Ezekiel - Dem Bones

Prophets  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:20
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AlphaACT

I worked at this cool company years ago. With Kelly and Jono, many of you know Jeff Navarra from there too.
Really cool tech, really cool startup feel.
Working, trying to make this startup work. Trying to make it happen.
Struggling to bring in the next contract, building up debt, because if it we JUST get the next contract, maybe that will be it!
But, by the time we get there, the next contract is just enough to catch us up to what we spent getting there, but not quite.
Living on life support.
There are many things worth life support, fighting for life. But this was like giving long-term CPR to a goldfish. After a couple months of no paycheck, I had to call it.
Time of death: February 2018.
Do you think God got tired of “trying” with Israel? Talk about fruitless effort. Talk about life support. They “are my people...” and there they go sinning again. Leaving me again.
Let’s fix em up. Let’s give them another prophet, another judge, another king, another chance, another try.
God trying over and over again.
At what point do you just call it?
Stop trying to make it happen. It isn’t going to happen!!!

Ezekiel’s Sweet Words of Encouragement

Now here’s Ezekiel. Giving such sweet words of encouragement. With all the creativity, the street theater, the performance art God call Ezekiel to… it all has one strong message in the first 30 or so chapters.
Y’all messed up, Israel. You sinned, you blew it… and now you’re going to pay!!!
He said sweet things like this:
Ezekiel 36:31 ESV
31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.
“Positively LOATHE...”
I am sure Israel loved hearing all this. Especially while in exile, in refugee camps, driven from their homes. Sounds great.
Thanks, God.
I am sure Ezekiel LOVED constantly delivering bad news.
Like, at what point should God just call it a day. Israel isn’t repenting. It’s not going to happen. They aren’t going to get it right. It’s got to be close to over, right?
After 30 something chapters of judgment. Creative, dramatic, but judgment nonethless… now he is going to deliver some hope.
Kind of. It’s a bit morbid.
Ezekiel 37:1–14 (ESV)
1 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.
Picture a valley, for a minute. Valley’s… aren’t small. If it’s “small” that’s a ditch, or a gulley. To be a valley, you’re talking the "V” between two mountains, right.
And it isn’t that there “are bones” in this valley. The valley is “full.” And Ezekiel is right in the middle of it.
2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.
I like a good visual. How’s this?
And these weren’t recent bones, either. Dry. Baked by the sun, dried by the wind, the worms, the maggots, the birds had had their way.
Long dead. Dead dead. Super dead. Not “Princess Bride, only mostly dead.” Dead, you’re dead, long dead dead.
I found a lovely article on PubMed about the rates of human decay in Arizona desert areas. So that’s in my search history now. Bleaching and exfoliation begins at 9 months, so even for exposed bones like this, they are more than year dead.
3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
I wish we had tone here.
I hope this was like “Oh, you, YHWH, you know!!!”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
6 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.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.
First of all, a bit gross to watch the bones come together.
Did you hear that song as a kid. “The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone...”?
Me too. And I must have heard the chorus once. “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...” Do you know how that chorus ends?
“Hear the word of the Lord.” That’s this moment. The bones assembling themselves into complete skeletons. Then sinew growing over to connect those bones, then flesh.
Ewww..
And then, skin, thank the Lord. Now they are humans to all appearances… but just corpses. No life. No breath.
“Breath” as you may know is a powerful word in Hebrew. Ruach.
The same word means both “breath” and “Spirit” (as in our spirit, or God’s Spirit as in Holy Spirit.” All of it: Ruach.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”
10 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.
So they look like an army now, was this an army? The site of a great batlle? No.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’
Now the great reveal. Now he tells Ezekiel how bad it all really is.
This is Israel.
How bad is it for Israel? Are they sick, are they going to make it? Do they need 20% improvement or they are in danger?
No, it’s way past that. They are SUPER and all the way dead.
It’s way beyond too late by any measure.
Except… God doesn’t even tell Ezekiel what it all means before He shows him what He can do.
It’s way beyond too late for anyone… except God.
This whole thing is reminiscent of Genesis 2, where God shapes humanity from the dust, from the stuff, and then how does He bring them to true life?
He breathes His spirit into them. Man and Woman, in His image He creates them. In His Spirit, breathed into them.
12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, 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.
13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.
14 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.”
Hear the Word of the Lord.

