The Dry Bones!
by James Smith, 1860
"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones! He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry!" Ezekiel 37:1-2
Many and striking are the representations given, of the state into which sin plunged Israel of old. But perhaps none are more striking than the valley of dry bones. This shows most clearly that their deliverance must be of God — and of God alone. Means of themselves were wholly insufficient.
And this representation suits the state of the sinner, and sets forth most clearly, the true condition of all men in a state of nature, concerning spiritual things. We, like the prophet, are in a valley which is full of bones, and like him we may say, "I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry!" Let us consider these words, as giving us:
A Description of the Sinner's State.Man is helpless, for what can dry bones do? But dry bones are not more helpless in a physical sense — than sinners are in a spiritual sense; for they are totally destitute of all life and power. Being thus helpless, they are considered, in themselves hopeless — for what can dry bones expect? Just so, man, being a sinner, an enemy of God, cannot expect any spiritual good from God. Neither does he, or so much as desire it.
But he is not only helpless and hopeless — he is unconscious of his state. The physically dead know nothing; just so, the dead in sin know nothing spiritually. They are unconscious of their real state and condition before God, therefore they imagine that they are all right — when they are all wrong; and cry 'peace and safety', while they are in the greatest possible danger! And this is not merely the case with some — it is universally the case. They have all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that does good — no not one! See then,
The Necessity of Divine Intervention.They are beyond the power of man or of any creature to help them; for as no creature can raise the dead, or form dry bones into a living man — so no creature can raise the dead in sin, or form living saints, out of dead sinners! They are beyond the power of the Word of God alone — they may read it, or hear it preached — but without the operation of the Holy Spirit, it will produce no saving effect. God himself must work. We are shut up to this, for except God comes into the "valley of dry bones", and exerts his omnipotent power — no soul will ever be saved. It requires as much power to convert a sinner — as it did to create the world, or to form men out of the dust of the earth at first! It is not by human might, nor by any creature's power — that souls are raised from a death in sin, to a life of righteousness — but by the Spirit of the Lord alone.
What Then, Will Sight Views of this Subject Produce in Us?
PITY, for we can but pity creatures who are so helpless and so hopeless, even though they have become so by their own fault.
PRAYER, for surely if we pity them, we shall desire to rescue them, and if we see that none but God can deliver them, we shall beseech him to do so.
EFFORT, for if we pity and pray for them, we shall exert ourselves, and use all the means in our power on their behalf.
DEPENDENCE ON GOD, for if we realize that God only can save, we shall pity, pray for, and make use of every effort — in dependence on God alone.
EXPECTATION FROM GOD, for if he has encouraged us to pity, pray for, and endeavor to save souls from death — he will work by us, and crown our efforts with success.
CONTINUED APPEALS TO GOD, for if we see aright, and feel aright — we shall be constantly looking up to God, and appealing to his pity and his power, for the success of our feeble efforts.
What is the place where we reside? What is England? What is the world at large? A valley of dry bones! And there are many bones in the open valley; and, lo, they are very dry.
What is man spiritually considered? A skeleton, or a collection of dry bones.
How long has he been in such a dreadful condition? Long enough for the bones to have become very dry.
Who can effectually help him? God, and God alone!
What then are we? Living, spiritual people — or, dry bones?
If spiritual people — then who raised us from the dead? Who called us into a state of spiritual life? The Lord in the exercise of his sovereignty, and by the exertion of his almighty power, and the Lord alone!
What is now required of us? To live a resurrection life, or as those who are raised from the dead, and who make the life of the risen Jesus, their copy and example.
What should be rendered by us? The praises of our lips, the sacrifice of our persons, body and soul; and the earnest, hearty service of our lives. We should live, not only like him who raised us — but for him, and for his honor and glory alone.
Brethren, we live under solemn circumstances, surrounded by perishing immortals! We live in a very heart-affecting situation — a valley of dry bones! We have become accustomed to it — or we would be very seriously and deeply affected by it.
Let us remember that Jesus who raised Lazarus, and who quickened us — can quicken and raise any, or all of those around us. He has said "as the Father quickens whom he will, so he has given to the Son to quicken whom he will." And again, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live."
Let us then, not only speak of Jesus, and write of Jesus — but let us go and tell Jesus, and beseech him to come down into the valley, and breathe upon the slain — that they may live!
O Jesus, author and giver of life, of life natural, and life spiritual — look upon the dry bones in our open valley, for they are very many, and they are very dry! But speak, Lord — and they shall live, and stand up an exceeding great army, to witness to your power, to testify of your grace, and to praise your name. Come, O come, Spirit of the Lord, and breathe upon these slain — that they may live!
Look down, O Lord! with pitying eye
See Adam's race in ruin lie;
Sin spreads its trophies o'er the ground,
And scatters slaughtered heaps around!
And can these moldering corpses live?
And can these perished bones revive!
That, mighty God — to you is known;
That wondrous work is all your own!
Your ministers are sent in vain
To prophesy upon the slain:
In vain they call, in vain they cry,
Until your almighty aid is nigh!
But if your Spirit deign to breathe,
Life spreads through all the realms of death;
Dry bones obey your powerful voice;
They move, they waken, they rejoice!
So, when your trumpet's awful sound
Shall shake the heav'ns and rend the ground,
Dead saints shall from their tombs arise,
And spring to life beyond the skies!