Seeking Him for Revival

Sept. 28, 2019 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

I never get tired of seeing what happens when God pulls back the curtain of heaven and displays His glory.

You've just seen one example of what it's like when God comes and visits those who seek Him with all their hearts. So the question is asked, can history repeat itself? Could it happen again?

In these closing moments, I want to answer that question as best I can by having us look together at an amazing passage of Scripture found in—well, they're all amazing—but this is a really amazing one, found in the first half of the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. It’s just a little past the halfway point of your Bible. The book of Ezekiel chapter 37, Ezekiel chapter 37.

You may have heard this story before, but I think you'll see it with new eyes today. And what a grand and glorious vision it gives us for God coming and reviving the hearts of His people. But it doesn't start with grandness. It doesn't start with glory. It starts with a really bleak picture that was shown to the prophet Ezekiel in a vision.

I want to read through the passage. I want to talk through the passage. But just as I read these first few versus, once again, would you stand with me as we give honor to the Word of God. I’m beginning in verse 1 of Ezekiel chapter 37. This is the Word of the Lord:

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry (vv. 1–2).

Thank You, oh Lord, for the incredible gift of Your Word, and thank You that this story doesn't end here. Thank You that You are the God who gives life to dead, dry bones. And we're going to see in this passage a glimpse of how You do that.

So quicken our hearts. Quicken our bodies, too. They're weak. They’re tired. But give us energy and life to hear what the Spirit says to the Church, to the women of God in this place and gathered around the world.

We pray that You would have Your way and do Your work in our hearts in these moments. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Thank you. You may be seated.

So Ezekiel has a vision. God gives him a vision, and in that vision, he is led by the Spirit of God to a valley where he found himself in the middle of a gruesome scene. Everywhere, as far as he could see, human bones covered the ground. And there weren't just a few of them. The Scripture says there were very many, and they were very dry.

These bones had been there a long time. They had been bleached by the sun. They were disconnected. They were just strewn everywhere. There was no life anywhere in that valley. There was death everywhere. These bones had no capacity for life. This was just a vast, desperate, hopeless graveyard.

And it wasn't enough for Ezekiel just to hear about those bones. God could have just told him about it. It wasn't enough for him to see them from a distance. “Look over there at that valley of dry bones.” No, God led him down into the middle of that valley and then led him to walk around among those dry bones.

If you want to get a certain flavor of this, I've googled just images of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones, and there are lots of different images that you just think it would freak you out to be there.

But God took Ezekiel into the midst of that valley to walk around among those bones, and Ezekiel had to feel that grizzly, chilly, horrific situation.

It reminds me of the passage in the gospel of Matthew chapter 4 where it says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Led by the Spirit into a wilderness, into a valley, to experience something that seemed awful and ugly and difficult. But it was the Spirit of God who led Him there.

If you are a child of God, the Lord's hand is on you as it was on Ezekiel. And as you leave this weekend, you will be led out by His Spirit. How sweet is that? Not going in your own energy or strength, but led and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. But when you get home, or maybe you are already at home, you may find that the Spirit of God has set you down in a valley.

It may be your workplace. It may be your school. It may be your community. It may be your home. It may be your marriage. It may even be your church. And you look around and you say, “This is gruesome. There are few if any signs of life here.”

And you've been surrounded by life here, and then you go home after this, and it feels like, “What a downer.”

You feel like those disciples of Jesus that went up on the Mount of Transfiguration. They see the glory of the resurrected Christ, pre-resurrection, and Peter says, “Lord, this is amazing. Can we just build some tents and just stay here?”

Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan. It is not God's way.”

Yes. We’d like to park here but they're closing the Sagamore Ballroom to us as soon as we're done. We have to get out of here.

There was a demon-possessed son, and his helpless dad down in that valley. The disciples had to go down in the valley and take the glory they had experienced on the mountaintop into the valley where the demons were.

Ezekiel had to go down into that valley. And you have to go down into that valley. And the valley where God's Spirit places you may be discouraging. It may feel hopeless. But in this vision, God is going to show Ezekiel what only God can do. Now, humanly, this valley of very many, very dry bones was an impossible situation—but not for God. He is more than equal to the task of any valley you find yourself in.

