Bringing Dead Bones to Life
When you lose your home, and you lose your place in the world, and you lose your sense of identity, and you lose your faith, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with despair—it is easy to end up feeling dead inside.
That’s how the Jewish people felt in the 6th century B.C. They had been ripped away from their homeland and dragged away by their conquerors to Babylon. Their nation was destroyed. Their monarchy was eradicated. Their temple was ripped apart. A century earlier their northern sister, Israel, suffered the same catastrophe, and completely disappeared as a nation and as a people. Was the same thing going to happen to the defeated people of Judah? The people mourned, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off!”
Into this context, God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel saw what the people felt. They felt dead. They felt that life was stripped from them.
As the vision continued, Ezekiel saw the bones come together with tendons and flesh. That’s good news, isn’t it? It’s the hope that God would restore the nation of Judah, that He would bring them back from exile, and restore them to their homeland.
It would seem to be good news, but, as Ezekiel observed, “there was no breath in them.”
It would not be enough simply for God to bring the people back to their homeland, and rebuild the temple, and reestablish the government. That would be no more than stretching tendons and flesh over a lifeless carcass. What the people needed most of all was for the “breath” of God (the “Spirit” of God) to enter them and bring them to life. So God promised Ezekiel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life” (Ezekiel 37:5). And He promised, “I will put My Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:14).
What held true for the nation of Israel also holds true for the church. It is not enough to build a beautiful sanctuary and establish a well-organized church government. What a church needs most of all is for the “breath” of God (the “Spirit” of God) to enter it.
How does that happen? It happens as each individual worshiper opens himself and herself to the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God enters a church when we open our hearts to the Spirit of God and seek for God to do His good work in us and through us. It is then—and only then—that a church truly comes to life!