“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.”’” Ezekiel 37:11 (NIV)
Navigating the church’s halls with the giggles of rambunctious toddlers as my guide, I eagerly approached my daughter’s classroom. Peering in, she caught my eye — “Momma! I am dry bones; look at me come alive!”
Music blared, and small limbs flailed in every direction as they sang, “Ezekiel cried them dry bones. Ezekiel cried them dry bones. Ezekiel cried them dry bones. Oh, hear the words of the Lord!” We parents joined our tots in singing and dancing.
As I tucked my daughter into bed that night, I thanked her for inviting me to be a part of her Sunday school lesson. And I confessed my momma’s heart had been heavy, but her invitation to sing and dance had lifted my spirits. With sleepy eyelids, she whispered: “When life is hard, we can trust in God.”
Downstairs, I found myself humming the words to the song from earlier in the day. The lyrics transported me back to my youth as I recalled the Bible story of the prophet Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones where God commanded the dead bones to join together and come alive. Infatuated with the supernatural, physical nature of the bones in that story, the spiritual lesson about God’s character had eluded me.
I’d missed the point back then, and even now, years later, I still sang this children’s chorus without understanding its powerful message. What was the big deal about these dry bones? I asked myself.
Settling into the worn spot on the sofa, I resisted the urge to watch my favorite TV show and reluctantly opened my Bible to this story in Ezekiel. My heart took pause when my eyes landed on our key verse: “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”’” (Ezekiel 37:11).
After suffering defeat from their enemies, the Israelites were enslaved and in exile, dead in their faith and lacking hope in God's promise to restore their nation. They’d abandoned the Lord, and they no longer trusted the covenant promises God made to their forefathers to send a Redeemer, to deliver them from captivity and resettle them in their own land. Spiritually, they were a dead people; much like the valley of dried-up bones, their hearts withered.
As I reflected, I silently criticized the Israelites. How could they forget God’s promises and His faithful provision for their ancestors yet again? Was their faith really that shallow?
While I was mentally berating these people, I felt that all-too-familiar twinge of conviction in my own parched heart, realizing that I, too, was often without hope.
The Lord had planted a seed of promise in my heart, yet nothing seemed to be growing. Frustrated, I scrawled in my journal, “God, have You forgotten me?” His answer came as a resounding, “No, I am not bound by time or place."
God gave this vision to Ezekiel because His enslaved and exiled children, though wayward and rebellious, desperately needed assurance that God keeps His promises — in this case, He would restore and resettle them when they repented and returned to Him:
“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 37:14, NIV).
Yet, even knowing His faithfulness, all too frequently, I barter with God.
As long as He provides without delay, disruption or discomfort, I generally trust and obey Him. Unsurprisingly, I continually shift my focus off God, and like the Israelites in Ezekiel's time, I live in constant distraction (exile). No wonder my soul feels dry, dead and in desperate need of spiritual renewal.
Ezekiel’s message offers both a warning and a hope. How blessed we are that no matter how often we sin or how far away we stray, our long-suffering Lord remains faithful and true.
However, God’s righteousness commands our obedience; His justice also commands consequences which the Israelites were experiencing. Just like God instructed the Israelites, let’s repent from our sins and return to the Lord, tuning our hearts and minds to hear the Word of the Lord so we, too, can come alive again.
Heavenly Father, help me to trust in Your sovereignty, submitting myself daily to Your will. Forgive my sins, and enliven me with a clean heart full of hope and joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the far of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (NIV)
Scrolling through social media and stressing over to-do lists. Binge-watching TV shows and worrying about tomorrow. How often do we find ourselves accidentally wasting our time, instead of pouring into what matters most to us? Join us January 6 as we begin our next First 5 study of Ezekiel, God Has Not Forgotten — a story about how God continues to choose us, even when we don’t choose Him. Learn more, here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Are you going through a difficult, dry season in your spiritual walk? Do you find it difficult to believe God is always faithful even when you are not? Pray and ask God to help you come alive spiritually again.
Share your prayers in the comments!
© 2019 by Laura Bailey. All rights reserved.