Summary: Can God bring life to those old dry bones? You betcha He can! ...
"The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry."
A few years ago now an American university newspaper offered a prize for the best definition of life. Here’s a few of the entries that received honourable mentions:
* Life is a joke which isn’t funny
* Life is a gaol sentence that we get for the crime of being born.
* Life is a disease for which the only cure is death.
* Life’s a bitch, and then you die.
That last one’s not really one of theirs. I think it’s one of ours, but it’s of much the same ilk.
Now I don’t know how many of those one-liners ever made it onto bumper stickers, but apart from all being composed by young people, each of those sayings also has something else in common – they are all cynical.
And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that even amongst wealthy educated people in the wealthiest and most educated part of the world, from amongst the most wealthy and educated generation in human history, there is a great feeling of dissatisfaction with life – not just a dissatisfaction with certain aspects of life, but a dissatisfaction with life itself?
Some of you will remember those mighty words of Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols, concluding their final concert in the USA, where they played for about 15 minutes and then walked off, with Johnny’s parting words being ‘did you ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?’
That’s it I think. Many of us, young and old, wealthy and less wealthy, educated and less educated, look out on life and feel that we’ve been cheated.
Ted Turner, the American TV newsman, put it beautifully: “Life is a B-grade movie. You don’t want to leave in the middle of it, but you don’t want to see it again either.”
Hey, we thought we were getting something more than this when we bought our tickets! What do you mean there’s no refund?
Or to quote John Cleese (dialoguing with himself):
“What was that?
That was your life mate.
Oh, do I get another one?
Sorry, only one per customer.”
And Ezekiel sat in the valley of the dry bones, and God said to him “Son of man, can these bones live?” And Ezekiel paused and looked up and shrugged his shoulders and said, “You know, Lord. You tell me.”
And we’ve been there, haven’t we? We have spent time in the valley of dry bones, have we not? As we walk around with Ezekiel, the terrain looks familiar, doesn’t it?
It is a valley of death. This is where the soldiers of the army of the people of God fell. This is where the cream of Israel’s youth were cut down by the men of the Babylon. This is where the resistance movement of little Israel, fighting for survival against her much more powerful enemies, ended.
And yet the stench of death is no longer in the air. This is not the grizzly sight of piles of bloodied and mutilated human bodies, such as greeted Napoleon’s eye’s when he made his famous comment that ‘the field of glory is never a pretty sight’. These are not freshly killed warriors. These are the long dead. They are just bones now, and indeed, those bones are now very dry, so that we have no idea now to whom these bones ever actually once belonged.
These are the bones of the dead and gone - the long-gone. The fighting men of Israel are long dead, and the army is long gone. When the army died, the city fell and now the nation is long gone. And when the nation died, our hope fell, and we lost our homes, our families, our dreams and our identity. They are now all long gone.
And now we, the survivors, wander around Babylon, existing rather than living, remembering with increasing haziness the lives we once had, not daring to dream that things could ever be different from what they are now – recognising that all our hopes and dreams and joys in life were inextricably tied to that world that no longer exists, and accepting that there is absolutely nothing that we can do that will ever bring that world back again!
Every morning I read the headlines that are wired onto my computer desktop, hoping for positive news from the Middle East. And every day I am greeted with further tales of terrible violence and bloodshed. More civilians have been attacked. More children have been killed.