Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 37:5–6)
Imagine walking through a graveyard, etched granite stones quietly declaring death after death after death. Walter Franklin Smith (February 25, 1908 – March 11, 1975). Alice Ruth Knight (July 2, 1876 – January 28, 1920). Michael Robert Washington (October 7, 1930 – December 16, 2012). Each little stone a fallen father or mother, son or daughter, beloved friend or neighbor or co-worker. It could be overwhelming to take in just how much loss is buried in that one little gated field.
Then imagine you are not looking at nicely carved and engraved stones and plots with flowers, but bones — piles and piles and piles of bones. The scene just went from sad, and maybe depressing, to gruesome and disturbing. You’re not just reminded of death anymore. You’re staring it in its decaying face, surrounded by fleshless, lifeless skulls and ribs and leg bones. It would be nothing like the dinosaur exhibits at the science museum. This would be an awful, traumatic scene for any human — to be swamped with the very last remains of other humans. Those who liberated the German concentration camps after World War II got a flavor of this kind of horror.
Born All Bones
God planted Ezekiel in a valley of gross and horrific death to explain the kind of people we are in our sin. David tells us we were born in iniquity, and even conceived as sinful beings (Psalm 51:5). “All we like sheep have gone astray [from our God]; we have turned — every one — to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And Paul describes our sinful condition as death when he says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1–2).
Before knowing Jesus, we were nothing but a pile of bones — lifeless, hopeless, and deserving wrath. We weren’t just confused or distracted or immature or a little misguided. We were spiritually dead — dead like a pile of decaying skeletal remains. That’s where God found us in our sin.
A God Bigger Than Dry Bones
God led Ezekiel all around the valley, showing him bone after bone. “And behold, they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:2). These bones were not just dead, they’d been dead for a very long time. Not only had all the organs and muscles and tendons decomposed completely, but there was no moisture left in the bones at all. They were dry and brittle.
The Lord asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” He says what we should all say when we do not know, “O Lord God, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3). And then God tells Ezekiel to speak to the dry, lifeless, brittle bones,
O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord… Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:4–6)
God is not undone by death. For him, there’s no situation too hopeless, too bleak, too disturbing. His sovereign power allows him to speak the dead to life and to sustain the life he creates. He takes the driest, deadest bones, and calls them to breathe and walk again. He makes old things new, and the dead alive again.
Alive and in Love
And when God makes us alive, he gives us a new heart — a heart that loves the Lord and his law. Ezekiel writes just a chapter earlier, “And I will give you a new heart,and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26–27).
While we were yet sinners, dead in our sin, a hopeless pile of spiritual bones, God died for us. He broke through our deafness. He shattered our darkness. He washed away our blindness. Now, we are alive, and with our new heart we want him — the God who has saved us — more than anything or anyone else we ever wanted before.
See the miracle of your new life. And by the same grace and power of God that raised you from the dead, live like you’ve never lived before for the praise of his glory.