Text: Ezekiel 37:1-10
Title: Can these bones live?
Theme: The worthless valley of dead bones made into a valuable living army.
Israel is in a condition of spiritual deadness.
There is national disunity, idolatry, and sinful living.
God's blessing has been removed and the people are very discouraged and think that they will never see the days of God's blessing on His people again.
In our story Israel's condition is so bad that the Lord allows Ezekiel to see in an object lesson showing that Israel's condition is one of extreme deadness. Israel is not recently dead. They are not dead and decaying. They have lain so long dead that they are simply heaps of dry bones. God now gives Ezekiel an impossible task. He is going to preach in the valley of dead bones and his message will be life to the dead.
text: Ezekiel 37:1-10
ill. James Patton, Scottish missionary to the cannibals. He took the Gospel to a heathen culture that would kill and devour enemies, family and friends. (2 men, who initially went as missionaries to these people, were clubbed to death and eaten just hours after arriving on the islands.)
(Page 117 of His biography.)
And yet he says, "My heart bleeds for the Heathen, and I long to see a Teacher for every tribe and a Missionary for every island of the New Hebrides."
Patton went believing the life giving power of the Gospel would be effective to awaken a spiritually dead heathen people. He lived the object of Ezekiel. He went to the islands of dead bones and preached to them of life in Jesus.
I want us to consider today that God can bring life to the dead. We could also say, God has brought life from the dead and God will bring life from the dead.
How do we respond to the spiritual deadness around us? It is evident that our culture is spiritually dead. I want us today to put ourselves in Ezekiel shoes by sharing in the vision that God gave Him.
proposition: To share the object lesson of Ezekiel....
I. Look around. Get a vision of the dead.
exp. Ezekiel is made to look at a physical picture of Israel's spiritual deadness. Whether he wanted the object lesson or not - God was going to give it to him.
A. The lesson is seen by Divine direction.
"The hand of the Lord was upon me,
and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord," v.1a
exp. God could have said to Ezekiel, " Listen while I tell you about the field of dead bones."
note: We read about it - Ezekiel experienced it and saw it with his eyes.
ill. I imagine Ezekiel felt the heat of the scorching sun upon those dry bones. He probably tasted the dryness and thirsted. He could have touched the deadness and may have picked up a bone from the bone pile upon which it rested. Here he is in the valley of dry bones because the Lord wanted him to see Israel's spiritual condition as God saw it.
app. It is not an easy thing to go to the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel went there because the Lord took him there.
I wonder today, are we willing to let the Lord open our eyes to the spiritual needs of God's people and the world?
ill. Tsunami - devastated indonesia. It's easy to turn away from really looking at what took place because if we look at it - we have to think about it and consider the suffering and death.
quest: Do we really desire to see the spiritual needs as He sees them. For us to get that vision, we need the Lord to open our eyes. Look around: a vision is seen by divine direction...look around....
B. The lesson is seen from within the field.
"and set me down in the midst of the valley that was full of bones," v.1b
exp. Ezekiel found himself surrounded by death. Wherever he looked he saw pitiful heaps of human bones.
ill. Jesus in His ministry lived in the midst of the valley of dead bones.
(1.) To the criticism of the pharisees.
Mark 2:15-16 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
(2.) To the confounding of the disciples.
Joh 4:27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
exp. Jesus could have thought what will people think but He lovingly talked to this woman and shared with her the water of life.
app. Are you isolated from the need?
C. The object lesson is seen by thoroughly surveying the field.
"and caused me to pass by them round about:" v.2a
exp. Ezekiel couldn't just look and say, "I've seen it. I'm ready to go."
