Dry Bones

Jasmine writing on how we respond to dry seasons of hopelessness, pointing to the ultimate hope we have in a God who enters into our valleys and who does not give up in proclaiming life to us. She uses a vision from Ezekiel 37 to illustrate this hope:

 

Dry Seasons

“I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

A sentence that changes every thing.

We’re entering into a season where many of us feel weary. Life around us is busy, with family gatherings and travel plans and shopping lists, but inside we feel dry.

How ironic that in a season where we reflect on Life entering into the world we often feel lifeless. We know we’ve been given life by the Giver of all life, and we know it should cause us to rejoice exceedingly with great joy, but our hearts linger behind, unable to catch up with this good news ahead of us. Dry, uninspired, unmoved, we sit and watch Christmas happen around us.

But God has spoken.

 

The Valley of Dry Bones

In the book of Ezekiel, we find people who are also feeling dry. Not just a few people, but a whole nation: the nation of Israel. They’ve been under the oppressive hand of other nations for so long they can no longer hear within their own heads the promises God had given them to make them into a great nation and a great people. The sound of hope is muffled out by the sound of dry and brittle bones, gathered in a massive heap, telling them over and over again that no life remains, that all hope is lost.

But God has spoken.

Enter in Ezekiel the prophet. In a vision God gives him about the spiritual state of Israel, he says:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon 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.”

Looking over a valley that looks hopeless and lifeless, Ezekiel hears the words of the God who has been with Israel the whole time. He has been with them in their birth, he has been with them in their life. He has been with them in their sojourning, and he has been with them in their wandering. He has been faithful to them when they have committed countless breaches of faith against him. He has been with them always, and he shows up even in their deadness. The Israelites had chosen for so long to shut their ears to what God was saying to them, and they find themselves in a dry and brittle pile of hopelessness.

 

The God Who Shows Up

But God shows up to the valley of dry bones, and he speaks.

Ezekiel hears this God show up. He continues to say:

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

He watches the impossible unfold. The great heaps of dead bones turn to flesh right before his eyes. As soon as he opens his mouth, proclaiming the good news that God has not left them in their deadness, the bones are raised to life. What seems dead is made alive by the simple word of God. And at the single command of God, breath enters in. From a heap of dead and dry bones, to an exceedingly great army of living people.

 

The Valley of Hope

God has spoken, and life has been given. But he doesn’t stop there. He continues to speak:

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

The LORD recounts this miraculous wonder, and he recounts the reason behind it. He sees that the people are left without hope, and he speaks. He says, “I see that you are dead, yet I still choose to call you ‘O my people.’ I see that you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. I see that you are without hope, yet I give you hope.”

How? Because he is the LORD.

Why? So that all may know that he is the LORD.

He has spoken, and he has done it.

Even when we feel dry and hopeless, God is still LORD. He shows up to a people who are dead. He enters into a world that is hopeless and becomes dead himself in order to give life to dry bones. He sends his only Son to give hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless. The glory of his name is seen in the manger, it’s seen on the cross, and it’s seen as he raises his Son from death to life for the sake of dead-hearted people. He gives his people a new heart.

God has spoken, and this is the hope we hold onto. He doesn’t abandon those who feel lifeless; he keeps speaking to dry bones.

If you’re in a season where you feel dry and hopeless, know that you’re not alone down in that valley. God has entered into the valley, and he chooses to meet you there. Take this hope that he’s given you. Prophesy over your dry bones; proclaim this good news to your downcast soul. God delights in raising the dead to life, and he won’t stop raising us up until the day we are finally drawn up to be with him.

We don’t know when we will feel alive, but we know that it will happen. So what do we do in the meantime, when we feel dry and brittle and hopeless? We prophesy: we proclaim God’s great message of hope to our dry and brittle bones.

Preach this good news to yourself, for God has spoken, and he has done it, and he will do it again.

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