image by Matthew Schwartz from Unsplash
The valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 is one of the most graphic and powerful visions given to us in the Bible.
I've always been fascinated by the imagery of that scene. Imagine seeing it come to life on the big screen. It gives me vibes reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean and Qin Shi-huang's terracotta warriors for reasons I can't explain. Slightly creepy surreal; yet without the horror element.
For the context of this vision: the people were unable to believe Ezekiel's prophecies of restoration in chp 36, because the bleakness of their external situations made them lose hope. There was a general atmosphere of despair, hopelessness, pessimism, even bitterness.
We don't have to look far to see traces of that same attitude in our world today. It's hard not to be depressed. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the vast problems in our lives, our immediate situations, or on a larger scale; in our communities and countries.
God gave Ezekiel this vision for a reason--to show them that hope lay not in how conducive or hopeful their external situation was, but in Him.
He did not comfort them by saying, "oh, it's not that bad, you shouldn't be so pessimistic!" He did not present a strategy after analyzing all the pros and cons of their situation, the statistics for success, the potential actions they could take. "Never say die. Believe in yourself. Here are the odds, and here's what we can try." He didn't encourage them to work harder, to put in more effort: "You just have to push yourself harder for what you want! You got to fight for this! The real war is in your mind! The only place left to go now is up!" and all the other motivational pep talk phrases you can find on laminated posters in bookstores, in capitalized Times New Roman font.
God showed the people of Israel exactly what their external situation was like--dry. Bleak. A valley of bones; not just dead bodies with traces of life still visible on them. Dry bones, all the signs of life and potential evaporated from them. God showed Ezekiel, not in one isolated action but in a specifically ordered process, how He restored those dry bones. He caused them to connect to each other, the skeleton army to reform; He caused the sinews and flesh to appear on them in a grotesque rewind.
And finally, most importantly of all, He breathed life into them.
The external situation was not the determining factor; no matter how dry the bones were, how impossible it seemed for life, God's power to transform and restore remained the same. Instead of obsessing over the bleakness of their situation and wallowing in despair--"Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!"--they should have sought God, looking to His ability to restore when human hope seemed impossible. It was not a question of whether God could restore them, but a question of whether they believed He could.
Similarly, even when all the apparent signs of life were there, when the external situation was promising,
He showed them that it wasn't what really mattered. They were still dead, despite the skin, the hair, the muscles; "...but there was no breath in them." It was still a valley of death, as surely as when they had been heaps of dry, disconnected, random bones lying around. Without God, even the best, most ideal external situations cannot disguise the fact that we are still dead. Spiritually dead, surrounded by death, despite the deceptive appearance of life.
It was God's breath of life upon them that transformed a valley of bones--of bodies--into "an exceedingly great army," a force to be reckoned with. With this symbolism, God introduced His promise of transformation and restoration from within, not just externally: "Then you shall know that I am the Lord...I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it." (v13-14)
If your life is going amazingly well, if you're flushed with success and pleasure and you have no griefs or anxieties driving you to seek God--please don't forget that we can still be like Snow White in her glass coffin; life-like to all appearances, but virtually dead.
If you're struggling with despair and hopelessness, feeling like you're one of the dry bones in the valley-God calls you through Ezekiel, exactly as you are: "O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live." He promises you what may seem impossible right now. Peace. Joy. Fulfilment. Forgiveness. Grace.
To both of us, He offers the same promise: "...I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore...I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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