Title: What Does It Take to Revive A Church?
Text: Ezekiel 37.1-14
When I was in college, I did a research paper on the Walsh Revival of 1904. It began w/ some young people and just exploded, lit.: around the world. Men would rise early and go to the church house for a time of worship, fellowship, prayer. As they were leaving and heading off to work, students then came in and did the same. Next, women came in. Business would close down for lunch. People would stop in through the day. The church doors were open all day and people were kept coming all day long and into the evening hours. The pastor would get up and lead the benediction come 9.30, 10.00 pm and then the people would start singing again, going til midnight and later. The people just couldn’t get enough of God and Worshipping him!
Businesses changed. The police had nothing to do because crime came to a standstill. Pubs shut down because no one was coming. They had to re-train the horses that worked in the mines because the men no longer used foul language and the horses didn’t understand the commands w/ out the bad words! The police, which used to be crowd control managers, were no longer needed. So, they formed singing groups and would entertain at events!
One story goes that at a trial hearing, the man simply stood up and pled guilty. He said he needed forgiveness, repented of his sins. The Jury started singing, like they were in the choir loft or something. They just had a church service in the courthouse.
I know that revival isn’t something you schedule on a calendar, but I know it’s real. I tasted something like this once, many years ago. I think we started at 6 pm. The pastor got up and led us in a benediction at 9.30, it took another hour to get people to leave.
What does it mean for a church to experience revival? Have you ever experienced an authentic revival within the church?
What is revitalization in a church? How does it begin? Where does it start? Turn to Ezekiel 37. I think I have some answers for you this morning. Rd v 1-14; Pray; There are at least four elements to this revitalization of Israel.
But as we open up and begin reading Ezekiel 37, we’ve got to gain some context. Ezekiel was a prophet in the Time of Israel’s Exile. Their lives had been destroyed. The Temple, destroyed. The Walls of Jerusalem knocked down. The house and buildings burned. People were exiled, that is, those who were still alive. Their identity and understanding of who they were was destroyed. What would become of them? As a nation, they were dead. The Northern Kingdom had been destroyed in 722 BC. Their 10 Tribes would basically disappear as the Assyrians intermarried with them. They became a new people known as the Samaritans. Now, 136 years later, The Southern Kingdom was experiencing something similar. Would this be the end of them?
But God had a plan for them. Note 1st element of Revival:
I. The Work of the Lord (1-3)
exp.: rd v 1;
- The Hand of the Lord; 39 x’s in Scripture; most of the time it appears it is in the neg.; But not so with Ezekiel, in Ezekiel, 7 x’s, it appears to be a good thing; the point is that Ezekiel, every single time we see the hand of the Lord, it is good; Here, look what the Hand of God does; rd 1&2;
- He brought me; He set me; He led me;
Q.: Where does God, bring, set, lead him to? The middle of a valley – negative, as opposed to Mountain Tops; Q.: And just what is this valley filled with? dry bones; dead people! What an image! Not even a cemetery! it appears to be, not a cemetery, but a place where bodies have been dumped and decayed.
Then, God asks him a question: rd v 3a; Can these bones live? Ah, no; You know, maybe if they was flesh around it and the corpse hasn’t been dead for too long? 3 minutes? I can hear the Lord saying to me: Fred, just answer the question! But look at Ezekiel’s answer: (3b) O’ Lord God, You know. (Adonai Yahweh)
app.: Here I think, is the 1st application for us this morning. No people is so far gone, so dead, that God cannot bring them back to life. Even if it looks like it is humanly impossible, nothing is impossible for God! Do you believe this? The answer isn’t yes or no! The answer is: Only by the work of the Adonai Yahweh.
exp.: So, look what Adonai Yahweh asks of Ezekiel; rd v 4-5; Uh, you want me to talk to these dead bones? Don’t you think that’s pretty absurd? Lord God, dead bones don’t have ears. They don’t listen! They can’t hear!
Oh, friend, don’t you believe it! Sure, dead bones don’t listen to you and me, but they can hear and obey the word of the Lord, and that is the 2nd element needed for Revival!
II. The Word of the Lord (4-8)
exp.: Ezekiel, you prophesy over these bones – and I will cause breath to enter them! rd v 6; Notice that God gives Ezekiel the Words to say; Ezekiel’s only words are a response to God and his obedience to the Lord’s command;
- Commands Him:
- Prophesy – a passive imperative! Now, if ever there was a definition of a Preacher – this is it! He’s passive, in that, there is nothing about him in this message; If he brings his best dog and pony show, it means nothing and amounts to nothing! 2nd, He is following a command of Adonai Yahweh!
