A Valley of Bones
The title of our message this evening is . . . .
and in my mind anyway, there are few stranger books in the Bible than the book of Ezekiel.
And while there are certainly sections in this book more odd than this one of a valley of bones coming to life, there are none that have the imagery that captures the imagination and sets it on fire quite like this valley of bones.
This vision of dry bones coming to life, taking on flesh and blood and breath, has not only stimulated the minds of theologians and preachers, but has also fueled the imagination of artists and composers.
It has inspired such diverse cultural expressions as an American black spiritual to a political cartoon strip in a modern Israeli newspaper.
The vision has been interpreted as a direct prophecy of the resurrection of the nation of Israel and as an equally direct prophecy of the resurrection of individual human beings.
The book of Ezekiel was written after the defeat of the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians.
The Northern Kingdom had already ceased to exist; the Assyrian empire had defeated the north some 130 years earlier.
It was now the time of judgment for Judah.
Most of us should know something about what happened.
But if not, let me give a brief history lesson.
Right after Solomon, David’s son, who was the third king of the united kingdom of Israel, died, a revolt and near civil war erupted.
God intervened and although war was averted the kingdom was divided in two.
There was a king to the north and one to the south and they were never united again.
One day, when Jesus comes again, they will be.
But not until then.
The modern Israeli state is not really the same size or composition as the ancient kingdom.
The Northern Kingdom lasted around 210 years, and they never had a single king that honored God and did what was right in His eyes.
The southern kingdom of Judah had nine kings out of a total of twenty who walked after the Lord, but the kingdom of Judah eventually became so wicked there was really no difference between them, God’s chosen people, and the pagan people that surrounded them.
As a matter of fact those who were supposed to be God’s people were often worse.
And so God sent His prophets He sent prophet after prophet, those fiery, passionate men who loudly and boldly proclaimed, Thus saith the Lord.
They were not popular men, by the way Men who come proclaiming God’s purity and holiness and human sinfulness and depravity are never going to win a popularity contest, are they?
And these prophets were persecuted and killed; they were made fun of, reviled, you name it, God’s chosen people chose to ignore and oppress God’s chosen messengers.
And so what happened?
God sent judgment.
We could stand here the rest of the night listing all the sins of the nation of Israel, but an easier way to get a handle on it is to look at America and do a little comparison.
The similarities between ancient Israel and our nation are so striking you wonder why God hasn’t visited us yet.
The nation of Israel ignored its poor; worse, it oppressed them.
Sexual immorality was the norm; to even speak of purity invited the ridicule and scorn of others.
Sex is just a biological function, right?
Just like going to the bathroom You gotta go, you gotta go, right?
Worship of the one true God had been replaced with a hodgepodge; a crazy-quilt patchwork of all kinds of gods and religions added onto the pure worship of the living God.
Off and on in her history, Israel even practiced child sacrifice, horribly putting their sons on the altar of false gods and burning them in the fire.
People, you can say what you want about abortion, but when a nation chooses to end the lives of over 40,000,00 babies on the altar of convenience, you better watch out This can’t last much longer Everyday in The United States 4,000 abortions are performed.
And here are some stunning statistics: for every 1,000 live births for white women, there are 184 abortions; but for every 1,000 live births for black women, there are 543 abortions performed.
Listen, African-Americans make up around 13% of the population, but about 37% of all babies killed by abortion are black In the last 36 years over 17,000,000 black babies have died in the abortion mills of our nation.
You can call it what you want, but this is genocide God destroyed Israel because of her wickedness Why not us?
But in our passage of Scripture this evening we, once again, find a merciful and gracious God.
Yes, He will judge sin But He will also forgive sin, won’t He?
He will forgive the woman who aborts her baby.
And He will provide new life for His people.
Most of us, this evening, if truth be known, are living in our own valley of dry bones, aren’t we?
We are in desperate need of resurrection life God is willing and able to supply that life Both to us and even to our nation
All Them Bones (Eze.
(1 As I said earlier, being a prophet of God wasn’t exactly a cushy job.
You really couldn’t look forward to retirement in the golden years, moving down to Florida, and playing shuffleboard with the rest of the old geezers.
