“Will this actually work?” There is some hesitation and disbelief. Who wouldn’t blame him? He was given an impossible task and God told him that he would present a message from God that the people would reject. God chose some eccentric object lessons to communicate. Ezekiel should have been used to these strange instructions. “Ezekiel, draw Jerusalem on a clay tablet and build siege ramps and do a mock battle against it” (Ch. 4). “Ezekiel, lay on your left side for 390 days. Then turn over and lay on your right side for 40 days. I will tie you up so you can’t get up. While you are down, cook your food over human excrement” To this one,
Ezekiel protested. God responded, “Fine, use cow manure instead.” (Ch 4). “Ezekiel, shave your head and beard. Burn 1/3 of it. Chop 1/3 all around the city. Toss 1/3 to the wind. Tuck a few strands into your shirt” (Ch. 5). “Ezekiel, pack up your stuff for exile in front of everyone. Carry it around all day. Then at night, exit the city. Except don’t go through the gate. Dig a hole in the city wall and crawl through. Then pretend to leave” (Ch. 12). “Ezekiel, cook a stew with great meat. Fill it with the bones of the animal. Overcook it and pour it out on the fire” (Ch. 24). “Ezekiel, your beloved wife is going to die. But don’t morn for her” (Ch. 24).
Now Ezekiel is faced with another impossible task and a vivid object lesson.
1 The hand of the LORD was upon 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. There is no warning. Ezekiel was plucked out and set down in a valley full of bones. He also isn’t told what kind of bones they were or where they came from or why they were there. By close observation he found out.
2 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. You can imagine this would be a freaky visit. At a closer inspection, he would have seen a skull and realized these were human bones.
Dead, perhaps Ezekiel’s fellow Jews slaughtered by the Assyrians and left without a grave to rot on the desert floor. The death of the Israelites went much deeper than flesh and bones. Ezekiel’s major message was a judgment for their wanderlust to pagan gods and detestable practices of child sacrifice and sexual promiscuity. Ezekiel warned, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (18:4). If God didn’t bring consequences, then he would be like a parent who threatens and doesn’t carry it out, leaving the children unruly. What would he see if he walked through the valley of the St. Joseph river, our own community? If Ezekiel strolled through the desert of your tech devices, if he wandered through the valley of your mind, if he stepped into your home and your relationships, what would he see? Life or death? Even believers struggle with sin that leads to death.
3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Good question. Impossible. Can they? I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” In other words, “I can’t but you can.”
God turned it back on the prophet. 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 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.’” “Speak to the bones.” It makes no sense. Speak and there will be life. Can the word of God really do such great things? God has made his promise that his word works. Do you trust that promise? Do you believe it can bring
you from sin-death to life? Can it help your relationships? Can it heal your anxiety? Can it do what God has promised? More often than not, the fault in fixing what is broken is not in the word but in our doubt that it can do anything to help.
Look what happens.
7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Imagine the scene. The rattling, probably quite a loud rattling, like dice on the floor of the desert. Then the sight of it, like watching decomposing in reverse. But they still lack life. I don’t know what would be scarier, the valley of bones or valley of these freshly fleshed bodies lying lifeless in the dirt?
9 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 from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. One more time, “Prophesy, Prophet. Speak and life will come into the lifeless. It’s impossible but Ezekiel has already seen the impossible happen. The bones knew what joint they were supposed to join. Muscl