Ezekiel was a prophet of the Judean exiles in Babylon more than 550 years before the time of Christ. He ministered during an era when many had begun to question whether the God of Israel would be faithful to the promises he made to Abraham and David. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, many of the people had been removed from the Promised Land, and there was no king to lead God’s people. Could YHWH be trusted? Was YHWH still supreme? What would be the fate of Israel? To answer these questions, Ezekiel was transported by the Spirit to a valley full of dry bones. Ezekiel was asked whether or not the bones could live? His answer: “I don’t know.” God’s breath, his Spirit, then began to move and what happens next is nothing short of a resurrection. I penned a poem inspired by this passage several years ago. The first stanza went like this...
Lying in the dust, the corpse rots through and through.
There's no more life to live, there's nothing left to do.
Then the bones begin to rattle, the bones begin to shake.
The sinews and the flesh, new life begins to make.
Gasping deep, lungs expanding, Spirit's wind, life's breath.
The living God's the giving God and life has conquered death!
Ezekiel was told that the dead bones represent Israel and that God will bring them from their graves and put them back in their land. In addition to this, he’ll put his own Spirit within them and they will live. Though clearly metaphorical, this ancient vision helped inform the development of the Jewish theology of resurrection, which of course informed the Christian understanding of both spiritual and physical resurrection. Our God is fully capable of, and quite frankly, anxious, to resurrect our broken lives. Our spiritual resurrections point us to the future when the last enemy, death, will be defeated completely and God will bring our physical bodies out of our graves and into his glorious new world to live with him forever. If our God is able to do this, then is there anything beyond his reach? If even your decayed, rotted, mortal body can be given new breath and new life some day, then why not your present life now? If God can raise the dead (and we know he did - Jesus), then why can't he raise you from whatever ash heap you may find yourself in spiritually? Why not at least be as open minded as Ezekiel and say, "I don't know."? God is a God of surprises! - Shay