A sermon preached on April 18, 2010 at Hebron Baptist Church, Denham Springs, Louisiana by Pastor Joe Alain.
Time for a Fresh Encounter
Dry Bones Can Live Again!
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-10
It’s called “dry lightning” and it’s responsible for 80% of all wildfires in wildland areas. Dry lightning occurs during thunderstorms when the humidity is so low (the air is so dry) that rain evaporates before it reaches the ground. Even though the rain does not reach the ground, the lightning does and when it hits dry grass the results can be devastating. What occurs in nature with sometimes deadly results, is something that we need from a spiritual standpoint. When God sparks a dry and hopeless heart, new life occurs! God wants to spark the dying embers of our lives. He wants to renew our passion and love for Him and for others. As the hymn states, God wants to sweep “across the broken strings” and stir “the slumbering chords again” (Hymn, “He Keeps Me Singing”). He wants to bring dry bones back to life again!
In every age and with every people revival, a fresh encounter with God, is needed if the church is going to impact its culture with the Gospel of Christ. As we think about our upcoming series of special revival services that begin next Sunday, I want to share with you four critical conditions to be met for true spiritual renewal to occur. These four conditions constitute God’s plan for spiritual renewal and they are illustrated in Ezekiel 37:1-10.
In Ezekiel chapter 37 we find that the spiritual life of the kingdom of Judah had been depleted through years of captivity. The once blessed and prosperous nation is walking blindly through a dust storm and can’t seem to find their way out. They are in a place of dryness, despair, even hopelesness and they can’t seem to escape.
The spiritual condition of the people is portrayed with an unusual and vivid picture of dry bones. Ezekiel is commanded to preach to the bones and something extraordinary occurs. A miracle of new life sprouts, God’s people are revived, and standing before Ezekiel is a great army! It was a revival in a bone yard. In our day, we too need an outpouring of God’s Spirit to flood the dry valleys that dominate our lives. We need the inrush of living water to replenish the dusty deserts of our lives. We need dry bones to live again!
When will dry bones live again? When will we experience a fresh encounter with God? When will we see new life spring forth from death? Even though revival is a work of the “Sovereign Lord,” there are some conditions for experiencing a fresh encounter with God. Life Application: When God’s people meet God’s conditions, true spiritual renewal will occur.
Notice the first condition, there must be . . .
1. A Divine Confrontation (37:1-3)
God had Ezekiel do some unusual things in his ministry. He told him to eat a scroll (3:1-3); he had him make a model of Jerusalem and play war games to reenact its soon coming destruction (4:1-3); and he had him shave his head and beard (even burning his hair) as signs of judgement (5:1-3) just to name a few. Ezekiel was a prophet given to extraordinary visions and strange acts. In this unusual vision in chapter 37 Ezekiel is seized by the Lord (“carried away” NLT) and given a tour, led by the holy spirit, of a graveyard. The Spirit of God set him down in the middle of a valley full of bones (v.1). As he was led all through the valley he noticed that the bones were “very dry” (v.2).
In the immediate context this was a prophetic vision of the nation of Israel. In oppressive and unrelenting captivity, the people were like scattered and unburied skeletons. The people were drying up and dying and they saw no end to their judgement. They said “our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off!” (37:11). The people saw no hope of ever being resurrected as a nation but God says to them, their Dry Bones would Live again!
The reviving of the dry bones signified the restoration of the nation. The vision showed that Israel’s new life depended on the “Sovereign Lord’s” power (vv.5-6, “I will”), not outward circumstances. It would be the Lord who would open their graves and bring them into the land once again (37:12). So this actually was a vision of great hope and encouragement! Dry Bones Can and Will Live Again!
When you are in captivity for a long period of time you begin to lose hope. When you go through a dry spell, a time of extreme testing and difficulty, a time when it seems as if God is nowhere to be found, you wonder has God forgotten about me? Can God still do it? That’s how Israel felt, but if they would see their condition and what God was about to do, their lives would be full of hope. We too need our hope revived.
The first condition for being brought back to life is to realize that you are in a dry zone and need God’s spiritual life. We need a divine confrontation. Ezekiel needed to make an honest assessment of present realities and that is what happens in the presence of God, we come face to face with reality but also to the supernatural power of God.
A divine confrontation. Second, there must be . . .
2. A Faith Declaration (37:3)
In 37:3 God asks Ezekiel a question. “Can these bones live?” Why did God ask such a question? This was not a question seeking information. God wanted Ezekiel to put his faith to work and to see the possibilities before him. God knows that dry bones can live again, but He wants Ezekiel to believe that. All of God’s people had lost that hope. They didn’t believe it was possible. And God wants them to start believing not only that it is possible but that it is coming! He wants them to believe that dry bones can and will live again!
