Sermon on Ezekiel 37:1-14
Text: The hand of the LORD was on 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. 2 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. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
As you read through the Bible, you will find that there were times when God would use visions to communicate with his people. The book of Revelation was a vision that God gave to John. As you read through it, you see the future of the Christian Church. Although it would face many hardships, it will endure and rest forever with Christ in heaven. In our text for this morning, we have another vision. This one was given to the prophet Ezekiel. As we study this vision, we are going to focus on the question that God asked Ezekiel, “CAN THESE BONES LIVE?” We will 1. See What Sin Does To Us. We will also 2. See What The Holy Spirit Does For Us.
Ezekiel was called by God at a critical point in their history. The first section of the book deals with God’s repeated call to the people of Judah to repent and come back to him. Unfortunately, they had not listened. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army had invaded the nation. They had captured the capital city of Jerusalem. The temple was destroyed and many of the people were taken into exile to Babylon. Now, in this section of the book, the tone turns from a call to repentance to a proclamation of hope of God’s forgiving grace and the promised salvation that he would carry out for them.
The picture that we see in the beginning of this vision is quite startling. “The hand of the LORD was on 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.” As Ezekiel walks among these bones, he notes that these bones weren’t just a little dead. They were very dry. They were so dry that it appeared as though a gust of wind would reduce them to dust. This is a visual portrayal of God’s people. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem. He had also destroyed all hope. God’s people were defeated, without power, and captive to a world power that cared nothing for their hope or the promises found in God’s Word. We hear their anguish in verse 11, “‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” They were destitute. To make matters worse, they knew that they had brought this upon themselves. They had God’s Word. They were given loving warning after loving warning. They had ignored them all and now, it appeared, that their nation and their hopes were all dead.
The picture of dried out bones is also a good picture of what all humanity is by nature. The apostle Paul describes our natural state by saying, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) Even though people are physically alive, they are dead. They are as dead as those dried bones in Ezekiel’s vision. This is the way that you and I came into this world. We could not do anything toward our salvation. Our spiritual death would have become an eternal death of punishment in hell. This is a very graphic picture of what sin does to us. It kills us.
We, also, can take warning from the example of the people of Judah. Although they continued to bring the prescribed sacrifices to the temple at the proper times, they were just going through the motions. Their compromises with the nations around them finally killed their faith. Even though God had reached out to them time and again, they refused to listen to what God said. They chose to do what they wanted, instead. It is also a temptation for us to just go through the motions of worshiping God. We give lip service to following him. However, it is so easy to ignore him when he doesn’t say what we want him to say. We find the voice of temptation to be so alluring. Every sin in our lives is like a seed of death. The sins that we so easily ignore in our lives is drying up our bones. In this valley of dry bones, we are given a glimpse of what Paul wrote in Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.” May God keep our eyes open to these seeds of death.
As God led Ezekiel through the valley of dry bones, he asked him the question, “Can these bones live?” To human eyes, the answer would be “No.” This is also true of us in our natural state. On our own, we cannot come to spiritual life. However, we take note of Ezekiel’s answer. He said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” While it would be impossible for us, Ezekiel realized that only God, who made man from the dust of the earth, would be able to make something living out of that valley of dry bones.
God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Verses 4-6) After Ezekiel did this, he heard a rattling sound as bone came together to bone. He watched as tendons and muscles and flesh covered the skeletons. Then, God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” (Verse 9) After Ezekiel did this, “Breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army.” (Verse 10) That which was dead had become alive.
God interprets this vision in verses 12-14, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’” Remember that the people of Judah were in exile. They thought that all hope was gone. Here God is promising that he would not abandon them in Babylon. In due time, he would restore the people. He would bring them back to the Land of Promise. Though they were apparently dead, God would make them alive.
This is also a fitting picture of what has happened to us. We, who were once spiritually dead, have become spiritually alive. God says to us, “I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live.” (Verse 14) How does this life-giving Spirit come into us? It is in the same way that those lifeless bones in Ezekiel’s vision came to life. God told Ezekiel to prophesy. Prophesy means to tell someone something. The life-giving message that has been prophesied to us is that Jesus Christ came into the world to be our Savior. The gospel message is that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life for each one of us. This life-giving word then points us to the cross. There we see the one who said, “I am thirsty,” (John 19:28) allow our sins to dry him up into the death of hell. He was punished in our place. Then, we go to an empty tomb, where he who was dead has come back to life. Jesus did this so that we might be brought to life with him forever in heaven. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4&5, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” The Holy Spirit uses this gospel message which is found in God’s Word and the sacraments to bring us to faith and raise us from spiritual death to new life in Christ. Through the waters of Baptism, we are raised to spiritual life. Through the use of God’s Word and the reception of Holy Communion, this new life is sustained and strengthened. Can these dead bones live? The answer is a resounding “Yes,” because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We can also take comfort from these words when we have sinned. In our sorrow over our sins and the struggles that we go through on their account, it may feel that God has left us for dead. However, just as God promised restoration for the people of Judah, he makes the same promises to us, as well. Just as he promised to bring them back to their land, God promises that he will bring us back to himself. Though the Israelites did not deserve the title, God still referred to them as “my people.” Though we have often strayed from him, God still reaches out to us and calls us his people. We are his people because the Holy Spirit has created faith in our hearts. Even though we face suffering in our lives, we know that God has not abandoned us. Peter writes in his First Epistle, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) We have this confidence when we see what the Holy Spirit has done for us.
This morning as we have studied this vision that God gave to Ezekiel, we have seen some fantastic pictures. We have seen a valley of dead bones. We have watched as these dead bones were brought to life and now stood before Ezekiel as a vast army. In reality, this vision encapsulates the basic message of God’s Word. We hear the preaching of the law as we gaze over those dead bones. Sin brings death. This is what sin has done to us. We have seen the message that brought these dead bones to life. This is what the Holy Spirit has done for us. He creates this life in us through the gospel. So, in answer to the question, “Can these bones live?” the wonderful answer fo God’s amazing grace is a resounding YES! Amen.
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