You Will Live!
It has been said, and I believe... that at any given moment, you can divide a congregation... any congregation... of any size... into thirds.
1. And a third of the congregation is going through a crisis at that very time... that moment. It may be a crisis in their personal life, a crisis regarding their health, their finances, their children, their relationships... it could be a spiritual crisis, a crisis of faith... BUT a third of the congregation is going thru some form of crisis at that moment.
2. Another third of the congregation has recently been through a crisis... and they’re just emerging from it! They’re just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re regaining their balance, getting their feet back under them.
3. And then... there’s another third of the congregation, for whom things seem to be going okay! There’s no real crisis present. They feel blessed, hopeful... joyful...
And you and I know what that means for those who are in that last group? You’re getting ready to go through a crisis!
I say all that to say this: We all know (or will know) the dry, lifeless, crisis-filled parts of life, don’t we?
Disease... depression, abuse, loneliness... loveless relationships, unemployment, grief, family problems that just won’t go away. Crisis seems the way of the world. And crisis can sap the life right out you... even if you’re a faithful follower of Christ... we’re not immune...
And that’s why these ancient words from Ezekiel are still so relevant and still ring true today.
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is a vision of renewal, and rebirth. It’s a vision of resurrection and new life... from the old, dry, lifeless realities of life.
God’s people found themselves in crisis... They were exiles in Babylon. Captives in a strange land. Their country had been ravaged, their temple destroyed, and their families scattered... along with their hopes and dreams.
So, stuck in Babylon... some sat around, grieving... while others scoffed. They were like a valley of dry bones: lifeless and seemingly beyond all hope of restoration.
Without breath... Without help... Without hope.
Then God called Ezekiel to go stand in the middle of the cemetery. Climb up on a tombstone, with neck bones and thigh bones and jaw bones as far as you can see, and proclaim:
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! I will make breath (my spirit) 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.”
It’s a fascinatingly vivid story - one of the most dramatic stories in the whole of the Old Testament!
But... it’s also a story of salvation... of deliverance... of renewal... that unfolds time and time again in God’s Word... and in our lives!
Can you sense it? Can you know it? Can you recognize it?
Don’t be fooled...
Don’t trust your eyes or ears.
Don’t believe the way of the world.
Don’t bet on the powerful, the rich.
Don’t even believe it when the fat lady sings!
We walk by faith, not sight!
For when you and I find ourselves powerless... when we’re weak, when we’ve run out of options, when we think all hope is lost... there is still the breath (or the Spirit) of God.
And, brittle, dry, bones will come to life at the sound of his Word!
Like a dry old man and a barren women giving birth to a son,
like water springing from a rock,
like a virgin bearing a son,
like the garden tomb being empty,
and the dead resurrected.
God continues to breathe new life into dry bones.
There’s always the deep, blessed assurance that God is working in our midst... even now!
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary every time we turn on the evening news... we still cling to the hope that the Spirit of God will break through all the dead, dry places in our lives...
...and relationships that are dead will be renewed;
and those struggling with addictions will find freedom.
Those hampered by disease and pain will find healing.
Those entombed by hate & greed, will find life in compassion and charity.
Those who suffer from want... poverty... will find plenty... enough.
And those oppressed by depression will be overcome with joy...
...as this old world is turned upside,
...as love and justice and mercy and peace roll like rivers,
...and death won’t have the last word.
The crises that we face in life serve to remind us that the Spirit of God will blow where it will, and our task... our calling, as followers of Jesus Christ... is to be faithful in the waiting, giving thanks when we feel the life giving Spirit blow across our lives... leading us... as it always does... to the cross.
For our hope & confidence is not in this world...
nor our good luck... not in our wealth...
nor our very best efforts...
our confidence is Christ alone.
Our assurance is knowing God in Christ will do a radical new thing... resurrection... in my life, and in yours.
Of course, we can’t know what the future hold... we can’t see what future crisis may come... BUT we do know the covenant promises of God, realized in resurrection, and reiterated by the prophet Joel...
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.”
I don’t know what is dead in your heart.
I don’t know where death has a grip in your life.
I don’t know how dry and brittle you are.
But, I do know... the will of God is that life will come out of death.
Our faith is not a naive optimism nor confidence in the power of the human spirit; our faith... our confidence... our assurance... is in our God who graciously saves us, and restores us, through our faith in Christ.
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live! Then you will know, that I am the Lord.”