Out in the desert around Tucson, AZ is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. 4400 planes sit in its inventory, all different sizes from all branches of service. What’s different about the planes at this base, the vast majority aren’t ready to fly. And instead of making them ready to fly, they’re using them for parts. Or converting them to target drones for other planes to blow up. Others have been gutted and are waiting to be broken down into scrap. This is the largest airplane boneyard in the world.
Planes in the boneyard are mainly there because they’re dead. No longer flying, these planes are in a sad condition because planes are meant to fly. In the first lesson, there was another sad sight of a boneyard. Ezekiel was given a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. Dry dead bones of human beings. Long dead. Disconnected and incapable of life. The very thing human beings are meant to do. An entire valley filled with dry bones must have been sad. But where this vision ends is the lesson for us. It’s important we understand each aspect of what Ezekiel saw and what God was helping him to grasp. What starts out as sadness and despair ends in joy. But not without the work of the Lord. It’s only by his work that …
Dry bones live again
God’s Word brings new life
God’s Spirit brings spiritual life
Before this vision, Ezekiel had been given the difficult task of speaking to his own people the words of the Lord. What made it difficult was those words weren’t positive. The people of Judah, half of the former nation of Israel, were already living in exile in Babylon. This forced exile was because of their own actions. Unfaithfulness to the Lord God, worshiping idols of their heathen neighbors, and near-constant sin against God had finally forced God to act. In captivity, they felt and experienced the anger of the Lord. Everything Ezekiel was sharing made it seem like God would wipe them all out.
Then the Lord softened towards them. Ezekiel started bringing a more positive message. God was going to restore them. He would bring them back to their homeland. Things were looking up for the people of Judah in exile. Yet after hearing so much negativity in the messages from God, with the fact that God was being truthful in his accusations towards them, they fell into despair, disgrace, and shame. Like dry bones on the valley floor. “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.” The people of Judah were like dry dead bones. Lost and hopeless. Their sinfulness against God gave them no reason to hope for life. Like dry bones they were finished. What could they do? What could they offer?
We’re part of the living. But we’re in that vision of Ezekiel. Because our actions and thoughts betray the truth. We’ve been led or led others to get involved in activity that makes our conscience hurt because of guilt. Cheating at school where we weren’t caught, but we knew. A word we spoke about a coworker that has them in trouble when it was really our fault. Actions and thoughts where the guilt is real. The more we sin, the more we’re like those dry dead bones. What kind of life in God can we have if we’re sinful? What kind of action can dry dead bones take? Nothing we do can change our sins or give life to our dry dead bones.
The Spirit of the Lord leading the tour of the valley of dry bones asked the human being a question. “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel caught the emphasis. He was nothing more than flesh and bones himself, alive right now, but dry and dead in sin like the disconnected bones on the valley floor. The Lord was leading Ezekiel and us to the right answer. “Can you live? Can you in your sinfulness, dry and dead before God, can you live?” Ezekiel’s answer is your answer. “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” You have no power, but the Sovereign Lord does. He’s over everything. In control of everything. He created you and he knows what needs to be done.
God’s Word takes action. Ezekiel spoke to the bones under command from the Lord, and the bones listened and responded due to the power of God. So too God’s Word speaks to you. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Life where there was only death before. Life from God for you. God’s Word confronts your sinfulness with the breath of life. Life from outside you through words. God’s Word brings you new life by turning you from your deadness to your life in Jesus. The one who was left for dead. Who his enemies thought would turn to bones. The one who instead showed life can come from the dead. His resurrection assures you of new life. The Word of God loudly proclaims over your sinfulness, it is forgiven. You have new life now from the dead.
God took two steps to grant these dead dry bones new life. In one step he gave them muscle, flesh, and skin. They went from dead dry bones to something like corpses. Still, they didn’t have breath in them. In the next step, God had Ezekiel call the breath from the four winds. It was something only God could do, make breath come into these former dead dry bones. They once were dead, but now we’re alive. This pictures not just the physical, but the spiritual.
The valley of dry bones was just a vision. The exiles weren’t physically dead, still being pictured as dead. The Lord God talked to Ezekiel about the exiles, people spiritually dead. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them.” This isn’t physical resurrection from the dead, but spiritual renewal. A person with new spiritual life has had their grave opened because they won’t be occupying it for eternity. New spiritual life guarantees eternal life in heaven. The Holy Spirit went to work among them through the Word and brought them to faith. Led them back to a trust in God again. And God restored them, first to their homeland, and finally to heaven.
If all God was going to do was raise our bodies from the grave someday we would have to still be sad. Physical resurrection after death wouldn’t mean anything for us alone. That wouldn’t change the outcome of our eternity. Dead bodies that come alive but are spiritually dead are still dead. Hell is the only place for those who are spiritually dead. Suffering that lasts forever is all that is left for those who have no connection by faith to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
God’s power goes beyond putting your flesh and bones back together like he did for those dry dead bones in the valley that stood up alive. “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” It’s the Holy Spirit God sends into your lives now that grants you the hope for a future with God in heaven. That Holy Spirit is like living breath. When he enters you, at baptism or through the Word of God later in life, it’s like your grave is opened. You don’t physically come back from the dead, but spiritually you do. New life in the Holy Spirit. Assurances from God’s Word you will live forever.
God takes you from dry lifeless dead bones to new living spiritual beings with the promise of heaven. And thanks to the sending of the Holy Spirit, that we remember on this day called Pentecost, that work of continuing to grow your faith happens to this day. The Holy Spirit works and lives in you. He brings about changes in your life. You have joy in forgiveness. You come through despair. You hope in a future that is secure in Christ.
A small number of those 4400 planes in the inventory out in the desert will actually be called back to active service. They’re merely being stored right now. So many will never fly again. That’s why its called the largest aircraft boneyard in the world. Planes go there to die. You and I were pictured in that vision of the valley of dry bones Ezekiel saw. We were dead, dry bones. But that’s not a bad thing. We aren’t dead now. In Christ Jesus the Lord gives new life and forgiveness of sins. Like those dry dead bones that were given the breath of life, God grants us new spiritual life. The breath of life, the Holy Spirit, is in you and me to bring us to a new hope in the future of heaven. That’s our promise and our reality. Dry bones live again through the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.