"So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone." --Ezekiel 37:7
If you study the Scriptures regularly, especially the Old Testament, you know that the Lord often speaks to His people through images or word pictures. It is not uncommon for the Lord to continue to speak to us in this way today, although the images we receive in prayer from the Lord obviously do not carry the authority or power of those recorded in the Bible. Most of us are visual people to one degree or another, so it is not surprising that God reveals Truth to us in this manner. What are the parables Jesus shared in the New Testament other than word pictures or contemporary images that His listeners would have understood and found vividly revealing?
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel shared the revelation he received from the Lord in a powerfully visual manner. The overall theme of Ezekiel's revelatory pictures is the overwhelming, all-consuming glory of the Lord. The Renaissance artist Raphael captured this theme in his 1518 painting shown above. While some of Ezekiel's visions can be hard to understand, the cumulative message of his prophecy is that the Lord of glory is the Lord fully in control of the world He created.
In the 37th chapter of the Old Testament book that he authored, Ezekiel shared a gripping image that has continued to speak in a moving fashion right down to the present day. At the time, Ezekiel was addressing whether the children of Israel had a reason to hope that one day their nation would be restored after successive invasions by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. God placed Ezekiel in the midst of a valley of dry, dead bones--a complete picture of finality, despair and hopelessness. The Lord then asked Ezekiel if these bones could be brought back to life. Ezekiel responded in verse 3, very wisely, "O Sovereign (the One who is in control) Lord, you alone know." God then told the prophet to speak His Word to the bones.
When Ezekiel obeyed this command, he heard a rattling sound as the bones began to come together. Tendons and flesh then appeared on the bones--and skin covered them. But there was no breath in this horde. So God told Ezekiel to speak to the breath and call it forth into the lungs of these beings. And then that’s exactly what happened. Next, the Lord told Ezekiel that these were the slain of the house of Israel brought back to life. This image portrayed God's promise to open the graves of His people and to restore them to their land. In this way, they would know that He was their sovereign God.
Is there any sort of parallel to your life or my life in this story? I think so. Are there parts of our lives, or maybe relationships, or maybe circumstances, that seem to be dead or haunted by impending destruction? Have you lost hope that life could ever be restored in those relationships or circumstances? Could God be asking you and me if it would be possible for Him to bring life back into those situations? If so, what would be our response? Would we say with Ezekiel that we know God is in control and that all things are possible within the scope of His powerful, resurrecting love? I want to--do you? What is the Word of the Lord that God would have us to address to these situations? What promises can we trust from the Scripture that relate to the deadness that we see in our lives? I think we should go on a search for those promises. And then, we should speak them out loud--not as some mantra that obliges God to act, but as an affirmation of the faith we have in His awesome, overwhelming care for us.
Once we trust the Lord's word for the dead issues, situations and relationships that rob us of hope, we need to listen for the rattling--and allow that sound to strengthen our faith. God may not make all things right at once, but we will be able to hear the rattling long before the situation or circumstance is fully remedied. Let that sound assure us that God is at work in our lives in ways that we cannot even imagine or grasp. As Paul wrote in his letter to church in Ephesus, "God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," (3:20) the resurrection power that restores life to a valley of dry bones and raised Jesus Christ from the grave. That power is at work in our lives under the control of the love of a Heavenly Father who will stop at nothing to bless us. To Him be glory and honor!
Lord, we bring to You those areas of our lives where we feel deadness, pain, despair and a loss of hope. Could You please send Your Holy Spirit to revive and restore what has been lost? Thank You for filling the Scripture with such hope-filled and faith-strengthening images like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. Bring what You see into reality in our lives--and help us to trust You to do so. In Jesus' Name, Amen.