Dear brothers and sisters,
As I write this letter, we are on the verge of entering a sweltering heat wave here in the LC Valley. We are expecting temperatures of excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are what we might expect for one day in the month of August, not multiple days at the start of July. My prayers are with our neighbors and first responders as they work to keep our community safe and healthy. I invite you to do the same.
These desert-like conditions remind me of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37. Here, we are given a vision of a wasteland of heat and dust containing the bones of the people of Israel- a sobering picture of a people who have disobeyed God and are on the edge of destruction. Bringing Ezekiel to this valley, the Lord asks him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” On the surface, the situation appears hopeless. Amongst the heat, desolation, death, and solitude, no one could blame Ezekiel for responding with a simple, “No, they cannot.”
When we look at own lives, we may be tempted to answer the same. There are so many situations in our lives that feel hopeless. We lose a dear friend to cancer. Our child’s marriage falls apart, and they are struggling to find their footing. We receive difficult news from the doctor. Each of us has a long list of painful circumstances in our lives that could lead us to believe that our world is one great Valley of Dry Bones. We could easily answer the Lord, “No, these bones cannot live.”
However, this is not Ezekiel’s answer. Ezekiel looks out upon the desolation and death before him, and he is able to see God doing the work of restoration. He answers the Lord’s question with a demonstration of hopeful faith, “O Lord, you know.” O Lord, you know because you are the One that gives life to dead things. You know because you are the One who conquers death and raises us to new life. You know because you are the One who takes our sin and brokenness upon yourself, and stands with us as our Redeemer.
God’s response to Ezekiel is one of grace and hope:
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
The Lord’s response to Ezekiel is a reminder that there is no valley too deep, no pain too great, no drought too long, to keep us under the shadow of death. God is present to each of us. He knows our thoughts, prayers, and pains. He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows us better than we know ourselves. For this reason, he also knows what it is we truly need: life. We need the Lord to breathe upon us so that we shall truly live!
In John 7, Jesus says that if we come to him and drink, we will receive living waters that flow from his heart. In other words, our lives will be so filled with the Spirit that our hearts will overflow with the joy and hope of knowing our Savior. These waters are a testament to God’s promise to Ezekiel: dry bones will not stay dry for long. God has promised that he will make them live again. Regardless of the difficulties of this life, and there are many, God is restoring each of us. He is raising dry bones.
So, no matter how hard (or hot) life becomes, we know that we serve a good and faithful God who constantly breathes new life into each of us, raises our dry bones, and fills our hearts with living waters.
Let us find shelter in his grace.