November 3, 2013
We’ve all been there at some point. The reality is, there comes a time when we look around and all we see is helplessness and hopelessness. It’s our very own Death Valley.
In this powerful message, Pastor Ed Young helps us all discover that no matter what situation we are in; no matter how hopeless or helpless the situation may seem, God can always resurrect us and help us experience life in the face of death.
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. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.
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. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, and say to it, ‘Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
I’ve always been intrigued by skeletons. I remember the first time I ever saw a skeleton. I was maybe 4-5 years old and a young lady was baby-sitting me. She went to a local high school and she took me to her biology class to meet some people and in the corner there was this large skeleton. And I remember looking at it and getting rather frightened because a skeleton is sort of creepy. It’s eerie. We all realize that we’re skeletons. Beneath our skin we have all the bones. And I’ve read that the human body has over 200 different bones.
The thing that’s unique about a skeleton is that you cannot tell by a skeleton if the skeleton, when it was a person, was rich or poor. You can’t tell how many followers the skeleton had on Twitter. You can’t tell if he or she was popular or unpopular. They’re just a bunch of bones.
What is a bone? A bone is a relic of human existence. A relic of life. A bone is the dense, calcified connective tissue forming the major portion of the skeleton. Bones. It’s real popular these days to have the skull and bones maybe as a tattoo, maybe on a tie, a dress, another piece of clothing. It’s like we’re in touch with our mortality. We’re in touch with something that’s in your face, up in your grill. Bones. Bones.
Today I’m gonna talk to you about bones. That’s a weird subject, isn’t it? You came to church today here, or at one of our many campuses, and I’m talking about bones? That’s right. This whole message is a message to squillions and squillions of skeletons. Because God has a bone to pick (kinda funny) with you and me. And back in the Old Testament God had a bone to pick with a prophet. A prophet is basically someone who is a spokesperson for the Lord. This prophet that we’re gonna talk about is named Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a strange guy, a peculiar person. He always used these illustrations and word pictures. He did stuff that was out of the ordinary to communicate to God’s people, the Jews, what God wanted them to know. Seventy-four percent of us are multisensory learners so I guess Ezekiel knew back in the day what we’re just discovering today. Ezekiel, though, did something that was kind of creepy and eerie.
It was long before Google Earth. God, though, showed him by his Spirit, a valley, a valley full of bones. Now, just for a second put yourself in his sandals. Can you imagine walking in Death Valley, bones everywhere! Squillions of skeletons. Bags and bags of bones. And the Bible says these bones were dry, they were bleached, busted and brittle. Obviously an epic war had taken place and the Jews had lost. Wild animals had picked the bones clean and carted them off to this area and that area. That’s what Ezekiel found himself doing. Ezekiel found himself preaching to a bunch of bones! A bunch of dead, dry, and dusty bones.
Now I’ve spoken to a lot of audiences, and sometimes after I’ve walked off stage I’ve said to myself, “Whoa. The crowd is dead! Wow. That was like speaking to a bunch of bones!” and maybe you’ve observed the same thing. Maybe you’ve talked to a group or maybe you’ve talked to someone and it’s like they’re not listening. It’s like they’re a living corpse and you say to yourself, man, he seems dead! She seems dead!
To give you the back story on Ezekiel’s life, God’s people, the Jews, had been in Egyptian slavery for 430 years. That’s a long time… 430 years! God miraculously brought them out of Egyptian slavery, gave them their own land, the Promised Land, gave them a king and some serious bling. Read about it. God blessed his people in just an off-the-chain way.
Well, what happens when we’re blessed? I know sometimes in my life when I’m blessed or when you’re blessed we tend to take things for granted. We tend to say, well, I deserve it. Well, I’m just gonna relax a little bit. Well, I’m not gonna give God his due. I’m not gonna really follow him. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do and we forget the ‘blessor’ and we begin to bow the knee and worship the blessings. That’s what happened to God’s people. And that’s what can happen in your life and mine. Because of that, because they began to chase other things, and what happens? Many times when we want freedom we chase other things, and the things we chase end up incarcerating us. We end up being slave to those things we’re chasing due to our freedom, right? That’s what happened to God’s people.
