A time for……..lives radically changed
Sermon date: 26th May
Readings: Ezekiel 37 v.1-14
What does the phrase 'dry bones' make you think of?
(Responses may be wide ranging and might include images/ideas such as: museums, skeletons, fragility, easily broken, weakness, death, and you may find someone references the children's song 'Dem dry bones!')
Please do not feel you have to use all this material, use what is helpful
Right from the start in scripture we see that God acts. He reaches into history and acts for the good of his people, to transform and save them.
Please read Ezekiel 37: 1-14 through together
This vision - the Valley of the Dry Bones - is a metaphor for the people of Israel in exile in Babylon, with no hope for the future. In the previous chapter of Ezekiel the people have received a promise of restoration and re-birth, but it all seems impossible. They have no land, no king and no temple. How can this promise of restoration come to pass?
Re-read verses 1-2. Now imagine standing there looking at the dry bones.
Q.1 Can you think of a time when you have been in a situation which felt bleak like this?
With no hope of things ever changing?
The Israelites were wandering in the desert for about 40 years before finally entering the Promised Land. Here they decided they wanted a king to rule over them. First they had Saul, then David, and then his son Solomon who constructed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But it didn't take long before the kings that followed began to allow the land to be divided and allowed worship of other gods. The temple was destroyed by enemies and the Israelites taken captive into Babylon with their Promised Land left empty and desolate.The dry bones represent their situation - they are people who have gone their own way and forgotten God despite him bringing them out of slavery. Now their temple has been destroyed, they have no land, and are in exile in Babylon. They feel as if they have lost all hope of a better future.
Re-read verse 3.In his vision, Yahweh asks Ezekiel if the bones can live again.
Q.2 Why do you think God asks Ezekiel this question?
This seems to be a moment of clarifying who 'the Lord' is. Only God knows whether the bones can be made to live again (or restored), and only God has the power to bring this to pass. By asking the question of Ezekiel it brings these truths to the fore.
Re-read verses 4-8.
God gives Ezekiel specific instructions, with words to speak over the dry bones, promising that they will be covered with flesh, muscle and skin to form whole bodies again, and breath will be breathed into them so they will know that God is the Lord. The 'breath' or the 'Spirit' entering the bodies and giving them life (vs 6, 10, 14) is reminiscent of the first creation (Genesis 2: 7).
Q.3 Why might making a connection between the breath giving life to the bones in the valley and the breath of the first creation be important for the Israelites?
The Israelites lived at a time when many gods were worshipped. Yahweh said 'There are no other Gods but me' and expected loyal worship of him only. To remind the Israelites who created them established the fact that he is the maker and sustainer of all things - above and beyond any other gods, human constructions or idols.
When Ezekiel first obeys God and speaks over the bones they rattle as they come together as bodies but they have no breath in them yet.
Q.4 How do you think Ezekiel felt when he saw the bones become dead bodies with no breath in them?
Have you experienced moments where something miraculous started happening but then doesn't come to the conclusion you are expecting? How did it make you feel?
Scripture doesn't tell us how Ezekiel felt but he is immediately obedient to God's next instruction which seems to come straight away (re-read verses 9-10).The explanation of what the dry bones represent then appears in verse 11 and God gives Ezekiel his message of hope to relay to the people of Israel in verses 12-14.
In conclusion: God can save and renew Israel however hopeless the situation may seem. The God who first created can re-create. With him all things are possible. There is both a physical renewal promised (being brought into the land) and a spiritual renewal.
Are there areas of your life that you long for God to breathe his Spirit and new life into?
Are there people you know that you long to see God’s breathe his Spirit and life into?
What about aspects of our nation’s future or even wider, on a global level?
Take some time to pray into those situations
As you finish, you may like to listen to the song ‘Come alive (dry bones) by Lauren Daigle as part of your reflection, it is available on You Tube.