This is again a vision where Ezekiel is taken to a place to be shown things. In this case it is a valley full of bones scattered and piled up. It is a depressing scene - just being in a valley indicates an emotional low and sense of being stuck. The bones are dry and fragmented - the people have been dead for some time. The whole scene is lacking any life. It brings feelings that we can probably identify with right now: being dry, lacking in energy, feeling cut off and isolated.
It was identifiable for the people of Israel too. In fact in v11 it says they are saying 'our bones are dry, our hope is gone, we are cut off ...'. Remember the people were in exile, and by the time of this vision (some eleven years later) Jerusalem has indeed been under siege and trashed by the Babylonians - just as it was predicted by the doom prophecies of Ezekiel.
So it is into this context that Ezekiel is asked: 'Can these bones live?'. Its a stupid question - of course the answer is 'No!'. Yet Ezekiel in the vision is smart enough not to simply give the human answer - and so he bats it back to God. The answer the Spirit of the Lord gives is: "You speak life into the bones - speak and they will come alive!". Ezekiel was given the words to prophesy over the bones. He did as instructed, and then ... a rattling sound, the odd scene of the bones coming together. Of course this is hard for us to imagine - the bones literally assemble, and even flesh then appears.
The bones assembling and flesh appearing is a picture of life restored - therefore There is Hope, God is able to do the miraculous! Point 1 for us today in our time of depressing lockdown is that we can be a people of hope - because we know the same God, the God who gave Ezekiel this vision, the God who is able to work the miraculous, the God who has shown us the way in Jesus. This way starts with the sending of His Son to be born a man. Let us grasp this in the next few weeks and run up to Christmas: in these dark times we have hope - we are Countess Free Church, the people in our city who trust in Jesus; Jesus who can save & restore both us and others.
Note the subtlety in the answer. Life is restored through Ezekiel speaking these words - it is God's action through the person of God. So Point 2 for us is that with God at work through us we can speak life into people's lives and difficult situations. We can speak prophetic and God-enabled words directly into lives. We can say this because through this series we have been learning that we, as followers of Jesus, are the place where heaven and earth meet, the place invested with God's presence - we are temples of the Holy Spirit. So our encounter with someone on the street corner, or colleague at work, a friend on a walk - all these places are the exact location where you, as a person of God's presence, can speak life into them.
In verse 9 the bones now had flesh, but there was still no life. Ezekiel is now told to 'prophesy to the breath'. Ezekiel does this, and the breath of God entered them so that they stood up as a people. They are a whole army - ready for action! Again let us look carefully: Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the breath. This is the Hebrew word 'ruach', the same as breath in Genesis 2 breathed into the first humans to bring them to life, the same word for the Spirit of God. So Ezekiel is invited to prophecy to the Spirit of God, to call it into these otherwise still-dead people.
Let us get our heads round that! Point 3 for us is that with God at work through us we can call the Spirit to come and fill! That is my personal practice - whenever I lead someone in a prayer of commitment to Jesus, I immediately then pray for them, inviting the Spirit to come and fill their lives. They don't have to wait for the next big charismatic gathering, or next Pentecost Sunday - we can call on the Spirit right there and then!
This same ability is for each of us as followers of Jesus. Hence the key question and challenge:
Key Qn: [OUT] Where is God calling you to speak life and hope?
Challenge: Directly speak life in the name of Jesus
We are a people of hope. Let us advertise that in our scattered and dispersed locations this Christmas. We can speak life, and we can call on the Spirit to move. Why am I so confident of this? Look at verses 11 to 14, which talks of wholescale community restoration for His people. In it there are two special components: 1) is opening graves - bringing back to life, and 2) is the promise 'I will put my Spirit in you to live'. Where has God literally done these actions? Number 1 is at Easter - Jesus being raised out of the closed tomb. Number 2 is a Pentecost with the mass outpouring of the Spirit. Those were 2 history defining moments - they set in motion a new era in which we now live! That is why I'm confident - in Jesus we are a people of hope, a people who can speak life.