No one wants to have dry bones for neighbors or friends or family members, but it’s there in that valley, when God leads you there, that He can give you a vision for what He can do, a vision of His power and His glory. So let God take you to that valley of dry bones. Let Him show you the desperate need everywhere around you. Let Him give you a burden for the people that those bones represent. And let Him show you what only He can do in that place where it seems that there is no life, no spiritual vitality, just death and desolation.

The Spirit of God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (v. 3).

Now, humanly speaking, the obvious answer would be, “Of course not. No way.” But Ezekiel responded simply, “O, Lord God, you know.”

The CSB I've been reading recently says, “Only you know.”

He’s saying, “God, You are sovereign. You know what You plan to do. Lord, You know.”

Can my family be brought back to spiritual life and vitality? Lord, You know.

Will our church ever come back to life? Lord, You know.

You see, no amount of human effort or wisdom or power could reassemble those bones and bring them back to life. Only God could breathe life, His life, His Spirit into those very many, very dry bones.

But do you notice that God did not unilaterally, supernaturally move on those bones without Ezekiel. God used a human instrument to be the means through which He did His reviving work.

God works in partnership, in concert with human vessels like you and me to accomplish His miraculous purposes in our world.

So God gives an assignment to Ezekiel. Verse 4: 

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”

What? If it weren’t God giving this direction, it would sound utterly ludicrous. Right? Preach to the bones? Tell them to hear the word of the Lord? What good could that possibly do? Dead bones, dry bones can't hear. They can't respond. To preach to them would be useless. So what's the point of trying?

The point is that's what God told Ezekiel to do. And God knew that nothing Ezekiel could say would make a wit of difference in that valley of death, but God knew His Word could breathe life into dead bones, that the power of His Spirit could change everything in a moment.

God had to supernaturally move on those bones to give them life, to give them the ability to hear.

But our part is not to give life. Our part is simply to proclaim the Word of the Lord.

Ezekiel was given an astonishing message to preach to those dead, dry bones. Verse 5: 

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and I will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord (vv. 5–6).

That's the message Ezekiel was given to preach in that valley of dry bones. It took faith, don't you think, to give that message in that valley, because if God didn't come through, Ezekiel was going to look really, really foolish preaching to dry bones.

God is calling you and me to exercise faith over the valley of dry bones where we live, where we serve, where we work, maybe even within your own home, to believe that by God's power these dry bones can live again, and to be willing to be an instrument of God in that process.

Now let me just remind us you cannot make dry bones live again. It's entirely a work of God. God says, “I will do this.” But you know what? That takes the pressure off of us to make things happen. It takes the pressure off of us to change people's lives.

So Ezekiel says in verse 7: 

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them (vv. 7–8).

Just exactly what God had said He would do. God keeps His promises. It was a miracle! But there was one tiny little bit of a problem.

Verse 8 goes on, “There was no breath in them.” The bones were rattling around together. They were making noise, but without breath they were just corpses. They were still dead. There was still no life. No breath.

It's a picture of, I think, what's going on in a lot of the Christian world today, particularly here in the West. A lot of our churches, a lot of our lives, there’s a lot of coming together. There’s a lot of big events where we make a lot of noise. There are a lot of mega churches, a lot of teaching, a lot of preaching, a lot of music, a lot of impressive appearance. But very little evidence of true spiritual life. No power of God. No evidence of the Spirit of God. No mark of the supernatural. No breath of God.

God wasn't done with the people in Ezekiel's day. He wasn't going to leave them in that condition. So notice that He didn't just say to Ezekiel, “Okay, you've given the message, let Me take it from here.”

Ezekiel could not breathe life into those dry, lifeless corpses. But that didn't mean he was supposed to do nothing and just stand around and wait for God to do everything. God had told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. And now God gives him another instruction. Look at verse 9. 

Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.

Now, you see the word breath three times in that verse. You also see the word wind. In the Hebrew language the word breath and wind are the same word. It’s the word ruach. It’s used four times in verse 9. It’s used ten times in this passage the first fourteen verses. It’s the same word that’s used in verse 1 for the Spirit of the Lord.

When you see the word “breath,” when you see the word “wind,” when you see the word “Spirit” in the Old Testament, it’s this word ruach.

