Dry Bones or God’s Masterpiece?

Today’s Reading:  Ezekiel 37-48, Psalm 16

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley 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. – Ezekiel 37:1-2

Can you picture this – a valley covered in old dry bones?  The first thing that comes to my mind is a scene from the animated movie “The Lion King”, where the young Simba and Nala run through what they call “the elephant graveyard” – a valley full of bones.  What the Israelites probably pictured was the prophecy of Jeremiah just a few years before this:

“So beware,” says the Lord, “when that garbage dump will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.  They will bury the bodies in Topheth until there is no more room for them.  The bodies of my people will be food for the vultures and wild animals, and no one will be left to scare them away.  I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in the streets of Jerusalem.  The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard in the towns of Judah.  The land will lie in complete desolation.

“In that day,” says the Lord, “the enemy will break open the graves of the kings and officials of Judah, and the graves of the priests, prophets, and common people of Jerusalem.  They will spread out their bones on the ground before the sun, moon and stars – the gods my people have loved, served and worshiped.  Their bones will not be gathered up again or buried but will be scattered on the ground like manure…” – Jeremiah 7:32-8:2

What a horrifying picture. God was using this imagery to represent the people of Israel. By now Jerusalem had been destroyed and all of God’s people had been scattered.  The Jews feared they would never be a nation again – that the people of Israel would slowly fade away and die.

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.’ 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.  When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord.  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!’” – Ezek. 37:11-14

As angry as God was with the unfaithfulness of His children, He still heard their cries and wanted to give them HOPE.  He spoke to his people through the prophet Ezekiel concerning the dry bones:  “Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  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.”  – Ezek. 37:4-7

Then as Ezekiel watched, that is exactly what happened to the valley of dry bones – They all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army (37:10b).  Praise God!  The people already knew with confidence that God COULD extend grace to them, forgive them and breathe life back into their nation.  The question was whether or not He WOULD.  They needed to hear that He was not completely abandoning them in their sin but that there was indeed hope for their future (Jer. 29:11).

And that is the God we serve!  There are times when God allows us to experience the full consequences of our sins.  We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8).  But the God we serve is also a loving God who does not give up on us – He breathes new life into us through the blood of Jesus Christ.

There are also times in our lives when God allows us to suffer from illnesses, disease or tragedies.  We know we serve a God who CAN heal and make everything better, but we find ourselves watching and waiting to see if He WILL.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers of the unseen world.  He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.  By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.  

But God is SO rich in mercy, and he loved us SO much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.  (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)…

God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this, it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s MASTERPIECE.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:1-5,8-10

Let’s praise God along with the psalmist David and make this our prayer today:

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.

My body rests in safety.

For you will NOT leave my soul among the dead

Or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.

You will show me the joy of your presence and

The pleasures of living with you forever. – Psalm 16:9-11