1 The 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. 2 Then 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. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”
4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I 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.”’”
7 So 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. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
9 Also 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.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I 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.’”
We just as well be honest--although small churches are the backbone of God's work in this world, there are many of them that are dead or dying. There is plenty of debate about why this is so. Some fans of mega churches believe the small congregations have too little to offer. Other think it is because they are too set in their ways. In reality there are many reasons, but that is not the subject of this article.
This article is written to give you encouragement if you find yourself in one of these dead or dying groups. There is hope--the dead can be brought back to life! This should not seem surprising, after all, Jesus is the king of resurrection. Why should He not use that power today? Let's look at some lessons we can apply to our small churches in trouble.
First of all note that these bones weren't fresh but dry. That is, they had been there a long time in that state. Some people think that it is too late for a particular church. It has been dead for too long. They just go through the motions and appear to live but inside are full of dead men's bones. No pastor in the world could help them out.
But God made it a point to bring Ezekiel to a place where death had reigned for quite some time. It wasn't a challenge for God--just for man. And there is no church that God cannot heal and bring back to life. He is God and can do the impossible.
Second we see that it did not depend upon Ezekiel's abilities. When God asked him if the bones could live again He replied that God knew. In other words he wasn't so sure on his part. Sometimes we look at difficult situations in church work and we just aren't sure if it can work. Thankfully, it is not dependent upon our talents and abilities. It is up to God!
Third note that God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the dead bones. They had not yet come back to life. In fact when he was told to preach they were just a jumbled mess, dead and disorganized. If you find yourself as pastor of a dead church you must begin the work before you see the first result. That's how mission work goes. The missionary goes into an area where people don't know the Lord and begin to proclaim Jesus. It usually takes awhile before they see even one convert but if they do the work eventually they get to see God change a culture. The same is true for a dead church.
Notice that when Ezekiel was faithful to preach the bones came together. What an amazing sight that must have been! Then flesh came on them and they stood up. It was a great army and many people would stop working at this point thinking the work was done.
But it is not enough for things to look alive--they need to be alive. So Ezekiel had more to do. He was told to prophesy to the winds so that the breath of life could come into the army. Of course this wind was a picture of the Holy Spirit entering into the army and bringing it to life. In the same way it take the Holy Spirit to bring a dead church to life as well. But you will find that this will not happen as the result of a quick fix. You will have to do the work just as Ezekiel did if you want to see God bring your dead church to life.
One last thing. This was a picture of what God was going to do for Israel. He said that everyone would know that He had done this. Even so, when God brings your dead church to life He needs to be given the credit. It won't be because of your work, although He wants that. It will be because He graciously and wondrously did what only He can do--bring the dead back to life. To God be the glory!
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