Ezekiel gazes out upon the scene of death and says “Lord, you alone know.” “From where I am standing it doesn’t look too promising but only you know.” Ezekiel’s response was somewhat guarded. It was not that he was doubting God. He was just simply saying “God, only you know.” “And only You can do it.” He is saying that from a strictly human standpoint it looks impossible. We can understand Ezekiel’s guarded response. After all he’s been preaching to a bunch of dry bones for a long time now and he hasn’t seen much sign of life.
Anyone who has ever preached or taught consistently to the same folks can identify with brother Ezekiel. Many times I have wondered as I gaze out upon the congregation, “can these bones live?” But God wants me to keep preaching and keep believing and keep trusting that dry bones can and will live again! What is the answer to the question? Of course man can not make them live but God can! God did not respond to Ezekiel but he did give him some instructions on how to raise the dead. A few years ago a book came out with the title 30 Minutes to Raise the Dead and that’s about what we try to do every week.
Dry Bones Can Live Again when we have a divine confrontation, and when there is a faith declaration - God will do it! A third condition, there must be . . .
3. A Biblical Proclamation (37:4-8)
In 37:4-6 Ezekiel is told to preach to the bones – to preach to the dead! What do you preach to dead people? “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (37:4). Dead people need life and life is in the word! “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom.10:17). What was the word Ezekiel was to bring to the people? It is found in verse 5. Dry bones can live again! “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live.” Here was a message of hope. A message of joy. A message of good news!
Here is our glorious mission! “To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” The Word of God brings life (John 1:1; Phil.2:16)! It is the unchanging Word of God that will bring change to the world. The Word is life and there can be no revival without the Bible! Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and went to preaching to his congregation of dead folks (37:7). Notice what happened. When the dead came into a confrontation with God’s Word the dead folks started to make a little “noise.”
Now Ezekiel I’m quite sure was happy to hear a little noise or anything for that matter. One of our problems today is there isn’t enough holy noise in church. Now there’s a lot of noise in the church today but it’s not “holy noise!” The church is noisy with programs, with gimmicks, and with people making spectacles of themselves. New Testament churches are truly noisy churches. Noisy with life. Noisy with spiritual questions form new converts. Noisy with hurting people. Noisy with spiritual kingdom activity.
A miracle occurred as he preached. The dry bones began to come together bone to bone. Then flesh appeared and skin covered the flesh. Right before his eyes new life was coming in response to the preached word. This miracle happens in preaching. Dry Bones Can Live Again When There Is A Biblical Proclamation.
Fourth, there must be, . . .
4. Spiritual Inspiration (37:9-10)
The word is essential but there is no life without the Spirit of God! Verse 8 tells us that “there was no breath in them.” The word translated “breath” is the Hebrew word “ruach” and can be translated as wind, spirit and breath. It speaks of God’s divine activity. They were bodies with substance but still lifeless. They lacked the breath of God, the divine activity of God’s Spirit. So Ezekiel was now commanded to “prophesy to the breath . . . say . . . breathe on these slain, that they may live” (37:9).
What was God saying to Ezekiel? You recognize that it is my Spirit that gives life, Ezekiel. Ezekiel, you let Me fill you with my Spirit. Let Me empower you because only I can do it. “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy one comes down; Brethren pray and holy manna will be showered all around.” Dry bones can live when we as God’s servants seek the Lord’s face in prayer and ask Him to anoint our lips, to empower our teaching, to open the hearts of the people we minister to.
When the Bible and the Spirit are in union there is birth and rebirth. Revival occurs! In verse 10 the breath of God came, life returned to the dead, and there was now standing “an exceedingly great army.” When we the church are revived that is what we will be - a mighty army of servants fulfilling God’s mission. When God’s people meet God’s conditions, true spiritual renewal occurs. Dry bones can live again!
Are you ready for a fresh encounter? For God to do what He alone can do? Are you ready for renewed joy, peace, a sense of purpose, hope? Dry bones can live again!
Father, some of us are in that dry valley of bones today and in need of renewal, a fresh encounter with You, the Holy One. Others of us need to take a spiritual tour through the bone yard of this world so that we can see clearly the needs all around us. Father, today would you take us to the valley of dry bones if needed so that we can see our true condition? Father, use Your word and Spirit today to spark the fires of revival, visit us from on high so that we may have a fresh encounter with You, O Sovereign Lord. Now, grant us the faith to believe you – to expect great things from you and then attempt great things for you. Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to preach and to teach and to share Your Word that changes lives and changes communities. May we be found faithful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
For His Glory!