You know, it seems every time the Israelites found their groove, something bad would happen and they’d end up in captivity.
The first time, God’s chosen people, the Hebrews had been in Egyptian captivity for over 100 years. And after sending Moses to be their redeemer, God brought them into the Promised Land, and gave them a land and a King, and made them a nation. BUT … they quickly turned against God, and God allowed them to fall into captivity again.
Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army invaded Israel. They had reduced Solomon’s Temple to ashes, and had taken many of the Jewish people back to Babylon as captives. This is the condition that the prophet Ezekiel finds himself in. The nation of Israel is dead and gone. Game over, the story has ended. The people had all but given up. They life they had, wasn’t the life they wanted and there seemed to be no way out.
For them it was easier to just accept their fate get out those change of address cards and start living their life in Babylon. BUT … God has a vision for Ezekiel. Listen to this….
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley, it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon 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.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
Ezekiel is faced with a seemingly hopeless situation, their nation is burned, thousands are dead and thousands more are captives. But God physically picks Ezekiel up and carries him out to a valley full of dry bones; it’s probably the scene of some great war from a hundred years ago.
And God asks Ezekiel a very interesting question. “Son of man, can these bones live?”
Ezekiel looks out over the carnage. More than likely the bones of individual bodies were scattered everywhere. I doubt very seriously if they were all nice and neatly arranged. They had been certainly ravaged and torn apart by scavenging animals and bleached white by the sun.
Ezekiel thinks about His answer. Of course had it been anyone else asking the question, the answer would have been obvious; and Ezekiel’s first thought was probably what yours and mine would have been. “Are you joking?” These bone have been laying here for years. What do mean, “Can they live?” Then Ezekiel remember who he is speaking to.
And then Ezekiel gives his wise answer. “God, you know.”
He answered that way because as far as he could see, the situation was plainly and desperately HOPELESS. And yet, in faith, he recognized that NOTHING IS HOPELESS WITH GOD.
Ezekiel says, “God, this situation is in your hands.”
Think about this picture for a minute. This valley of death used to be filled with living people. These bones used to be parents and children and aunts and uncles. Just like your high school senior portrait, there was a time – back then- when life was younger and fresher, but somewhere along the way that freshness wears off.
Why does that happen?
Well, life gets in the way, right?
We get distracted by the counterfeit life the world offers and we move further away from the life and the purpose that God offers. Much like the valley of dry bones our fates seems written and our destiny seems set and somewhere along the way we didn’t reach our best potential.
Remember when we used to say, “when I grow up…?”
Well, guess what.
You’re grown up.
Friends, this is your life.
You and I are living the life that we had dreamed about when we were kids and I don’t want you to miss it, and God doesn’t want you to miss it, and I certainly don’t want you to waste it pursuing the detours and curses that fall in front of us. But the good news is, even if you end up dry and lifeless, your God has the power to resurrect you from the desert.