So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and 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, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Have you ever found yourself standing in a valley of dry bones, realizing you are surrounded by dust and decay, with no signs of life? Ezekiel finds himself in such a situation, placed there by the Spirit of the Lord, who then asks the question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” This is a question we might ask ourselves when we look around us and see only dry bones - hopelessness and the dusty remnants of something that used to have life. Whether it is a relationship we wish could be salvaged, a political landscape that feels bleak, or the prospect of even more months of social isolation as a global pandemic drags on seemingly indefinitely.
But there is hope. Hope in the Sovereign Lord who, with a word, can command breath from the four winds to breathe into dust, death, and decay and bring new life.
The Lord placed Ezekiel in this valley of dry bones and instructed him to prophesy to the breath so that he would know the Lord’s plans to bring new life to the people of Israel. But how can we know that the Lord will bring new life to us? Can we know that God will breathe new life into the relationship we so desperately want to revive? Can we know that God will command the four winds to blow through our country and sweep the dust off a broken political system or swiftly end the threat of a pandemic? I don’t think we can.
But as we stand amidst the bones and gaze upon the hopelessness that threatens to consume us, we can remember that in the moment of their despair, the Lord breathed new life into the people of Israel and brought them to a new land. We can remember the times in our own lives when the Lord has taken something broken, pulled it from the ashes, and given it new life. We can pull our eyes and hearts from the hopelessness of the dust and look toward the God who loves us. And when the dust clears, I wonder if we might even be surprised by the new life we find rising out of the ashes.