"Can these bones live?"
Week 11, Day 3
For November 19
From the Annals of Sennacherib, the King of Assyria: “With the bodies of the enemy’s warriors I filled the plain, like grass”
That’s quite an object lesson he left behind after conquering a country. No one would miss the point and very few, certainly none of those who survived, would be interested in challenging him. The God of Israel, however, will rise to the challenge
Ezekiel is carried “by the spirit of the Lord (who) set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry”. And the question comes to him, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
Now think about that for a moment. Ezekiel comes upon this vast display of very dry bones, probably chewed on, carelessly strewn about. Nothing in the scene before him offers the slightest hint or hope of life. “Can these bones live?” Can you imagine a question more easily answered with a “No!”
“Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord’ ”.
Nearly every Sunday in church somebody falls asleep during the sermon. From a preacher’s perspective, this can be distracting and discouraging. Having slept through many a sermon myself, however, I understand how easily it happens. What I can’t quite imagine is the task Ezekiel is given—preaching to a congregation where everyone has fallen asleep—or worse, where every last person is so deep and long asleep that their ears have fallen off and turned to dust.
“Prophesy to these bones…” Yeah, right. Maybe I’ll just go downstairs. I’ll have the whole potluck all by myself.
‘‘Prophesy to these bones… and say to them: ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you…’” The prophet-priest-preacher Ezekiel enters the pulpit of a lifetime with a message for the ages. He knows where the power for life resides and is confident in the words he is given: “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 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.”
Here, in simple terms, is the message Ezekiel delivered: When you think you’re good as dead, you are mistaken. When you wake up to find you are alive, thank God.
Prayer: God, whose breath is life, breathe your Spirit into us. Open our dusty ears to your creative word and awaken us to the life that is already ours. Amen.
1 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 round 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: 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.’