These Bones Shall Live Again
Here’s a God question for you,
a question God puts to you:
“Mortal,” God calls you, “can these bones live?”
I’ve been thinking about the prophet Ezekiel,
prophesying to that valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37.
And I’ve been thinking about these dry, anxious, fearful times
we’re living in.
We are all anxious right now,
whether you feel it or not—
because I’m not talking about a feeling
but something more like a state of being.
We’ve been threatened by something we can’t see,
a virus, a danger we don’t know how to stop.
I think we have come face-to-face with our mortality,
our inherent human weakness,
we see ourselves for what we really are—
mere mortal creatures of fight or flight,
and it’s driving us crazy.
We are helpless and don’t know what to do,
so we will do anything
just to feel like we are doing something,
even if it’s nothing—
so we binge shop on toilet paper
(our defense against mortality is mere tissue paper),
as if chucking a few rolls at this thing
will knock it off course.
Who can go to the grocery store,
watch everybody else,
and not feel
like they should scoop up some more
of whatever it is they don’t really need?
So I love this story:
God brings Ezekiel into the wilderness,
and sets [him] down in the middle of a valley … full of bones …
there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
God’s people had lost hope,
they’d lost everything,
they couldn’t see the future,
didn’t know what to expect next.
There is no more life in them,
they don’t know how to live in these times.
They are past fear and past anxious:
They are helpless and hopeless
as dry bones.
So God asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
And the answer is obviously—no.
But Ezekiel is stretched to his limits, too,
and prophet or not,
he can’t bring himself to face the obvious.
And yet, can’t bring himself to put his trust in God, either.
So he vacillates:
“O Lord GOD, you know.”
“Prophesy to these bones,” God says,
“say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
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.”
So Ezekiel does what he’s told.
He prophesies, and before he can get the words out of his mouth,
there was a noise, a rattling,
and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
Flesh and skin covers the bones like real bodies—
but there was no breath in them.
“Prophesy to the breath,” God says,
“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.”
… and the breath came into them, and they lived…
And suddenly, it’s a new beginning;
it’s like God creating human life all over again,
just like the second chapter of Genesis.
Then [God says],
“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.’
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.
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.”
God is a God of life.
In these dry and anxious times,
whenever you start to feel helpless,
whenever you find there is nothing you can do,
but you find yourself looking for something,
anything to do,
just to feel like you are doing something,
even if it’s nothing—