Commentary by Walter Albritton


October 24, 2004


Good News: God has the Power to Bring Life Out of Death


Ezekiel 37


Key Verse: I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act. – 2 Ezekiel 37:14


Hope for a brighter future is important. Yet for Christians, something more is needed. We need hope in God. We need hope that burns within us that God is able and willing to act on our behalf and that he has the power to bring life out of death. This, indeed, was the good news that the prophet Ezekiel brought to the Hebrews during their captivity in Babylon.

The people were discouraged, heartsick that God seemed to have deserted them in a foreign land. They had little reason to hope that they would ever see Jerusalem again. They must have, indeed, felt like a valley of dead bones.

 Then Ezekiel steps in. He offers the people hope based on a breathtaking vision of the power of God. He wants them to know that God is not through with them, and his plans for them will be carried out.

God leaves Ezekiel with little doubt of God’s mighty power. He places him in a hopeless situation, a valley of dead bones with no sign of life. There he teaches Ezekiel that even dry bones will come to life when God commands it.

Having dead bones come to life is not Ezekiel’s idea. Such an idea would never have crossed his mind. God, however, wants Ezekiel to see that there are no hopeless situations to God. To his credit, Ezekiel does not doubt God’s power. When God asks him if the dead bones could live, the prophet wisely replies, “O Lord God, you know.” This is his way of saying, “Lord I believe that you can do whatever you want to do.”

God then acts, but he does not act alone. Repeatedly the Bible shows us that God’s plan is for his servants to serve as co-laborers with him. God chooses not to do everything himself. He invites willing workers to share in the work of redemption. God parted the waters of the sea, for example, but he did so only after Moses had done his part.

God puts Ezekiel to work. His assignment must have seemed strange to the prophet, but he obeyed. He prophesied to the bones, telling them to “hear the word of the Lord.” Ezekiel knew that it was not his words that would change the dead bones, but the word of the Lord. Still God had a role for the prophet in this drama of deliverance. God always has something for his servants to do. What dignity he gives us by allowing us to work as “co-laborers with God.”

 I know how Ezekiel must have felt. Some years ago, my bishop appointed me to serve in a rather hopeless situation. In a sense he sent me to preach to dry bones and tell them to listen to the word of the Lord.  Like Ezekiel, I knew only God could raise those dry bones to life. And like the prophet, I saw God work powerfully, bringing new life to those who heard and obeyed the word of the Lord. Amazing things happen when God is obeyed.

These words of Ezekiel should be underlined and noted -- “So I prophesied as I had been commanded.” This is reminiscent of the words written about Ananias in Acts 9. The Lord woke Ananias and told him to go to Damascus and minister to his enemy, Saul. Ananias did not understand why any more than Ezekiel did, yet he too obeyed God. Doctor Luke writes, “So Ananias went.” The message is clear: even when we do not fully understand God’s purposes, we should obey his commands. The reason is simply that God wants us to trust him.

Fortunately God revealed to Ezekiel the meaning of the vision. The dry bones represented “the whole house of Israel.” They were like dead men, yet not without hope because God had not given up on them. God still thought of them as his own people. The tender words, “O my people,” reveal God’s steadfast love for his chosen people.

God wanted his people to celebrate their new life by realizing that God had spoken to them, and that he “will act.” He wanted them to feel the joy of being guided by his indwelling Spirit.  God wants us also to know that he has spoken, supremely through the Word who is his Son. He wants to give us hope also so that when the bottom falls out of our lives, we can turn in faith to the God who “will act” on our behalf. He wants us to know that we never come fully alive until his Spirit lives within us, to comfort and to guide us.

There may be times during our journey home that we feel forsaken by God, and that we stand helpless in a valley of dead bones. In such hours of discouragement, we need to remember the vision of Ezekiel. Remembering “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,” our faith may be quickened until we are aware of the Master’s presence. When we realize that Christ is with us, and will never forsake us, we can find the strength to endure whatever hardship he allows, until our deliverance is completed. Though we may feel dead, our God has the power to make us fully alive in Christ Jesus.

This vision of Ezekiel reminds us that God’s people have always had good news. While the gospel is good news, and is the compelling theme of the New Testament, the Old Testament also is filled with the good news of God’s love and mercy, and his power to bring life out of death.

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