Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
The valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 is a popular piece of the Scripture. It’s also sadly easy to interpret really badly in one particular respect. Here’s the way NOT to deal with the passage. God has placed an impossible situation in front of you. Dead, dry bones. Nothing you can do in yourself would bring them to life. Nothing you can do in yourself can breathe life into your situation. What do you do? Like the prophet, you go ahead and command the dry bones to come together , command the dead things to come to life, reach out in faith and raise up a mighty army of God’s people! You’ve heard this preaching. I’ve heard this preaching. There’s a fundamental error in it, and I would dare call it blasphemy, a sin of speaking something that is so very harmful it denies God himself.
Why? What’s so wrong with what I did above? Compare the biblical text to the little sermonette I gave you. In Ezekiel, who knows what to do with the dead bones? Who gives the command to prophesy? Who tells what the outcome will be? There’s the difference. In the example I gave, it was my idea what to do with the dead bones, my idea to prophesy, my idea what the outcome will do.
The fact is, I have as much power to fix some situations in my world as I do to find the skeleton of a deer in the woods, bring it to life, and get it to give me venison! I don’t get to command anything. By doing so, I am claiming the role, prerogative, and power of God. It denies God and exalts me to the heavenly throne.
What do we do with this passage, then? We confess that, like the prophet Ezekiel, we don’t know what to do with the deadness we see around us. We admit that we have no idea how to fix it, and even if we did have an idea, it would probably be the wrong idea and we wouldn’t be able to put the plan into effect. Rather, we ask that the Lord, by His mercy, would work it out, and that He would use us, if it is His will, as instruments of change.
Notice how God is the one who initiates the encounter? Notice how it is by His word that anything happens? And notice that He is the one who gives the application. These dead bones are God’s people. He will bring them life, even out of the grave. But what if we become sick? What if we even die? If God wills it, we will come to no eternal harm. We are perfectly safe in Him. He can even raise us from the dead.
The good news? Jesus has come specifically to raise us from the dead. He has shown his will by rising himself as well. It is God’s will to keep us.
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