There is another way that we use the term dinosaur that is the point of that new car commercial. It refers to large out of date relics of the past, such as luxury automobiles that were the size of battleships. We had one of them one time. It was a 1968 Oldsmobile 98, with a 455 cubic inch 8 cylinder engine. When we drove it across country we just hoped that gas stations were not too far in between.
Israel had become a dinosaur with their bones scattered across a valley floor. During the reigns of David and Solomon they had become a superpower and dominated the Middle East of their day. But sin had led to their demise. God sent them warning after warning, prophet after prophet to call them back from imminent extinction, but they would not heed the Word of the Lord. Eventually Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and then 100 years later Babylon destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah. The few survivors of both kingdoms were led into exile as slaves.
But it is not just empires that God is concerned about. He is concerned about people, namely He is concerned about you and me. I have been to Europe and have worshipped in some of the magnificent cathedrals of the past. Some would seat hundreds of people but on a typical Sunday morning they might have a dozen worshippers. They are dinosaurs in their culture, a valley of dry bones. Can these bones live? And what about the Church in America? It was once the dominant force for faith, missions and good deeds around the world. But, as Bob Dylan put it, The Times They Are a-Changin’. In his book Joining Jesus on His Mission, Greg Finke writes, “In a remarkably short amount of time, the U.S. has become one of the largest mission fields on the planet. The odds are very good that right now, wherever you live in the U.S., the people in your neighborhood and workplace are largely unconnected to a local congregation and may not be connected to Jesus at all.
That’s what God asked Ezekiel in verse 3, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Israel had been scattered to the winds because of their disobedience to the Lord. They had once been, but they were no more. The great tragedy is that we can think we are alive when we are not. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were white-washed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but inside they were full of dead man’s bones.
It is possible for people to think that they are Christians when they are really dead. When medical personnel try to discern whether a person is alive or dead, they search for vital signs. The vital signs that someone is spiritually alive is that they have a hunger for God’s Word, they want others to know Jesus, they find joy in worship, they believe in the power of prayer, they love their neighbors as themselves and they despise the sin in their own hearts and daily ask for God’s forgiveness. If there are no vital signs then we can pronounce them dead. But God’s question to Ezekiel still remains, “Can these bones live?”
It is at this point that God gives Ezekiel an amazing vision of the valley of dry bones. Right before Ezekiel’s eyes he begins to see these bones come together and become overlaid with sinews, flesh and skin. Scattered bones are becoming cadavers. Then the breath of God comes from the four winds and enters the cadavers and they become living people. It’s almost like Michael Creighton’s dinosaurs.
But how does this happen? How did these bones become alive? It was through the Word of God. God says to Ezekiel in verse 4, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” It is the Word of the Lord that has the power to raise the dead. No person can raise himself from the dead. That was Lazarus, just a stinking corpse. But what did Jesus do? The Bible says in John 11:43, “When he [Jesus] had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’” And Lazarus came forth.
This is what God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the people of Israel in verses 12-13, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” There is no reproof of their sins. Just a promise. God made a promise that He would return Israel to its land and He kept that promise. He makes a promise that He will bring to Heaven every Child of God who believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that this is true because He has given us forgiveness of sins and has breathed His Spirit into our dry bones. He will empower our witness, enliven our worship, give to us gifts to serve Him, and produce within us the fruit of love, joy and peace.
But we must not resist the miracle that He seeks to work within us. For we have the power to say no to the Holy Spirit and to refuse to believe the Word of God. When Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts we must not ignore the knocking for we do not know when or if He will knock again. Those who continually resist the Spirit’s work are in grave danger. They may walk away from a church service and determine never to return. If they end up eternally lost they will have no one to blame but themselves.
Can these bones live? Yes. If you do not resist the Holy Spirit He will enter your heart and faith and a new way of life will rise up within you. If you have known the breath of God before but you have become short of breath again He will breathe into you once again. Only believe and receive.