Todayâ€™s passage well shows the hope of God. Godâ€™s hope is different from human hope. Godâ€™s hope is that where men cannot have hope, God can have hope. For example, at death no one can have hope. All things end in death. But Godâ€™s hope is above death. In this passage God has hope for dry bones and makes them a vast army. This is an excellent illustration of what the hope of God is. Letâ€™s see how Godâ€™s hope can be realized. May God teach us his hope, the hope of God through this study.
First, â€œCan these bones live?â€ (1-3). Look at verse 1. â€œThe hand of the LORD was upon 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.â€ God brought out Ezekiel by his Spirit and set him in a valley of bones, in the middle. Most probably, the valley of bones would be the last place for anyone to go. Everyone wants to go to a nice place and have a good sightseeing. Anyway, God led Ezekiel to the valley of bones. It was not to scare him but for a special purpose. Sometimes God leads us to the valley of shadow of death. But we should know that even in that place God is with us, as the hand of the LORD was upon Ezekiel. He does so because he has a deep purpose for us.
Look at verse 2. â€œHe 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.â€ To just stand among bones would be scary enough. But God led Ezekiel back and forth among them. Sometimes it is hard to understand the way God leads us. Then Ezekiel saw many bones, a great many bones, bones that were very dry. It was really a fearsome and hopeless scene. Then the Lord asked Ezekiel, â€œSon of man, can these bones live?â€ What an unexpected, surprising question! Have you ever heard this kind of question? An expected question might be, â€œWhat can we do with bones? How can we get rid of them?â€ But the question was â€œSon of man, can these bones live?â€ Who can raise such a question? It was a totally impossible question, even to think of and imagine. No human being can raise such a question. However, it is a wonderful question the answer of which we want to hear in our deep hearts. We human beings admire such a deep and profound question, â€œCan these bones live?â€ Job, in his unbearable suffering, had a question, â€œIf a man dies, will he live again?â€ (Job 14:14) We heard of the death of Edward Kennedy. Will he live again, coming back to life? The question, â€œCan these bones live?â€ seems to be a harder one, though the questions are the same in essence. Dry bones can be the symbol of a deadly hopeless situation. No one have hope for bones that are very dry. In critical times in our lives our situations are like the dry bones with no human hope of our own at all. As for Ezekiel, his people had been in exile. He tried to help them by speaking to them the words of God. But they rejected Godâ€™s word and even himself. In rebelliousness and despair, they said, â€œOur bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.â€ Humanly speaking, Ezekiel could not have hope for them any further. He could not have hope for his mission. However, God asked him, â€œSon of man, can these bones live?â€
Hopelessness can be one of the major problems for all mankind. Hopelessness seems to be sweeping over the world, especially in this global recession time. People may ask to themselves, â€œCan my job be sure?â€ or â€œCan I get a job?â€ Not only in economics, but also in the spiritual aspect people feel hopeless. It is reported that in the 1960â€™s, 80% of the people in England went to church, but now only about 2% of the people attend church. This spiritual downfall is due to materialism, hedonism and post-modernism. It is the general tendency in Europe and European society is considered a post-Christian society. Riding on this trend the dark shadow of Islam seems to advance over Europe. I heard at the conference that a Turkish Moslem bought 2009 European SBC site in Eringerfeld and became its owner. Is there a hope for Europe? Can Europe be restored spiritually and be a missionary-sending continent again?â€ So at the conference one main prayer topic is that God may bless Europe to be a missionary sending continent once again. We raise our own questions in our deep hearts: â€œI have no talent in studying. But can I study well?â€ â€œCan I truly be a blessing to others (cool person)?â€ â€œCan I be a good shepherd?â€ â€œCan I be a competent and fruitful Bible teacher?â€ â€œCan I rule over material matters?â€ â€œCan my health be restored?â€ â€œCan my loved ones be changed?â€ â€œIs it still possible to raise disciples in U of T campus?â€ â€œCan Toronto really be a holy city, and Canada, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation?â€ We thank God that he brings us such an awesome question, â€œSon of man, can these bones live?â€ A question implies a certain possibility for an impossible thing. No question means no possibility. But raising a question is the beginning of the possibility.