There have been seasons of my life when I was trying to get fit, and I would go to the gym and find a trainer. I said, “I’m going to hurt myself if I do this without help.” So I’d get a trainer.

Do you know something the trainer says to me most often? “Don't forget to breathe. Breathe.” Because you’re doing these, whatever these reps are of something, and you're about to die. And so, what do you do? You start holding your breath. Right? And so the trainer, wisely, he says, “Breathe. Breathe.”

We are utterly dependent on the breath of God, the Spirit of God, for life because breath is life.

What does it tell us in Genesis 2:7? “The Lord God forms a man of dust from the ground and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living creature.”

If the bones are going to live, they have to have the ruach—the Breath, the Spirit, the Wind of God. We have no life apart from Him.

Psalm 104 tells us, “When You take away their breath, their ruach, they die and return to the dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, Your ruach, they are created and You renew the face of the ground” (see vv. 29–30).

Ladies, God is in the business of bringing the dead to life. Renewing and redeeming the face of this fallen world. And He does it by means of His very Breath, the Wind, the Spirit of God.

So Ezekiel is told first to preach to the dry bones. And then he is told to speak to the Breath, the ruach.

This speaks us to of the role of prayer in revival and spiritual awakening. Ezekiel prays. He pleads with God for a work of His Spirit to bring these corpses to life. He says to the Breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath” (v. 9). You know what that says literally? “Come from the ruach, oh ruach—Wind, Breath, come, breathe on these bodies that they may live.”

You want to see dry bones in the valley around you live? Summon the Wind, the breath of God's Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can do what needs to be done to bring breath and life to these lifeless bones. So cry out to Him.

Cry out to Him on behalf of that wayward son or daughter or grandchild, that husband who doesn't know Jesus, that person in the workplace who has no life, that church that has so many people profess something about Jesus but they don't seem to possess. Dead bones, dry bones everywhere. Pray to the Wind of the Spirit of God. Summon the Wind and say, “Come, O Wind. Come, O Breath. Breathe on these dead dry bones.”

You see, there will be no personal revival and there will be no corporate revival in our churches and in our world if we do not ask God to send it.

So, verse 10, Ezekiel says, 

I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath [What’s the word? The ruach) came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

What a stunning picture of the power of the Breath, the Spirit of God. What had been a graveyard full of very many very dry bones became an exceedingly great army standing on their feet ready to accomplish the purposes of God in their world.

Now, as we move into the last few verses of this passage, God explains the vision to Ezekiel and applies it to His people.

Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off’” (v. 11).

Isn't it true that at times we look around us? What's going on even among those who claim to be the people of God and we think, There is no hope. These dry bones will never live again. But God. But the Spirit of God. But the Breath of God. With His Breath, His Spirit, there is hope for death to give way to glorious life.

Therefore prophesy, and say to them [the people of God], Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. . . . And I will put my Spirit [What’s the word? My ruach, My Breath, My Spirit] within you, and you shall live (vv. 12, 14).

By the way, that's what happened when you became a Christian. The ruach, the Spirit, the Breath of God came into you, and you became alive. You had been dead, but you became alive.

But the times when we begin to once again walk not by the Spirit but by the flesh, and we start to look and act a lot like very dead, very dry bones. And what do we need to bring us back to life? The ruach, the power, the Breath, the Spirit of God. This would be the work of God among the people of God. He is the one who gives us His Spirit. He is the one who brings the dead back to life.

And what would be the end result then, and what will be the end result when we go back to our valleys and God breathes His ruach into those dry bones? 

Then you shall know that I am the Lord (v. 14).

What's the end result of the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts and our churches and our world? Is it so we can be the triumphant majority in government, in politics, in culture?

Is it so people can respect us? Is it so we can look good to the world? Is it so we can be happy and peaceful and joyful?

Listen, the goal is all we have to care about. It's all we have to live for and that is that the world will know that He is the Lord. That we will know that He is the Lord in a way that we never have before. That we will know and trust His power, His greatness, His majesty, His glory, and ultimately that the world will know that He is God.

Our world is clueless about who God really is. I don't have to tell you that. Sometimes I think we forget why they're clueless. Let me tell you, it is not just because of all the false religions and false teaching out there. That doesn't help. But I think the biggest reason that the world has no clue who God is because of the dry bones in so many of our Christian circles, churches, lives. We don't look any different than the dry bones of the world. We know a lot about God, but far too often we are not experiencing the living, vibrant power of God.

