Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Can These Bones Live?

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We cannot make revival happen. We cannot bring revival. What we can do, as one Bible teacher of the last generation said, “We can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”

Leslie: It’s Thursday, September 13, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

A farmer can’t just toss seeds on the ground and hope for the best. He has to prepare the soil, turning it over, breaking up the hard places and sifting it. The same is true in your heart. You need to break up the hard places if you want to see spiritual growth.

Nancy talked about this yesterday, and she’ll continue today. She’s in a series called Seeking Him, which also corresponds with a Bible study workbook by the same name.

Nancy: We’re continuing in this first week of a 12-week series on Seeking Him, calling God’s people to seek the Lord with all their hearts. I trust that you’re joining us on this journey. It’s not too late to get one of those Seeking Him workbooks, to get some friends together—a group in your church, perhaps—and say, “Let’s seek the Lord together.”

As we continue in that process of preparing our hearts to seek the Lord for revival, I want to direct our attention to a passage in God’s Word that I think gives us a powerful word picture of what it’s like when God comes and visits His people in revival.

If you have your Bible, let me invite you to turn to the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. Ezekiel chapter 37, and I’m picking up in verses 1-2 of Ezekiel 37.

"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."

Ezekiel is a prophet of God, and he is led by the Spirit of God in this passage; he’s led in a vision into a valley that is full of bones.

Now, when you think of bones, what do you think of? Death. This is a graveyard. This is a cemetery, although the bones aren’t under the ground; they’re above the ground. They’re lying all over the ground.

There is no life in a cemetery. It’s a place of desolation. It’s a place where there is no hope. There is no possibility of life in this valley that is just strewn with these bones.

In the immediate context and interpretation of this passage, it becomes clear that God is speaking about the nation of Israel. He’s giving a promise that one day God will restore the nation of Israel to the land. He’s talking about not only their restoration to the land, but also the spiritual regeneration of the nation of Israel. That’s the immediate context.

But I believe that this passage has a message and an application to us as well. In fact, it’s a two-fold application: first to those who are not believers, and then to those who are believers, the church of Jesus Christ.

To those who are non-believers, there is a picture in this account, as we move into it, of the process of regeneration—what’s involved in dead bones coming to life, in those who are spiritually dead coming to spiritual life. That’s what is needed for those who are lost, for those who are apart from Christ. They need to come to life.

But then this story, this vision that Ezekiel experiences in this valley of bones, also illustrates, I think, the process of revival for those who are believers, the process of revival in the church. So God takes Ezekiel, He puts His hand on him, and He leads him in this vision and sets him down in the middle of this valley full of bones.

It’s not enough for Ezekiel to just hear about these bones or to see them. God wants him to be right there in the middle of the valley, to walk among those bones.

This is not a distant view from some far mountaintop that Ezekiel was getting. He is right down in the valley with these bones; and he says there were very many of the bones, and they were very dry. These bones were covering the ground.

I see here in Ezekiel a man of God who is willing to be led by God to dwell among, to live among these very dry bones. The picture to me is a picture of what we live among today. We live among a lot of dry bones —a lot of dry bones, in our nation and in our world.

It’s not a very fun thing to live in a valley of bones, to be up close to those bones, to have dry bones for neighbors or family members or church members. We’d much rather be with those who are alive, those who share our faith, those who are spiritually vibrant and vital.

I love the fellowship of God’s people who are alive spiritually. It’s more draining to spend time with those who have no hunger, no appetite, no interest in spiritual things.

But there are times when God takes us to that valley of dry bones and says, “I want you to not look at this from a distance; I want you to be right there in that valley and to look and see what’s here, to experience it.”

Yet it’s in that place—the valley of dry bones—when God has led us there, that’s where He gives us a vision of what He can do, of His power to bring to life dry bones: the power of the resurrection.

What God is going to show Ezekiel in this vision is something that only God can do. This is an impossible situation for any human being to deal with. But God is more than equal to the task. This is not a challenge for God, to deal with these dry bones, these dead bones. Bones are dead. I mean, there’s no life in these bones. But God is the God of the resurrection.

