Diggin’ Up Bones (5/1/16)

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

God led Ziek into a desert; into a valley filled with dust, despair, and… dead bones.  How can places in life like these be turned into something vibrant and living?  When we’re in the depths of discouragement, can God inject hope and energy and turn things around?  You betcha!!!

Click the below “Play” button and scroll down to follow along (the recording is from the 11:00 service)…


The scripture was Ezekiel 37:1-10.  Click the following Drop Down box to follow along.  Pastor Jim read from The Living Bible.  The New Living Translation (NLT) is shown below.

Ezekiel 37:1-10

1 The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.

2 He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.

3 Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

4 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!

5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!

6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'”

7 So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.

8 Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.'”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.



The story is told of the Devil who was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different  prices.  They were a fiendish lot.  There was hatred, jealousy, deceit, lying, and pride– all at expensive prices.  But a table on the other side of the yard displayed a tool obviously worn more than any of the other tools.  It was also the most costly.  The tool was labeled DISCOURAGEMENT.  When questioned, the Devil said, “It’s more useful to me than any other tool.  When I can’t bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me.”

Satan is never happier than when he sees people giving in and giving up to despair and becoming lost in hopelessness.  Have you ever felt like your whole world is caving in around you and there is absolutely no hope?  Your troubles seem to mount up insurmountable.  When focus on the moment and  on the circumstance even God’s people can get worn down.  We need to disobey Satan!  Instead of focusing on the circumstance, we need to look ahead to “Tomorrow”…Gumby-upset-534103_960_720 _400x300

Cheer Up; I have good news!  There is hope for the hopeless!

When God led ‘ole Ziek into this desert, his nation was already in one.  Things looked pretty bad.  His nation was like a pile of dead bones, and what God showed him in this vision applied to the nation of Israel.  Ezekiel was writing this from Persia.  He wasn’t on vacation… in 589 BC King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, burned the Temple, and carried off all of the people  to Babylon.  The story is told in 2 Chronicles 36 (and 2 Kings 24).  Here’s part of the account as told in 2 Chronicles 36:15-20…

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 


He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar.  He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials.  They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.


He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

Yep.  Things were looking pretty bleak.  Ziek didn’t need any explanation about the meaning of the dead bones.  He was alredy feeling like he was at the far end of a long line of hungry customers at a fast food restaurant.  This exile wasn’t going quickly, and it wasn’t joyful.

Ziek was singing the blues, not the songs of God’s joy.  Here’s what a psalmist wrote about that period (in Psalm 137:1-4):

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
 for there our captors asked us for songs,
 our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?    NIV

It was a hopeless situation.  The bones are very dry.  They’re scattered.  They’ve been there a long time.  There’s no unity, nothing’s happening.  This was an accurate description of how the Israelites felt.  They felt like they got hit by a steam roller and were mired in hot tar.

Do WE ever feel that way???


But We Haven’t Batted Yet!

But take another look at verse 1: “The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord…”  God doesn’t give up!  The hand of God comes to us.  God pursues us.  As Satan hits us with his tool of Discouragement, we say “It’s useless; there’s no hope.”  But God says “Relax!  I’m going to do something really big here!

A man approached a little league baseball game  one afternoon.  He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was.  The boy responded,  “Eighteen to nothing–  we’re behind.”  “Boy,” said the spectator,”I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” 

“Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy.  “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” 

Mother Theresa once  said that there are no problems; just opportunities!  It’s a matter of perspective.  When faced with our own “bones in the desert” situations, we can choose to either say “Look at this mess!”  OR…  “What an opportunity for God!”  To quote the country song, all too often we “look for love in all the wrong places.”  We can either focus on the situation and not find anything resembling hope or love,  or we can pour ourselves out to God and open ourselves up to the hope that is in Jesus.

There’s no greater state of hopelessness than a person without Christ.

(… Have you shared the faith with someone to allow their spiritual bones to be awakened?)

Psalm Ps 121:1 reminds us to look to God in the midst of our hopelessness…

I lift up my eyes to the hills —
where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Anxiety comes from being disconnected from God.  When we “lift our eyes up to the hills” to God, despair is chased away.  God brings hope… real  hope (not just a wishy washy feeling). God’s hope chases away discouragement.  Look up and let God come up to bat  for you.


God Alone is the Answer to Hopeless Situations

In verse 3, God asked Ezekiel a question:  “Can these bones ever live?”

Ziek answers the only way one of us humans could: “O Lord, only you know the answer to that one”

From a human perspective, it’s impossible for those old bones to ever come t o life.  But Ziek answers from the perspective of faith:  “I don’t see how they could ever live, God…. but I get the feeling You’ve got some other ideas???”

Ezekiel is acknowledging that God can do the impossible.  That if God so desires these dry discarded bones to have life again, they’re gonna live!  We see this truth over and over in the Bible…

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.  Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Matthew 19:25-26

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?

