My wife and I lived in a townhouse in the Baltimore, Maryland, suburbs several years ago when we were awakened in the middle of the night by sharp knocking on our door. Startled and groggy, I made my way downstairs and asked who it was through the closed door.
“You own a white Buick parked in the lot at the end of the row?” the man asked.
“Because the horn has been going off for over an hour,” he responded.
Our townhouses were adjacent to a street where each resident could usually park one car in front of their house, but any additional cars were parked in lots between the rows of homes. We lived on the far end away from the closest parking lot, and this was our neighbor at the far end who lived next to that lot. At some point in the night, someone broke into our car and tried to hot wire it (or cram a screwdriver into the ignition to be more precise) and in doing so the horn began to blare steadily. The would-be thief apparently scampered off leaving my car wounded and wailing.
I got dressed and made my way down to the car, stopped the horn from blaring, and then returned to my house and filed a report with the police department. The next day I called a mechanic and had the ignition and door repaired.
Now, this is a good time to explain that this was an old car. It had actually been my wife’s car that she drove starting in high school or college, so it was nearing the end of its life, but we were intent on driving it into the ground and avoid a car payment for a new car as long as we could.
A few weeks after that exciting night, I got up to go to work in the morning, walked to the parking lot and saw some shattered glass where I had parked my car the night before. That’s right—someone had succeeded in stealing it this time.
The police found my car a couple of days later in downtown Baltimore. The best we can gather is that some kids stole it just to go for a ride and then left it on the side of the road when they were done with it. The police hauled the car to an impound lot where I had to go through quite an ordeal to get it out.
And this is when my wife and I did some math and began pondering if it was worth repairing this aging car again, or if we should move on and purchase something else. My wife worked at a hospital at that time and her job required her to make it to work no matter what. We were also considering having children too, so we opted not to try to resurrect the Buick again and got rid of it. We ended up buying a Ford Expedition with 4-wheel drive right before gas prices shot up. Yeah, that was special.
Several years later, we experienced a similar decision with the Ford when we tired of paying repair bill after repair bill and opted to let that vehicle die and I got a much more fuel-efficient Toyota Corolla which I drive now. I know that in several years, the same will happen with the Toyota.
So why am I telling you about some of the cars I have driven? Because I would guess that you can probably relate and thinking about the cars we have had that eventually died can actually help us better appreciate this week’s story, Ezekiel Told about a Future Hope. (Unit 15, Session 4) You see, our experiences with cars that we relied on coming to the end of their “lives” and reaching the point where we were unable to “resurrect them” in a small way helps us feel the despair and hopelessness of Ezekiel. Better yet, go one step further and consider a junk yard full of rusting, rotting vehicles that were once pristine with that wonderful new car smell. Now each one is a useless hunk of metal, never to drive on a road again.
In a much, much larger way, that is how Ezekiel and God’s people felt about their nation. They were staring at a beaten up, broken down nation and seeing quite clearly that it was heading to the junk yard to rot without any hope for vitality again. The people were captives in a foreign land, their nation destroyed. The situation was bleak. Hopeless. And that’s when God gave Ezekiel the powerful vision of a field of dry bones.
Looking over that field of bones was similar to looking out over a junk yard—just more sobering. The field of bones represented God’s people. They were dead in their rebellion against God and completely unable to do anything about it. But then the bones stirred by the power of God. They reassembled and then muscle, tendons, and flesh grew on them once again. Finally, breath entered them and there before Ezekiel stood a vast army. From dry lifeless bones to living warriors. Impossible but for God.
God used this vision to help Ezekiel understand that the situation was not hopeless for His people. He would restore them again. But the vision is even more startling and beautiful than that because God was picturing something much deeper—He was picturing the gospel’s power to bring life and salvation to us through Jesus. That is what the Christ connection describes:
God showed Ezekiel a valley of dry bones. The dry bones remind us what we are like when we sin. God showed Ezekiel His power to make dead people alive. We see God’s power at the cross. Jesus died to save sinners. God raised Jesus from the dead, and He gives us eternal life.
To appreciate fully the power of God and beauty of the gospel, we have to first see our situation with the same despair and hopelessness as a junk yard or valley of dry bones. We have to look at death and decay in the eyes and come to terms with our inability to do anything about it. Our sin has rendered us dead, but God’s kindness provides life from that death. That is the beauty of the gospel we want to remind our kids of this week.
When have you looked at the hopelessness of life apart from the gospel recently and how has that helped you see the beauty of the gospel more clearly? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the November 27, 2016 session (Unit 15, Session 4) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.