Second, Dry bones became a vast armyâ€ (4-14). At the Lordâ€™s question, Ezekiel said, â€œO Sovereign LORD, you alone know.â€ Ezekiel was not too confident or rebellious at all. He wants to hear the answer from the LORD. Then LORD said to him. Look at verse 4. â€œProphesy to the bones and say to them, â€˜Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!â€ This is the answer to the question, â€œCan dry bones live?â€ â€œDry bones, hear the word of the LORD!â€ Even dry bones should hear the word of the LORD. Then they can live. The word of the LORD has power to make dry bones live. When God created the word, he spoke. Then things were created out of nothing. When God said, â€œLet there be light, and there was light. The word of the LORD has creation power, not to mention the power to make the dry bones live. The Bible testifies to it from the first chapter. Jesus the Son of God came into this world and he spoke. He spoke to a 38-year invalid man, â€œGet up! Pick up your mat and walk.â€ Then what happened to him? At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. His bones, particularly his leg bones were fixed for 38 years, so he could not get up and walk at all. The bones and his body were used to lie down. But at Jesusâ€™ command the leg bones began to be flexible and bend and finally the man could stand up and walk. He walked even taking the mat on his shoulders. This was a vivid demonstration of the power of the word of the LORD. The Bible is full of demonstrations of the power of Godâ€™s word. Jesus raised a dead Lazarus from the grave, saying, â€œLazarus, come out.â€ Then the dead man came out of his own tomb. Raising the dead with the words of command is so cool. The dead could live again. But the coolest thing is that those who hear the word of God never die and live eternally (Jn 11:26). Jesus said in John 5:24, â€œI tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal lifeâ€¦he has crossed over from death to life.â€ This is the promise of Jesus, his trustworthy promise. This is the meaning of Godâ€™s Son Jesus coming into this world. He came to speak. He said continually in John 5:25, â€œI tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. I could see that when you heard the word of the Lord, you could be made alive. We must hear the word of God continually.
Letâ€™s go back to the story of todayâ€™s passage. Look at verses 5 and 6. â€œThis is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.â€ These words are full of Godâ€™s will; â€œI willâ€¦I willâ€¦I will.â€ Godâ€™s will for life overpowers the spirit of the dead dry bones. Then what happens? Look at verses 7 and 8. â€œSo 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.â€ It is a jaw-dropping sight. Each of the great many bones knew where to go, which other bone to stick, and got to the right bone in the right place. Each bone was completely matched. There was no traffic jab, no confusion. This happened when the bones heard the word of the LORD. Then tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them. Dry, ugly and scary bones became beautiful with nice, fresh, pink new bodies. They were fully assembled. But there was one problem, no breath (no life) in them.
God works continually. Look at verses 9 and 10. â€œThen he said to me. â€˜Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, â€œThis is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath into these slain, that they may live.â€â€™ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feetâ€”a vast army.â€ It is a truly amazing sight. The dry bones became a vast army, the most powerful army, equipped, organized, and ready to win victories. The similar kind of thing happened in the history of Israel. The slave people Israelites became a mighty troop of soldiers when they obeyed the word of God. They could conquer the promised land, defeating the powerful enemies one by one. However, when they disobeyed God, they became powerless and defeated by their neighbouring countries until they became pitiful exiles in Babylon. Now God was planting a new hope in them through the vision of dead dry bones becoming a vast army.
Look at verses 11-14. â€œThen he said to me: â€˜Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, â€œOur bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.â€ Therefore prophesy and say to them: â€˜This is what the Sovereign LORD says. O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.â€™â€ In Godâ€™s hope the exiles of the Israelites in Babylon would be brought back to their own land and settle there. When they had no human hope at all, God planted hope in them.
The hope of God can be found and realized through the word of God. When Abraham heard the word of Godâ€™s promise and believed to the end, then from this one man who was as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore (Heb 11:13). We must hear the word of the LORD and prophesy it. In todayâ€™s passage the word, â€œprophesyâ€ is written seven times. In Exodus 7:1 the LORD said to Moses, â€˜See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.â€ God raised Araon as the prophet, spokesmen of Moses. So the prophets of God were those who received Godâ€™s words and spoke them to the people of their times. When Ezekiel prophesied and prophesied, the dry bones heard the word of the LORD and became a vast army.
In this passage, the phrase, â€œThis is what the sovereign LORD saysâ€ repeated three times. There are human words and human books. But there are the words of God written in the Bible. Godâ€™s words are different from menâ€™s words. It is truly a great blessing that we humans can hear what the Sovereign LORD says through the Bible. We can hear the word of God each week and each day. We must hear the words of the LORD and prophesy them. Thank God that we are going to have Genesis Bible Academy. May God raise our messengers to speak the words of God in Genesis and prophesy them so that U of T freshmen come hear the word of God and have life and hope.
We also know the importance of prophesying to the breath, that is wind or spirit. In this passage the word â€œbreathâ€ or â€œbreatheâ€ appears seven times. How can we prophesy to the spirit? As for us, it is through prayer. Prayer is the way for the Holy Spirit to work. I could newly learn that God blessed 2009 European SBC abundantly, because of the powerful prayer offered throughout the word. I pray that there fervent early morning prayer may be offered to God in this centre so that there be the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in U of T campus pioneering work.
Through the study of this passage we can clearly see that our God is the God of hope. When Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones and to breath, the dry bones became a vast army and revealed the power and glory of Sovereign LORD. May God help us to hear the word of the LORD and prophesy it in U of T campus and pray so that God raise disciples of Jesus in this campus to be a vast army of God to make Toronto a holy city and Canada a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the glory of God in this generation.