I love that song. How better to learn A&P than the Dry Bones song? That was the text of Gulfcoast Getaway 2009. Randy Harris and Paul Evans did an excellent job preaching that text and making it understandable and applicable for young people today. Harris preached the importance of a home and a place to belong (37:14). Evans spent a lot of time talking about what kinds of dry bones we might have in our own lives and what it takes for God to breath His Spirit back in to make our bones live again. Both were powerful and used by God to touch the lives of the students at Gulfcoast Getaway this year.
There is more to Ezekiel 37 than a cool story about bones coming to life. Ezekiel 37 is about a great restoration that God wants for His people. God wants to restore His people to life and He wants them to be unified. God says He is going to figuratively resurrect His people (from among the nations) and re-settle them back in the land of Israel. He will give them His Spirit and they will live. We often see a re-enactment of the exodus story in scripture – that God is the great liberator. But that is only half the story. God liberates His people from death and bondage (Exodus) so that he can settle them in the land that was promised to them (Joshua). Ezekiel 37 is a re-enactment of the Joshua conquest story – that there is a home for God’s people and it can only happen because of God’s power. It is also going to take God’s people fully relying on Him for them to inhabit the land. In that land they will live in relationship with God just as God intended from the beginning. The people will experience an exodus from their exile. They will be liberated from their captors and God will re-settle them in Israel.
Most people don’t get beyond 37:14 when teaching or preaching these verses but what follows is crucial. Ezekiel 37:15-28 is about the same thing – gathering His people and restoring them in the land (37:21). But it is about even more than that. It is about unity. When the valley of dry bones is raised into an army God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” God says He will make his scattered and divided people one again (37:15-22). He will bring them back to live in the land of their heritage and worship God. God will dwell with them and He will be our God. When God raised the bones in the valley, He didn’t raise them up and divide them into different groups. He raised them as the whole house of Israel. They were a single army with a single identity and purpose. Then God tells Ezekiel to take two sticks and write the names of God’s divided people on them and make them one stick. God says they will all be one in His hand (37:19).
I think this passage has some tremendous implications for the Church in the United States. We are so divided and broken it isn’t even funny. The church in America needs some renewal. I am thankful that it is already happening and I think these verses have much to tell us about how God goes about renewing his people and resuscitating his church. Wouldn’t it be weird if the bones were raised, the flesh was put on them, and the Spirit breathed into the bones and they came alive…then they started dividing themselves into little groups where they could argue and disagree about certain pet issues and about how things were supposed to be done? Wouldn’t it be strange to take the stick God made one and break it in two again? We have fought and bickered and argued about so much minutia while people were literally dying lost around us. It behooves us to ask the question of what can make these dry bones live again? What will it take for us to be unified as Christians? It will take the Spirit of God coming in and among us to raise us up so that we can make our dwelling with God once again. But first He wants us to recognize that our situation is as grim as a valley of dry bones.
We have to understand that some components of the way we have always done things has made many people very, very dry. The youth of today have seen it and they are responding against that type of mentality. The church of tomorrow is going to be a very different place. I think there is going to be a HUGE push for unity. When you realize you are dying you start to worry less about who to fellowship and how others are worshipping and more about if the world is hearing that Jesus is Lord and that God is being glorified by our actions and attitudes. We are going to have to understand what our core beliefs are and which things are negotiable. Fellowship lines are going to be drawn up much looser in the coming years. Some will fear it and put up walls. Others will embrace it. I am honestly a little worried that there are some large rifts coming in the next 10-15 years in Christianity which is ironic because those rifts will be over unity movements.