Aren’t you glad for that resurrection power? As the story unfolds, this is a passage that brings us hope in situations when we would otherwise be tempted to despair.

Some of you are in the middle of valleys full of very many dry bones. You’re right there, and you’re tempted to despair and say, “This is a place of death! My workplace, my home, maybe even my church . . . the gospel is not preached here. Christ is not exalted. People have no hunger, no appetite for spiritual things.” And you want to get out of that valley.

But I want to tell you, it’s in the valley that you will see the hope that the God of the resurrection can bring about. So let me encourage you to let God take you, when He wants to, to that place of dry bones so that He can give you a vision of what He can do, so that He can give you a burden for the need of those around you and the people who are represented by those bones.

Now as we move to verse 3, God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I looked again at this passage this morning, and six times in the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 37, we have the word live. “Live. Live. Live.”

You read about the bones, and you say, “This is a story about death.” But it’s not a story about death. It’s a story about life because God is there in that valley. The issue is life. God wants to bring these bones to life, spiritual life.

So God says to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Now, humanly speaking the answer to that question would be, “No way! Absolutely not!” You just pick up a bone—can this bone live? There’s no chance that this bone can live.

But Ezekiel wisely says in verse 4, “O Lord God, you know.” You know. What does he mean by that? Well, he may mean, “Lord, You know that these bones can’t live.” Or maybe he means, “Lord, only You know what You can do with these dry bones.”

Regardless, he turns to God, and instead of saying, “Lord, there is no way these bones can live,” he says, “Lord, You know.”

Isn’t that enough answer in the middle of your valley of dry bones? Lord, You know. You know what You can do. You know what’s here. You know the impossibilities. You know what You can do.

Will this church ever come back to life? Lord, You know. Can my family be brought to spiritual life and vitality? Lord, You know. Lord, could the dry bones of my life ever really rejoice and sing and be full of life again? Could there be spiritual vitality restored in me? Lord, You know.

And then God says something to Ezekiel that, if it weren’t God saying it, would sound very foolish. Verse four, God says to Ezekiel, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”

Now, that’s kind of a ludicrous picture, if you think about it. Ezekiel is commanded to preach to the bones and to say to them, “Hear the word of the Lord.”

Now, of course, dry bones can’t hear. And it seems rather foolish to be preaching to dry bones because, unless God supernaturally moves on them and gives them life, those dry bones are not going to do anything in response to that preaching.

But you know what? Our part is not to make the bones live. That’s not our job. Our job is to proclaim the Word of the Lord.

Listen to the Word of the Lord. You can’t make your children have spiritual life, but you can speak the Word of the Lord to them.

I want to say that this passage also highlights the importance, the centrality of the role of preaching in the process of regeneration and revival—the preaching of the Word of God.

What’s the point of preaching to those dry bones? They can’t respond. They have no life. God says, “Preach anyway. Preach, and let Me do the bringing to life.”

By the way, if you have a pastor who is preaching the Word of God, thank God for that man, and pray for him! Pray that God will give him courage and faith and anointing and faithfulness to keep preaching and keep proclaiming when it seems, perhaps, that people are not hearing or responding.

So Ezekiel has to preach to these bones, and he’s to say, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” Here’s the word of the Lord that he’s commanded to preach: verse five, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”

Breath. It’s the same word that is translated in other places spirit. It’s that Hebrew word ruach— the breath of God, the spirit of God. It reminds me of that passage in Genesis chapter two where it says, “God formed the man,” and then it says He “breathed into his nostrils the breath [the ruach ] of life, and the man became a living creature” (verse 7).

The man was just a physical body, just a shell, until God breathed His life, His breath, into that man, into his nostrils. Then the man began to breathe himself. He came to life.

Where does life come from? Physical life? Spiritual life? It comes from God breathing His life into our otherwise empty, lifeless bodies, our dead spirits. God breathes His life into us.

