What an awesome vision the prophet Ezekiel sees! It is a vast plain full of dry bones. Human bones. It is an ancient battlefield. What has happened? In the year 596 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon invaded the land of Israel, and his Babylonian army almost completely destroyed the Israelite nation. The capital city of Jerusalem was demolished, King Solomon’s temple was reduced to ashes, and the Babylonians took most of the Jewish people as captives back to Babylon. They left just a remnant of Jewish people behind. This is the condition of Israel when Ezekiel sees his most wonderful vision. The nation of Israel was seemingly dead, lost and gone. But God gives Ezekiel a vision of hope. It is a vision representing the restoration of the nation of Israel. At the time, Israel seemed doomed forever in a hopeless situation, but God will restore God’s people.
The prophet is carried by God’s Spirit to a valley, a huge plain, full of very dry bones. Imagine this scene. These bones are scattered everywhere … very white …very dry. Bones are all over the plain … nothing but miscellaneous bones as far as the eye can see. They are the bones of the fallen in battle.
And as Ezekiel is looking at these millions of scattered, dead, dry bones, God asks him: “Can these bones live?” How would we answer that question? It would look pretty hopeless. And Ezekiel, I’m sure, doesn’t see much hope in this scenario either. But he answers God’s question: “O God, you alone know.” It is a wise answer. Ezekiel doesn’t say yes or no. He leaves the outcome to God. Ezekiel, the prophet, knows that God is able to do all things possible and all things impossible. “O God, you alone know.” Ezekiel, in essence, is telling God that God is in charge and that God is in control. If God wants those dead, dry bones to live, they’ll live!
And then Ezekiel is told to prophecy, to preach to these dead, dry bones! Can you imagine preaching to a bunch of bones? Did Ezekiel feel a little foolish? But Ezekiel does what he is told. He repeats the words that God gives him, and he addresses those dead, dry bones by saying: “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” “Listen to what God has to say,” he is saying.
And then … something begins to happen … right before his eyes. The bones come together – can you imagine this great rattling noise? … and muscle & tendons & skin begin to surround the bones, and eventually lying there before him are thousands of lifeless bodies! The bones of these slain men are brought back together, their bodies are re-formed, but they’re without life. The scene is one of renewal but yet desolation – it is still a vast gigantic graveyard of lifeless, dead bodies. To bring them to life, something MORE is needed.
It is the breath of God. The Holy Spirit of God needs to breathe its breath into these dead bodies. The visionary restoration of God’s people reinforces the fact that God’s breath gives us life. It is God’s Spirit which brings life.
Let’s relate Ezekiel’s vision to COVID -19:
Sometimes in our lives, and it happens because life is like this, we think we’re in that lost, dead valley. And right now, we are experiencing COVID-19 like this valley! Everything seems to have gone wrong. We’ve been invaded! It’s a battlefield with this virus! Lives are at stake. This virus is deadly, and we wonder – will we survive? We’re captives. We can’t control this. It’s hard to imagine our present situation getting better. It is getting worse. We struggle and get discouraged. Is there no way out? What does the future hold?
BUT – don’t give up! God isn’t going to leave us destitute. Like the restoration of Israel’s nation, God has a plan for renewal and restoration for us. We can hope in God. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29: 11.
We can hope in God. God knows the cure for COVID-19 and God will help us find that. God will help us get through this pandemic. God will restore God’s people. For our God is a God of life, not death. God saves. God loves us. Jesus came to show us that.
In the account of Ezekiel’s vision, there are two important actions: the Word of God is preached, and the Breath of God gives life. Trust in God’s Word, God’s promises to us, the verses we find in our scriptures which speak of God’s love and care and compassion for us. Trust in the Breath of God, the saving, loving Breath of God to restore our communities, our nation, and the world.
God gave Ezekiel a vision of hope, and God gives us hope for today and tomorrow. Amen.