Summary: This text encourages us in knowing that we can have new life in Jesus Christ.
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. 2) He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3) He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4)Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5) Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6) I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7) So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8) I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9) Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10) I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11) Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12) Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13) And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14) I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD. (Ezekiel 37: 1-14)
This passage of scripture describes a vision received by Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a Jewish man, who at the time of this event, was in Babylonian captivity. In the third verse of Chapter One, he is described as being a priest. However, Ezekiel is better known for his ministry as a prophet – someone designated to foretell and forth-tell the will of God.
In this vision, Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones. This vision was not a premonition of an archeological discovery. Rather, what he saw represented a community of faith that had lost the will to live. He saw a collection of disinterred memories; scattered fragments of the way things used to be. He saw the arid remains of a lifeless and disconnected society. He saw a nation whose sin emptied the hour glass of God’s grace; he saw a people whose time had run out.
In the broadest sense, Ezekiel saw an environment of death. The community members were separated from life, relationships, hope and dreams. They were aggregated in a valley. Instead of milk and honey, this valley contained no signs of prosperity, nothing to provide nourishment and nothing of market value or economic worth. Geographically, valleys are often found near hills and mountains. So relatively speaking, a valley was the lowest point where one could go; the valley was rock-bottom.
After Ezekiel surveyed this surreal cemetery, God asked him ‘Can these bones live?’ This question would seem more appropriate for a life science professional than an expatriated priest. Ezekiel’s knowledge base was reflected in his response ‘O Lord God, you know’.
If we listen closely, we can hear our own despair in Ezekiel’s response. We read books, conduct studies, and consult experts, but often we do not have any proven solutions for fixing the challenges in this world. We read in the media of humanity’s inhumanity, epidemics of disease and crime, and people seeking to cope through that which can be injected, smoked or swallowed. We see the young and the hopeful grow into the old and skeptical. We ponder, ruminate, cogitate, deliberate, meditate, reflect and contemplate but ultimately reach Ezekiel’s conclusion – only God knows. Only God knows if neighborhoods can be infused with brotherhood. Only God knows if people will stop mistaking the means by which they live as the reason for which they should live. Only God knows if society will stop using a person’s pay rate in the market place as an index of their worth as a person. Only God knows when we will elevate our morals to the height of our buildings. Only God knows how long the wicked will prosper and the righteous will suffer. Only God knows when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God. Only God knows.