1. Survey the numbers.
"and behold there were very many in the open valley;" v.2b
exp. This was a great multitude of dead bodies that were lifeless bones and he was forced to see their vast extent.
ill. William Carey - had a map he made which spoke of the millions waiting for the tidings of salvation - he wrote the book, "An enquiry into the obligation of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens."
exp. He looked at that map and saw the need.
ill. Hudson Taylor often shared with his audiences the vast numbers of people in China who still needed to hear the Gospel. The Lord used those numbers to stir up the burden for missions and missionaries to take the Gospel to this heathen nation.
ill. No doubt our census numbers are more accurate than those possessed by Hudson Taylor in the 1800's.
ill. Worldometers - 7,655,897,737
China - 1,394,550,000 (18 percent of world population)
India - 1,338,100,000 (17.4 percent)
United States - 327,980,000 (4.28 percent)
Britain - 66,040,229 (.86%)
The continent of Africa - 1.28 billion people (16 percent of the world's population.
note: If we succeeded in seeing every person in Britain accept Jesus it would not even be 1 percent of the world's population.
question: Don't get overwhelmed by the numbers who need to hear about Jesus - God's method of giving the Gospel is very effective.
ill. If I asked you which you would prefer - 1 million pounds or 1 pence the first day, double that penny the next day, then double the previous day's penny and so on for a month. (Which would you chose?)
note: If you chose the one pence - 10,737,418.23 pounds. (Almost 11 million pounds.)
app. If one person reaches 1 person a year (and each person reached, reaches 1 person each year) - incredible things could happen within a lifetime.
note: (We aren't just trying to reach one - we're also telling thousands if we are doing what Jesus commanded to do.
app. We need to get a vision by surveying the numbers....
2. Survey the deadness.
and lo, they were very dry. v.2c
exp. Perhaps if they had been partially decayed, Ezekiel could have hoped ...
app. As we look at our world it is spiritually very dead. Even America and Britain have decayed into lifeless bones.
ill. Homosexual agenda.
There are now 26 countries around the world where same-sex marriage is legal.
Church of Scotland has not only approved homosexual marriage. It has approved homosexual clergy and homosexual marriage for clergy.
1967 to 2014, 8,745,508 abortions have been performed.
2015 statistics for (England and Wales)
16 per 1000 women age 15-44 had an abortion
98% of abortions were funded by the NHS
2015 statistics for Scotland
11.6 per 1000 women age 15-44
20-24 year olds had 30 percent of all abortions
exp. Double the population of Loanhead of the most innocent of all living humans are killed in the safety of their mother's wombs in Scotland each year.
note: Nearly double the population of Scotland (The majority of which would still be living if they hadn't been murdered) have been killed since abortion became legal in Britain in 1967. The oldest would be 51 years of age.
ill. Athiest promoting their unbelief. (foxnews.com)
Just in time for the holidays, an atheist group launches a provocative new ad campaign 'to plant a seed of rational thought' — and it may be coming to a bus stop near you. (currently running on buses in the DC Area)
The add shows a person in a santa suit with their arms shrugged up and the caption says, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake."
The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."
Last month, the British Humanist Association caused a ruckus announcing a similar campaign on London buses with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
"Best-selling books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have fueled interest in 'the new atheism' — a more in-your-face argument against God's existence."
app. The bones in our world are very dry.
trans. If God had stopped His vision there, Ezekiel would have despaired after looking around. But God made Ezekiel to look up.
II. Look up. (Take a good look at God's ability to give life.)
song: Moses, Noah and others....chorus..."He didn't look down, he didn't look around he just looked up, up, up....he didn't look down in deep despair, he didn't look around to a world of care, He just looked up and God was with him there."
ill. Judson's answer in prison as to what he thought were then the prospects of the conversion of the heathen in Burma - "The future is as bright as the promises of God."
exp. God is going to make Ezekiel recognize His ability alone to do anything about the problem.
A. Consider the question.
"And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live?" v.3a
exp. All of the rational powers that Ezekiel possessed had to be saying no and yet God's Word says...
Ge 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Job 33:4 The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Isa 42:5b .... he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
Da 5:23 ... the Lord of heaven; ... and the God in whose hand thy breath is,...