Nebuchadnezzar (that’s a weird name) came in, the King of Babylon, and carted off a lot of the Jews from Israel – all the way from Israel to Babylon. That is where we find Ezekiel. The Jews were like, “Man, it’s done! We need to clock out. It’s over. I mean, we’ll never, ever have a home land any more. We’ll never get together any more. We’ll never have synergy anymore. It’s done!” So Ezekiel did the Google Earth thing and by the Spirit of God, God showed him all the dead bones and Ezekiel’s thinking, God, why are you doing this? These people are dead! History! Bunch of skeletons! And God tells Ezekiel to preach – I’ll say it again – to communicate, to prophecy to the bones.
I want you to notice one thing. The bones were widely scattered. But here’s the good news, you ready for this? Even though the bones were widely scattered we’re gonna discover something. That God is a God who gives life to those who are dead. I will say it again. God is a God who sees the possible, even though we might see the impossible.
You’re like, “Well, Ed, how can I relate to a bunch of dead bones? I mean, come on, man. How can I connect with that?” Well here’s how you can, and here’s how I can. Maybe, just maybe, you’re going, “I’ve got something dead in my life right now, Ed. My family life, just to be honest with you, is dead. My marriage – dead. My relationship with my kids – a bunch of dead bones. My finances, although I look like I’ve got it together, a bunch of dried, busted and disgusted bones. I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m dead.”
We’ve all felt that way before. But I’m here to tell you, here’s the phrase that pays once again, God can take the impossible, can take something that is dead and turn it into something that is absolutely amazing. And this is what, we’re gonna find out, happened to God’s people. So God’s people, they thought it was done and here we bring in Ezekiel.
Let me read this text. Ezekiel 37:1-3. “The hand of the LORD was on me (that’s what Ezekiel was saying. God is all over me, he’s saying), 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. And he asked me, (let’s read this question together. 1-2-3…) “Son of man, can these bones live?” Once again, let’s read that question at all of the campuses, even in London. Can these bones live? God asked him that question!
“Hey Zeke! Can these bones live?” I mean, here are these relics of human life. Can these bones live? And he’s probably thinking, no way! What? He says something brilliant. Look at his answer.
I said, “Sovereign (it means superlative in quality). Sovereign LORD, you know.” You know. God, you know. And God knows. I don’t care how dead you are or how dry the situation is, God knows and God knows how to take something that was dead, and something that is dead, and bring it to life. That’s the good news. So even though you might feel like your life is scattered. Man, I’m going here, I’m going there, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, where I’m supposed to be. God wants to connect you and breathe life into you.
Now the primary interpretation of Ezekiel chapter 37 is the prophetic word to the nation of Israel. One day, even though they are widely scattered, God will bring them back together and the Messiah will rule and reign. That’s the primary interpretation of this chapter. It’s prophetic. The secondary interpretation is practical. It’s to your life and mine. God has a bone to pick with you and me.
So very quickly, you’ve got Ezekiel walking in a valley of dry bones. Now let’s walk over a mountain and walk into another valley, the valley of the church. The valley of Fellowship Church! Let’s let the Lord himself walk around and look at these bones. Could it be that some of the bones in your life and mine are widely scattered?
The foot bone. The foot bone. Where are you feet? In what direction are your feet pointing? Where and how are you walking? If you go to the wrong places, you’ll end up meeting the wrong people and missing God’s purposes for your life. Can these bones live? If you believe it, say yes. Guess what? God can take the foot bone and turn it around and do a 180. We can walk the right way and the Godly way. Because God’s way for you and me to walk is always the ultimate. But I’ve gotta ask you a question. I’ve gotta ask you a question! How are you walking?
How about your knee bone? Some of the guys are like, “Man, if I hadn’t blown my knee out I’d be in the NFL today! If I hadn’t blown my knee out I’d be a lot better than this Johnny Manziel from A&M. I know I would.” No you wouldn’t. You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough. The knee bone. What does God want us to do? God wants us to talk to him in prayer. That’s what prayer is, conversation with God. Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, no power. Can these bones live? That’s right. God wants us to use our knee bone.
How about the tailbone? That’s the hinge, right? We all have a tailbone. And a tailbone is cool because you know we can sit, and it’s fun to sit, yet we’re not supposed to sit all day. We’re to use this hinge to get up and do something. God wants us to do something. He has something great for you and me to do. He wants us to use our talents and our abilities to glorify him, as we’re walking and as we’re kneeling.
