Ezekiel Gave Hope – Ezekiel 37
Ezekiel was a priest in Jerusalem, who was deported to Babylon after the first Babylonian attack on Jerusalem. About 5 years into his captivity, Ezekiel began having visions of Jerusalem. He became “a news reporter” to the Jewish exiles thousands of years before the advent of television! (And since Ezekiel’s news reports came straight from God, he was probably a much more accurate reporter than our modern-day TV reporters)! For a long time, it seemed Ezekiel had only bad news to report. He put a spotlight on the sins of the Israelis, which had prompted God’s judgment on them. He told the exiles that they wouldn’t be going home soon; instead, he foretold of coming destruction: the siege on Jerusalem, its devastation, and most heart-rending of all, the total destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
You see, ever since the exodus from Egypt, the sign of God’s presence among His people had been the tabernacle and then, the temple. God had promised His people that He would live among them and that His glory would hover over the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. If the temple was destroyed, then what did that mean for the Israeli people? Was God done with them? Had He left them? If so, then all hope was gone. There was nothing to live for.
Ezekiel’s message became one of life-giving hope; God was NOT done with the Israeli people. In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel communicated two dramatic stories of hope for his people. First, he described walking in a valley of bones – literally pieces of skeletons of dead people. These bones represented the deadness of the people of God. For hundreds of years, they had ignored God and had refused to respond to His love and blessings. Spiritually, they were dead, and that’s why God had to punish them by sending them into exile. But, through Ezekiel, God worked a miracle in the dead bones. God called those dry bones back to life, just as He was going to put new life, new hearts, and His own Spirit into the lives of His people. This is what God does with us when we give our lives to Him. He works a miracle. He breathes His Spirit into us and changes our hard hearts into hearts of flesh, which desire to do His will.
Second, Ezekiel took two sticks of wood and put them together to form one stick of wood. This was to show the Hebrew people that they would no longer be two nations: Judah and Israel. Instead, they would become one nation when God brought them back from captivity, and they would remain one nation forever. Guess what? Today, Israel is one nation, not two! However, not everything in Ezekiel 37 has come to fruition yet. “My servant David” is a phrase that refers to Jesus, a descendant of David (not David obviously since he had already died). The people of Israel have not yet recognized Jesus as their ruler, but this passage tells us that someday they will. We can pray that that day will come soon!
Activity – Balloon Play – show kids flattened balloons (not filled with air or water). Ask kids, “Is it fun to play with a balloon that looks like this? No! Balloons can’t do what they were made to do until they are filled with air or water. Did you know that we were created to be filled with something, too? We were created to be filled with God’s Spirit.
- • How can we be filled with God’s Spirit? We must give our lives to God. He must cleanse us from our sins.
- • The people of Israel were NOT filled with God’s Spirit. They were sinful, like we are. They couldn’t please God. They didn’t love God. They didn’t obey God. So, God punished them by sending them away from their land, but then, listen to what He promised them…
- • Read Ezekiel 36:24-27 - “ I will gather you together from all the countries. I will bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle pure water on you. Then you will be ‘clean.’ I will make you completely pure and ‘clean.’ I will take all the statues of your gods away from you. 26 I will give you new hearts. I will give you a new spirit that is faithful to me. I will remove your stubborn hearts from you. I will give you hearts that obey me. 27 I will put my Spirit in you. I will make you want to obey my rules. I want you to be careful to keep my laws.”
- • As you read, “I will put my Spirit in you,” begin pumping up the balloon.
- • Say, “This is what God wants for each of you. He wants to put His Holy Spirit in your heart so that He can be with you always. He wants to change your heart. He wants to forgive your sins. He wants to love you and live with you always, but you must invite Him into your life. You must give Him yourself.”
- • Do you know what keeps God from being with us? Our sin. We must ask Jesus to cover our sin before we can be near to God.
- • Blow up a balloon for each child, marking it with his/her name. As you blow up balloons, reiterate the point from above, expressing how much God wants to live with each of us, how much He loves us.