The imagery of Ezekiel’s dry bones has captured the imagination of generations. Ezekiel was a prophet living in Babylon, after Jerusalem’s defeat and its citizens exiled there, in 587 BCE. His vision of dry bones brought to life, has captivated readers through the millenniums. Ever since it’s first readers opened a scroll and read hope, where no hope could exist.
Bones scattered on a barren land. Bones so dry that any life emerging from it is an impossibility. Yet, it is to this place of desolation, bearing witness to death, heart wrenching in its unfathomable loss, that Ezekiel’s vision takes him.
A landscape with shades of Gettysburg’s fallen soldiers, Hiroshima’s wasteland, bones of Rwanda’s lost children and where Ukraine’s mother’s weep. Here, with desolation ripping the heart in two, Ezekiel’s eyes open to dry, scattered, bleached white bones.
God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” In the face of the impossibility, he answers, “Oh Lord God, you know.” Because Ezekiel knows what is obvious to us, isn’t necessarily obvious to God.
Only the vivid words of scripture can do justice to the telling of this story, as Ezekiel speaks to those dry bones.
“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. 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. Then God 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.” I prophesied as God commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” Ezekiel 37:7-10
God responds to displaced exiles, by planting seeds of hope. Hope, that there would be a future. Hope, that a rich and beautiful life was still possible. Assurance, that God had not abandoned them. God comes with a message, that restoration was possible . . . Not only possible, but already being planned.
Ezekiel watched as God’s spirit poured life into those dry bones. God continues to pour God’s spirit in barren places. Even as Ezekiel watched God’s spirit breathing life into dead bones, God is able to breathe fresh winds into our lives. Wherever death, heartache, or grief has taken hold, God’s promise of renewal and restoration continues.
So breathe deeply of God’s spirit presence. Take heart . . . God is near, to breathe hope into the darkness and the deadness of our souls.
“I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live . . . then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:14
Such a powerful reflection, Shirley! A lot to ponder as I continue to reflect and prepare for Sunday.
Thanks! The passage has always been one of my favorite texts to preach on. There are no lack of images to work with.
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