I think about Fellowship Church. I think about the greatness of God. I think about the purpose of God, the sovereignty of God. What God has done over the last several decades here blows me away. I’m the most surprised person around. But I’m gonna tell you something. I love my church! I love Fellowship Church. There is not a church like Fellowship Church and I know I’m kinda partial. So many of you, and I want to thank you for your generosity, you’ve gotten off your tailbone, off your wallet, and you have resourced Fellowship. Can these bones live?
It’s time for all of us to get off our tailbone and not only sow our abilities but also to sow and to give our resources. Because all of us have stuff. And a skeleton knows that we’re not owners, we’re simply managers. Isn’t that right? <skeleton: yeah, you got that right!> That’s right. So you thought you owned it all but when you died you realized <skeleton: I don’t own jack!> That’s right. (That’s pretty funny.)
How about your backbone? Your backbone? “I want to have backbone. I want to stand for my convictions!” Maybe you’re a single parent. Maybe you have 2.3 kids. Maybe you’re a student. Do you stand for what you believe? Are you a man, a woman of courage? Of commitment. Or do you crater? Or when peer pressure circles you like a school of sharks, do you go, “Well, I’m not sure…” and you become this wallflower? It’s time for us to stand, to have backbone. Can these bones live? Yes they can!
How about the hand bone, the finger bone. I deal with this and so do you. I love to point the finger. “Oh yeah, you and you, and I would never act that way… If I had that I would never do that…. Or, Can you believe what she said? And we just point and point and point. And you’ve heard it before. When you point the finger, when I point the finger, of blame I have all these other fingers pointing at me. Can these bones live? Worry about yourself. We’re playing for an audience of one. Who’s the one? It’s God!
How about the shoulder bone? I want to shoulder responsibility. God has given us responsibilities, right? He’s given us accountability and that’s a good thing because it’s a God thing. Yet in our culture today it’s always this victim mentality. “Oh, it’s their fault.” “It’s my mom’s fault, my dad’s fault.” “It’s that coach’s fault…. my boss’s fault… the government’s fault…” And then others are like, “OK, the government will take care of me. I don’t have to do anything. The government will take care of me.”
Hey, I’m all for helping the helpless but if you can walk and talk and breathe and are able, take responsibility for your life! Just like I tell people all the time. I cannot make you or convince you to follow the Lord. I mean, I can teach it, I can say it, I can spray it, but it’s your choice. Can these bones live? Yes, they can!
How about the jaw bone? Oh-ho-ho, man. The jaw bone. <chomping> Slander … <chomping>… secret… <chomping>… gossip… <chomping>… shame… <chomping> The jaw bone. What’s coming out of your mouth? I think, what’s coming out of my mouth? Out of the same mouth we can praise God, we can glorify him. We can say things that encourage one another. Also, we can discourage one another. We can slurp that Haterade and vomit it back up on every person we see.
I love social media, I do, but there is also a dark side to it, isn’t there? Now it gives people an opportunity to say things and share things anonymously like we’ve never shared before. And I talk to so many young people, so many leaders, so many people in the business world who are devastated by what people say. So can these bones live? We can use them to glorify God. So that’s a word to you and me. That’s in your valley and my valley. That’s up in your grill and in my grill.
So again, if you’re keeping score, #1, notice the bones were widely scattered. The Jews were saying, “It’s done, Ezekiel.” And Ezekiel does something strange. He’s preaching to bones. But notice something else. Not only were they widely scattered, after he preached to the bones they noisily clattered. A noise took place. Something supernatural happened. So he’s preaching, he’s teaching these bones, and check out what happens, verses 4 and 8. “Then he said to be, ‘Prophecy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.”’” This is the Word of the Lord. The Bible. There’s power in the Word of the Lord. You don’t study this book, this book studies you. You don’t read this book, this book reads you. You don’t just open this book, this book opens you and opens me. And the Bible says the word of God, in Hebrews 4:12, “… is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow (that’s bone stuff), it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
We don’t judge anybody at Fellowship Church. God does that. But we never want to confuse acceptance with approval. We accept everybody here, everybody here! But it doesn’t mean that we approve everything that we do, but we accept everyone.
