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THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 8, 2012

“Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5).


Last Sunday night we saw how this passage from Ezekiel describes the restoration and conversion of the Jewish people in the last days of this age. We saw that the “bones” referred to were “the whole house of Israel”; that the “graves” were the nations into which the Jewish people have been dispersed; that they would be brought out of those nations back into the land of Israel; and that they would then be converted. That is a marvelous prophecy! It thrills our hearts when we think of the restoration of Israel, beginning in 1948! It makes us joyful when we think of the Apostle Paul’s prophecy, “And so all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26). When we think that these prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled in the nation of Israel, it gives us great confidence in the power of God to perform miracles in our time.

But there is another way to look at the prophecy in Ezekiel 37. The old preachers in the days of the three Great Awakenings saw this passage as a picture of every conversion, and especially of conversions in revival. Were they wrong to apply the prophecy in that way? No, they were not – because the Apostle Paul said, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” (Romans 3:9). He also said,

“There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him”
       (Romans 10:12).

So the prophecy in Ezekiel 37 is a clear picture of conversions today, as well as those in Israel at that future time.

Then let us look at the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 as a picture of how all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are converted today, by considering several things in the passage.

I. First, the valley of dry bones.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:1-2).

The bones in the valley were “very many” and they were “very dry.” This is a picture of the complete depravity of man in a state of death. It is a description of the spiritual death of every man since Adam’s fall in the Garden,

“For…by one man's disobedience many were made sinners”
       (Romans 5:19).

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men...” (Romans 5:12).

Also, in Ephesians, the Apostle says that we were “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5), “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

God has shown us, by the vision of the valley of dry bones, the condition of all unconverted men. In a sermon on the dry bones, the great missionary to China, William C. Burns (1815-1868) said that unconverted people have no health and no life, and

“are full of wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores.” We are first dead by our relation to Adam, our father according to the flesh, having in him sinned, and thus come under the fearful condemnation of the broken covenant of works, and so made liable to the wrath and curse of Almighty God. Original sin, or the sin of our nature, therefore, concludes us all in death. The spirit of life is taken from us, and the progress of decay is day by day increased by every actual transgression. [So that you are] corrupted and fast approaching the last stage of decay, illustrated by the dry bones (William C. Burns, Revival Sermons, Banner of Truth Trust, 1980 edition, p. 156).

Now, in this state of death, you are no longer holy, but are, according to the Scriptures, at “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). How strange that you should be in such a state of madness and sin, that you would rebel against God! – against the God that made you, the God that will judge you, the God that must condemn you to Hell. Burns said, “Now, such are you all, every one [of you]. This is what the true minister of Christ sees. He sees you standing on the brink of...hell. He sees that unless God stretches out an omnipotent and saving arm, you must drop into [the flames]. The [true minister] knowing and feeling this, cannot rest until he [tries] to make you aware of your danger. He cries out to you, [trying] to drive you away from the pit [of Hell], trying to save you, [to] bring you home to [Christ]” (Burns, ibid., p. 157).

II. Second, the call of the preacher.

The prophet said, “The hand of the Lord was upon me” (Ezekiel 37:1). This refers to the prophet’s call. But in a real sense it applies to the call of every real preacher. “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” That is what every true preacher of Christ feels.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:1-2).

That is what God always does when he calls a true preacher to save souls. God takes him out into the world and shows him that it is “full of bones, very many and very dry.” The true preacher sees that people are dead, that their condition is desperate, that they are not just ignorant of the Gospel, but that they are dead men, “and that their bones only remain to show that they are men at all.” The preacher sees “nothing but a valley of bones, dismembered and decaying, and he mourns over them, and...there is an inward [pain in his heart]. He weeps over the [lost] souls of men.”

Then God says to the preacher, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3). This is a question that God puts into the heart of every preacher, to test him, to see whether he is a good and faithful preacher, or an ignorant and lazy one. To test the preacher and find out whether he is any good or not, God asks, “Can these bones live?”

Ignorant and unfaithful preachers say, “I think they can live. They were raised in a Christian home, they were brought to church as children, they raised their hand and said they wanted to be saved, they have been going to church all their lives, or at least for a long time. Therefore I think they can live.” But a preacher who says things like that is either unfaithful to God, or else he is ignorant of real conversion!

God asks, “Can these bones live?” The wise and faithful preacher does not say those things. Instead, when God asks, “Can these bones live?” he answers exactly as Ezekiel did, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” The good preacher understands that only God knows those He has chosen! Only God knows who will be converted! The wise preacher knows that only God can give the increase, that only God can bring a lost soul to salvation in Christ.

III. Third, the command to preach.

“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord”
       (Ezekiel 37:4).

