Standing in the Valley of Dry Bones

ImageI must confess that I am glad to see 2013 go. It was not the best of years for me, in fact it was quite the opposite…one of the worst I have had in a while. The reasons are too numerous and boring to mention here, so let’s just say I am looking forward to looking forward.  And though I am still quite aware that every breath I take is gift, 2014 has to be a better year for breathing than this one was.  This year I found myself in the valley of dry bones, devoid of breath, life drained from me, lying in the desert sand unable to move much less stand.  I am some of the bones, and I know that I am not alone in this place. But take heart, because God has not left us in the valley!

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breathenter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

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. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘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. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

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So 2014 has pulled back to one of my favorite passages of scripture. Maybe it is because it seems like something out of one of my crazy dreams, or maybe it is because even though it was written thousands of years ago, about thousands of years in the future, it speaks to me NOW. I do so love that about scripture.  It is alive, and I find so much life in this mysterious passage that my heart beats faster each time I read it again. My mind may not comprehend it, my imagination may not fully grasp the vision, but my spirit rises up because it understands the message. I know it’s a longer passage, but I cannot just snip it into a sound bite.  It is so rich and full that to grasp it at all, I must take the whole of it.

Can you imagine Ezekiel being set in the valley?  One minute he is in one place and the next he is sitting among the remains of the corpses of thousands.  His head is spinning and he can feel the death of the dry bones surrounding him. God asks him, “Can these bones live?”  This makes me laugh because I know God doesn’t ask a question because he is unaware of the answer.  I feel pretty sure Ezekiel knows this as well….but he buys himself some time to take it all in by saying.  “God, only you know.”  It is a truthful answer.  A safe answer.  And God, rather than answer his own question with a ‘yes of course they can live,’ invites Ezekiel to participate in the reply.  Maybe invite is too gentle a word…more like commands him…SPEAK to the bones! It is as if he is saying…just watch what I can do.  I’m thinking at this point Zek was shaking in his shoes.  He knows to obey, I’ll give him that.  As he is speaking the bones rattle and move and come together.  The noise must have been deafening, but he keeps speaking to the bones which are turning into humans right before his eyes.  I wonder if his awe caused him to want to fall on his face or run far away.  I would guess a bit of both and either way I would think he would hope this little demonstration was over, but he is not done yet.  God tells him to ‘prophesy to the breath,’ and so he does.  The bodies that were just moments before lying in a heap of bones, now covered with flesh, suddenly start to stand…a breathing, living army of humanity.  As if Ezekiel needs what he has just seen explained to him God speaks and says, ‘My people were without hope, but I am going to open their graves. I am going to bring them into a new place and give them life.  Then they will know that I am God.’  It doesn’t say what Ezekiel did next, but I picture him on his face, bowing in reverence to the power of God to raise the dead by the multitudes.

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Now imagine this story from the perspective of the dry bones…since that is what I most relate to at this point I guess I am picturing lying in the valley. You may be in the same valley.  Dead.  Without life.  Dry.  Dehydrated.  Void.  Empty.  Completely unable. Tired. Weary. Then God says the word LIFE.  Ezekiel repeats it as directed…and because God’s words have creative power, my dry bones come together, muscles and skin grow.  No breath yet, no hope…but life is pulsing in the air on the words. Then the phrase, ‘prophesy to the breath.’ That is the phrase that is stuck in my head on this day.  Day 1 of 2014. Over and over again I hear it. “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy to the breath.” With the breath comes hope.  With the breath comes a pulse.  With the breath comes life…standing up again…moving forward.  With the breath comes newness, resurrection, fresh life. He will not leave us in the desert.  We will not stay dry bones.

With HIS breath God says, “I am bringing you up from your grave.  What is your grave my child?  Illness?  Addiction?  Divorce?  Bankruptcy? Loss? Death of a loved one? Depression? Sorrow? Joblessness? Fear? Loneliness? Anger? Bitterness? Unworthiness? What is it that holds you to the desert floor dry and without hope?  I am speaking life!  I am bringing you out. Get up. I am speaking to your breath! Feel my breath in you.  Feel the hope rising.  Feel my love flowing in your veins. You will walk. Breathe in.  Breathe out.  You are not forgotten in the desert.  You are not abandoned.  I will do this thing.  You will SEE it.  What has held you down was waiting on my words to release you to life. Here are my words…I will bring you back to life.  My spirit will dwell inside of you. My glory will shine around you.  You will KNOW that I am God.  You will KNOW I was the one who did this thing.  You were dead.  Now you are alive.  I did this thing because of my great love for you. I choose life for you. Breathe it in. Can you feel it even now?  It is rising up, speaking to your breath…LIVE!”

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