Dead or Alive

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Ezekiel 37:1-10, 13, 14

1The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”
4Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
9Also 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.” 10So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
13Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”

When I was in the military I made some of the best friendships I could have ever hoped for. These were people I trained with and saw everyday; we went through a lot together and we could relate to one another very easily.

I think this happens in the church setting as well.

But outside the church there exists those places yet to know the joy of salvation that we share with one another. There are, I think, two types of people that find themselves in these sorts of situations.

1.Is the person called to minister in those situations. These people are spiritually mature enough to heed the call to be missionaries in that sort of setting; where fellowship, communion, and Jesus are foreign terms or terms not understood.

2.Is the person that has either never known the true saving power of God or that has exchanged the truth of God for a lie or something of a more humanistic design; forsaking that which Christ has called us to do...this is further explained in Romans 1:24, 25:

24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

So whether you are the one sent to minister or the one in need of ministering we may find ourselves in what I will call “a valley of dry bones”.

Gone is the comfort of family, friends, co-workers, etc. This is where the work of ministry begins and where the rubber really hits the road and to me it's very interesting to see that it was the spirit of the Lord that leads Ezekiel into what is pretty much a dead zone.

The bones in this valley were symbolic of people of Israel; a people no longer living a vibrant faith, but a dry, dusty, dead existence. Inside and outside of the temple there were people living this non-life.

I think this is still a very usable text for us and by us I mean those of us, in this so-called Christian nation, both inside and outside of the church. Over the years I have repeatedly heard the term “spiritually dead” or “dry as dust” to describe a worship service and it doesn't necessarily refer to the program of worship, but to the worshipers that are going through the motions of worship having lost the reasoning for why they are doing what they are doing.

So, when we experience that bone dry dustiness in the lives of others or ourselves the question we need to be asking ourself is the same question that God asks Ezekiel. “Can these bones live?”

The obvious answer is that there is never revival or resurrection without there first being death. But how does that revival happen? Well, that's a really good question and Ezekiel answers God like most of us would. He says “Only you know God, if they can live again.”

To which God responds to Ezekiel not by saying right or wrong, but by telling him to act; by telling him to act and to speak to what looks to be an utterly hopeless situation.

4Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 

Doesn't that sound sort of silly? To act towards a situation that is seemingly over with and beyond help. I am struck here by the notion that those things we perceive as problematic; that God sees those things as possible.

That where we may see an end; God sees a beginning and so we are to trust him and to follow his leading even when do not see how that leading can possibly go anywhere or accomplish anything.

When addressing those dried up and dead people God instructs Ezekiel (and in all likelihood the reader) to remind them of God's unfailing ability and that if we are to have life then we are to recognize the giver and sustainer of that life.

7So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Ezekiel sees the results of obedience; that through obedience everything, literally, will come together, but lest we should boast at our accomplishments there still remains an element missing in the resurrection of these dry bones and that element must come from God; otherwise humankind would exist without that dependency and relationship with the Almighty.

And if you caught it I am talking about the breath. While Ezekiel's obedience leads to the reassembly of those in the valley it is God that must breathe life into anyone should they enjoy life once again.

I don't know if you have ever been to a good old fashioned tent revival or to a revival of any kind, but they are usually pretty hopping places. People are excited at those meetings; there is exuberant, loud singing, people testify, they're dancing in the aisle and the preaching...oh the preaching! It may be two, three, four hours long, but nobody seems to mind because they are so focused on the joy of the Lord.

Now the opposite of that is the desert. Anybody ever been to the desert for any length of time? Let's say you leave the revival and you're all fired up and then you head out unprepared to the desert. You're good for a little while, but then you get hot and then you get exhausted. What you need is someone to come to you and to minister to you, to refresh you, to rescue you, to revive you and to get you up and moving again.

10So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Once revived the children of Israel, in this dream, got on their feet and appeared as a great army. I think the comparison can be made that we are not linger in our valleys, but that when times of refreshing come from the spirit of the Lord that we are to get on our feet and, like an army, prepare for action.

Note the verse does not say “and breath came into them and they existed”. It says “and breath came into them and they lived”. There is a huge difference between merely existing and living. We are called to engage in life and we, as Christians, are called to speak of life to the dead, of refreshing to the dry and to the dusty and thirsty remember the words of Christ when he said: John 7: 37:...“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 


But let's say that doesn't happen and instead you sit in the sand. People do that; a lot of people do that and after a time you know what we'll find? Those dry, dusty bones. It is imperative that we find those times of refreshing and its also imperative that we be on the lookout for those in need of such refreshing. That we are obedient to God when he leads us through our valley of dry bones and that we remember that he requires us to speak life to those situations.

I would like to make it clear that there are two ways to end up in the valley. As a minister, and we are all, as Christians, ministers God could very likely lead us there for the benefit of others, but I do not believe that God leads us there to forsake us or to punish us. Should you find yourself sapped of the joy of your salvation do not linger waiting for rescue.

Actively seek help; assess your surroundings and do everything in your power to head for higher ground. When you find those offering help...don't hesitate looking for a particular kind...take it because it very well may be the last chance you get.

While this scripture is just a dream or vision I think we all know that that valley of dry bones, metaphor or no metaphor, exists and it is my prayer that we can all be obedient to the leading of God in those times and be the lifeline that others may so desperately need. Be someone's hope, be a friend, be the Christian God has called you to be.

Amen.

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