Ezekiel 37:3 Can these bones live? In other words is my situation or your situation hopeless? For example, the question some people might be asking in the USA today is this: Can the racial divide be bridged? You will have your own examples to insert here. The questions are not only legitimate but also genuine and provide an opportunity for engagement. The encouraging answer from God to Ezekiel was that in even the most difficult situations God’s presence with us is the ground of our hope. Notice here:
(1)The question raised by God (Ezekiel 37:1-3) The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’
In this vision this probing question from God was not a theological test for the prophet. Ezekiel was trained as a priest from within a priestly family. He has been ministering as a prophet to the exiled community for some years so he knows the theoretical answer that nothing is impossible with God.
Furthermore since the earlier revelation of the fall of Jerusalem the prophet had explained to the people that it was their sinfulness in turning away from the Lord that had led to their present predicament (Ezekiel 36:16-21).
Yet at the same time the Lord was angry at other nations taking real pleasure in Israel’s vulnerability and exile (Ezekiel 36:1-4, 14-15, for example). The key criterion was the honour of God’s name and His holiness (Ezekiel 36:21-23). How seriously would they honour the Lord? How seriously do we consider God’s honour and His perspective on the choices we make? Ultimately though it is not a general question; it is a personal one from God to each one of us.
It is a picture of hopelessness as bad as it could possibly be. In other words God bluntly tells His servant: do you know just how bad your situation is? Do you realise that humanly-speaking you do not have any vestiges of hope left of returning to the homeland. They were literally the living dead –existing with nothing, absolutely nothing to look forward to. It was in such a pointed situation that the question was posed:
He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, You alone know (Ezekiel 37:3).
How often does God allow His people to come to a complete end of themselves where they have nowhere else to turn but Him so that we truly depend wholly on Him?
In case we begin to start thinking that God was being unfair putting such pressure on an extremely vulnerable man, it is important to remember that in the previous chapter (Ezekiel 36:24-38) God had revealed to Ezekiel that the nation would be restored to the land; that it would one day prosper again; that God would never abandon His people because His honour was at stake. Ezekiel 36:33-36 states:
‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: on the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”
Why would God restore Israel to the land? Because His name was tied up with the keeping of His promises for His people; this biblical pattern is a thread that runs through the Scriptures.
Has God made promises to us through the new covenant inaugurated in Jesus? Yes of course He has! Can we rely on Him to keep them? Yes! because the evidence before us of His loyalty to the Jewish people even when they have gone far from Him reminds and reassures us of our promise-keeping God. This is why we can be so joyful in reading verses like Hebrews 13:5b-6:
‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ 6 So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
This is why when we come to seek forgiveness for our sins we can rejoice in the wonder of I John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Each of us at times will be in situations where we have prayed and prayed and claimed the promises of God and seen nothing to show for our efforts.
Why do we keep going? Because God never fails to honour His promises because the honour of His name is at stake; the answer to this question is a definite YES! Because God’ Spirit is at work in our midst. We need to ask Him to lead and direct us as we seek to live for Him today, Amen.
Our song for reflection is: Holy Spirit Living breath of God
A bonus for today an additional contemporary song of encouragement that was sent to me a few days ago:
‘For king and country today’