Ezekiel 37:1-14 From Chopped Church to Church Revival
Ezekiel 37:1-14 From Chopped Church to Church Revival is a sermon about the process that a church goes to get to revival.
Illustration: Chop up a doll. Tear it into pieces.
Let me take this doll and a pair of scissors and chop it up. Please adults, don’t do this at home. This is only for illustrative purposes. This doll represents the church as the body. Sometimes though, the church body gets chopped up. The fingers get cut. The legs get cut. At some point, one members says that I don’t need you and you don’t need me. So we chop each other up. Let’s get Jesus the head and chop Him off while we are at it. We don’t need Jesus to run this church. I can live the Christian life apart from the church. I can run this church apart from other people. What happens at the end, you have a bloody mess all over the floor.
This is what has happened to the church body. Like the Food Network show, we have been chopped. We have taken weapons and chopped each other up. We chop each other up with accusations. We chop each other up with gossip and rumors. We chop each other up with unfriendly and ungodly comments about each other.
I want to share with you today that we need to go from being a chopped church to a revived church. I have one question for you today: What will it take for our church to experience revival? I am not talking having a revival meeting. I am talking about reviving this church. We are a church today which exists but isn’t living.
The problem is also that we live in a community that is spiritually dead. Make no bones about it, pun intended, this area is dead spiritually.
Chuck Colson in his book The Body stated the cause of our problem today:
Many Christians have been infected with the most virulent virus of modern American life: radical individualism. They concentrate on personal obedience to Christ as if all that matters is “Jesus and me,” but in doing so miss the point. For Christianity is not a solitary belief system. Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith—the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world—the church.1
In this strange scene, God shows Ezekiel a vision. This is a vision, and not necessarily a literal place. The prophet never tells us exactly where he is. What he does say is that it is a valley. In this valley are bones.
“The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry.” (Ezekiel 37:1–2, HCSB)
After inspecting the scene, God asks Ezekiel a question:
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I replied, “Lord God, only You know.”” (Ezekiel 37:3, HCSB)
God asks if these dead bones can live (or live again). Ezekiel says: God only you know. God is the only one who can revive a church. I can’t revive a church. No activity can revive a church.
You and I can chop up a church to death. A hand cannot operate when it is disconnected from the body. The body can’t function without the hand. Once it has been chopped, the church cannot operate. God is the only one who can do an operation to bring the church back together.
Resurrection then, was a revival of life starting with bones, and that’s what this passage symbolizes for God’s people.2 How does God bring the church back together? By telling His church to “hear the word of the Lord.”
Getting from a chopped church to church revival starts with listening to God.
“He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4, HCSB)
We are called to be one by listening to the same Lord.
“There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, HCSB)
The church gets chopped up when it listens to others besides the Lord. The church revives when it starts listening to God. In the church at Corinth, people were listening to different leaders:
“For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by members of Chloe’s household, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: Each of you says, “I’m with Paul,” or “I’m with Apollos,” or “I’m with Cephas,” or “I’m with Christ.”” (1 Corinthians 1:11–12, HCSB)
We chop each other up into different divisions – I am in Paul’s division, you are in Peter’s division, others are in Apollos’ division. I am in the Youth division, you are in the Senior Saints division, some are in this family’s division, others are in another family’s division.
So we chop each other up not just by body parts, but by groups. We start coming together by listening to God.
Getting from a chopped church to church revival is initiated by God’s Spirit.
“This is what the Lord God says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you, and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am Yahweh.”” (Ezekiel 37:5–6, HCSB)
In this section, the word spirit, which is also the same word used for breath, leads to life. The church lives only when the Holy Spirit is active. This activity of the Holy Spirit resides within the church. While there may be manifestations of the Holy Spirit, there is also activity of the Holy Spirit. When the people in the church are following the Spirit, then the church has life.
Getting from a chopped church to church revival is completed by God’s activity, not mine.