The message to these bones is, “Behold, I will cause breath [ruach, the spirit of God, the breath of God] to enter you, and you shall live.” It’s a picture of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, so to speak. That’s what we need in the church today! We need the breath of God. We need God to lay Himself upon our lifeless bodies and to breathe His life into us so that we can live.

Verse six, “And I will lay sinews upon you, and 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.”

Now, it takes faith, at the least, to proclaim that message to that valley full of dry bones—to stand over that valley of dry bones and say, “Dry bones, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you will live.” Because if God doesn’t come through, you’re going to look mighty silly standing there preaching that message to that valley of dry bones.

Everybody is going to be saying, “What in the world is he doing? What is she doing preaching the word of God, saying the word of God, telling these dry bones to live? Nothing is happening.”

And nothing will happen unless God hears and intervenes. Our part isn’t to bring people back to life. That’s God’s part. But God is calling us to exercise faith. He’s calling you to exercise faith—faith over that valley of dry bones where you live or where you work or where you minister, maybe within your own home—to believe that by God’s power these dry bones can live again.

We see in this word to these dry bones that it’s not Ezekiel’s work. It’s not the work of the dry bones. They certainly can’t bring themselves to life again. It’s the work of God. It’s the breath of God, the spirit of God. God says, “I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you . . . and put breath in you.”

From start to finish, regeneration and revival is the work of God. We cannot make revival happen. We cannot bring revival. What we can do, as one Bible teacher of the last generation said, “We can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”

In verse seven Ezekiel says, “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. But,” and here’s the problem, “there was no breath in them” (verses 7-8). No ruach. No spirit. No life!

These bones had come together, but they were still very much dead. No breath. No life.

It’s not enough for us to just come together and make noise, rattle around, as those bones that are still dead. That’s a picture of moral reformation without the reviving work of the Spirit of God.

It’s a picture of where so many of our churches and our homes and our own lives are. There’s this good outward appearance, but there is no real life. There is little evidence of spiritual life. There’s no breath. There’s no power of God. There’s no mark of the supernatural Spirit of God pulsating through our bodies and our homes and our churches.

People might come into the average evangelical church today and say, “There’s a lot going on here, a lot of noise, a lot of programs, a lot of commotion.” But as one Christian leader observed, the sad thing is that if the Spirit of God were taken out of the average church, 90% of what’s going on would keep right on going. It wouldn’t make any difference because so much of it is our effort, our ingenuity, our creativity, and not the ruach, the breath, the Spirit of God.

Verse nine, God said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath [the ruach, the wind, the spirit]; 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.”

So first Ezekiel was called to prophesy to the bones. That’s a picture of the proclamation of the Word. Then Ezekiel was called to prophesy to the wind: prayer. Speak to the bones, and speak to the Lord. Proclaim the word, and pray. Prophesy to the bones. Prophesy to the wind. Speak to God.

We can preach and proclaim the Word of God all day long, but there will be no life until we pray and plead with God and God hears those prayers and moves and causes His breath to breathe on these dry bones. We are utterly, absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit of God to bring about revival as we seek Him.

So Ezekiel preaches to those dry bones. Then he prays, and he pleads with God for the work of the Spirit of God.

During these weeks of seeking the Lord together, we need to be crying out to God. As I’m proclaiming the Word, together we need to be crying out to the Lord and to the Spirit of God. There will be no personal revival, no corporate revival, if we do not pray. Only the Spirit of God can do that.

Again, let me encourage you to be a part, each Saturday morning for the next 12 Saturdays, of the National Prayer Meeting for Revival. If you’ll go to, you can find out detailed instructions about how you can participate in that in a variety of ways.

Thousands of God’s people will be coming together over these next 12 Saturday mornings to cry out to the wind—not the wind literally, physically, but the wind that’s the Spirit of God, the breath of God—a crying out to Him for revival.

