"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, Behold, there were very many in the open valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I behold, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them above: and there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the Wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore, prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith Lord God; behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord." — Ezekiel 37:1-14.

    Ezekiel walked out in the midst of a pile of dry bones and inquired of God what He wanted Him to do. And God said, "Ezekiel, I want you to prophesy upon these bones." In other words God said, "Ezekiel, I want you to preach to that crowd." A pile of dry bones wasn't a very promising looking crowd, was it? I think I have preached to some churches that were just about as dead. But, anyway God said, "Ezekiel, I want you to preach. I want you to prophesy upon these bones and I'll tell you what to say." "First thing I want you to say is this: O ye dry bones hear the Word of the Lord " Wouldn't that make a good text for some preacher to face his crowd on Sunday morning? Wouldn't it be a good one to get up and say, "O. ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord?" Well that is exactly what Ezekiel said as he stood out there in the valley. I imagine he found a little place, higher than the others, and he stood up on it and said, "O. ye dry bones, I want you to hear the word of the Lord." Then here is what he said: "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and ye shall live." Brother, that is a real message. If the modern preacher would give a message on that text, he would do well, wouldn't he? If he could say, O. ye dry bones, you are going to live, you are going to have life. That something which has been lacking for a long time you will have once again." God said, "I will cause breath to enter into you and ye shall live." That is what Ezekiel told the bones.

    Ezekiel said, "While I was prophesying something happened. First, there was a great noise." You know, I don't mind noise, not in the least, if it is the right kind of noise. Fact of the business is, I thoroughly enjoy it. But while Ezekiel was preaching he said there was a great noise. That congregation to whom he was preaching really got noisy. The bones began to rattle and there was a shaking among them. (Anytime people laugh when you use an expression like that, you know exactly what they are thinking about and what they have been doing.) Well, the bones began to rattle. That is what the Bible says. Get it and read it. The Bible says there was a shaking and there was a noise and the bones began to rattle. Then it says, "Bones came to bone." I imagine that must have been a great sight as Ezekiel caught a vision of that thing. "Bone came to bone." I don't know whether it started with the head or with the toes, but I rather imagine it started building up from the toes. The last bone out there on the big toe came into place. Then the next one came by it. Then the next one came by it. Then, the next toe and the next toe. Pretty soon there was a foot. Then another bone and another. Soon there were ribs, then a head, arms and fingers. Soon there were skeletons standing Up all over the valley. Old Ezekiel stood wondering "What in the world" is taking place. God was giving him a vision and soon skin and muscle came and covered all the bones, and they stood there, yet they did not have life. The entire valley is filled with corpses. Then God said: "Call for the four winds." And Ezekiel called for the four winds to breathe upon these bones and they did live. They stood as an exceeding great army. God's prophet, amazed and astounded, looked on and wondered what it meant and what is God doing. What sort of a vision is this He is giving to me? Then God spoke to him saying, "Ezekiel, son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold they say, Our bones are dried and our hope is lost: we are cut off from our parts. Thereupon prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it: saith the Lord."

    God likens the House of Israel to a valley of bones. With the Lord's help we would like to liken the church to certain kinds of bones.

    The first bone we want to consider is the jaw bone. This bone is located in the lower part of the face and is suspended on pivots just below the ears so that the jaw can move up and down. Upon these bones are mounted rows of teeth which we use every day. The jaw bones are used to talk with and bite.

    These are the folk in the church that make up the gossiping and back-biting crowd. These are the big talkers and braggers. They brag on what they would do if they were at the head. They gossip and tear down the reputation of the leaders, the pastor, the Sunday School superintendent, the deacons, and they brag on how well the church would prosper if they were pastor or deacon.

    They back-bite. Of course they always bite in the back so the other fellow cannot defend himself. Yes, there are some "jaw bones" in the churches. Big talkers, they say, are little thinkers. They are very fluent speakers about the weather, current events, their clothes, their jobs, their homes, and the like, but it certainly is strange when they should talk about the Saviour and testify for Him they get lockjaw. Brother, Sister, if you are a jaw bone and if you ever get salvation you will stop all this jawing. You jaw or complain about your wife, your husband. If you were different perhaps your wife or husband would be different. You complain about your children. I suppose they take after their grandparents. Let God give you an experience that will change your jaw-bone.

    The second bone is the wish bone. I can't locate this bone in the human body. But we do find it in turkeys, chickens, and other birds. The superstition is, if you get the biggest portion of the wish bone when you break it with a friend you can make a wish and it will come true. I never found this to work. But these "wish-bone" Christians are in the church. They wish they could preach or sing. They wish they could be a missionary and be a great soul winner. They wish they could live victoriously like Sister So-and-So. They wish they were on fire for God. They wish they could give $1,000 toward God's work, yet don't give $10. These folk are always wishing to be someone big — do something great. However, this is about as far as their activity goes, just wish about it.

    These folk build spiritual air castles. They visualize themselves getting blessed and preaching great sermons. They visualize themselves holding great meetings and souls being won by the scores. They see themselves with great personalities They visualize themselves giving great testimonies, and singing beautiful hymns. Of course they always have the prominent part and are the main one; as they walk down to them.

    These are wish bones. Throw away your wish bone and be what God wants you to be, whether great or small, high or low, prominent or unnoticed, popular or persecuted, success or failure.

    The next bone is the funny or crazy bone. We are sure your doctor would not designate to you the location of this bone. But if you strike your elbow or knee cap a certain way you probably will say, "Ouch, I hit my crazy bone." The crazy bone is very sensitive, touchy and easily hurt. Yes, we have some of these bones in our churches. They have their feelings stuck out and are easily hurt. When they see a group whispering together, they just know they are talking about them. What makes you so important that you would be the center of the conversation? If they can't be a Sunday school teacher they stay home from church. Perhaps you are fit to be a teacher. If they are not elected they want to quit. Perhaps it would be better if you would.

    The next kind of bones are the dry bones. This is a condition rather than a structure. The churches are full of dry bones. Formal, severe, prim, exacting and as dry as dust. When they preach with their long black robes on one could go to sleep and be more inspired at the end of the sermon. These kind of bones enjoy a wailing choir, a moaning organ, and a quiet sanctuary. No testimonies, no audible praying, no shouting, no glory, fire or power. No praying through. God deliver us. However, these bones get very lively at a ball game, or a church cakewalk or church dance. They sure can become as busy as bees at a church supper and as noisy as birds in a cage at the Ladies Aid or the Mens' Frolic. Brother, get some of God's Heavenly Dew into those dry bones, you'll be so happy.

    The last bone is the backbone. This bone is the most important. It connects the top and lower parts of our body. It protects the spinal cord, the mainstay of the nervous system. All the main organs of the body hang from the backbone like clothes on an old fashioned clothes tree. This bone is the main support of the entire frame.

    God wants us to be backbones. There are still some in our churches. These bones refuse to compromise. They refuse to soft pedal sin. They won't fix up and be-deck themselves like the world. They are no relative to Jezebel or Delilah. This kind of folk stands firm against the world, the flesh, and the devil. They are the mainstay of the church. They are dependable and attend church whether it is hot or cold. They have a testimony and do not "testimoan." They are on fire for God and pay their tithes. They keep blessed during hard places. They are saints — children of God.

    God help every one of you to be a "backbone" for God and the Kingdom.

    Maze Jackson