Passage: Ezekiel 37:1–37:14
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Date: April 2nd, 2017; Lent 5; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The prophet Ezekiel was taken away in the Spirit of the Lord and was given a troubling vision.
He describes seeing a bunch of sun bleached, weather beaten, lifeless, dry and dead bones scattered throughout a valley.
Just imagine this scene! What utter hopelessness.
Dry bones are the symbol of death and destruction.
This vision was to illustrate the hopelessness of God’s people during this time.
They had turned their backs on God, they had gone their own way, and as a result they found themselves being punished through the Babylonian captivity.
This vision makes it clear, that apart from God, we are dead. We are dried up dead bones scattered in the valley of death without God.
But, Ezekiel is shown that despite the appearance of utter despair - there is hope!
God will save his people! He will make them alive again!
And this promise is also for us!
We too can find ourselves in a deep valley feeling as though there is no hope.
There are many difficulties that arise in our lives that can leave us feeling this way.
These can be troubles in our own lives or in the lives of those we love.
Illness, depression, financial problems, addiction, broken relationships, guilt, the death of someone we love dearly - all of these things can cause us to feel hopeless.
They can leave us in a state of utter despair.
With the people of Israel, we can find ourselves crying out, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11).
But, God’s message to the people of Israel (and to each and every one of us today!) is that we are not cut off from him.
The Good News is that, despite all appearances, there is hope.
It’s interesting to note what God ordered Ezekiel to do in this vision.
God commanded Ezekiel to preach to them – to prophecy, to proclaim, the Good News that they will be restored and be brought back to life, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them…Behold, I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:4-5)
And Ezekiel reports that preaching God’s Word worked! “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived” (Ezekiel 37:10).
And nothing has changed! God’s Word of promise continues to work in our lives today!
We have life breathed into us when we hear the Word of God.
As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
In this life we find ourselves in situations where things appear to be nothing but hopeless. We find ourselves lost and turned upside down.
But God promises, that despite all appearances, he will see us through and our future with him is secure.
The Holy Spirit dwells in us creating and sustaining our faith in the victory over sin and death that Jesus Christ has won for the world – that he has won for you!
Sin is the problem. Sin is the cause of all of our trouble, of all of our guilt and misery, of all of our sickness and pain, of all of our despair. Our sin condemns us to death.
But as we heard in our reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).
Just as God freed his people from the Babylonian captivity, so he frees us from the captivity to sin and death.
St. Paul says that this is true for all those who are in Christ Jesus.
So I suppose an important question to ask, then, is what does it mean to be “in” Christ Jesus?
Well, to be in Christ means that you have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you and has brought you to have faith in God’s gift of salvation.
Again, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
Just as the breath gave life back to the dry dead bones in Ezekiel’s vision, so the Holy Spirit gives life back to us - we who were dead in our trespasses.
It’s interesting to note that the same Hebrew word, ruach, that is used in Genesis for the breath of life breathed into Adam is the same word that is used here in Ezekiel.
It is the gift of life, new life, given freely to us for the sake of Jesus.
The gift of life that we receive through our baptism.
The gift of life that we receive as we hear, read and meditate upon God’s Word.
The gift of life we receive through Christ’s true body and true blood.
Through these means of grace we receive the gift of faith and we are in Christ.
We have ligaments, tendon, muscle, and skin put back on us. We receive the breath of eternal life!
It is true that there are times in our lives when it feels like we are dry dead bones lying in the middle of a valley. It can feel like everything is lost and there is no hope.
Being a Christian does not remove us from the effects of living in a fallen and sinful world.
As Christians we will get sick and we will experience turmoil and so will our loved ones.
As Christians we will die.
But in the midst of suffering and death, in the midst of all appearing lost, we have peace, comfort, and certain hope.
As God’s people, we see the light at the end of the tunnel.
God has promised us a heavenly future – a future that includes a glorious reunion with all of our loved family and friends who have departed in the faith.
Jesus boldly declared in our Gospel reading, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25).
We are assured that all of the sufferings and difficulties that we endure in this life will pass and we will be restored to eternal life and joy.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have been taken from being a bunch of dry, sun-bleached lifeless bones, and you have been made into a living person with a living faith with the gift of eternal life.
“Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people…I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:12). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.