Verse 10, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath [the ruach] came into them, and they lived.” Life in a graveyard. Life in a cemetery. Life where there had just been dry bones.

“And [they] stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 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"’” (verses 10-11).

People were feeling this sense of desperation, the nation of Israel being scattered and no life, no sign of the Spirit of God. And so many of our churches feel that way today. At times we look around and see what’s going on, and we think, “It will never happen! There will never be this great revival.”

But that’s not the heart of this passage. The heart of this passage is to say, “O Lord, You know what You intend to do and what You can do that no one else can do.”

Verse 12, “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus say the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.”

That sounds to me like something only God can do. You don’t go to funerals today expecting graves to be opened and bodies to come out. Only God can bring life to lifeless bodies.

And God is saying, “That’s exactly what I intend to do; not just in the final resurrection, but I’m in the business of resurrecting lifeless bodies and believers and people and churches today. I will open the graves and raise you from your graves, O My people.”

Verses 13-14, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit [my ruach, my breath, my life] within you, and you shall live.”

That’s what revival does. It brings us from a state of being lifeless, comatose. Many people in times of revival who never had spiritual life to start with will actually be born again—they’ll be regenerated. And those who do have life but have been living as if they were lifeless will come back to life.

You shall live. “Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord” (verse 14).

So what’s the result? As we seek the Lord for revival, as we cry out to Him, what’s the result? The result is that God is glorified. “You will know that I am the Lord.” Not only will you know, but others will know as well. That’s the objective: so that the world can know that He is God.

As God brings this ruach, this breath, this life about, we will believe in the power, the majesty, the greatness of God.

The lack of life in our churches and in our lives today is not because of all the false religions out there. It’s because of the dry bones in the churches. That’s the problem in our world. That’s why the gospel is not going out with more force and more vitality in our world. That’s why it’s not more persuasive in our world, because so many of our churches are filled with dry bones.

So many of us as believers are clueless about who God really is. We know a lot about Him, but we’re not experiencing the living, vital, vibrant power of the Spirit of God in these bones.

I love that hymn that was written in the early 1900s: “O breath of life, come sweeping through us; revive thy church with life and power.”

Is that your prayer? We’re joining over these weeks to pray, to seek the Lord, to cry out to Him, to seek Him together with other believers. So let’s join our hearts today in praying that prayer.

Lord, we do pray. Breath of life, visit us. Come, Spirit of God. Move on these dry bones. Fill us with life. Breathe on us, breath of God; fill us with life anew, that we may know—that those around us may know, that the nations may know—that You are God. Do it for the sake of Your great name, for the sake of Your great kingdom, and that the gospel may go forth in our world with power, with credibility, as these dry bones come to life. We bless You and thank You, O Spirit of God, for moving in our midst. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Do you want to see some dry bones in the church wake up and live? That’s one of the passions of Revive Our Hearts and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s one of the reasons she wrote the Seeking Him workbook. It’s helping women who feel dry learn to live again.

One listener, for example, Brenda from Minnesota, wrote to us about Seeking Him, and this is what she said:

I have just received my copy of Seeking Him and have begun to work through it in anticipation of leading a group of about 70 ladies. My heart is broken, and I can’t seem to stop crying over the depth of my sin.

I had the idea that this would be good for our ladies, but oh, it’s me standing in the need of prayer! Thank you, Nancy, for something I so desperately need in my own life.

We’re praying that women like Brenda will experience revival all across the country.

Many women ordered the Seeking Him workbook and began the study Monday, when Nancy started a radio series of the same name; but it’s not too late for you to receive Seeking Him and go through this material yourself. When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you the Seeking Him workbook, along with a booklet called Preparing for Revival.

Don’t let life go on as usual. Experience the joy of personal revival. Ask for Seeking Him and Preparing for Revival when you call with your donation. The number is 800-569-5959. You can also donate online and order this material. Just visit our website.

You’ve heard the term prayer warriors. Tomorrow you won’t just hear about the term, you’ll literally hear prayer warriors asking God to revive His people. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.