“So I prophesied as I had been commanded. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I looked, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.” (Ezekiel 37:7-8, HCSB)
The life of a person is in the spirit. A church can come back together through the preaching of God’s Word. Prophecy – the gift of preaching God’s word for proclamation for the Gospel will bring people back together. But it doesn’t necessarily bring life back into the church. At this point, the people are coming to hear the preacher. In many churches, that is as alive as it gets. The people are there to hear the pastor, and not God. When the pastor changes, they refuse to hear God. When the pastor preaches something they don’t want to hear, then they go away as well. So the proclaiming of the Word is not driven by personality. It is driven by the Spirit.
As Ezekiel prophesied, the bones came together, but there was no breath in them. Although the bones came together, Ezekiel wisely didn’t mistake commotion for regeneration. Even today, the flesh can generate activity, but true revival can’t take place without the Spirit.3
“He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord God says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live!” So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:9-10, HCSB)
See how God commands the breath to come from the four winds and breathe into these slain people that they may live. While this is a prophecy about the nation of Israel, the application is just as true for the church. God is the only One who can give breath to the church. The breath is the Holy Spirit. He is the only One who can give life to the church. He commands the breath. He commands the life. It takes an act of God’s activity.
“So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:10, HCSB)
Remember that the breath is the same word that is used for the Holy Spirit in Hebrew in the Old Testament. “Rauch” is the word used and it means breath and it means Spirit. Life happens when the Spirit enters the church.
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Look how they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off. Therefore, prophesy and say to them: This is what the Lord God says: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you into the land of Israel. You will know that I am Yahweh, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it.” This is the declaration of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:11-14, HCSB)
These last four verses give the interpretation of this vision. Warren Wiersbe notes:
Through the power of God’s Word, the bones came together and formed men, and through the power of the Spirit (“wind”), life was given to them. This does not teach a bodily resurrection, or even the salvation of the Jews. Rather, it pictures the future revival of the nation, when the Jews will be brought up out of the “graves” of the Gentile nations where they have been scattered. Politically, this took place May 14, 1948, when the modern nation of Israel entered the family of nations again. Of course, the nation is dead spiritually; but one day when Christ returns, the nation will be born in a day and be saved.4
God says that these bones are the whole house of Israel. This is a prophecy which has partially been fulfilled in the last century. The Jews came back together and were placed back in the land. However, the condition and the promise of these people can also apply to the church.
FOUR STEPS TO REVIVAL
Acknowledge that we need revival (37:11)
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Look how they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.’” (Ezekiel 37:11, HCSB)
The people recognized their need for revival. They knew that they were hopeless and that they are all dried up without any life. So the first step to revival is to recognize that we need revival.
Ask God to lead us (37:12)
“Therefore, prophesy and say to them: This is what the Lord God says: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, and lead you into the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:12, HCSB)
Who opens the graves? God. Who leads the people? God. Revival is not opened and led by the pastor or some great evangelist. Revival is led by God. We have to ask God to lead us. We have to commit to prayer and ask God to lead us.
Revivals are never manufactured. They are God-opened, and God-led.
Expect God to bring miracles “I have spoken and I will do it” (37:13-14)
“You will know that I am Yahweh, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it.” This is the declaration of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:13-14, HCSB)
God said He will do it. He will open the grace and bring you up. He will put His Spirit in you. He makes promises and He keeps them. Do you believe God? Do you trust God? Do you think God will give you hope, or do you think things are hopeless? If you and I are going to experience revival, then we need to expect God to bring the miracles.
Let the Holy Spirit lead you to life (37:14)
“I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Yahweh. I have spoken, and I will do it.” This is the declaration of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:14, HCSB)
Revivals are led by the Spirit. God’s people are led by the Spirit. Instead of taking the effort to chop the church through human effort, I need to let the Holy Spirit lead me. I need Him to settle me and show me that God will do what He says. Are you ready to trust God and let Him lead us to revival?
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 40.
2 Douglas Stuart and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Ezekiel, vol. 20, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 334.
3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 673.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Eze 37.