When my wife and I took our honeymoon, we were living right on the poverty line. I had graduated college and was working three jobs just so that we could pay bills and she could finish her final semester of internship. Therefore, there were no fancy cruises or big trips planned. Instead, we went to Vicksburg, MS and stayed in a bed and breakfast over a long holiday weekend. We visited the Coke museum, the toy museum, ate out, and went to a movie. However, one of the things I really remember was the visit we made to the Vicksburg National Military Park. This park contains 17,077 graves of Civil War soldiers, of which 12,909 are unknown. Row upon row of white tombs stand as a testament to the horrors of war and the death that inevitably follows.
I can’t help but picture a scene like this when I read today’s scripture passage. God leads Ezekiel to a valley that is littered with bones, picked clean, and decayed almost to the point of being nothing but dust. We don’t really know what has transpired in this valley. Was there a war? A famine? A drought? A plague? All we know for sure is this: there is no life here, only a monument to death.
It seems so appropriate for a season in which we follow Jesus out into the desert of temptation, a season in which we follow the Israelites out into the wilderness of Sin. We enter into the reality of our own valley of dry bones. We look at the mounting casualties of our own war with sin and death. We see what was once our life strewn to and fro across the dry wasteland of temptation, sin, and rebellion. And it is in this situation that we hear the words of God ringing in our ears, “Can these dry bones live again?”
It is a great question. In fact, it is the question of our life. In the midst of our failure, is redemption possible? In the midst of our abandonment, is reconciliation possible? In the midst of our pain, is healing possible? In the midst of our death, is new life really possible? Can God really cause these bones to rise again? Can God really really bring good out of tragedy? Can God really breathe life where there is only death?
I can do no better than to echo the prophet Ezekiel, “O Lord God, you know.”
When I look with my human eyes, I see hopelessness. When I look at my life - all the struggles I have on a daily basis, the ongoing sin, the temptations I give in to day after day, I just want to throw my hands up in the air and give up. I can get so depressed by my own faithlessness that I can’t do anything, much less actually believe that another reality is possible. But then I remember that I can only see things from my own limited perspective. I remember that God has the wide-angle lens to see what is possible with my life (and yours).
Ezekiel describes God’s intervention in this helpless situation. He commands the prophet to speak, saying, “Come the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they might live.” The word for breath here is ruach, and is the same word used for the Spirit of God. The prophet is saying, “Come, O Spirit of God, from the four corners of the world, from the very edges of creation, and converge in this place. Let the storm of your creation and re-creation descend to bring life where there is no hope of life. Let this dead ground be the fertile soil from which resurrection springs.”
As we draw closer and closer to Easter, this story is a reminder that the resurrection is not just about Jesus. We need new life. I need new life. These dry bones are the reality of our life, our very existence (or lack thereof apart from Christ). God wants to do more than rehabilitate our lives. God wants a total renovation. God wants to do more than resuscitate our old bodies. God wants to give us new life. God wants more than revival. God wants re-creation. God wants resurrection. Let it be so, O Lord. Let it be.
Prayer: God, I often find myself overwhelmed in my own valley of dry bones. My life lays in ruins and I feel hopeless. Breathe your life into me. Breathe your Spirit into me. Resurrect me and give me new life, I pray. Amen.