It is the duty of every pastor to preach the word of the Lord. But the wise pastor knows that he is preaching to dry bones who cannot and will not hear what he says. I have often thought that I might just as well go to a graveyard and preach as to come here and speak to you – knowing that you cannot hear. As Jesus said,

“Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (John 8:43).

I know that is the condition of your ears while you are in a state of sin. Jesus says, “Ye cannot hear my words.” And if you cannot hear Him, you will certainly not be able to hear me! Someone may ask, “Why then do you preach to us? Why do you tell us to come to Christ, when you know we can’t do it, and cannot even hear about doing it savingly?”

A faithful preacher speaks “whether [you] will hear, or whether [you] will forbear” (Ezekiel 3:11). Why do I speak to you at all? Because God has commanded me to do so!

“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord”
       (Ezekiel 37:4).

Because I am commanded to preach to you I must do it. I see the bottomless pit of Hell into which you are about to sink. I feel the urge to warn and alarm you; then I preach for death, I preach for eternity, I preach for Heaven, and I preach, too, for Hell. The true preacher goes into the pulpit and preaches to dry bones, and too often does so without any effect.

But I know that when I have preached the word of the Lord, then God Himself may speak to you, saying,

“And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord”
       (Ezekiel 37:6).

IV. Fourth, the shaking of the bones.

“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone” (Ezekiel 37:7).

The prophet obeyed the command of God, even though it seemed useless to preach to those dry bones. But suddenly “there was a noise, and behold a shaking” among the dry bones. Lost sinners begin to be concerned, then anxious about their lost condition. Then they become alarmed, frightened, filled with terror – often so greatly that they cannot hold back their emotions of fear. Some cry out and weep bitterly, groaning because they feel themselves under the control of Satan. Suddenly they see great sin in their own hearts. Robert Murray McCheyne, in such meetings, said,

      Often an awful and breathless silence pervaded the assembly; and each hearer bent forward in the posture of rapt attention. Serious men covered their faces to pray that the arrows of [God] might be sent home with power to the hearts of sinners. Again at such a time I have heard a half-suppressed sign rising from many a heart, and have seen many bathed in tears...I have heard loud sobbing in many parts of the church, while a deep solemnity [came over] the whole audience. I have also...heard individuals cry aloud, as if they had been pierced through with a dart...At such times I have seen persons so overcome that they could not walk or stand alone...I would humbly state my conviction that it is the duty of all who seek the salvation of souls, and especially the duty of ministers, to long and pray for such solemn times when the arrows shall be sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies, and our slumbering congregation shall be made to cry out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ (J. C. Smith, Robert Murray McCheyne: A Good Minister of Jesus Christ, Ambassador Productions, Ltd., 1998 reprint of the 1870 edition, pp. 12-13).

This was denounced by some ministers, but one godly pastor who saw this said, “When bone comes to bone, will there be no shaking heard?”

When lost sinners are convinced of sin there will be extraordinary feelings, and unusual excitement, when people first awaken from the sleep of death, when they first see that Hell is real, and feel they will soon fall into that pit of flames. There will be great stirrings of emotion when you see your sin, not only condemning you, but also wounding Jesus on the Cross. You must feel emotion at such a time; it is impossible for you not to feel emotions with a depth unknown to you before.

V. Fifth, the coming of flesh upon the bones.

“And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8).

They now seem to be alive, “but there [is] no breath in them.” Flesh came on the bones, but it was still a lifeless body. Some of you have gotten to this point, and yet you are not saved. Some of you have been getting flesh on your formerly naked bones. You have begun to reform your life and perform religious duties. Now you come to church regularly and read your Bible every day. You admire yourself for becoming more religious. You are convinced that you have been changed. Beware of this! Beware of this! Woe to you, for you have been deceived.

What good will it do you at the Last Judgment that you have outwardly changed? If the Spirit of God has not changed your heart, what good will your outward religion do you at the Day of Judgment?

I do not deny that you have changed outwardly. I am glad that you have, but do not rest there. Do not rest in an outward change. No one, perhaps, can see any fault in your new religious character. No human eye can see the fault that lies in your heart. They are all deceived, and admire the change they see in your life.

That is how it is when a person first dies. The body still seems to be alive for a little while. When looking at a dead body some will say, “Doesn’t he look well? It seems as though he is still alive.” But the discerning eye sees that the body is dead. It is true that decay has not yet begun. But the body is just as dead as a rotting corpse. Although no hideous deformities disfigure it, yet it is as dead as it will be when the flesh falls from its bones, and worms crawl through its joints and marrow. And so, if the Spirit of God has not converted you, you are no more alive than a dead man in a coffin, even though you look good to the untrained eye.

