The Hope of Revival
37 The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. 2 He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. 3 Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
4 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! 6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”
7 So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. 8 Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’ ”
10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’ ”
I. The Spirit must reveal to us the dryness of our spiritual condition (vv. 1-2)
II. New life and revival rest in the sovereignty of God (v. 3)
III. New life and revival are contingent on hearing and obeying the Word of God (v. 4)
IV. Any sustained movement of God is a spirit-filled movement (vv. 5-10)
V. A sure sign of dryness is a lack of hope (v. 11) due to exile (v. 12) and a lack of knowledge of God (vv. 13-14)
Hope, it would seem, is a psychological necessity, if man is to envisage the future at all. Even if there are no rational grounds for it, man still continues to hope. Very naturally such hope, even when it appears to be justified, is transient and illusory; and it is remarkable how often it is qualified by poets and other writers by such epithets as ‘faint’, ‘trembling’, ‘feeble’, ‘desperate’, ‘phantom’. The Bible sometimes uses hope in the conventional sense. The ploughman, for example, should plough in hope (1 Cor. 9:10), for it is the hope of reward that sweetens labour. But for the most part the hope with which the Bible is concerned is something very different; and in comparison with it other hope is scarcely recognized as hope. The majority of secular thinkers in the ancient world did not regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion; and Paul was giving an accurate description of pagans when he said they had no hope (Eph. 2:12; cf. 1 Thes. 4:13), the fundamental reason for this being that they were ‘without God’.
Where there is a belief in the living God, who acts and intervenes in human life and who can be trusted to implement his promises, hope in the specifically biblical sense becomes possible. Such hope is not a matter of temperament, nor is it conditioned by prevailing circumstances or any human possibilities. It does not depend upon what a man possesses, upon what he may be able to do for himself, nor upon what any other human being may do for him. There was, for example, nothing in the situation in which Abraham found himself to justify his hope that Sarah would give birth to a son, but because he believed in God, he could ‘in hope’ believe ‘against hope’ (Rom. 4:18). Biblical hope is inseparable therefore from faith in God. Because of what God has done in the past, particularly in preparing for the coming of Christ, and because of what God has done and is now doing through Christ, the Christian dares to expect future blessings at present invisible (2 Cor. 1:10). The goodness of God is for him never exhausted. The best is still to be. His hope is increased as he reflects on the activities of God in the Scriptures (Rom. 12:12; 15:4). Christ in him is the hope of future glory (Col. 1:27). His final salvation rests on such hope (Rom. 8:24); and this hope of salvation is a ‘helmet’, an essential part of his defensive armour in the struggle against evil (1 Thes. 5:8). Hope, to be sure, is not a kite at the mercy of the changing winds, but ‘a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’, penetrating deep into the invisible eternal world (Heb. 6:19). Because of his faith the Christian has an assurance that the things he hopes for are real (Heb. 11:1); and his hope never disappoints him (Rom. 5:5).
There are no explicit references to hope in the teaching of Jesus. He teaches his disciples, however, not to be anxious about the future, because that future is in the hands of a loving Father. He also leads them to expect that after his resurrection renewed spiritual power will be available for them, enabling them to do even greater works than he did, to overcome sin and death, and to look forward to sharing his own eternal glory. The resurrection of Jesus revitalized their hope. It was the mightiest act of God wrought in history. Before it ‘panic, despair flee away’. Christian faith is essentially faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead (1 Pet. 1:21). This God towards whom the Christian directs his faith is called ‘the God of hope’, who can fill the believer with joy and peace, and enable him to abound in hope (Rom. 15:13). Because of the resurrection, the Christian is saved from the miserable condition of having his hope in Christ limited to this world only (1 Cor. 15:19). Christ Jesus is his Hope for time and eternity (1 Tim. 1:1). His call to be Christ’s disciple carries with it the hope of finally sharing his glory (Eph. 1:18). His hope is laid up for him in heaven (Col. 1:5) and will be realized when his Lord is revealed (1 Pet. 1:13).
The existence of this hope makes it impossible for the Christian to be satisfied with transient joys (Heb. 13:14); it also acts as a stimulus to purity of life (1 Jn. 3:2–3) and enables him to suffer cheerfully. It is noticeable how often hope is associated in the NT with ‘patience’ or ‘steadfastness’. This virtue is vastly different from Stoic endurance, precisely because it is bound up with a hope unknown to the Stoic (see 1 Thes. 1:3; Rom. 5:3–5).
In the light of what has been said it is not surprising that hope should so often be mentioned as a concomitant of faith. The heroes of faith in Heb. 11 are also beacons of hope. What is perhaps more remarkable is the frequent association of hope with love as well as with faith. This threefold combination of faith, hope and love is found in 1 Thes. 1:3; 5:8; Gal. 5:5–6; 1 Cor. 13:13; Heb. 6:10–12; 1 Pet. 1:21–22. By its connection with love, Christian hope is freed from all selfishness. The Christian does not hope for blessings for himself which he does not desire others to share. When he loves his fellow-men he hopes that they will be the recipients of the good things that he knows God longs to give them. Paul gave evidence of his hope just as much as his love and his faith when he returned the runaway slave Onesimus to his master Philemon. Faith, hope and love are thus inseparable. Hope cannot exist apart from faith, and love cannot be exercised without hope. These three are the things that abide (1 Cor. 13:13) and together they comprise the Christian way of life.
Tyndale House Publishers: Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 2nd ed. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, S. Eze 37:1-14
cf confer (Lat.), compare
NT New Testament
Wood, D. R. W.: New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962, S. 479