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August 31 Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 35-37
“Can these bones live?”
God’s prophet was led by the Spirit into a valley full of bones, to show the universal state of all men by the fall. The lifeless state of the whole human race is vividly set before us in their dead and ruined circumstances. The resurrection of these bones to life by the Spirit of God (represented in the wind) and the preaching of God’s prophet portrays the spiritual resurrection of God’s elect in the new birth.
Death is a terrible picture of our natural condition before God; but it is by no means an exaggeration. The whole world lies before us as a valley of dry bones, according to Ezekiel's vision; and if ever these dry bones are to live, it will not be through some innate energy in the bones themselves, or through the influence of the most zealous prophet. Education cannot develop life out of death. Persuasion cannot excite a dead man to life. And reason cannot instill life in a corpse.
The arm of the Lord must be revealed, or the case is beyond hope. Let men do all they can; weep, plead, preach, and prophesy; let all the “priests” of the world come with all their enchantments and drown the valley of dry bones in their “holy water;” and let the most illustrious “soul winner” come with his latest bag of tricks to make the dry bones look alive; all will be vain. Unless the Lord himself breathes life, the dry bones cannot live.
Place of Preaching
No, Ezekiel could not make the dry bones live; but he could prophesy to them. God commanded him to do so; and God gave him the ability to do so. Therefore, Ezekiel was responsible to prophesy unto the dry bones. Spurgeon said, “We cannot turn the dry bones into living men, but we can prophesy upon them, and, blessed be God, we can also prophesy to the four winds, and by our means the dead may live.”
Even so, we cannot give dead sinners life. Eternal life and faith in Christ are gifts of Divine grace created in the hearts of men by the sovereign power of God. But there are some things we can and must do for the souls of men. We can preach the Gospel of Christ to eternity bound sinners. We can make known the way of life to the lost. We can instruct the ruined in Gospel truth. And that which we can do, under God, we must do.
“Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” — If I know that a man is perishing under the wrath of God, and I know the way of eternal life by faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ, and if God gives me the ability and the opportunity to preach the Gospel to that perishing sinner, it becomes my responsibility to do it (Ezekiel 33). I preach the Gospel because I love Christ, I love his Gospel, and I am concerned for the souls of men. I do it willingly and cheerfully. Yet, I am under constraint to fulfil my responsibility. If I know that a man is under the just penalty of eternal death, and I refuse to tell that man the way of pardon and life in Christ, then I shall be under the penalty of death. God says, — “His blood will I require at thine hand.”