Dry As A Bone
In a vision God picks Ezekiel up and takes him to this grim valley filled with human remains, as if there had been a great slaughter there years ago. Why would God do that?
“These bones are the whole house of Israel. They say our bones are dried up, our hope is gone” (Ezekiel 37:11). The people were saying, “Our situation is hopeless. We cannot see any possibility of change or any light of hope for the future.” And God agrees with them!
People sometimes say, “Oh pastor, you don’t understand how bad our situation is.” Perhaps that is true, but God knows how bad your situation is. God knows the human heart and God never underestimates the problem.
The graveyard shift
“He led me back and forth among them [the bones] and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” Ezekiel 37:2
I don’t suppose Ezekiel enjoyed this experience. God leads him back and forward over this grim valley, impressing on Ezekiel’s mind the absolute hopelessness of the situation.
This is a great place to start in ministry. You have to start with an honest assessment of what you’re up against. God says to Ezekiel, “I am calling you to minister in a field where there is not the slightest sign of life. Don’t go out into ministry expecting a great response. I’m calling you to minister in a valley of dry bones.”
Ezekiel had remarkable gifts and an unusual flair for creative communication. But none of that would be much use in a valley of dry bones, “Ezekiel, here’s something to help with your humility. Your gifts and your talents won’t amount to a hill of beans here.”
If we don’t understand this, we won’t survive in ministry long.
Some of you are discouraged by a lack of hope regarding the spiritual condition of someone you love. When you talk to them about spiritual things their eyes glaze over. Maybe something has happened and the situation seems more hopeless than ever before. Ezekiel knows his only hope is the direct intervention of God. Do you see that?
Half-empty or half-full...
Can these bones live? Ezekiel 37:3
You’ve looked at the situation in this valley. You’ve seen how dry these bones are. Now what do you think? Can these bones live? How would you have answered that question? I love Ezekiel’s answer, “I said, O Sovereign Lord, you know” (37:3).
Ezekiel could have said “Yes.” Some people look at dry bones today and say that they will live. I recently heard a man say, “America is on the brink of the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the word has ever seen.” He was absolutely certain about it. Ezekiel could also have said, “No, these bones will not live.” Christianity is quickly becoming a minority position in this country. Freedoms will erode. Persecution will rise.
Ezekiel takes neither of these positions, “Lord, there is no way for me to know what you will do with these bones. But You know what you are going to do with them.” There is great humility in Ezekiel’s response. Lord, keep me from the arrogance that says “Yes!” We can make it happen. We can reclaim this country for Christ.” And keep me from the unbelief that says “No! These are dark days. We don’t see any possibility of change.”
Lord, I don’t know if the future of the church in this country is revival or decline, but You do. I don’t know whether those I pray for will come to Christ or remain in their hardness of heart, but You know. I don’t know if we’re going to see a great missionary advance or the doors of opportunity closing, but You do. The future of the person I’m praying for is known only to You, and I will find my rest in Your sovereignty.
This week's Scripture: The hand of the Lord was upon 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. Ezekiel 37:1
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This LifeKey is based on the message “Breath,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered November 19, 2000, from the series “Unlocking the Bible.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.