The Valley of Dry Bones - Ezekiel 37:1-14
A Reflection for Fifth Sunday of Lent
By Seanna Wong
Daily Lectionary reading for 3/26/2023: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
Selected passage: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Ezekiel 37: 1-14 New Living Translation
A Valley of Dry Bones
1-3 The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
4-6 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lordsays: 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.’”
7-8 So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “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.’”
10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.
11 Then he said to me, “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.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 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!’”
When I close my eyes and envision Ezekiel 37, I’m afraid. I see this Thriller-esque vision of a skeletal army standing before me. Flesh and muscle cloaked on with wind from every direction giving them life; chests beginning to beat, lungs starting to expand, and eyes that were just once hollowed out caverns opening. Mouths moving, joints stretching, tongues wagging, and somehow, too, identities restored, promises reinstated.
In this valley I see things I do not believe God can fix, or heal, or tend to. I see fumbled friendships, histories I’m eager to forget, plans muddied, and pathways covered in weeds.
I picture irreparable damage. Things forever broken, battles forever lost. Times which tug at the heart at dusk and prod at the mind at daybreak. Pitched plans I cannot bring myself to pray about any longer.
However, if Ezekiel 37 tells me anything it’s that God is powerful.
Can you hear the rattling of bones and picture the standing of an army of hollow skeletons rising?
The tying together of sinew, muscle, and flesh I imagine sounds like a shaking in the Earth, a thousand VHS tapes sped up all at once, and the rushing of water.
Can you hear the howl of the four winds forcibly flooding into this valley? Like gusts of air hitting you on a roller coaster. Like the constant hum and force of an unbridled hurricane, not coming to destroy but to restore. Can you believe your eyes, seeing what was once dead come to life?
God has a track record of working exceptionally well with dead and overlooked things in our lives. His themes of people going into graveyard situations one way and exiting out them another are pretty consistent.
On display in Ezekiel 37 is the mighty power of God not only for the army of Israel but also for you and me. For our dead things; dashed dreams, lost hope, and the pitched plans we cannot bring ourselves to pray for any longer.
Ezekiel 37 asks us if we believe God sees and knows those things as well as He knew the intricacies of the bones in the valley. If we believe those dead things can have a life again. And truly, if we believe the power of God extends even to ourselves.
I find it helpful that in times when we honestly don’t believe God will move this or that mountain, resurrect this long lost dream or ability, or change our lives in the miraculous way we drift asleep thinking about, that God believes it for us.
God asks Ezekial, do you believe these bones can live again? To which Ezekiel replies, only you know, Lord.
Thankfully we don’t have to know, figure out, or make do because only God can answer the long laundry list of questions concerning our lives. Instead of replying for God, what if we followed in line with Ezekiel’s obedience to see the power of God in our valley places and rest in the fact that only God knows.
What if we grabbed authority and power saying to dry bones: This is the word of the Lord.
Past regret: This is what the Sovereign Lord says…
Lost hope: Come out of your grave!
Untapped potential: You will come to life again.
Dreams and God-Planted Desires: Breath is coming from the four winds for you.
Peace, Joy, Rejoicing: You will rise.
Yes, the Lord has spoken perhaps so that we too may speak anticipating that He will answer with a rattling and mighty wind.
Picture for yourself The Valley in Ezekiel 37. What forgotten skeleton things; hopes, desires, and dreams lay there? What times of your life you think as mistakes unaccounted for. Decisions and ideas that seemingly went nowhere. Occurrences like strewn puzzle pieces you picture God has forgotten under a coach or behind a bookshelf so much so that you may even think, has God forgotten me?
Name these things and write them down. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring them to mind.
Now, picture for yourself the power of God invading this valley. Imagine these things resurrected by The word and given life by The Spirit. Imagine them going well and having good endings. Imagine them strong and fulfilled.
Out loud, as Ezekiel obediently did, re-read the words The Lord gave Ezekiel to speak over the bones over dry things on your own list.
Lord, we thank you for being the same God in Ezekiel 37 1-14 that you are today. Thank you for faithfully watching over your word in order to perform. Thank you that none of your words can return to you void. Because of these things, Lord, we pray that dried up things in our lives will live again. That you will cover them with a protective layer of hope that sustains us and proves you worthy. We call on breath to come from the four winds into all the areas we’ve long given up on. Come four winds and breathe into our dreams, ambitions, and hopes so that when we rise again we only have you Lord to thank for this new life. We anticipate a rattling, Lord and we look forward to the rushing of winds in Jesus’ name Amen.
About the Author
You can read more of Seanna’s work online at https://medium.com/@seannawrites.