Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones
Lost causes aren't something new in life. There have been many times where I felt like I was the lost cause and there have been many times where I thought someone else was a lost cause. It just didn't seem like there was anything left that could be done. People dry up and wither from life all of the time for a variety of reasons.
Ezekiel faces this head on when the Spirit of God causes him to have a vision. In this vision, the Spirit of God carries Ezekiel off to a valley of very dry bones. It's a field of death. It's a desert. It's the sort of place where you can imagine just choking on dust in the air. Innumerable bones are scattered all across the ground and Ezekiel makes it a point to describe them as very dry. Whoever all of these bones belonged to have been dead and gone for a very long time. There's nothing about the bones that could possibly make you think life had been with them any time in the recent past.
As Ezekiel is taking all of this in, God asks him, “Can these bones live? Can they ever have life in them again?” Ezekiel responds by telling us that only God could ever know that. God tells Ezekiel to speak to the bones on the ground. He tells them to, “Hear the word of Yahweh, hear the word of God.” God will bring breath, the Spirit, a new wind, to these bones and they will live again and in this vision God does just that.
Wind from the furthest corners of the earth comes and God begins bringing life back to these bones. God takes the dryness, the brittleness, the lifeless and starts giving it life again but there's an interesting moment in this vision. The bones begin rattling as God is putting them back together. Tendons and ligaments are taking shape, and so are muscles and skin, but bones rattling together without the breath of God in them are nothing more than noise which begs a question:
Are you just a noise maker or has God breathed life into you? The breath of God finally enters these bones, God has resurrected these people, and we find out that all of this represents what God is doing with his people. In their hopelessness, in their situation of feeling like they're a lost cause stuck exile, even in this moment of death for them, they'll live again.
This work where God breathes life back into dry bones isn't just confined to Israel. It's what God does with all of us. You may feel like a valley of dry bones. Or you might look at someone and think to yourself, their entire life is a valley of dry bones. You might even think that about the community that you're a part of. That things just seem lifeless around you.
Walk away knowing this. God loves to breathe new life back into even the driest of situations. May that be your prayer. May that be my prayer.
A retelling from Ezekiel 37:1-14.
Storyline commentary on Ezekiel 37:1-14
Setting Yahweh gives Ezekiel a vision. The Spirit of Yahweh carries Ezekiel off to a valley full of very dry bones. It's a vision of dryness and lifelessness (v1).
- Ezekiel – Hebrew name meaning God strengthens. Deported from Jerusalem to Babylon where he received his call as a prophet. Ezekiel prophesies around the themes of doom and hope. Doom for Judah, Jerusalem, and against foreign nations. Hope for Judah and Jerusalem.
- Yahweh – The one whose word, whose breath brings life.
Tension Yahweh, through the Spirit, “visions” Ezekiel to a valley of very dry bones and asks Ezekiel the question, “How can these bones live? (v3)” Ezekiel is surrounded by dryness, by death, and what would seem to be an impossible question to answer.
There's also the question of, “What do these dry bones represent?” We come to find out that these bones represent Israel (v11).
Resolution Yahweh reveals to Ezekiel that the breath of Yahweh can bring life to these dry bones. In reverse order, Yahweh begins calling structure to these bones. Tendons and ligaments. Muscle. Flesh. But they're not a alive yet. It's only when the breath of God enters them that these dry bones have now come to life.
This is also a prophecy of hope for Israel. To them, it seems like exile is it. They feel cut off and can sense no hope. They are the dry bones that God can and will breathe life back into (vv11-12).
Why did people find this important to write down? Ezekiel gives us a beautiful image about the breath of God. From Genesis to Revelation, it's the breath, wind, Spirit of God uttering the word, logos, Jesus, into the world, into people, and giving life. This is just one of the many stories that points to the power of God's life-giving breath.
Why did this passage endure? It's a hope passage but it's also more than that. It's a resurrection passage. There was nothing to resuscitate. Nothing was left in this vision but dry bones. God spoke life into them. That image is eternal.
What is true for us today that was true for them then? There's not a soul in this world that doesn't want life breathed into them given the chance. Especially when life is dry, when you feel like there's no hope, or when you feel like you've been cut off.
What is the good news in this passage? Yahweh can breath new life back into dry bones. Even if your life is as dry as a desert, God can take it and breathe new life into it.
How does this passage help me love God better? God doesn't regard dry bones as lifelessness like we do. God can accomplish life in anything. That's quite amazing and praiseworthy. It's the sort of thing that God loves to do.
How does this passage help me love others better? It's a reminder to never give up on ANYONE. Just because we might see someone as a lost cost or they see themselves as that, it doesn't mean that God sees them as that.