We have not seen rain in weeks. The monsoon season was much more of a nonsoon. It is still hot, and the forecast has no temps below 100 degrees for the foreseeable future. It is dry…very dry. Humidity right now is 17%. It is dry…very dry. But it isn’t just the air that is dry. It isn’t just the ground that is dry. It isn’t just the plants that are gasping. Many of us are too. Many of us are dry…very dry. I cannot even count the number of people who shared with me on the last Sunday of 2019, how glad they were the year was over and they were looking forward to a better year in 2020. There were hopes and dreams and plans. Little did we know. And now we are dry…worn out by quarantine, worry and fear. Everything changed and seems to keep changing. Businesses that have been open for decades are being forced to close. Wearing a mask is getting old and they are the source of much information and misinformation. We have seen division and hate growing by the day and week. Trust is eroding and at a time people might turn to God, many are asking where He is in all of this. We are dry…very dry.
But we have seen dry people before. In Ezekiel 37 we find the familiar story of the dry bones. The Lord has just taken Ezekiel to the renewed city of Jerusalem, teeming with people. People who will now confess God as their Lord. And then Ezekiel was carried away in the Spirit to a valley full of dry bones. There were dry bones everywhere. There was nothing left of these people but their bones. They were very dry. This picture seems hopeless. These were not the recent dead but a pile of very dry bones, scattered all over the valley floor. It is a symbolic picture of God’s people and their attitude. Their hopes had been dashed. They saw no way forward. Their spirits were broken, and they had nothing left with which to fight. God’s people were dry…very dry.
God asked Ezekiel if the bones could live once again. The reasonable answer would be no. There was no life left in them whatsoever. But Ezekiel knew what we also know. With God anything is possible, and Ezekiel acknowledged this. “You alone know the answer to that question” Ezekiel responded. And God commanded Ezekiel to speak. These words are for us too, we who are weary and dry. We who fear the virus more than we fear the Lord. Take a listen.
“Dry bones listen to the Word of the Lord! I am going to put breath in you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on 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.” The word breath here can also mean wind or spirit. God promises to put His spirit in us, to bring us back to life, to show us hope and a future. Ezekiel spoke the message God gave him and there was a rattling noise coming from all across the valley. God was restoring life, just like He promised He would. God’s people came to life and stood up on their feet…a great army.
“Then He said to me, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying we have become old, dry bones…all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.” God’s people have been dry many times. Wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt made them hopeless and angry. They were dry. When the Assyrians came swooping down into the Northern Kingdom of Israel, scattering the people, and taking others hostage, God’s people became dry. When the Babylonians took all the residents of Judah into exile in Babylon, the people were dry and grieving. When Jesus was born, God’s people…the remnant who still believed were dry. The priesthood had turned worshipping God into nothing more than a practice of following rules…lots of rules. And when Jesus hung on the cross and died, the hopelessness was crushing…and the followers were dry. Even those who do not know Jesus are dry. They have nothing to hold onto that will give them hope. They are standing on the shifting sand of the things of the world…and they are dry…very dry.
God gave the dry bones breath, just like he breathed life into Adam in the beginning. The words are the same. He breathes life into us as well. We can find His encouragement in others who believe. We can find strength and hope in His Word. We can find joy and peace in our dry bones when we worship. Pull up one of our previous services and sing along with the music. God’s promise here in Ezekiel is that He will give life by His Spirit, transforming us into new creations. And as such, we will become part of a large army of God’s people who will rise up to serve Him.
God is capable of raising to life those who are physically dead. He can restore life to devastated communities. He has chosen to give the miracle of new birth to undeserving sinners. He makes people the world would write off as irredeemable, acceptable to Himself in Jesus Christ, and He equips all of us so we can do fruitful work in His service.
We may feel old and dry. We may feel helpless and used up. We might even think we are dry and have no purpose or value. But in Jesus all things are possible. He has given each of us a purpose. He has equipped us to serve and make a difference in His name. In Jesus we are not dry. We have hope and strength. Has this year been awful. Yes, it pretty much has. But Jesus is still on the throne. God is still sovereign. And we are still...
In His grip
Pastor Matt W