New Life for Tired Bones

New Life For Tired Bones   Ezekiel 37:1-14

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Introduction

The legendary cheerful gift giver we refer to as Santa Claus has his origin in the life of St. Nicholas, often called Father Christmas. Nicholas was a Bishop in Myra, modern Turkey.  According to legend he was a wealthy man who was widely known for his generosity – a trait that inspired the story of Father Christmas as a bringer of gifts on Christmas Day. Nicholas died December 6, 343 AD. Most of his remains have been held in a Basilica  in Italy, since 1087,

Saint Nicholas

where they are buried beneath a marble altar, but over the years relic fragments have been acquired by churches around the world. A few days ago a newspaper in the UK reported that Oxford University analyzed a bone fragment that was owned by a priest in Illinois. There may never be any way to prove definitively whether or not the bone really was from St Nicholas, but it does date to the correct historical period.

Our text today is from a vision of the prophet Ezekiel and relates to some ancient bones. This vision is both poetic and prophetic. Ezekiel preaches to a people in captivity because of their own sin, and lets them see how God views it using the imagery of bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

There are three views of life presented in this poetic prophecy that we should reflect on today.

1. LACK OF LIFE a valley of dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-2)

This is not the valley God intended it to be. It is what it has become because of separation from God. The Psalms reflect this same kind of thought.

Psalm 38:3 There’s nothing in my body that isn’t broken because of your rage; there’s no health in my bones because of my sin.

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

In the absence of God there is no life.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own, that we’re not able to direct our paths.

 “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” Rick Warren

The bones of Israel scattered throughout the valley remind us that when we wander away from God we wander away from everything that gives our life meaning, purpose, and eternity.

Can these bones live? Only God knows. (vs. 3)

2. LOOKS LIKE LIFE – they’re moving but not breathing! (37:4-8)

Some may be away from God and lack life, but there are some who may be closer to God but only have the appearance of life. The thing about sin is that it is deceptive.

Appears Benign. ”What would you expect? Sin will not come to you, saying, “I am sin.” It would do little harm if it did. Sin always seems “good, and pleasant, and desirable,” at the time of commission.”  J. C. Ryle

Appears Wise. “See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Appears Fun!  Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. Sober up by acting like you should and don’t sin. 1 Corinthians  15:33-34a

Appears Religious. “Thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Savior”, who have not first received Him as their LORD.”  A. W. Pink

Ezekiel saw quite a sight … bones that lacked life came together and it looked like they had life, but it was just an appearance. Until God spoke.

3. LORD OF LIFE I will put my breath in you and you will live

New Life For Tired Bones…

New Life only comes from God (37:9-10). Israel didn’t regain life until God gave it. We only find life when we embrace the Lord of Life.

New Life Brings Hope to the Hopeless (37:11). God still recognized the bones and named them. When we have no hope, we still have hope in God.

New Life is possible through God’s powerful promises (37:12-13). Resurrection, eternal life, salvation.

New Life is found in the hearing of God’s word (37:14). Are we listening to Him?

Conclusion

John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

To embrace the new life in Jesus we need to leave behind the old bones of living away from God and living in the deception of sin. The Good news is that the free gift of eternal life awaits the sinner who wants to come home and the one who has yet to give their life to Christ. When we consider the gift of eternal life that God wants to give to all of us, we should never accept life without Him, or life that just looks good on the outside – to to embrace the gift of eternal life today – it keeps us from slavery and opens us to a continual supply of His Spirit … not just once a year but always.

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more. 

LifeGroup Questions

1. There are many stories about St. Nicholas. One poor man had 3 daughters with no dowry to marry them off. They were destined to live in slavery but mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

2. This story in Ezekiel 37 is a report of a prophetic vision that Ezekiel had. In the vision he preaches to a valley of dry bones. How do you think it felt for Ezekiel to preach to a valley of dry bones? How can we relate in terms of bringing the gospel to a world dead in sin?

3. Christmas is a hard time for many people. What are some ways we can bring new life into the ‘dry bones’ of the Christmas season when people feel discouraged?

4. Read John 15:1-5. Jesus makes it clear that as God’s people, we do not possess life in and of ourselves. What are some ways we can continually draw life from Jesus?

5. Today John said that sin is deceptive in appearance. 

*Appears Benign.

*Appears Wise. Col. 2:8

*Appears Fun!  1 Cor. 15:33-34a

*Appears Religious.

As a group, think of an examples of each one of those.  Why is it so easy to be deceived by sin?

6. As the lesson closed today, we read Psalm 51:8 which says, “Let me hear joy and celebration again; let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.” Go around the group and let each person share one thing that brings them joy and celebration because of their  relationship with God.

Next Week: Isaiah 55:1-13

Resources

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/father-christmas-bone-fragment-saint-nicholas-oxford-university-researchers-italy-christianity-a8094356.html

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=39