- Say – in the original language, this is the simplest form of a verb; active voice; he is now involved; Funny, huh? I say funny, because God can do this alone. But that isn’t the way he works. He chooses to use people. Here, God uses Ezekiel. Q.: How might God be choosing to use you?
- Gives Him the Words: rd v 4;
- Hear the Word of the Lord (4) – Shama; Deu. 6.4; this is also an imperative: the Hebrew word “Shama” means to use the perception of the ears for hearing; to hear and comprehend information; Gen 29.11-13; to hear and respond; indeed, older translation will translate this word ‘harken’
- Let’s read again what he’s to say; rd v 5-6; So, what does he do? rd v 7a; “So, I prophesied as I was commanded.” Obedience! 2nd application today: God just might be desiring to use you, but it requires obedience on your part! And look what happens: rd v 7b; Wow, Ezekiel takes the 1st step of obedience and God begins to work! Ezekiel speaks God’s Word and God begins to work immediately.
exp.: rd v 8; interesting, it all doesn’t happen at once; more work is required;
app.: God Commands; We Obey; God Works!
t.s.: so what happens; rd v 9; he says, Call for the Wind – and that’s the third element for revival:
III. The Wind of the Lord (9-10)
exp.: It’s amazing to me how many times this word appears in these 14 verses; one word in Hebrew, but three in English; ַ רוּחַ (rûaḥ); spirit (1), Wind (10) , breath(e), well, if you can’t find a verse with this word, you’re not trying hard enough! v 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and down in 14 when we get there!
Often times in Scripture, the wind represents the Holy Spirit; This is the picture we see here: a mighty rushing wind! rd v 8-10; Notice this time that this word is a name – O Breath; It’s like he’s saying – and could be translated: Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe on these slain, that they might live! 37.1 – Spirit; Rd v 10; I did and it did and they did! And they stood, an exceedingly great Army!
t.s.: The Elements we’ve seen so far are: The Word of the Lord, the Work of the Lord, the Wind (The Spirit) of the Lord, and There is one last element I notice here in this passage: The Will of the Lord.
IV. The Will of the Lord (11-14)
exp.: rd v 11-14; These bones are Israel; Israel feels dead, lost, cut off; 3x’s we see a popular phrase from Ezekiel: Then you shall know that I am the Lord. 6, 13, 14
app.: That’s His Will; that’s what he wants! This isn’t about Israel and her depression! God is passionate about His Glory. That’s what he desires more than anything else; He wants the Holy Spirit to breathe life into us and make us an exceedingly great army. Not because we’re depressed about the rotten state of the United States. God doesn’t want to Make America Great Again! America is only great if God is displayed as Great in her! For some reason, God chooses not to act alone, but he chooses to use us for His glory. He wants to do this work in us, so that all will look at us and say: We know that He is the Lord. That’s why he wants to breathe his life into us – for his glory.
I love the last few words there in the chapter: I have spoken and I will do it declares the Lord. Now, contextually, he did – Israel returned to her land and grew. As time went by, God brought the promised Messiah. And in Acts chapter two, God breathed the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.
I believe we have the makings of revival right here. What I mean is: we’ve got all of the elements – The Lord’s Word, The Lord’s Holy Spirit, and we know it is the Lord’s Will. All we need now is for the Lord to Work. Will you pray for that? And then, will you participate?
- Consider: I think of this place – Tarpley Baptist Church. How many years ago was it that no one came to this place on Sunday mornings? But, look at it today? I wonder what it would take to return it to a valley of dry bones – an empty shell collecting dust. I don’t want that, but I wonder, is it a simple, quick trip? And wouldn’t that be a shame.
- Surrender: Think about Ezekiel’s surrendered spirit to the Lord. What would it take to be totally surrendered to the Lord? As a church, as an individual? I think we often desire revival. I think we’d love to see a spiritual awakening in our country. I think we’d love for our country to come back around to God – but, the problem is that we’re usually thinking that’s what ‘they’ need. Those people who are burning down buildings and flags, those people who are rioting and looting mom and pop shops. But the truth is, it won’t get out there until it gets in here!
- Pray: Ask the Lord to do as he did with Ezekiel – that we would be brought and led and set, right where he wants us, in order that me might gain a proper perspective.