A Valley of Dry Bones
My favorite Bible story comes from the Book of Ezekiel. I know, Old Testament. Believe me, I resist the O.T. sometimes! Lots of genealogy, lots of sacrifices, lots of violence, lots of rules… It is intimidating, especially to new Christians. But there is a lot of beauty in the Old Testament, too. This story is one of those beautiful ones. Ezekiel 37:1-14, Ezekiel’s vision of a valley full of dry bones. Ezekiel is one of the major prophets of the Bible, living during the time when the Temple was destroyed and King Nebuchadnezzar (yes, I had to copy and paste that!) had exiled about 3,000 prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. Ezekiel was a priest, therefore he was one of the citizens of Judah exiled to Babylon.
So, this prophesy begins with God grabbing Ezekiel and carrying him away to a great valley full of dry bones. As far as Ezekiel can see, from horizon to horizon, there were piles of dry bones, bleached white by the sun. God led Ezekiel through the piles of bones, and I can only imagine what Ezekiel was thinking. Some translations say that Ezekiel was grabbed by the Spirit of the Lord, and couldn’t escape. So, not only was Ezekiel grabbed out of nowhere by the Spirit of the Lord, but then he was plopped down into this huge valley of dry, dusty, lifeless skeletons, being led around by the Lord.
And then God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I’m sure at this moment, Ezekiel was pretty sure that no life could be found in these dry, dead bones, but that God wouldn’t drag him out there among them for nothing. So he answers, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that.”
Then something beautiful begins to happen. The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Ezekiel obeys the Lord and prophesies over the valley of the dry bones. Suddenly, a tremendous rattling sound overtakes the valley, and the once dry, lifeless bones begin to pull together, forming complete skeletons. The Message version of this Scripture says, “Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them.” Can you imagine the awe and fear Ezekiel was experiencing? When Scripture refers to the fear of the Lord, I try to think of what Ezekiel must have been feeling at this moment. It would be impossible not to be a little bit scared of the One who can take dust and use only His words to form life. That is incredible, tremendous power.
So, standing before Ezekiel is a valley of formed bodies without breath. Then God speaks to Ezekiel again. “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”
Ezekiel prophesies to the wind, as God asked him to. And suddenly, breath enters into the lifeless bodies. They came to life and stood before Ezekiel. The New International Version of this Scripture calls them a “vast army.”
Then the Lord leaves Ezekiel with a sweet promise of redemption for the exiled of Israel. “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”
On November 28th, my family and I will be celebrating our 3 year “churchiversary.” Maybe it’s weird that I keep track of and celebrate the first day I ever gathered up the guts it took to visit a new church. But, it was a huge thing for me! It was the first time in years I had ever willingly attended church. At that time, I really had no interest in a relationship with God. To be honest, I had no clue that it was even possible to have one. I just knew I needed SOMETHING, and I was willing to give church a shot. I had religion hopped a little before settling into passive agnosticism at that point. But, I was constantly seeking, from a very young age – yearning for acceptance, love, forgiveness, healing.
You see, I love this Bible story so much, because my bones were in that valley. Dry, dusty, bleached white. It wasn’t until that day in November, at the age of 25, that I heard the Gospel for the first time, and my bones woke up. And all it took to bring them to life was a tiny taste of the majesty of the Lord. One whisper of the Lord’s word and I was brought out of the grave of grief, rejection, hurt, low self-worth and into a life of joy, hope, love, friendship and forgiveness. The Lord, in His great mercy, saw my brokenness and instead of pushing me away, like I so deserved, took me in and healed my heart. He made me whole, and changed my life.
I’m not saying life has been perfect since then. Life in this broken world will NEVER be perfect. Not even close. I’ve experienced great joy and great sadness in the last three years. But what’s different now is I have the strength of the Lord keeping me steady through it all. I have His great promises. I have His eternal love and comfort.
I encourage you, if you’re seeking healing, bring it to the Lord. If you’re hurting, try a simple prayer. If you’re lost, cry out to Him. If your bones feel old and dry, turn to the One from whose innermost being flows rivers of Living Water. It doesn’t have to be a grand production. Be honest with Him. He’s always willing to step in. Let down your walls. Open your heart to Him and experience the life-changing, life-bringing power of the Lord.