I think so far 2016 goes down as one of the weirdest years on record.
I heard it said that the internet right now is either Pokemon or Racism. There is no in between. I think what gets me most is all the heated “debates” rampaging through social media outlets concerning race and gender and fundamental human rights.
I don’t think we are living in the darkest days of human history. VERY far from it, in fact. I think this is a pretty good time to be alive. We have amazing medical advancements that can postpone life and increase the quality of life like never before. We see social progress bringing more freedoms to more people than ever before. We’ve got supercomputers that we carry around in our pockets that we use to catch fictional monsters and share pictures of our food.
A lot of good stuff is happening.
But….it’s still not where it could be. I still see astronomical rates of homicides, suicides, abortions, poverty, police brutality, racism, drug abuse, child abuse, abuses of power and authority.
Life in the States isn’t terrible, but it’s a far cry from “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Ezekiel is a Jewish priest/prophet living in exile. Jerusalem has been overthrown, the nation of Judah is no more, and the Temple has been demolished. Ezekiel and thousand of other Jews have been carted off into a foreign land where the worship different gods and speak different languages and enforce different laws and follow different customs. Ezekiel could probably relate quite a bit to the Syrian refugees.
The situation is dire at best. The Jews are all but hopeless. Morale is waining, and people are beginning to give up on God. But God, through the prophets like Micah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, reassures his people that he has not abandoned them, he has not forgotten them, he will deliver them.
So we have the book of the prophet Ezekiel preserved for us in Scripture. But Oh. My. Goodness. is it a weird book. Some things are just plain bizarre, like his visions of angelic beings that would be right at home in a Guillermo Del Toro film. Or when he saw “wheels in the sky” that sound just like that crazy UFO conspiracy theorist on the History Channel. And that’s just chapter 1!
I’ve heard it said that Ezekiel is so strange that many rabbis wouldn’t teach their disciples about the book until they were older because they didn’t want their faith to be shaken too much.
But then we have this story that is mentioned in the song “Days of Elijah.”
These are the days of Ezekiel, the dry bones becoming as flesh.
God takes Ezekiel out to a desert valley full of the bones of a long-dead army. Obviously, these are the bones of the losing side. And then something weird happens. You can read about it in Ezekiel 37:1-14. But here’s a video reenactment that I think is really cool:
What’s the one thing separating you from a dead person right now?
The human body is an incredible organism, a masterful piece of creation. Our bodies can survive for about 40-45 days without food (not that we want to test that out…). We can survive for about 3 days without water. But we can only survive a matter of minutes without air.
If you don’t breathe, you die.
So in the story, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. And amazingly the bones come together, and muscles, tendons, organs, and skin begin to cover the skeletons. But they still aren’t alive. They can appear alive, but are still very much so dead.
Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind. As the air enters their lungs, the formerly deceased soldiers come to life.
This is the power of God on display. Creation our of nothing. Order out of chaos. Light out of darkness. Life out of death. This is what God has been doing from the beginning and continues to do even today.
It’s interesting that the Hebrew and Greek languages both have one word that means 1) Wind, 2) Breath, and 3) Spirit. One word, three meanings, used interchangeably throughout Scripture. Where the Spirit/Wind/Breath of God is, there is life.
Ezekiel gets the message. And then he gives the message to the people of Israel. But it’s a message we still need to hear today. Those of us who have been baptized have also received the gift of the Holy Spirit – new life, the very breath of God bringing life eternal to our bodies.
And yet I look around and I see a lot of ancient battle fields full of the bones of the innocent. Battles are raging all around us, leaving casualties right and left. Do you see them, too?
I asked out Young Disciples class what they see as our “Valley of Dry Bones” in our communities. Here is what they said:
- Drug Addiction
- Low Education
- Teen Pregnancy
- Bad Home Life
- Bad Attitudes/Pessimism
- Lack of Respect
- Don’t Know Jesus