Ezekiel 37:1-38:23; James 1:19-2:17; Psalm 117:1-2; Proverbs 28:1
Ezekiel 37:1-10 is so interesting. On a sheer literal level, what an event! A valley full - full! - of bones, dry as only old bones left to themselves can be. Abandoned, unloved, unburied. A terrifying moment of noise as the bones rattle together, a fear-inducing rejoining of skeletons, then the covering with tendons and muscles and skin. A great host of lifeless bodies, standing inert until life enters them with breath, and they live.
I mean, wow. Really. WOW. This is more suited to a Halloween Haunted House or a Dia de los Muertos celebration!
A few comments on the literal level:
* For a good Jew, like Ezekiel, this scene would have been revolting. Unburied bodies contaminated those nearby, causing ceremonial uncleanness (see Num. 19:11, for example). A valley full of them would distress an observant Jew.
* Notice the emphasis on very dry bones. These are ancient bones, picked clean by scavengers and left to bleach in the sun.
* The amount of bones is significant: it's not one or two skeletons, nor can we be sure the bones are even in skeleton-like heaps. It's a scene of destruction and death and loss. These are "the slain" (Ez. 37:9).
But then look at this on the spiritual level.
God asks Ezekiel if these bones can live. Then, through his prophet, God acts to restore, to renew. He makes a promise and then fulfills it. God takes the dead and broken and brings new life and wholeness. Despair and destruction make way for hope and a future. Nothing is beyond our God.
A few comments on the spiritual level, and some application for our own lives:
* Ezekiel's faith - "you alone know" (Ez. 37:3). I can hear my answer to that question, a resounding "no." I've taken high school biology. I know the stats on physical life after death. But Ezekiel acknowledges that another option is possible with God. I want to live my life in a manner that indicates the same trust and even hope. "You alone know," Lord, whether my marriage is salvageable. "You alone know," Lord, whether these medical treatments will heal me. "You alone know," Lord, whether my loved one will turn toward you in repentance.
* Ezekiel acts as the Lord commands (vs. 7, 10). His simple declaration of trust leads him to act in faith, and the result of his obedience is dramatic. What an event he gets to be a part of because he obeys! Even when confronted with a seemingly impossible situation, Ezekiel prophesies - and the Lord answers. This, too, is an encouragement to me: God is capable of healing the fractured relationships in my life; God is eager to deliver me from the habitual sin that keeps me from Christ-likeness; God is able. No matter how desperate the situation, it can be redeemed. God can redeem. But my obedience comes first.
* True life is the ultimate goal. It's not enough to have a body without life, without vitality. This "vast army" (vs. 10) is only truly animated by the breath of God. I, too, am only really alive when filled with the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit. We all know men and women who live a deadened life, joyless and monotonous. That is "life," but yet is not. God offers so much more. "I will settle my Spirit in you and you will live" (vs. 14). Hallelujah!
"Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him all you peoples. For great is his love toward us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever" (Ps. 117:1-2, emphasis mine). Amen and amen.
- Sarah Marsh
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