Questions-Day 9 (2/21/13)
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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. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
One of the most visionary prophets of the Old Testament was a priest named Ezekiel. He lived about 2,600 years ago. He witnessed the terrible siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in which Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C. He spent years in exile, along with other Jewish leaders, in what is now modern day Iraq. There the hand of the Lord was upon him to proclaim hope in a time of hopelessness. Ezekiel's most remembered vision is the vision of the dry bones. Of the things in Scripture to which we can relate as people living in Amarillo, it is "dry bones."
In the 13-year war between King Zedekiah and King Nebuchadnezzar, one-third of Judah's population starved to death, one-third were killed in battle, and one-third were carried off to Babylonian captivity. The valley of Judah contained the decayed bones of slain victims denied the dignity of a decent burial, their flesh picked clean by the birds of the air. This vision of Ezekiel was more than a figment of his imagination. He had caught a glimpse of them as he was carried away from his home town. There were a great many bones and they were very dry. The valleys are real. The bones are many.
If you read all of Ezekiel 37 you will see that this question from God leads to a series of God making a statement, God anticipating what the people will be asking and God giving Ezekiel the words to say. As Ezekiel responds to the first message he is given by God to proclaim, there is a noise: "So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone." (Ezekiel 37:7)
Could it be that questions, especially questions asked by God in Scripture, are a gift? We can read Ezekiel's reply above, but would God have been so intimately working with Ezekiel if he had responded like we often do: "uhm, well God, you know these are just bones . . . logically we know that they can't really live because they are no longer part of something that is living." Admit it, aren't there parts of your faith you feel are like the dead bones Ezekiel saw?
Dr. J. Howard Old's story says it best:
I was in the grocery store the other day when I watched a two-year-old throw a temper tantrum. Something between the Cheerios and the Frosted Flakes made him unhappy. He screamed to the top of his voice.
When that didn't work, he decided to stop breathing. His face turned red. His lips turned blue. I wondered what to do. His mom, however, seemed unconcerned. She knew he would eventually breathe - and he did.
I've thrown my fair share of temper tantrums with God - - decided in anger or grief to stop breathing spiritually. When God didn't respond with a siren and paramedics, I concluded He was not there. But like that mother, He is there all the time. He said, you'll breathe again at the right time, in the right way. God is closer than the air we breathe.
Where are the "dead bones" in your faith? God is baiting you into a resurrected faith by asking, "Can these dead bones live?" How will you respond?