Summary: God works with us in the impossibilities of life turning them into possibilities.
Dry Bones Can Live
Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14
We hear questions like these nearly everyday. “Will it ever stop raining? Will I ever get over this cold? I wonder when __________________.” You fill in the blank. These rhetorical questions are frequently asked by people who don’t expect an answer. When they are answered, it is usually with something like, “The Lord only knows!”
This passage of scripture from Ezekiel contains just such a rhetorical question. “Son of man, can these bones live?” Can you imagine poor Ezekiel? Here he stands in the midst of field where God had taken him. Obviously, it was the sight of a great battle where there had been such devastation, where there were so many dead bodies that the task of burying them was just too much. The bodies were left to decay and the bones to bleach in the sun. Faced by all these “dry bones” Ezekiel answers God, “Only you, Lord know!”
We are told the bones represent the nation of Israel carried off to Babylonia. It was common practice of the Babylonian Empire to deport the leaders, artisans, intellectuals; the cream of society, so to speak. Without their leaders, the poorer, ignorant people were easier to keep in line. Those who were carried off to a foreign land thought their circumstance was hopeless. They felt so helpless that a common lament emerged: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
How could they achieve the impossible? Would they ever see their homeland again? When will it all end? Why has God forsaken us? CAN THESE BONES LIVE AGAIN? --- The answer comes from Ezekiel’s lips, “O sovereign Lord, only you know.”
When I was 18 I had a surgery that left me with paralysis in my right arm. As the days of disability turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I wondered, “Will I ever be normal again?” Perhaps you have suffered an illness. Maybe you’ve gone through a divorce or the death of a loved one. Surely there have been times when you question and doubt knowing full well that only God had the answers to all those questions. So, in the meantime, how do we cope? What do we do? How do we live? What does this story from long ago tell us that can be helpful in our living today?
When faced with what seems impossible, we can remember Ezekiel standing alone in a huge field faced with the impossible task of making dry bones live again. What are your “dry bones?” With what impossible burden have you been laden? Regardless of your situation, there is much to be learned. Ezekiel’s experience teaches us three things about life and successful living through the challenges we face.
In Verse 2, we learn the first lesson in coping with the impossible. “He (God) lead me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” There was no escaping the situation. God wanted Ezekiel to see it all; to take in all the devastation, the vastness of the problem before him. God lead Ezekiel in surveying the situation and taking stock.
Following the example of this story, our first item of business is to face the situation squarely. What is the reality with which I must deal? What are my strengths, my weaknesses? What resources do I have at my disposal that will see me through this hardship? If you’re like me, relying on your memory isn’t the best thing to do. I’ve found that often circumstances aren’t as bad as I thought and I am better equipped to handle them. I’ve made that discovery after putting pen to paper. Instead of constantly going over the same things in my head repeatedly, I can get them down on paper and out of my head where I can see them.
In Verse 4, God spoke directly to Ezekiel telling him what the second step would be. “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Hear the word of the Lord!’” Prophesy. You tell yourself, I’m not a prophet. I can’t prophesy. I’m not a mind reader, I can’t tell the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
The subtle message here is this. God spoke to Ezekiel telling him to do something. The something he told Ezekiel to do was prophesy. God may be telling you to do something else. But, whatever it is, you cannot be an on-looker, a spectator. You’ve got to be actively involved. Ezekiel was involved and through his words the bones began to come together. But they weren’t just Ezekiel’s words; they were God’s words spoken through Ezekiel. It wasn’t Ezekiel who brought the bones together and put flesh upon them and covered them with skin. It was God’s word in Ezekiel that made it happen.