The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again 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 that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 37:1-6 NASB95)
Do We Have Dry Bones?
It has been a busy week, but then again, most weeks tend to be busy for me. But it has been a good “busy.” I enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy the people with which I work. It makes the “busy” go by much quicker. Nevertheless, busyness catches up with you: especially if you are closer to 60 than 50; or carrying a few too many extra pounds! So, I am tired. And I can feel it in my bones. Getting up from behind my desk requires a little extra effort, and I am far too comfortable in my easy chair than I should be. Have you ever felt that tired?
Being physically tired is one thing; but being mentally, and more importantly, spiritually, tired is another. When we are mentally tired, we cannot focus, and we often become irritable and combative. It’s not pretty. The best thing we can do is to rest and recharge. The nation of Israel, or more particularly, the Kingdom of Judah, had become spiritually “dry.” It had lost passion—and even sight of—the faith to which they had been called. YHWH, the God of Israel, was Judah’s God, and His temple was in Jerusalem. YHWH had rescued this people from Egypt and brought them to the “promised land” where, even when they had failed, He had blessed them time and time again. Yet, early in the 6th century, the people of Judah had become “dry bones”—no life, no faith, and no love. As God’s people, they had reached the proverbial “end of the line.” Indeed, the Babylonians had enough of Judah’s failure to keep their promises to pay tribute. In 586BC, Judah was carried off into exile in Babylon, the walls of Jerusalem were torn down, and the temple was pillaged.
How did this happen? Over time, Judah’s kings increasingly desired to imitate their neighbors. They began to worship the gods they worshipped: putting altars up to Baal and Asherah—god and goddess of the harvest and fertility—and sadly, to Molech—the god of fire and war and to whom children were sacrificed. These kings committed abominations that the early kings of Israel and Judah could not have imagined as the people of the living God. Put in another way, Judah had moved as far away as possible from the worship of and relationship with the living God. They had become a people devoid of spirit. The final straw for the Lord was Judah’s King Manasseh. Manasseh’s abominable behavior was so wicked, so evil, that Judah’s doom was sealed. Fifteen years before Judah was taken in captivity to Babylon, Ezekiel was taken there. God called him to speak to the remnants of Judah, even as they were besieged by the Babylonian armies.
Prophesy Over Dry Bones
As they face imminent doom and the prospect of being dragged to Babylon, leaving their homes and their livelihoods, God, through Ezekiel, speaks a word of both judgement and encouragement. The people of Judah have become as a valley of dry bones: no flesh, no blood, no life; decaying in the hot sun. Most importantly, there is no breath, no Spirit, no life. The implication is that the breath of God is no longer in them. With no Spirit, there is only decay and death. But the Lord does not leave them that way. He instructs Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones:
“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 that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6 NASB95)
The Word of the Lord brings the breath of God (the Spirit) into their lives and restores their body and their faith.
Restoration Through the Spirit
As Americans in 2020, we wrestle with a horrifying pandemic, political chaos, and apocalyptic hurricanes and wildfires. It becomes easy to allow our fear, anxiety, and anger to overshadow, and even displace, our relationship with and reliance upon God. Through His Word and Spirit, God can and will restore us in such a difficult time; but we must turn our gaze from the horror of our world and onto the beauty and truth of our God. As we turn our face to God in prayer, and allow His Word—as it is in Jesus—to speak to our hearts, God’s very Spirit restores us bringing sinews, muscles, and skin back over our “dry bones.” If you think this unique period in the history of America will take the life from all us, you are simply wrong. God will see us through, as long as we turn our gaze upon Him once again. May the love of our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, and the fountainhead of the Holy Spirit fill your heart and restore peace and purpose to your life.