Spiritual Reality: You Dead!

The “problem” is not that you “sin sometimes.”
The problem is not that you need to be 20% more righteous. You need to sin half as much. Or even you need to stop one particular behavior or pattern of sin.
Those can all be true statements about you… but that isn’t “the problem.”
We can easily fall into the trap of “moralism.” Be good, be slightly better.
How about try “not being dead!” It doesn’t work.
The problem Israel has is that they are all the way dead, spiritually. And you can’t do anything to fix that.
It is hopeless.
The part of you that could know and connect to God - that was dead.
The part of you made to live in His presence forever - that was dead.
The part of you that made you see and feel and know the deeper realities, the spiritual realities, the truest underlying reality - that was dead.
The part of you that mattered most. It was dead. Dead in your sins. Dead in the sins of the fathers, the sins of the world. Dry bones, dead.
Ephesians 2:1–6 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
This is YOUR testimony! Sometimes we think the testimony of one who was “born” in the faith, raised in the church, we think it’s boring. But it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I once was DEAD, now I am ALIVE in Christ!
The varying positions of the dry bones in death is not the exciting part of the testimony. It’s the part where God made my bones dance and breathed life, His Spirit, into me!
Now I am ALIVE in Christ!
God has always been in the business of life… He is in the business of resurrection.
From long before Jesus was revealed, even.
KK and I had the privilege of seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls when they came through town. Fourth date. That’s what you get when you date a pastor.
We saw this scroll, Ezekiel 37, in person, dated a couple hundred years before Jesus.
Dem Bones, Dem Bones… Hear the Word of the Lord!

Hear the Word of the Lord

There’s a weird verse in there. We didn’t touch on it much.
Ezekiel 37:4 ESV
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Dem Bones, Dem Bones… Hear the Word of the Lord!
There is NO reason why God needed Ezekiel’s help, here. Ezekiel knew he wasn’t casting a magic spell. He didn’t need to say it just the right way.
He didn’t need to persuade the bones.
Just “hear what God is saying.” “Hear the Word of the Lord.”
He said it to me, to say to you, know I’m saying it to you, here it is.
And it isn’t that “his words were so powerful” that it affected the transformation.
It’s like when my kids were little and riding on my back making vroom sounds. I waited to go until they went “VROOOM...” not because the power of their words...
But because of the joy of them being a part of it.
It is drawing them into it.
God draws Ezekiel into the miracle, gives him a part to play. “Hear the Word of the Lord.”
And then He does this incredible miracle.
Mark 16:15 ESV
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Hear the word of the Lord

When God commands you to “go and speak...” it isn’t because He needs you to breathe life into your friend.
He is inviting you to be part of the miracle of resurrection.
That’s an incredible gift.
How dare we treat it like a distasteful duty. An awkward chore.
We do. I do.
In case there was confusion last week, when I shared about some next steps in vision… we aren’t “done” with the “preaching the Word boldly” part of things.
If we are “done” with preaching the gospel we are just “done” with being a church. We, the called out people of God, we only have one song. That is “glory to God, good news in Christ Jesus!”
We aren’t ever “done” with that, we only grow into it.
And preach because your friends are spiritually dead.
This isn’t to panic you. It isn’t something you can fix.
But when God says “Hey, go prophesy over Fred, I’m going to do something here.”
When God says “Pray for the Uber driver, speak the name of Jesus.”
He’s is inviting you to be part of the miracle of resurrection.
Which part? I don’t know. Maybe the bones are just rattling. Maybe the sinew is growing.
Maybe you get to be there, when God breathes life into them, and they say with words of a new spirit “Jesus, you are my Lord and Savior.”
Hear the word of the Lord.
and hear the bones rattling!
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