Ezekiel starts preaching to the bones and something happens. He preaches the word. Look at verse 7, “So I prophesied (preaching) as I was commanded.” I mean, it’s not optional, right? “… and as I was prophesying there was a noise, a rattling sound.” And maybe Ezekiel said, “Oh, snap!” I’m not sure. “… A rattling sound and the bones came together.” Now the bones were disjointed, disconnected, now you have some connectedness. And they started coming together, bone to bone. “I looked and tendons and flesh <slurping sound effects>…(I’m gonna write one day the Sound Effects Bible, I promise you I am.) … I looked and tendons and flesh appeared on them, and skin covered them but there was no breath in them.” The living dead. A bunch of zombies. Squillions of skeletons. Now they have skin on them and muscle. So it’s weird. Ezekiel is preaching to bones, now he’s preaching to a bunch of corpses.
Haven’t we all seen people? Haven’t you known someone (I have), all of a sudden they feel like their situation is hopeless and helpless. They hear the Word of the Lord and they move from being scattered to noisily being clattered. They feel things coming together. They’re connecting the dots but they never go to that next level.
So if you find yourself here today and you’re like, OK, you feel like it’s impossible. But suddenly because of the word, God’s using my vocal cords, you feel like things are coming together. You feel like, wow, I’m a walking corpse. I am a walking dead person. I’m sorta like a zombie. I would challenge you, although I can’t make you, I would challenge you to go to the next step. And what’s the next step? Well, you’ve got to realize that when I teach and I preach I cannot save anybody. I cannot rescue anybody. I cannot change anybody’s life. I can’t. God does. So God uses his Word, and the power of his Word, and the Spirit of God envelops and ambushes people. I’m just a messenger boy. I’m just a messenger boy.
So check out what Ezekiel did. Again, you’re keeping score, #1 – The bones were widely scattered. #2 – After preaching they noisily clattered. And #3 – Uh-oh, they divinely mattered. The bones realize, whoa! This is stunning stuff! Look at Ezekiel 37:9-11. “Then he asked me, then he said to me, ‘Prophecy to the breath…’” Again, this guy was weird. This is a weird cat. He’s preaching to bones. Now he’s preaching to bodies, and to make matters even crazier God says, “Hey, preach to some breath.”
“Prophesy to the breath, and say to it, ‘Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” Breath. Spirit. Pneuma. Go back to Genesis. God created man but man was formless and then all of a sudden <breath> he breathed the breath of life in him. The Holy Spirit of God. God, the Father, God, the Son, God, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God. The third person of the Trinity breathed life. I know a lot of people who have everything to live on but nothing to live for. I know a lot of people who are connected, they’re feeling things coming together, but they’ve not taken that next step. It’s about the breath of God. Have you allowed God to breathe life into you? Because the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to breathe the Life of God into dead things.
Maybe you know somebody and you’re like, “Man, this person, Ed, they are so hard-hearted. They’re so far away from God. They’re so atheistic, pessimistic. You don’t realize. I mean, this person is done. I mean, I’m just mailing it in.” Remember God specializes in taking things that we deem impossible or that we think are dead and God specializes in bringing those folks to life.
Next weekend I’m gonna talk further about Ezekiel 37 and it would behoove you to bring someone with you that you think is the coldest, hardest-hearted guy or girl you know and I promise you, if you expose them to the Word of God, the power of God, and the preaching of God’s word, awesome things can happen. Let’s do a deal together and make that happen next week.
So they divinely matter. And now we have the people standing and they’re forming this vast army and things are happening now! They realize, wow. Something has taken place in my life. Can these bones live? Yes they can. I don’t care how far away from God you feel, how dead you feel, how dry you feel, how dusty you feel, how depressed you feel, I don’t care how deep and dark the valley is. Can these bones live? Yes. Let’s pray together.
God, you’re so good to us. Thank you for making us. Thank you for making us to live in a relationship with you. I know I’m talking to people who feel scattered, I know that. We’ve all felt that way. I know I’m talking to people who feel dead and that’s what sin does. It leads to death. But here’s the good news. You love us and you’ve redeemed us, and you want to breathe your spirit and your power and your life into our lives. So if you’re here today and you’ve never, ever, ever asked Jesus to breathe on you today you can do it.
[Ed finishes/closes in prayer.]