James Weldon Johnson is probably not a name that you are familiar with. He was a civil rights activist in the United States. One of the spiritual songs he wrote with his brother is based on Ezekiel 37 1-14. I know the earworm is starting up and you’re hearing the chorus right now! Well maybe not.
The chorus has the words “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.” You can hear it now can’t you. With these words, that makes an anatomist’s heart leap for joy, we are given a prophetic description of human bones being reassembled assembled. This is of course with the final line of the chorus and verses exclaiming “Now hear the Word of the Lord.”
The prophet Ezekiel is taken to a place of utter desolation, surrounded by skeletal remains. A parched and dry land; devoid of life and of hope. God asks the prophet a seemingly unbelievable question when the evidence is viewed. Can these bones live? Well can they? From our perspective no, not a Scooby, no chance no way! The cause is lost. But Ezekiel knows God, he trusts him and follows his guiding. He knows his holiness, his otherness, his glory and his power. He knows that God already knows the answer. Whatever God says will happen because it’s God saying it. We may well be familiar with the phrase that “my word is my bond.” This is used by some to authenticate their words. It’s as good as done. When God speaks, he speaks with his own authority as Creator, Redeemer and Father. This is God speaking, God commanding, God upholding his word.
Using Ezekiel as his mouthpiece he commands the dead bones to hear. The breath of life is commanded to enter a physical frame once again and they are alive. They are alive and they know from the depths of their beings that God is God, as is recorded they “shall know that I am the Lord.” They know the sovereignty and provision of God.
Ezekiel is told that these bones represent the house of Israel, God’s chosen people, who were bruised and battered by their own sin and failure before the nations that had led them to be dispersed and exiled from their homeland and enslaved once again by the ancient world’s superpower, Babylon. God speaks to them at their lowest moment, where there is death and no hope. God speaks of opening up their graves and raising them up from these. He also places his Spirit within them and gives them life and a place in the land.
We may well look at our lives at the moment. You may be feeling as though you are at your lowest ebb, with no hope, no life and no place. You may be asking yourself whether your own bones can live? We may bring bags of our brokenness and confusion or even our own sinful rebellion. We bring our burdens of sickness, our griefs and sorrows. Really, we come to God with nothing. We come to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and this speaks to us. We see the horror of our sin and shame and the love of God in action. He speaks to us with the one who has conquered death and hell; sin and shame. He promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit who moves in our hearts and reminds us that he is the Lord. We may not be delivered from our trials and tribulations in this life, but we need to remind ourselves that we are never alone nor are we forsaken. We have a hope that is steadfast and certain. Can these bones live? He is God. Let God speak to you in your circumstances today.