“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3)
I wonder how I would have answered had I been the one God picked up and set in a valley full of bones—bones that were “very dry,” years past any life they’d once had.
The biologically obvious answer to God’s question—“No”—would have felt wrong when Almighty God was asking me the question.
“Ummm. . . I don’t know” would have felt wimpy.
But could I, especially before the resurrection of Jesus, honestly have said, “Sure, if you want them to”? Would I have had that much faith?
I love the freedom in Ezekiel’s response. He didn’t feel he had to figure out the right answer. He didn’t try to rustle up more faith. He didn’t take on the stress of believing that the outcome of the story depended either on his ability to envision the future or on how much faith he had.
He simply replied, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
And God seemed completely fine with Ezekiel’s response, accepting as an act of faith his willingness not to know but to know that God knew.
Then God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones, to tell them that God would bring them to life again. He said that when he did, “Then you [the people who had been just dry bones] will know that I am the Lord.”
Ezekiel speaks the words God gave him.
Bones link up and muscle and skin find their place. In some ways it’s a big step forward from old, dry bones to intact human bodies. But in terms of a meaningful life that makes a difference in the world, is there much difference between dry bones and a still-dead body?
So God tells Ezekiel to speak once again, this time to the winds from north, east, south, and west, commanding them to come and breathe into the bodies so they once again inhale and exhale as living beings.
The bodies live.
The Meaning Behind the Metaphor
Then God gives Ezekiel the meaning behind the metaphor: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’” God gives Ezekiel something to say on his behalf again, but this time it’s not to dry bones or to the winds, but to God’s own people.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:12-14, bold mine).
Do you see it? Ezekiel didn’t have to know the outcome. He didn’t have to have perfect clarity or superhuman faith in a particular version of the future for the wonderful impossible to happen. He just had to trust God enough, be open enough to the possibility of the impossible becoming possible, to do as God asked. And then, when God did the impossible on behalf of his people, then they would know that God is God, that it was he who had spoken, and he who had done the impossible on their behalf.
There is so much grace here, and so much comfort for me as I prepare to soon send my book, “Risking Rest: Embracing God’s Love in Life’s Uncertainties,” out into the world. Like every author, I have moments of wondering: “Will this book live? Will it find its wings and fly?” We can pray and plan and prepare, but in the end, none of us knows the future. And God reminds me that that’s just fine. It’s good, actually. Because, ultimately, what God chooses to do with the book is none of my business. My role is to listen as best I can and speak the words God gives me to speak. His is to determine the outcome. And whatever happens will be fine because the Sovereign God who dearly loves both you and me will be with us in the future too.