Imagine what God can do with the living
Week 11, Day 5
Ezekiel 37. 1-14
Here is Israel’s question, felt and spoken from the depths of exile: Is this all there is? This is our question, too, felt and spoken in times of despair and darkness: Is this all there is?
God’s question, “Can these bones live?” hints at the answer the Jews in Babylon would have given—“Of course not. Don’t be silly. Dead is dead. Don't you get that?”
Come next spring, many of us will dig up our gardens and plant seeds. The seeds will die; we know that. But we trust that in dying they will be transformed into a new and more fruitful life. Even those of us without green thumbs have some confidence in that.
When the dark days come, though, we have a harder time trusting that miracle to work in our own lives, the life of our church or the life of our nation. It’s one thing to hope for a seed to grow. Hope is another thing altogether when we are a jumbled pile of dry bones. Growing a tomato is hard. Ezekiel’s task, for us, seems unimaginable.
But God is not daunted by our lack of imagination.
“So I prophesied as I had been commanded” Ezekiel writes, “and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone… Then (the Lord God) said… ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath (the spirit) came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”
The word for “breath” in this passage is the same word used in Genesis 2, where God shapes the dust of the earth into a human form and breathes into it the Divine Breath—the Divine Spirit; “And the human became a living being” (Genesis 2.7). The story is the same to. What is dead and useless to us is the stuff of life in the creative hands and through the enlivening Spirit of God.
And this brings us to the real point of this story. The captive exiles believed they were as good as dead; for them there was no future. “But you are clearly mistaken”, Ezekiel is telling them. “Look, I have seen what God can do with a valley full of dry bones. If God can raise the dead, imagine what God can do with the living!”
You see, this story is not about raising the dead. This story is about resurrecting the living; giving hope to the living. This story is about the enlivening presence of the Spirit of God—smack in the middle of whatever darkness, difficulty or hopelessness we are walking through.
This story is about breathing.
If God can enliven a valley full of dry bones, imagine what God can do with us.
Prayer: God of the Living Breath, fill our lungs and our lives. In our dark times revive us. In our bright times use us to bless the world you love. 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: 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.’