When God's Spirit, His ruach, breathes His Breath, His ruach, His life into His people, His glory; His power and beauty will be revealed not only to us but to those who have no idea who He is. They just have never seen the power of God on display through the people of God.

Many of you have read, as I have, and loved C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as you may remember, there are four sibling children who step into a wardrobe, and they find themselves in Narnia, that once magnificent land that has been placed under a curse by the wicked queen.

She rules the land with an iron fist, and she has caused it to be always winter and never Christmas. There is no relief, no hope. Her secret police force of ferocious wolves watch and control every action in the land. Her castle is filled with statues of her enemies that she has turned to stone.

In Lewis's story the children encounter Aslan, the lion, the Christ figure, and they grow to love him. And then they watch as he lays down his life for Narnia. And then they watch as the effects of the curse on the land begin to be reversed. Flowers begin to bud and to bloom where once everything was frozen.

Then in a breathtaking climax, Aslan puts the two sisters on his back, and he races at break-neck speed across the land to the queen's castle where he intends to liberate the creatures who have been turned to stone by the wicked witch.

When they get to the castle, they find it surrounded by high walls and tightly locked gates. No problem for Aslan. Aslan leaps over the castle wall effortlessly, and they all land in a courtyard full of lifeless statues frozen by the queen.

Let me read to you a little excerpt of what happens next.

Lucy cried out, “All those stone animals and people, too. It's like a museum.”

“Hush,” said Susan. “Aslan is doing something.”

He was indeed. He had bounded up to the stone lion and breathed on him. Then he whisked around and breathed also on the stone dwarf which was standing a few feet from the lion. Then he pounced on a tall stone dryad which stood behind the dwarf, turned rapidly aside to deal with the stone rabbit on his right and rushed on to two centaurs. Everywhere the statutes were coming to life. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing around him until he was almost hidden in the crowd.

Instead of all that deadly white, the courtyard was now a blaze of colors. And instead of the deadly silence, the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts of “Hurrah,” songs and laughter, all celebrating to the glory of the lion.

This world is under the curse of the wicked one. As far as we can see, he has turned hearts everywhere to stone, or, in the metaphor of Ezekiel, dry bones everywhere. Very many, very dry bones.

But Aslan is doing something. (applause)

Some of our own hearts were pretty dry when we got here yesterday. Over the past twenty-four hours God has been breathing fresh life into us through His Spirit, His ruach, and His Word. And now He is sending us out from here to the people who desperately need us to summon the ruach, to summon the Wind, to summon the Breath of His Spirit that they may live.

While I was working on this message last week, I received a text about a believer in our community where Robert and I live whose marriage is in serious trouble, and the mate was reaching out for help. The situation seems impossible. But here is what I know: Dry bones can live again. (applause)

I've seen Him do it before. People saw Him do it in New York City in 1857 and 1858. Over a million people born into the kingdom of God during that revival. It started with six men praying in a city full of dry bones.

I've seen Him do it before, and I know that Aslan is up to something. He’s at work. His ruach, His Breath makes all the difference in the world. He can do it in this marriage that I was texted about. He can do it in your marriage, in your home, in your church, in your country, in your small group, in your community. The Breath of God can make dry bones live again.

One of our Revive Our Hearts team members has been fasting and praying earnestly for this event over the past week. She sent me a text a few days ago, and she said, “I feel really burdened for the women represented in the thousand plus groups joining us by livestream. I ache for revival to break out in local churches. I can't bear the thought of local churches not being changed.”

And her burden wasn't just for those of you who have groups livestreaming but for all of us as we go back to our churches, very many of which has very dry bones.

She said, “I can't bear to think of these churches not being changed.” And then she said, “Come Holy Spirit. We're clanging gongs without You.”

That's what we've been praying for. “Come, O Wind. Come, O Ruach. Come, O Spirit. Come O Breath of God. Breathe on us. Breathe through us as You take us from this place. O Lord, come. That's our prayer. Come, Spirit of God. We summon the Wind. Breathe on us Breath of God. Fill us with life anew. Come. Breathe Your life into the dry bones around us so that all may know that You are the Lord and that You have done it.”