Monday, March 16, 2009

Prophesying New Life Sunday School Lesson From Ezekiel 37

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 22,2009

Purpose: To affirm hope in God's ability to bring new life into hopeless situations.

Scripture Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14(NRSV)

Ezekiel 37:1-14
(1)The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. (2)He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. (3)He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ (4)Then 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: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. (6)I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

(7) So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. (8)I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. (9)Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’(10)I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

(11) Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” (12)Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. (13)And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. (14)I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Have you ever been in a place of deep despair, maybe out of grief or health fears, or fear of poverty, or even the burden of guilt or addiction? Whatever the reason, most of of us can relate to the circumstances that Ezekiel's audience was in. They were without hope, “our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (vs. 37:11). How often when you were in this situation did some well meaning Christian or friend say? “Cheer up, things could be worse”, and you cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse.

The nation of Israel was in a valley of dry bones. They had lost their homeland, the temple had been destroyed, and they were now strangers in a foreign land. Where was the God that brought them out of Egypt and established them as a nation? Surely God had deserted them. We can take a lesson from the situation the Israelites were in, God did not present some Pollyanna optimism, or give them a pat on the back and say chin-up. They were in deep, dark despair and they needed real hope, not a superficial platitude.

Ezekiel's vision has a couple of interesting parts. He is placed by God in a valley of dry bones, bones that are disjointed, dusty, and have been picked clean by the vultures. God asked a question. He asked Ezekiel “Can these bones live?” and Ezekiel's answer shows that Ezekiel believes “with God all things are possible”. (MATT 14:26)

Belief is the first requirement from God. The second step is they must hear and receive God's word hear the word of the Lord. The third part is that they must receive the breath of God or the Spirit of God. I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” After Ezekiel spoke, the bones began to join themselves together, but he also had to prophesy to the breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

Just as John records “in the beginning was the Word” so with Ezekiel it required the Word. God works through words. That is why our prayer life is so important. The very breath of God had to be summoned by Ezekiel, and until they received the breath of God, they were just bones walking around.Ezekiel's vision gives them new hope; the vision breathed new hope, into those that were without hope. The vision of dry bones can be interpreted several ways, including our own resurrection at some future date.

In verse 12 & 13 all of us are given the hope of the resurrection. It is the hope of not only our own resurrection but the hope that Easter morning gives all of us. " Because I live, ye shall live also". John 14:19

We may interpret this passage, that to recover from a desperate situation, we must believe, hear what God has to say, and then receive His Spirit. How can we use this passage in dealing with those that are depressed and without hope in our everyday world? How should these verses help anyone who is hopeless? In James 2:15-16, James says, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace: keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what good is that?” How should that affect the way you do ministry?


Anonymous said...

I guess I never thought of the bones in this passage as able to be compared to a deep depression. I was possibly taking the writing litterally. Thanks for showing me differently. So, if we assume we have a friend in deep depression, how do we help them gain their breath?

Anonymous said...

Too many people read the Bible taking everything litterally and failing to look for a deeper meaning.

Burgess said...

The way we can help those that are depressed and think all hope is gone, is the way Ezekiel did it for the nation of Israel. Patience, sharing God's word, being a friend, helping them to be filled with the breath of God. And giving them hope.

Burgess said...

I think one of the old hymns says it best, "Breath on me breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure."