bible blog 1008

This blog uses the Reformed Church reading for the day along with a headline from world news as a focus for reflection


EZEKIEL 37: 1-12

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 round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, ‘Son of Man, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ 4 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and 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:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, ‘Son of Man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

valley-of-dry-bonesThis passage is one of the great set pieces of the Bible. I can remember still the impression it had on me when I first heard it n the KJ translation more than 60 years ago, as a child. I had no knowledge of biblical scholarship but I understood it immediately: it was a promise of new life beyond everything that death could do. Every image was exciting-the prophet lifted up by the Spirit and set down in a valley; the dry bones scattered where perhaps there had been a great battle; the strange, majestic yet respectful address of the Lord, “Son of Man”; the command to prophesy to the bones; the eerie noise of the bones; the breathless zombies turned into living men by the breath of life; the laconic application of the vision to the people of Israel – what a rich narrative for a child of any age and what a lesson in the language of life! For this way of telling dealt with issues that even a child knew were fundamental.: the interaction of death and life, God and Man.

The prophet’s assurance that God is a source of pure life beyond all expectation is a fundamental theology confirmed but not altered by the resurrection of Jesus.

Whether I am faced with the collapse of a whole civilization, as I once was in Bosnia at the end of the war; or with a desolating death in a  parishioner’s family; or with personal circumstances that seem hopeless; I can hear the dry question from beyond the limits of the universe, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” and I can enter into the drama, “O Lord God, you know.” But then I have to become an actor and play my part which is not a passive one. “Prophesy,” the command comes, “say a word of life from your own guts, however crazy that seems, speak to the broken bones of people, and speak to the life-giving spirit, and demand the necessary miracle. And it will happen.”

And it does.

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