We desire for you, above all, that you be not deceived. We fear that some of you who think that you are converted will soon be seen for what you really are – entirely dead, dead to God, dead in sin. You have many marks of a true Christian – but there is an icy coldness in your heart. Your heart has no love for God, it does not beat with love for Christ. It does not beat with love at all. The veins, the sinews, the joints are there; but there is no life, no blood, no heat, no love for Christ.

Rebellion toward God lies hidden within you. It has not been driven out. It still lies dormant in your heart. It is still there within you, in the center of your soul. And there it remains – until it finally comes forth and consumes your outward religion, and torments you so completely, that it will soon, very soon, seal you in the cold sleep of death forever. Outwardly you appear to be a Christian, but at last it will be seen that your heart is full of dead men’s bones, of rotten decay and corruption. Your heart is still as hard as ever, as unbroken as ever, though it lies within a beautiful and pious looking shell.

“...the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.”

VI. Sixth, the coming of the life-giving Spirit.

“Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:9-10).

There is the strength of the preacher of the Gospel! He prays for the Spirit of the Lord, that He would come and bless the preaching, and bring life to those who hear. The Spirit breathes on the slain, they live, and “stand on their feet, an exceeding great army.”

Breathe on me, breathe on me,
   Holy Spirit, breathe on me;
Take thou my heart,
   Cleanse every part,
Holy Spirit, breathe on me.
    (“Breathe on Me” by B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).

If the Holy Ghost does not come to you, you cannot be converted, you cannot rise and live, you cannot see the beauty of Christ, you cannot come to Him and be washed clean from sin by His Holy Blood. Therefore the true preacher must spend much time alone and come into the pulpit in the fulness of the Spirit. And those of you who are saved must spend much time in prayer, or else I may as well not preach to the lost at all. Pray that the Holy Ghost may attend the preaching, or else these dead bones can never live. Oh, pray for the Spirit of God to descend in our meetings! Pray until the Spirit comes, so these dead bones can live!

Lord, send the old-time power,
   The Pentecostal power!
Thy floodgates of blessing
   On us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power,
   The Pentecostal power!
That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!
    (“Pentecostal Power” by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932).

Sing it with me.

Lord, send the old-time power,
   The Pentecostal power!
Thy floodgates of blessing
   On us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power,
   The Pentecostal power!
That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

Only the power of God’s Spirit can break your heart of stone and unite you to Christ, the living Saviour! We pray that the Spirit of God will come down to you, and make you cry out for Christ to come and bring you life from the dead! We pray that God’s Spirit will come to you and draw you to Christ.

You know that Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. But do you know Christ for yourself? Have you been united to Him who is alive in Heaven, praying for you?

Here in your heart there is no good thing, nothing but emptiness, corruption and sin. But up in Heaven Christ lives, and He alone can pardon your sins and give you life! You may look within yourself all your life, but you will find nothing within yourself but guilt and depravity. Yet in Jesus there is righteousness, peace, and life. If you will come to Him, they are yours. Now, will you look to Him and live?

Some of you have been for a long time in doubt, and darkness, and despair. Why? Is it God’s fault? No! No! Then whose fault is it, if not your own? You have been trying to convert yourself, and as long as you try that you will never have peace. Just now, look out of yourself, and into Jesus, and up to God’s throne of grace, and up to the Blood of Jesus on the mercy seat. You are commanded to look to Jesus, and be saved by Jesus, and by Jesus alone. Come in then, come in to Jesus. I am here to tell you that Jesus is free, that salvation is free, that Heaven is free, that joy and gladness are free – to all who will come in to Jesus and rest in Him alone! Come in, then, tonight. Come in to Jesus and live!

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
   Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
   Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness into Thy health,
   Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
   Jesus, I come to Thee.

I am going to sing another stanza of that hymn. While I sing it, please go to the back of the auditorium and Dr. Cagan will take you to another room. How I pray that you will come out of your bondage, sorrow and night, and into the freedom, gladness and light, by coming in simple faith to Jesus. Go to the back of the auditorium now, go into another room, and come to Jesus!

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
   Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
   Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
   Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
   Jesus, I come to Thee.
(“Jesus, I Come” by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

You may email Dr. Hymers at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net, (Click Here) – or you may
write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Ezekiel 37:1-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Breathe on Me” (by B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5).

(Romans 11:26; 3:9; 10:12)

I.   First, the valley of dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1-2; Romans 5:19, 12;
Ephesians 2:5, 1; Romans 8:7.

II.  Second, the call of the preacher, Ezekiel 37:1, 2, 3.

III. Third, the command to preach, Ezekiel 37:4; John 8:43;
Ezekiel 3:11; 37:6.

IV. Fourth, the shaking of the bones, Ezekiel 37:7.

V.  Fifth, the coming of flesh upon the bones, Ezekiel 37:8.

VI.  Sixth, the coming of the life-giving Spirit, Ezekiel 37:9-10.