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Valley of Dry Bones
By Brian Pepper
Big changes are taking place all around the world today. Men and
women are clamouring for less and less restrictions in the social
world. I remember reading an editorial written by Robert Parr in the
Australasian Record 4th November 1968 in which he made the following
statement: The Lord Chamberlain is dead. He goes on to say "that
is his office and not the man himself." As I read this editorial
I was staggered. Perhaps you might say that this was not very
important. I assure you that it was very important for this man had
the power to censor in England, anything that was lewd, lascivious,
blasphemous, or obscene. Today lewdness, nudity, and sex, has taken
over on stage and screen. Australia is following the same pattern.
Yes, as I have already mentioned big changes are taking place.
Loss of respect for the Church
There was a time when the Church was looked up to, it was highly respected in the community. The minister was called and his counsel and guidance was greatly respected. But that day has gone. Today the physician is the No. 1 man closely followed by lawyers, scientists, dentists, politicians etc. In a recent poll the minister was in the 11th place.
Now what is the reason for the loss of prominence of the Church in society? First and foremost, the Church has failed in that it has departed from the preaching of the Bible. In its place has been substituted men's thoughts about God, and uncertainty of the existence of God, and in some cases even denying the existence of God and the divinity of Christ.
The minister has lost the respect that people had for him because of the many statements that have been made in recent years by so called leading clergymen. People are staying away from the churches in the millions, there is no question of this.
In the city of London on any Sunday morning less than 2% of that
great city go to church. Recently it was widely advertised that one
of England's most popular preachers would be preaching in the great
St Paul's Cathedral. Now this cathedral can hold nearly 4000 people
and yet on this occasion there was barely 100 worshippers in that
great cathedral to hear this popular preacher. While the service was
on there were 300 folk standing outside, sightseers waiting for the
service to end so they could look the cathedral over.
Condition of the Church in the last days
In America every year nearly 1000 Catholic priests have leave the church, and since the Pope's pronouncement regarding the pill, the number has greatly increased. For not only have many left voluntarily but they have been forced to go. 2000 nuns leave the church each year. In one year alone 5000 Baptist ministers left the church. It is almost staggering, I could hardly believe it.
I could go on reciting these unfortunate facts but I do not intend to do so because I have a message from the Word of God for these times in which we are living to challenge our thinking, and to warn us in regards to these days of apostasy and deadness in the church. We must face the fact that things are not going to get better but rather worse.The Bible has warned us over and over again regarding the condition of the church in general in the last days. It is evident that the big churches are not only dying but in some cases they are dead. When a leading clergyman can get up and dare to make the statement that God is dead, he is doing no more than to tell the world that the church he represents is dead. For without God there is only the smell of death left.
The Call of Ezekiel
There is no better illustration of this situation
than is found in the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel had some rather
remarkable visions that God gave him, but the one found in
Ezekiel 37 must have been the most impressive of them all.
Ezekiel 37:1,2 says, "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and
carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the
midst of the valley which was full of bones. And caused me to pass
by them round about and, behold, there were very many in the open
valley; and, lo, they were very dry."
I am sure that he must have thought about this call and as he did so his expectations would have run high. Why he may even have thought about this call and as he did so his expectations would have run high. Why, he may even have reasoned average tasks for the average man but big tasks for the big men.
As he went along carried by the Spirit of the LORD he passed those pleasant towns dotted here and there over the land, pleasant towns with comfortable houses, lovely gardens. The soft green pastures with cattle grazing contentedly, vineyards with those luscious grapes. But instead of being deposited in one of those pleasant little towns, to his surprise and horror the LORD set him down upon a valley of dry bones.
There are some people who say that this place did
not really exist. But I assure you it was very real to Ezekiel. This
was a place of stench and unpleasantness. I can hear him saying
"what are we doing here, this is no place for a preacher. It would
be more fitting for funeral directors, or grave diggers. Or better
still a big bulldozer."
verse 3, "And he said unto me, Son
of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O LORD God, thou
knowest." In this third verse the LORD asks "Son of man can
these bones live?" You will notice that Ezekiel avoided a
direct answer to this question. He did not say no, nor did he say
yes. Possibly he merely answered by saying "now LORD, that is a
very good question. You answer it." It mentions in
"And caused me to pass by them round about." The LORD took him
for a walk to have a look around and after walking up and down and
around he came to the conclusion that there were many many bones and
they were very dry.
Ezekiel commissioned to preach to dry bones
Verse 4 says, "Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD." You can well imagine Ezekiel's surprise and amazement when the LORD tells him to preach to these dry bones. "Why LORD, that is impossible, bones do not have ears. It is hard enough to preach to those who are living let alone those who cannot hear."
I can understand Ezekiel's feelings, how many times I have preached to the trees. And I want to tell you that you lay preachers would do a lot better if you tried your sermon out on the trees. You will find the trees very sympathetic, they make good listeners. But Ezekiel did not even have the opportunity of preaching to trees. At least they are living things. His commission was to preach to bones, a whole valley of them and the LORD told him to put everything he had into it.
Verses 5,6 say, "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD." Verse 7 says, "So I prophesied as I was commanded and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together bone to his bone."
A man will never make a mistake if he preaches as
the LORD has commanded. The church would never languish and die
spiritually if it is fed with the Word of God. It only becomes empty
and barren when the pulpit is used to express man's thoughts about
God rather than God's revelation to man.
