Hello, dear readers, and Happy Easter!
Many of us may be having an unusual Holy Week this year. At a time when we usually make an extra effort to gather in our churches and with loved ones, the coronavirus has limited our social interactions and opportunities for in-person group worship.
The situation has been weighing on me a lot (and I know I’m not alone), particularly the questions and uncertainty: When will things get back to normal? Will my loved ones be safe? What does this mean for my job? Am I going to lose my marbles from staying inside so much? (Half-kidding on that last one…but the stir-craziness is real.) Due to all of this, I was just feeling so dry: wrung out and empty, unsure how to hope.
My home church hasn’t been holding in-person services lately, but along with virtual services, they have been emailing the liturgical readings for each Sunday. On March 29, those readings were Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, and John 11:1-45. So I went off by myself with a Bible and a mug of tea to study them.
Can Dry Bones Live?
The Ezekiel passage turned out to be the prophet’s visit to the valley of dry bones. As Ezekiel looks over these shriveled-up remnants of living people, God asks him, “‘Son of man, can these bones live?'” (Ezekiel 37:3, ESV).
This question struck a chord in me and I felt the Holy Spirit gently pressing it on my heart over and over: “Daughter of man, can these bones live? Can these bones live?”
You see, at that time, I felt like my life had become a valley of dry bones, a collection of situations that seemed overwhelming and hopeless to me. I stood surveying my dreams, my plans—even my expectations of normalcy—and found them all dried up. Could they possibly live again?
In my frustration, I was looking at the dry bones of my life in sorrow. I stopped considering God as a factor, particularly as the deciding factor in every situation I faced. If I wasn’t giving up completely, I was at least falling for the temptation to worry and feel sorry for myself.
Can these bones live?
I’m very intrigued by Ezekiel’s response to God’s question. He doesn’t respond with, “Of course not; these bones are dry and beyond dead!” Nor does he say, “Of course; Lord, you can do anything!” He simply says, “‘O Lord God, you know'” (Ezekiel 37:3).
With this statement, Ezekiel acknowledges the fact that God can restore life even to dry bones. But the prophet also acknowledges that, in God’s unfailing wisdom, perhaps He intends for these bones to remain as they are.
The “dead” situations or relationships in our lives aren’t always meant to live again. Maybe God Himself allowed those deaths and His power is keeping something unhealthy in the grave. In other cases, He might fully intend to bring something back to life.
Is there anything in your life that you have been fighting to resurrect, even though you sense that God wants it to remain in the grave? Is there anything you have given up on that God may want to breathe new life into?
Called From the Grave
In the valley of dry bones, God first restored the bodies of the dead, but they remained lifeless until He sent breath into them (see Ezekiel 37:7-10). As Christians, we sometimes fall into the trap of acting like those breathless bodies: we appear functional, but forget to rely on the life source (the Holy Spirit) that God has put inside us. Small wonder we end up feeling dried out.
The Bible declares God to be the only source of physical life: “These all look to you…when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created…” (Psalm 104:27, 29-30). But God is also the only source of spiritual life: “…and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:11, which states, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” If you belong to Jesus, the same Spirit that resurrected Christ on Easter now lives inside of you, sustaining you and resurrecting you moment-by-moment. No matter how devastated your life may look, you can always be certain of God’s intention and ability to breathe life into you by His indwelling Spirit.
When Martha confronts Jesus after the death of her brother, Lazarus, Jesus tells her, “‘I am the resurrection and the life’” (John 11:25). Whether you find yourself “in the grave” because you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or because you feel that circumstances have stolen all the life from you, Jesus stands at the mouth of your tomb. He calls out to you with the same invitation He spoke to Lazarus: “‘Come out'” (John 11:43). If you ask Him, God will breathe into you just as He sent breath into the dry bones:
“‘Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.”…Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people….And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live…” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).