Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Feb. 16, 2020
Before I read the passage I want to let you know that I’m going to ask you afterward. It’s this:
How you think Ezekiel felt after receiving this vision. His reaction?
This vision was given to Ezekiel during the Babylonian captivity (586-537 BC), while the Jews were exiled in Babylon (southern Iraq), far from home. Some scholars think that there might have been an actual “Valley of Dry Bones,” where perhaps a large battle was fought and lost. Let’s give a listen . . .
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on 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.” 7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.
How do you think he felt afterwords?
Strange? – “Well, that was weird!”
Was he delighted? Entertained? This was before special effects in action movies.
We look at dreams as coming from our unconscious.
What would Ezekiel think about the origin of dreams? – that they came from God.
God seemed to speak to people through dreams & visions back then – part of their culture, part of their religion
They even wrote down many of their visions.
We call it “Apocalyptic” literature –visions, crazy scenes, often about the end times.
Old Testament – Daniel, Joel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
We have only one book in the NT that is apocalyptic. Revelation.
Why did God speak to Ezekiel through a vision?
-get his attention, more likely to accept it – less direct
– it’s a new & different way of saying it. Isaiah was told to comfort the people with words, “Comfort ye, comfort, my people!” Ezekiel was given a vision to share.
Have you ever had trouble understanding someone and have asked them to say it again in a different way, using different words or expressions or maybe a vision using skeletons?
Sometimes we have to hear something more than once, and often in different ways to really get the message.
ILL. Word Pictures. Psychologist Gary Smalley talks about word pictures as a great way for couples to communicate. The idea is to paint a picture with words to describe how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing.
Ex. Husband made a big decision without consulting his wife. So she used a word picture and said to him:
“I feel like we were playing doubles tennis and I was your partner, but you wouldn’t let me hit the ball at all.”
Communicating through word pictures – isn’t that what God did?
There are 3 Things I’d like you to remember about this passage:
- This passage illustrates the Power of Vision.
Vision is powerful. It’s essential. It can shape the future.
ILL. Ice Skater sees the jump and then leaps into it.
ILL. The Diver sees the dive and then takes flight..
ILL. Difficult conversation. – envision you and the person talking calmly, picture it going well, think about what might get the conversation off-track, envision and pray through your vision. That can help make it happen.
ILL. Our Country’s Divide right now is so challenging because it’s hard to see a way out, a way to come together.
We can’t even agree on the same set of facts.
- Global Warming or
- Do minorities have the same opportunities as whites or is there still prejudice & racism in America? Do people of color face more obstacles than the rest of us? (of course they do)
- What is the cost of illegal immigration? Why don’t the discussions involve facts? What does illegal immigration cost America? There are 11 mil. Illegal immigrants in the country. 8 mil of them have jobs and pay into the Social Security program, even though they’ll probably never see that money. Do they payments offset the cost of the others? I don’t know. I’ve seldom heard a discussion involving facts.
That’s why this story of the Valley of Dry Bones is so relevant.
When we can’t see a way out or a way through, God can.
When we lack for vision, maybe we need to ask God to give us a vision.
“Oh no, we’re all naked!!! Where are my clothes?”
If Israel could come back to life after the Babylonian Captivity (they returned in 537 BC and rebuilt the city and the temple) then we can come back from this strange experience we’re all having.
- This story resonates with the New Testament. How?
- life from death, resurrection – new life from graves
- New life comes from God, “I will put my Spirit within you,”
Augustine once said this:
The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed.
The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.
- What was the main message of the bones coming to life?
Hope! – that they could be a people again back in their homeland.
- hope rooted firmly in God – I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,”
ILL. Let me close with this story.
There was a farming community out west that was experiencing a severe drought.
It hadn’t rained in months. The fields were bone dry and the town was crumbling economically and emotionally.
The clergy in town organized a prayer service in the town square.
Since there were all from different faith traditions, the clergy asked folks to bring a symbol of their faith.
At the close of the service, one of the ministers asked folks to hold those symbols high for all to see.
- Some folks held up bibles.
- Others held up crosses and crucifixes.
- Some held up prayer candles.
- One symbol stood out among them all.
- A little boy was sitting atop his father’s shoulders holding up an umbrella.
That’s faith! That’s living with hope!
So the next time you’re tempted to lose hope . . .
Remember that little boy holdin up an umbrella,
and remember also that that Valley of Dry Bones came back to life
when the Israelites walked through that valley on the day they returned to the Promised Land!