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Dave spoke tonight from Ezek 37:1-14, a very famous passage set in the Valley of Dry Bones. The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of God which completely transformed how the people saw their life in exile, and for us today, facing so many restrictions and uncertainties because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to learn lessons from this passage so that we can face life with encouragement and hope rather than with fear and despair.

Ezekiel was born the son of a priest, but at the age of 25, he was taken away with the people of God to exile in Babylon. He must have taken up his priestly duties at the age of 30 with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness (see Psalm 137 for a description of how the people felt.) To live in a pagan, secular world like Babyone was discouraging and there was probably also a sense of disillusionment and disappointment (just as many today are discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed), but God gave Ezekiel a powerful vision. When we see things from God’s perspective, our lives can be completely transformed.

The Valley of Dry Bones must have been a horrific sight for a priest not allowed to touch a dead body. These bones were unburied (contrary to all Jewish customes) and the sense of death and curse must have been devastating to Ezekiel. We too can feel overwhelmed by the pictures of death and destruction on our TV screens and phones as we view wars, terrorism and natural disasters. But in the midst of this horror, God asked an apparently impossible question: ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’

Ezekiel’s answer was honest: ‘O Sovereign Lord, You alone know.’ God then commanded him to prophesty to these bones. How ridiculous this must have seemed, yet Ezekiel did as he was commanded, and hear the rustling, clicking and miracle of bone coming together with bone. Human bodies were visible again, but they were still dead. Now Ezekiel had to prophesy to the breath, and new life appeared. What appears dead and lifeless can live again when God works, but what we need to remember is that God didn’t do the work on His own. He invited Ezekiel to participate in what He was going to do.

God invites us too to look over the Dearne Valley. We may feel like Ezekiel, seeing the dry bones of disused churches and closed churches, but God sees more than dry bones. He sees the mighty army as God’s people rise up again. To see in this way means we must stop relying on human eyesight and see through spiritual eyes. We must learn to speak the words the Lord has said. In the past, God has spoken through his prophets, promising to bring revival to the Dearne Valley. We must remember what God has said in the past and speak it out. We must prophesy over the church, over the streets and over the valley, seeing beyond empty seats, graffiti and vandalism, crime and despair to the miracles that God can do. God used Ezekiel – He wants to use us too.

O church of God, what do you see?