Negro spiritual about bones coming together
Verse 7 says, "So I prophesied as I was commanded and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together bone to his bone." Bone to bone: the negroes have a spiritual which vividly illustrates this statement. In this song they describe how the bones came together. First the head bone, then the collar bone, the arm bones, the chest bones, the leg bones, and finally the foot bones. It make good listening but I am not sure of the application. As you read this story, it seems that Ezekiel did not have the courage to look at what he was preaching to. This must have been the hardest preaching situation that any preacher ever had.
It is difficult enough at a funeral, that is always a sad occasion, but just imagine preaching to dry bones. The sad thing is this was the condition of Israel. Spiritually they were not only dead but reduced to very dry bones. I trust that we will never be in such a terrible spiritual condition to be likened to dry bones.
Bone to bone: now instead of a valley of dry bones, we have bones covered with flesh. Actually I am not so sure that this situation is an improvement. Certainly the bones are covered with flesh but there is no life in them. In verse 8 it says, "but there was no breath in them." God's people are still in a very serious condition, much like the statement found in Revelation 3:1, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead."
Not so long ago I attended a function put on by one of the large Protestant groups, and as I looked around, try as hard as I could, I looked in vain for one that looked like a real Christian. Billows of tobacco smoke seemed to be drifting from everywhere. The face looked as hard as flint. I am sure if Jesus had suddenly appeared in their midst, He would hardly have claimed them as His own. They claim to be Christians, but are deal spiritually.
Verse 9 says, "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind (spirit) prophesy son of man and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain that they may live." What an experience! Ezekiel first of all preached to the dry bones, then to flesh covered bones, and now God tells him to preach again and these flesh covered bones will live. It is only as the Word of God is preached, backed by the Holy Spirit, that life s imparted to the hearers.
Jesus says, "I came that I might give them life eternal." You notice from death to life.
Now verse 10, "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army."
Ezekiel is now convinced that the LORD knew best
after all. He had gone down into a very great valley of dry bones
and preached to a stone wall you might say. I want you to just think
for a moment. Can't you visualize the scene? I can. Heaps of
whitened bones, grinning skulls that leered at Ezekiel as he spoke
the Word of the Lord. Now what does all this mean to Ezekiel?
Perhaps it would be better to direct the question right at
ourselves. What does this mean to us living down at the end of time?
Picture of revival and action
Well let us read Ezekiel 37:11-14, "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost, we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, O my people I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land. Then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD."
Here is the explanation. Israel shall know that I am the LORD. This is a mighty picture of revival and action. All of these things have been written for our admonition, we who are living in these last days. God wants to revive a drowsy, lukewarm, sleeping church.
In T(estomies) Vol. 1 260 we read, "God's people must take warning and discern the signs of the times. The signs of earth's history are fast closing. We are amid the perils of the last days. Greater perils are before us, and yet we are not awake. This lack of activity and earnestness in the cause of God is dreadful. This death stupor is from Satan..."
Now reading from the next paragraph, "I was shown God's people waiting for some change to take place, a compelling power to take hold of them. But they will be disappointed, for they are wrong. They must take hold of the work themselves, and earnestly cry to God for a true knowledge of themselves. The scenes which are passing before us are of sufficient magnitude to cause us to arouse and urge the truth home to the hearts of all who will listen. The harvest of the earth is nearly ripe."
The most urgent need of God's people today is a revival of genuine godliness. These last days are difficult to the Christian. Increasing worldliness among the churches has sapped their spirituality as the servant of the LORD has said "This death stupor is from Satan...", and naturally this is bound to have some effect on God's people.
The second lesson that we can gain from this experience, God calls us to His service just as He called Ezekiel. We are God's men and God's women called to His service. We must do just what God tells us to do. It may not be a pleasant task, but how rewarding in Ezekiel's experience.
In one place where I was sent to, there were three preaching situations. In an effort to meet the needs of the people, I asked one of the laymen to go and preach to one of these three places, a small company of believers. He raised a number of objections why he couldn't go but finally he went. Later on he came to me and said, "never ask me to go to preach to such a small company again." I only wish I had thought of Ezekiel at the time. What would this man have done if he had been called to preach to dry bones? At least he was sent to the living, folk that could hear and understand what he had to say.
Like all prophecies, this one has a double application. We will read these verses again. Ezekiel 37:13,14 says, "And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves O my people, and brought you out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land. Then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD."
Do we see signs of death in the church? Then a resurrection is badly needed. As the Spirit comes, He breathes life into the church. This text is talking of two things. A resurrection of the church, so that it will become a living pulsating church, and the great resurrection that will take place when Jesus comes to claim his own. Never have the opportunities been greater for God's remnant church than now.
The very deadness of the big churches is causing the honest in heart to turn from them, seeking This saith the LORD. It is happening in many parts of the world right now and it will happen here. For years and years we have not had any word of our work in Romania. We just did not know what was going on in that country, that is as far as our message was going. But recently news has come out that our work has gone ahead tremendously in that land. The same in South America. Never before have there been such opportunities. There is a stirring that will result in the shaking off of the fetters of ignorance. God is preparing the way for the Loud Cry. The greatest opportunities are still just ahead of us. What is needed is a revitalised, resurrected church. God is waiting to do it. May revival and action be seen in our ranks so that God may be able to use us in the finishing of the task.