Explore The Bible Study: Offers

2:43 PM

 

Have you ever heard someone say, or have you personally said or thought the following: “He or she is a hopeless cause”? When you examine LifeWay's Explore The Bible Study: Offers, and it's focus on Ezekiel 37, you will discover that what seems hopeless is never hopeless when God is at work. You will discover that God is able to bring new life to those who are hopeless because of sin.

If you were Ezekiel, you might assume that the restoration of the Israelites was a hopeless cause. Ezekiel has already described how the choices of the Israelites to rebel and dishonor God led them into a state of judgment involving exile and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Yet, in Ezekiel 33, God’s grace and mercy is described once again. God’s people were not a hopeless cause, and God had a restoration plan (Ezekiel 33:1-33). Ezekiel 37 reveals His plan.

God showed Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14. God used this vision to convince His prophet that the Israelites could be restored. Eventually, this restoration would include reuniting the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 37:15-23), and would place a descendant of David on the throne to lead them (Ezekiel 37:24-28). 

Because we are looking back through time and through the lens of prophecy, one can understand how this vision points to God's redemptive work to restore sinners into a right relationship with Him through Christ. It should remind us that we weren’t a hopeless cause and others around us are not hopeless causes when God is at work. He is the Master at restoring people!

As believers, we need to put ourselves in Ezekiel’s shoes and consider what we can learn regarding how we should respond to all those around us who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). God invites us to be a part of seeing their lives restored and seeing them given new life through Christ. 

Here are three things you can learn regarding God’s work of restoration through this passage of study.

First, we should listen to God when He puts us in a valley of “dry bones.” – Ezekiel 37:1-6

God was at work to place Ezekiel right where he needed to be so he could participate in God’s work of restoration. Ezekiel tells us that the Lord was on him, God brought him, and His Spirit placed him right in the middle of the valley that was full of dry bones! God didn’t give him a cliffside view, use a drone camera to show him the valley of bones, or do a flyover in a plane! He placed him right DOWN in the middle of the valley of dry bones.

Notice how Ezekiel specifically states that the valley was full of bones and then again, he says, there were a great many of them, and that they were very dry. Dry bones indicated death had happened a long time ago. This expression signified the utter hopelessness of life coming back into them. Apart from God’s activity, it would be impossible for life to be restored. This valley of dry bones most likely represented the site of a battle symbolizing Judah’s defeat by the Babylonians, indicating that, for all practical reasons, their cause was lost and hopeless. 

As believers we are in the middle of dry bones every day that need life that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ. God might ask you the same question He asked Ezekiel in verse 3, can these bones live? Will you respond as Ezekiel did in Ezekiel 37:3, Lord God, only you know?

Today, God calls on believers to see the potential in all lost people. There have been obedient “Ezekiels” throughout history, who have spoken the words of the gospel, and people have been restored to life in Christ. Not everyone who spoke was a prophet, a great evangelistic preacher, or a pastor of a grand church. They were, and are, simply people who believed God could make dry bones come alive, so they spoke the words of the gospel to those who were dry bones lying in the valley of lostness. The Bible and church history are filled with unlikely individuals whose lives God changed forever because of one who was placed in the middle of the valley of dry bones!

Who was your Ezekiel? Who spoke to you regarding your need for salvation? Who believed that your dry bones could become alive again?

When we obey God, we get to observe His amazing work of restoration - Ezekiel 37:7-10

Ezekiel affirmed, I prophesied as I had been commanded. True prophets followed God’s instructions exactly. He did obey!

When Ezekiel was prophesying, he realized that God’s redemptive work was not yet complete. They were simply lifeless bodies. God gave further instruction regarding what should take place next and, again, Ezekiel obediently prophesied as God commanded, and the bodies came to life. God’s work was complete, and the bodies stood on their feet, appearing to Ezekiel as a vast army, suggesting they had a purpose and a mission. 

God brings us to life because He desires to fulfill His mission on the earth through us. As believers, we are a vast army who are to faithfully and obediently fulfill the mission of sharing and showing the Good News of Jesus.

In what ways does Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones coming to life parallel a salvation experience?

Jesus warned the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1), simply having the appearance of life doesn’t mean something is alive. Just like Adam in Genesis 2:7, there wasn’t life in the bodies until God breathed life into them. 

In Ephesians 2:1, Paul described those apart from Christ as “dead in your trespasses and sins.” Many of us have friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are nice people; yet they do not know Jesus. They are honest, faithful to their spouses, good parents, and good citizens. Yet, without Jesus, they have no eternal hope. They lack the new life that only comes through redemption and the indwelling life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit.

The message of the dry bones was not just about God giving new life, but it was also a message of hope to God’s people who felt their situation was hopeless.

God expects us to remind others of the hope we have if we have been made alive in Christ – Ezekiel 37:11-14

God’s chosen people, the exiled Israelites, did not see Ezekiel’s vision of bones or hear God’s explanation. God directed Ezekiel to convey the message of hope to the captive Israelites about the two most wonderful prophetic promises their ears could hear. The first is stated in verses 12-13 and the second in verse 14.

  • They would be brought home to the Promised Land as a nation (verses 12-13).
  • God would be present with them to guide and to direct (verse 14).

And all of this would be so everyone would know that God is THE LORD GOD (verses 13-14).

What About Now?

The apostle Paul wrote that before we knew Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We were dry bones in a barren valley. Nevertheless, God who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses (Ephesians 2:4-5). The biblical images of death and life stress the significance of the salvation experience. 

The leader commentary for Explore the Bible reminds us that the gospel is not about making bad people good; it is about making dead people alive.

The New Testament likewise affirms that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead comes to live in us when we place our faith in Jesus (Romans 8:10-11) and works to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit then regenerates our hearts, turning us toward God and empowering us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). 

Finally, God has a glorious future for His children. Jesus affirmed that He came so people could have life as it was meant to be (John 10:10). Life with God includes not only life now, but life to come. We should remind one another of that hope, knowing that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep . . . For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words – see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

However, God does not promise new and eternal life to everyone. Rather, He promises it to all those who receive His Son Jesus Christ by faith. As we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus, we embrace salvation and the abundant life He offers. 

We should all remember the words of Billy Graham again this week when he said, 

“Our world today so desperately hungers for hope, yet uncounted people have almost given up. There is despair and hopelessness on every hand. Let us be faithful in proclaiming the hope that is in Jesus.” -Billy Graham

Additionally, we should remember that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead - see 1 Peter 1:3

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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