Jeremiah 32:27-28 27

Then Job replied to the Lord:  “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.

Job 42:1-2

What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 1:36-37

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.

Mark 10:27

Here are some more examples…

Even if we butchered all our flocks and herds, would that satisfy them? Even if we caught all the fish in the sea, would that be enough?”  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!

Numbers 11:22-23

And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.  “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Zecheriah 8:5-6

Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”  He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.

Luke 18:26-27

God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you;

Psalm 62:11

“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!

Jeremiah 32:17

Starting to see a pattern???  We humans say things like “How” or “Even if__.”  We shrink into discouragement and hopelessness.  But God says “nothing is impossible for Me.”  AND- He loves us enough to make the impossible happen!  God delights in doing the impossible!

Take a look at our history.  Take a  look at creation and you see the “impossible”…

Old Man Noah builds an ark (Genesis 6-9)
God parts the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
Daniel partying with some lions (Daniel 6)
Esther saving the entire nation (Esther 3-7)
Jesus is born of a virgin (Luke 2)
Jesus rises from the dead (Matthew 28)
Christian killer Saul becomes a Christian (Acts 9)

Stop and think for a moment of times in your life where you’ve experienced the impossible take place…  with that in mind, if God did it once, He will do it again.  God delights in doing the Impossible!!!

The great Methodist preacher from Atlanta, Charles L. Allen, said:

When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God! 

There are no hopeless situations.  There are only people who have grown hopeless about them.

There are no hopeless people, only people who have given up and think they are hopeless.  Sometimes we get down on ourselves or our situations and think that all hope is gone, probably like Ezekiel when he first looked at that valley of dry bones.

But then God comes alongside and IF WE ARE WILLING to listen and exercise our faith, speaks a word of hope and encouragement to us.

Psalm 42:11…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

Phil McHugh (in his song “God and God Alone”)…

God, and God alone, reveals the truth of all we call unknown. 

All the best and worst of man won’t change the Master’s plan, It’s God’s and God’s alone.

God and God alone is fit to take the universe’s throne. 

Let everything that lives reserve its truest praise, for God and God alone.

Phil McHugh, “God and God Alone” 1984 River Oaks Music Co. (EMI Christian Music Publishing)


J. Bailey Smith (a contemporary preacher)…

No one is hopeless whose hope is in God.


We need to get to the place where we can tell God, “Lord, I don’t get any of this.  But- You’re still God and I praise You!

We can climb out of despair when we take our eyes off our circumstances and move them on to God.


When God Speaks, Things Happen

In verse 4, God said to Ziek, “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, here the word of the Lord.”  Go talk to a pile of dead bones!  As Ziek went ahead, walked up to the bones and began to tell them what God told him to tell the bones, he might have taken a quick look around to see if anyone was watching!

Sometimes we forget the incredible vital power of God’s  Word.  Take a look at the creation account in Genesis 1.  Over  and over again, it says “Then God Said…”  and then it was.  God spoke the world into existence.

  • When Jesus calmed the sea, He said “Be Still”… and the waves stopped (Mark 4:39)
  • When Jesus healed a leper, He said “Be cleansed”…. and he was healed (Mark 1:40-42)
  • When Jesus healed a lame man, He said “Pick up your mat and walk”… and he could walk (John 5:5-9)


Why is it that God’s Word is often the last place we look for answers?  Searching the Scriptures and praying should be our first response, not our last resort!

Ezekiel speaks God’s message exactly as commanded He speaks for God and they who listen hear the voice of God.  When God’s Word goes forth, things begin to happen…

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11, NIV

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Matthew 24:35, NIV

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

Isaiah 46:10, NIV

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,  but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

1 Peter 1:23-25, NIV

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, NIV

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4, NIV


In Matthew 4 and in Luke 4, Jesus provides an example of the power of God’s word in our daily lives.  When Jesus was being tempted directly and in other situations throughout His earthly life, Jesus overcame the obstacles by using the Word of God.

Psalm 119:105 is a verse turned into a great song by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant which says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”   The Word of God is a window to those in the prison of hopelessness.  It’s a window through which prisoners can see the light of hope and get direction for their lives.


.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .


What’s Our Response???

God has dug up the bones of our desperate times, and He continues to do the impossible in our lives (if we let Him)…

When you look at the world, what do you see? When you look at your life, what do you see?  Do you see despair or do you see hope?  Is your trust in the God of the impossible who wants to take the dry discarded areas of your life and breath life into them again?

Can these bones live?  YES they CAN!!!  The mission that has been given to the church seems impossible at times.  But, we can fulfill our commission, if we look to the Lord for the help and strength we need.

Can these bones live?  Yes the CAN!  They only need a witness to tell them, a warrior to pray for them, and a wonderful God to draw them to Jesus.  They can live, and God can use us to reach them for Jesus.

God’s Word will not return empty… it always beats Satan’s tool of discouragement.  God will keep His promises in your life today!


Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

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