Ac 17:25 .... he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
Ps 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
ill. It's like the question Jesus asked Philip before the feeding of the 5,000, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"
exp. Faith alone could answer the question. God's truth alone could stand up to the facts staring Ezekiel in the face in the valley of death.
app. Our reasoning is not the answer. Our planning is not the answer. Our abilities are not the answer - the only answer is God.
B. Command the answer.
"And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest." v.3b
exp. Ezekiel could not declare their ability to live. He could only agree that the Lord knew the answer. He had to look back to the Lord.
How do you answer God when He asks a question that tries your faith.
ill. Peter - Lovest thou me - thou knowest. (3 x's)
ill. Man with demon possessed son told by Jesus "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." He answered Jesus with, "Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
app. Folks, having looked at the deadness in Scotland and our world- how are we answering the question - Can these bones live? If we believe it, we'll do what Ezekiel did next in obedience to God.
III. Preach (Take the Word of God and declare it to the dead.)
exp. Ezekiel is told , "...prophesy unto these bones and say unto them...."
note: A more hopeless audience has never faced a preacher than the audience given to Ezekiel!
ill. We had a dog in church once. That dog could undertand more than those bones who had NO ABILITY TO TAKE IN THE TRUTH OF WHAT EZEKIEL WOULD DECLARE. (They pictured the complete deadness of God's people.)
A. Speak with God's authority.
v.7 "so I prophesied as I was commanded.
v.5 "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones;"
exp. Imagine starting a message that way. "Oh ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." Then imagine that the audience in front of you really was a pile of dry bones." Powerless to hear. Powerless to respond. Not even as alive as someone sleeping in church.
exp. We have the same audience in our witnessing.(preaching)
Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
app. Why does it seem like there is no response when we share the Gospel with neighbors, family members, co-workers ? Because their is no life there until the light goes on.
Hymn. I have come from the darkness to the light - to the light of redemption from sin.
app. Praise the Lord, but we shouldn't be surprised when they seem so dead and beyond hope of ever gaining spiritual life.
B. Point to God's ability. "I will....." vv.5b-6b
"and ye shall live:
And I will lay sinews upon you,
and I will bring up flesh upon you,
and cover you with skin,
and put breath in you,"
1Ti 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
app. Point to God's ability - He can save anyone.
Hymn: Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.
C. Present God's promise.
"And ye shall live. and ye shall know that I am the Lord." v.6c
exp. Israel was hopeless about her deadness - "behold they say,Our bones are dried,
and our hope is lost:"
exp. And yet God said, "ye shall live."
app. Friend do you feel that way today. Is your life hopeless/ dead with no spiritual life.
John 11:25 Jesus said ..., I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
app: Do you believe that God can give life to dead bones or have you given up on giving the Gospel to someone? If anyone could have quit because of a dead audience Ezekiel could have but he preached because God commanded him to preach.
Conclusion: James Patton - gave his life to leave Scotland and to take the Gospel to the cannibals in the New Hebrides islands near Australia. He stayed on his first island, Aniwa, for four years despite the fact that his wife and child were buried there soon after their arrival. The wicked white traders would seek to get the natives to kill him. Men that appeared to have been saved would often turn their back on him and revert to their wicked heathen culture. He was often the target of spears, poison, knives and guns. He eventually left the island but only at the point of death as he fled across the island on foot to be rescued eventually on the other side. And yet he went back, because He believed the Gospel could bring life to the deadest most degraded people on earth. And, in his next ministry on a neighboring island they report an astounding number of converts from heathenism to Christianity. He lived the vision of Ezekiel. Are we willing to Look around and see the deadness, Look up and see God's ability and Preach the Gospel which will bring spiritual life to the spiritually dead? Are we willing to enter into Ezekiel's object lesson?
Or have we given up all hope that God can work in our generation, in our location, in our family?
Can these bones live? Can these bones live?