From David Beswick’s Website – More On The Dry Bones

From here:

Ezekiel’s vision

What do we make of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones? [Ezekiel 37:1-14]. The central message is clear enough: God can breathe new life into old bones; it applies to a community of faith, like a church which appears to have been defeated, even destroyed like an army that was overcome in battle; and it applies to the individual person who feels defeated in life and faith and has no hope. You can live! If you hear the Word of God and respond to it you not only can live, but you shall live. The dry bones will come together no matter how far they have been scattered, and sinews will come upon them so that they can work together again, and flesh and skin will cover them, and even the breathe of life will come into those dead bodies when the wind of the Spirit blows. It is a message of hope — the same hope that Jesus gave when he raised Lazarus from the dead.

But I have a problem with this. Did you notice that the story is not really focussed on what happened to the dry bones. The actors are not the bones, or the bodies they represent. The real characters in the drama are firstly God, who calls the prophet, Ezekiel, and tells him to prophecy to the dry bones, then there is character of Ezekiel who actually speaks to the bones — “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” — and to the wind — “Blow upon these slain”; and, of course, the wind or spirit is the other active character. God, the prophet and wind-spirit are the characters who produce the action. It was quite a challenge for the prophet to do what God told him to do. It was quite an act of faith to tell the dry bones that they would live, and the first point of the drama, even in a dreamlike vision, was to decide whether Ezekiel had the faith to do that. Now my problem is this: while I have no doubt that God has the power to make old things new and to give life in the place of death, I am not sure whether I can apply this to our situation. Does it make any sense for the prophet to speak to the bones if they don’t know that they dead?

Well, you might say it is a silly idea anyway – talking to a lot of old bones. Whoever thought of any sane person doing that. Like Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb, you must have great faith in what you are doing to do that; or better, you must have great faith in what God can do. Yet if you really believe in the power of God to give new life, and you believe that he cares enough to answer our pleas for life, then you might have faith enough to speak the word of hope to even the most hopeless. But what if there is still a pretense of well being. What if a little more relevance in the message, a little more attractive music, or human warmth and friendship might be what people want, but it is only so much more trivia? What if the dryness of the bones goes unrecognized! What if people, as individuals or as a body in the church or nation, do not know that they are dead? I suspect that in fact, when the life has gone out it, most people do know, as is were in their bones, that it has gone. Yet I fear that all too often we are afraid to admit the state we in.

The message of hope can only be heard when you are prepared to admit you are in trouble, when you can feel the dryness of the bones. As Kierkegaard, the Danish founder of existential philosophy, said We hope only when we cease to hope. I used to think when I was young that was a very profound saying, but I did not understand it. Now I do understand. It takes a lot of faith to proclaim the message of hope with honesty when you do not know whether people recognize the marks of death that are upon them.

My message first then is be realistic, stop looking for quick fixes or easy ways to bringing new life to an old congregation or to a personal life that has gone dry, or to a nation or community that has lost its way. Short cuts to the new world are an illusion. First face the reality. There is not just a little bit of sickness around, but a mortal shadow is cast. To change the metaphor if you don’t know that the ship is virtually on the rocks you might not be very interested in changing direction; and, to stay with the metaphor, it takes a lot of time and effort to turn a ship around. It can be done if your small strength is multiplied by the mechanisms that are built into the ship and you make use of power beyond yourself, especially the driving force that propels the ship. In the olden days we would have said we must allow the wind to blow the ship in the right direction. The point is that whether you are steering a ship or commanding an army in the desert you have to know the dangers you are in and the source of life which gives you power to change if you are to survive.

Ezekiel had the faith to proclaim the word of hope to a people without hope. He believed in the power of God to breathe new life into old bones in a bleak windswept desert valley. When you too can see the scattered dry bones of defeat, you too will be able to hear the message of the psychedelic prophet. In the New Testament, as the raising of Lazarus gave promise of the raising of others from the dead, we are encouraged through the raising of Jesus from the dead to expect new life for deadest selves and most hopeless institutions, even those seduced by the revival of pagan religions and superstitions, all the dead bones can live again:-

* If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through the indwelling Spirit. [Romans 8:11]

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