Can These Bones Live?

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (ESV)

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon 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.”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”


The Raising of Lazarus
A few minutes ago we read the account of the resuscitation of Lazarus. If there ever was what seemed like an irreversible set of circumstances, this was it. His life was over. Dead and gone. Lazarus had fallen ill and succumbed to his disease. When our Lord came upon the scene of death and discouragement, Lazarus had already been dead for some time. Jesus sought out the tomb. He stood there in front of the grave. Our Lord stared directly into the face of death and told his old nemesis he would not have the last word. Though overcome with grief, Jesus commanded Lazarus to “Come forth!”

Sin & Death
Death is the result of the Fall and the introduction of sin into our world (Gen. 2:16, Rom. 5:12). As Paul reminds us, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Death is the just punishment we deserve because of Adam’s sin, our own sinful nature, and the actual transgressions we commit. God has promised us, as he did Adam in the Garden of Eden, that if we are disobedient to him, if we are sinful, death will be the consequence. There is no getting around the fact that death follows sin like night follows day. Even the people of God were not spared this result when they disobeyed God. The children of Israel were God’s chosen people. If anyone could get away with sin, it would seem to be Israel. And yet, this was not at all the case. Because of years stacked upon years of continued disobedience, Israel was first divided. Then it was conquered. The northern kingdom of Israel was carried off into captivity by Assyria never to return to the Promised Land or to be heard from again. Now the southern kingdom of Judah found itself overrun by Babylon.

Reference to Scripture
In this morning’s Scripture lesson we read about the vision the prophet Ezekiel had concerning the valley of dry bones. The larger context of this passage is the period of captivity. God had used the pagan nation of Babylon to capture and destroy Jerusalem and to carry off the very best of the very best of Judah to a foreign land. Ezekiel was a priest who found himself far away from home in Babylon. He daily faced the results of the sin of his people. They were being punished by God and thought of themselves as good as dead. They were experiencing God’s judgment. The wages of sin really is death.

But we know that death does not have the last word. Sin is not allowed to have its way. Even though the children of Israel were sinful and disobedient, they were part of God’s plan to address sin and death. Even though the children of Israel felt cut off from their God, from their ancestral homeland, from others of their people, God was not ignorant of their situation. However, the children of Israel were not in a position to correct the problem themselves. Like the dead man Lazarus, the children of Israel needed a divine miracle to rescue them. They needed the Word and Spirit. And we sinners are in the same predicament. While we may not find ourselves taken from our homeland and families, we are just as sinful and just as dead and, apart from the grace of Christ, just as much under the curse of God.

Thesis & Outline
It would take a mighty act of God to reverse the situation in which the children of Israel find themselves. It is just as true for us. This morning I want to first take us through the experience of the valley of dry bones. Then, second, I want us to consider our own sin and death. Third and finally, I want us to concentrate on our Lord’s life, death, burial, and resurrection as the answer to our own sentence of judgement and death. Jesus is the only way for us to experience a miracle like Ezekiel witnessed in the valley of dry bones. Only the supernatural Word and Spirit of God can reverse the effects of the divine death sentence. Can these bones live? With man it is impossible. But with God all things are possible!

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