There is not a much more lifeless, hopeless picture than the one painted by the prophet Ezekiel in his vision of the ‘valley of dry bones.’ In chapter 37, he describes a valley full of bones, bleached and dried by the sun; all appearance of life totally past tense. In his vision of desolation, God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live again?” What a question and the answer is obvious: “The day for life in these bones is long since passed! No, Lord, they won’t live again.” Ezekiel, however, knows that with God hopeless situations are not always that, so he says, “Lord God, only you can answer that.” (37:3) It’s not exactly a statement full of faith, but at least it allows for the possibility of life, however remote.
Some situations appear to be beyond hope, don’t they? It’s over. Relationships turn cold. Love for God dies under the weight of life’s urgent matters. Devotion evaporates in the heat of temptation and trials. Can these things live again? According to the Bible, yes! Ezekiel’s weird vision is about hope where there isn’t any! We do not need a huge surge of faith to experience that kind of restoration. We just need to be willing to allow for the possibility. Jesus says that is more than enough. “If you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to move from here to there. And it would. Everything would be possible for you.” (Matthew 17:20, CEV) His words are challenging, aren’t they?
Back to Zeke! Now comes the test. God said “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:4-5, NIV) “Preach it, brother,” the Lord told him. So Zeke spoke. I imagine that old man, rising up under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration with arms stretched out over that valley of death, thundering – “Live again, dry bones, hear the word of the Lord,” he said. At God’s direction, Ezekiel spoke the improbable into the impossible and as he spoke, those bones rattled and moved! They assembled into skeletons, began to be connected, then covered with flesh. As he continued to preach, the Spirit of God swept over the field of bones and “breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” (37:10)
It’s quite a vision, isn’t it? I am captivated by the promise in it! It was God’s message to His people who thought all hope was gone. These bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.” (37:11) The man of God needed obedience, courage, boldness, and vision to draw life back to that ‘dead’ nation. It was a work beyond his leadership skills and ability. Who can make bones live again? Only God can raise the dead! “You, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'” Ezekiel 37:13-14
Did your dreams die?
Are your ideals nothing but old dry bones?
Is your church, once alive with the Spirit, now a museum to past glories?
Is your spiritual life just a duty, as you hang onto traditions?
God is putting the question to you – “Can these bones live?” It’s His way to ask you for faith, be it ever so slight. As His Spirit stirs in us, let us become bold like the prophet, speaking the Words of life to a dead situation. “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!” Nothing is so thrilling as seeing God bring life back, breathing His life into a person, situation, relationship, or church that is in the natural realm, beyond hope. So, hear the Word of the Lord!
History tells us that God’s people did ‘live again.’ After the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, after the best and brightest were carried off to Babylon, a long night fell over the Jews, but then improbably the Spirit breathed and the nation was restored, the Temple rebuilt, the Lord’s people regained their identity! It was a story without parallel in history. Nehemiah gives us a snapshot of the restoration – “The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God.” (8:17)
Here is a word from the Word to ponder today. May it bring life to the dry places! “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:9-11, NIV)
Listen for the Spirit. Believe what He says. Speak His Word into your situation and see what God can do!