“The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” I replied, “Lord God, [only] You know.” Ezekiel 37:1-3
I live in California. I have lived here permanently since I was two years old. Now I am sure you are wondering just what does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m glad you asked because it does have a purpose. For the first two years of my life, I lived where water was abundant. Yet even living in California, I don’t actually recall a time when there was such an extreme shortage of water.
My first church district as pastor was in the Sierra Mountains, not far from Yosemite National Park. That first winter we received 50 inches of rain. It was quite overwhelming as I was only used to about 12 inches of rain a year! Each year we lived in that mountain community we seemed to have plenty of rain and snow. To me, it seemed more than enough. One year there was a record snowfall with a record volume of water content. It made for a spectacular year of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley.
Our next district found us in the San Joaquin Valley, the southern end of the valley. We still had plenty of rain the first three years we were there. Then came the beginning of the drought, the one we still experience. It has us wondering if we’ll ever have enough water again. Although historically this isn’t the first time this state has been in the depths of drought, it’s the first one that I am able to remember.
Because of my health, we have relocated to the Central Coast of California where the drought continues. The promised El Nino storms and rain we were to receive this year divided heading north and south of us. They spritzed only dribbles of rain when we needed generous showers! So we face another year of drought with water rationing and dry bones!
Yet, the dry bones Ezekiel was told to observe had an entirely different meaning. I am able to identify with the dry bones in my own life, especially over the last three years. I have pictured my life in many ways. I’ve felt like I was on the outside looking in, like I needed to be a chameleon to be valued. I stood on the edge of a black hole of bitterness ready to take that final fateful step. My soul, mind, and heart have felt as dry as those bones described in the verse above. I have wondered if my dry bones would ever live again. I’ve even wondered if God Himself would or desired to make my dry bones come alive again!
“Can that sinner be turned into a saint? Can that twisted life be put right? There is only one answer. “Oh Lord, Thou know, I don’t.” (My Utmost for His Highest, June 1, Oswald Chambers)
Only God knows when and how dry bones are reanimated, made to come alive. And those dry bones are you and me. We are the sinners God is referring to when He asks that probing question of Ezekiel. God is even pointing out to Ezekiel his own need to be brought back to life! So it is with all disciples of Jesus. We reveal our dry existence every day as we attempt to do for God rather than allow God to do for us, rather than allow Him to bring about in us that which only He can accomplish!
“Is my experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power and might that I can never despair of anyone I see? Have I had any spiritual work done in me at all?” (ibid)
As I began to recover from some of the symptoms of my illnesses, I was able to delete the pain medications. I began to recognize just how dry my bones had become. Yet a torrent of rain wasn’t the answer to my dried out condition. All that would have done was to wash me out, send me rolling down a flooded river of guilt, shame, and remorse. And believe me, I was already experiencing enough of those “symptoms” to last me more than one lifetime. What then was the answer to my condition?
“When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it in yourself.” (ibid)
It is no good looking for the bad in others because it will only distort our understanding of how God reveals Himself. If I am unable to recognize that I am the subject of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones then I miss a most wonderful truth, that I can live again. Through the gentle, nurturing, rain of the Holy Spirit that soaks deep into the aquifer of my soul, heart, and mind, my dry bones leap to life. Springs of Living Water, first created in me and you by Jesus when He entered our lives for eternity, are replenished.
The answer Ezekiel gives God when asked if the valley of dry bones can live again is the only answer anyone can rightly give. For in all the eternal realities only God knows if the dry bones can live again. However, He has told us He is able to make us alive in Christ, and my dry bones are once more experiencing that living reality.
“I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’” Ezekial 37:14
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