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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Ezekiel 37:1–14 

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord. (NRSV)

There are two songs I remember singing in Sunday School class. One was “Jesus Loves Me” and the other was “Dem Dry Bones.” Good songs to have embedded in a child’s heart. What fun it was to shake our various body parts as we sang through the verses—“the toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the ankle bone”—and after each stanza the rousing chorus: “Now hear the Word of the Lord.”

Ezekiel’s vision unfolds in a vast desert valley where he is taken in spirit to behold the scattered fragments of previous life, ash and bone spread as far as the eye could see. This powerful image reflected the state of the nation of Israel, who once were the chosen people but had become a people under God’s judgment. The twelve tribes of the divided kingdom were dispersed and brought into exile. The land, the temple where they had lived and worshiped, was reduced to rubble.

This place of hopelessness, where all appears lost, is where God asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?” The prophet replies, “O Lord God, only you know.”

God then demonstrates the power of his word and raises up a living, vast army (an interesting metaphor for this life) and instructs Ezekiel to tell his people that he will restore them and return them to their own land.

How do we understand this lesson in our lives? I have experienced seasons in my life that might be described as living in the valley of my dry bones. I have discovered that though I have been very close to faithless, God has remained faithful. When I have felt powerlessness, God has demonstrated the power to restore me to life and hope.

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we are told not to fear. God has promised a divine loving presence that will shepherd us through our most difficult times.

Good Lord, strengthen our hearts and faith as we discover your faithfulness until the end of time. Amen.

Written by Susan Cornelius, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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