you alone know." 


Dry bones. Battles lost. Desolation. Hopelessness. Despair. In a narrow sense, the vision was limited to Israel. But, in a wider sense, it symbolized the whole human race. The bones represent fallen humanity apart from God’s grace. In our text this morning, these bones represent ancient Israel. But there’s more here than just that. These bones symbolize those who are, as the catechism says, spiritually  dead.  


So. The question. “Can these bones live?” What do you think?


This vision is strange enough. But, at this point, things get even more unusual. Ezekiel was commanded by God to preach to these bones! Now Ezekiel was a preacher – a prophet of God. He had preached to many people in many places. But never like this! This was the oddest preaching assignment he ever had! But when God says, “Preach!” that’s exactly what his prophets do.


Ezekiel preached God's most holy Word to these dry bones. He said that God would breathe his Spirit into them – the breath of life. Life would replace death – a miracle of the first magnitude. God used Ezekiel to bring a great miracle to pass. You know, God could have done it himself, but Ezekiel would have missed out on an important lesson in the power of the Word. For many years I had a sign on my desk that said, ‘Involve me – then I’ll understand!” Ezekiel simply got involved -- preached the word – and watched the word do its work.


As Ezekiel preached, there was a rattling sound. Bones came together. Tendons appeared. Flesh and skin covered the tendons. The bones were transformed. When God's breath entered them, life was restored. There, in that isolated valley, death gave way to life. God's Word and his Spirit had done their work. In the modern Christian church we believe that God’s Spirit is – as we say -- “The Lord and Giver of Life.” That statement is -- again as we say -- most certainly true!


+      +     +


Ezekiel was God’s spokesman during Israel's second Exodus. In the first Exodus, Israel left Egypt – on the way to the Promised Land. In the second , they left Babylon – and made their way back to the Promised Land. In the first Exodus, Israel entered a land of milk and honey. In the second Exodus, the land they returned to had been destroyed. Their temple was in ruins. The walls were broken down. Jerusalem was essentially a ghost town.


The people of Israel – the dry bones now transformed into a great army – returned to their homeland only to see the destruction of everything they held sacred. They were faced with the monumental task of rebuilding their city, and, more importantly, rebuilding their faith. They weren’t put off, however. They rebuilt the city walls, despite strong and determined opposition. God’s grace – grace embedded in his life-giving Word – turned resignation into acceptance. It has been said that


·       Resignation is surrender to uncaring fate;

o  Acceptance is surrender to a gracious God. 

·       Resignation dwells in a meaningless universe.

o  Accept     ance trusts the one God who oversees his vast creation.

·       Resignation says, 'I can't do this!'

o  Acceptance says, ‘By God’s grace, let's get this done!’

·       Resignation says, 'Find someone else to do it.'

o  Acceptance says, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me'


So what had Israel learned in all of this? God punishes his people for their sins. And he graciously restores his people when they repent. After 70 years in exile, Israel was back in its homeland. After 70 long years in exile, the people had a new and positive attitude. By God’s gracious enabling, they set out to rebuild their lives, their nation and their faith.


And what insights have we gained this morning? This miracle was entirely due to the power of the word of God. Israel was dead in its trespasses and sins. But God gave new life. This transformation wasn’t Ezekiel’s doing. It was clear evidence of the power of the Word. Ezekiel simply did what God had asked him to do. Ezekiel proclaimed God's word. In the beginning, that word created the universe. In Jesus’ day, the same word stilled the storm, controlled demonic powers; and raised Lazarus from the dead. Ezekiel saw God’s word turn chaos into order – death into life. By the power of that Word, Israel was revitalized, renewed, given purpose and motivation. And the road was prepared for the arrival of the Messiah, many hundreds of years later.


The New Testament describes the Christian church as a modern-day "Israel." And, in many ways, the current state of Christendom reminds us of the valley of dry bones. Much of Christendom today has lost its first love. Many have become disconnected from the word. Many major on minor issues. At a time when the world very much needs to hear what the church has to say, much of the church has fallen strangely silent. It longs for the past, and seems to be afraid of the future.


Too often, rather than reaching out, the church expends its energy internally, preoccupied with conflict and disunity. Can these bones live? We must never forget that, when Israel came to it's darkest days, God did not give up on them. Despite their sins and disobedience, he intervened on their behalf. Our text this morning urges us not to give up. God remains true to his promises. His Word has not lost its power. He’s not willing that any should perish, but that everyone should come to eternal life, through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. As Christian people, members of the church, our responsibility – Our Calling – is clear. We are to be God's agents of change – agents of new life. God wants us to understand the world we live in.  More than just understanding it, however, God calls on us to change it, as Ezekiel did, by the power of His Word.


We return to where we started. Can these bones live? Absolutely! In our text this morning, we’ve seen how a valley of bones – long dead  —  remnants of an ancient battle – was transformed into a place of new and vibrant life. May God restore hope, forgive sins, and renew lives, through us – his people. Amen. 


Let's Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – Enable us to proclaim the word that brings new life. Breathe your life-giving Spirit into us so that your will might be done in this world. Amen.


Let's Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – Enable us to proclaim the word that brings new life. Breathe your life-giving Spirit into us so that your will might be done in this world. Amen.