The life expectancy of the prophet of God wasn’t all that long.
Tradition has it that Isaiah was sawn in half–not a real good way to go.
Jeremiah had a wonderful ministry.
No one paid really paid the slightest bit of attention to him.
He was thrown into a dungeon; they left him sitting there in mud up to his waist.
He was rescued from the dungeon, but he finally died in exile in Egypt, far from the Promised Land.
Daniel in the lion’s den.
He was rescued from the lion’s jaw, but he died in old age in exile.
He never saw the temple of his God again.
Jonah in the fish’s belly; the list goes on.
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:37-38 that the prophets were, . . . .
stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and dens and caves of the earth.
But there were some marvelous fringe benefits that went along with the job.
The relationship between God and His prophets must have been one of such intimacy and power that it perhaps made the persecution and neglect they suffered at the hands of their people more than tolerable.
Look at verse one again.
(2 Prophets had dreams, heard the audible voice of God, and saw visions that took them to some incredible places and scenes, didn’t they?
In one of the more stunning visions in the Bible, Ezekiel even had a vision of the living God.
This passage, in the very beginning of the book, is one of the more amazing passages you will ever read in Scripture.
Ezekiel was with his people in Babylonia, far from the sight of the glory of God’s earthly temple.
That temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
Surrounded by the pomp and circumstance of idolatry, by the magnificence of a mighty pagan empire, Ezekiel received a vision of the far greater majesty and wonder of the glory of the living, unseen God of Israel.
Turn back to that first chapter and let’s look at selected verses from it.
Look at Eze. 1:1-6.
Ezekiel goes on to describe these creatures, these attendants to the living God.
These angelic creatures he saw in this vision were so mighty and transcendent that the words Ezekiel used in describing them seem to trip over each other in a confused clamor of ever-increasing grandeur.
And all of this vision, the creatures, the wheels, the throne–all of it was suffused with the Shekinah glory of the infinite and everlasting God Look at verses 13-28.
(3 That’s quite a vision, ain’t it?
God commissioned His prophet by giving him a glimpse of the likeness of His glory.
He did so because times were tough for the people of God.
Their sin, their steadfast refusal to keep faith with the one true God, had finally brought God’s judgment on them.
They were in captivity, far from home, and all they had left were the prophets God sent to His people.
And yet, in the midst of all this anguish, God sent His prophet Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, after first giving him a vision of His glory.
And in this valley of bones, God asks a question.
Look at your Bibles back to Eze. 37:1-3.
(4 What would it take to make dry bones come to life?
It would take great power, wouldn’t it?
It would take resurrection power Often when confronted with the miracles of the Bible, or with other alleged difficulties in Scripture, many people begin to question the Bible, don’t they?
As to the miracles, there are really only a couple of places to begin: creation and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If this God that the Bible says wrestled with Jacob, sent plagues to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, caused water to pour from a rock, rained manna down from heaven, if this God who did all those things, and more, spoke the entire universe into existence out of absolutely nothing, then putting a little flesh on some bones shouldn’t be much of a strain, right?
And if you are still having trouble with the Bible being the only Word of God, if you are still struggling with that truth, then take some time and gaze intently into the miracle of miracles, the empty tomb
(5 And what we all need to do whenever we are having problems with one thing or the other in the Bible is take the fact of the Creation and work forward, then take the fact of The Resurrection and work backward.
That something cannot come from nothing is an undeniable fact.
And the current scientific paradigm, of course, is the big bang theory.
First there was a singularity, or really nothing, and whooosh Pow The universe rushed into being.
Sounds suspiciously like God speaking the world into existence, doesn’t it?
(6 And people, the only possible explanation for the existence of the church is the singular truth of the empty tomb When the disciples, now become apostles, began preaching in Jerusalem, preaching Christ crucified and resurrected, the same Jerusalem in which Jesus died and was buried, all the enemies of Jesus, those Pharisees and religious leaders, would have had to do was march up to the tomb, open it up, and point inside to the rotting remains, and this new way, this thing that was later called Christianity, would have died right then.
But they didn’t.
The tomb was empty.