Read Ezekiel 37:1–10.
I’m writing this on the heels of a really discouraging conversation. A friend I love has lost his faith in God — in His love, in His Word, in His existence.
His arrival at this place wasn’t sudden. It involved a journey of both of us watching the things he held precious get taken away. This loss includes watching what he thought his life was going to be give way over the years to what his life has become. As I listened to him, and as I ponder it now, I have nothing but empathy and sadness for him. To be honest, I’m cheating an eye upward — an accusatory side-glance to Heaven:
- God, where were You? God, where are You?
I’m searching for a metaphor for what I’m feeling. I started with the picture of me standing by my friend’s hospital bed, hearing the beeping of the machines that are keeping him on life support. But that metaphor doesn’t go far enough. There’s still a bit too much hope in a situation like that. Really, it feels like I’m standing at my friend’s graveside. Past the point of hope.
A lot of people who come through the doors of the church carry dire stories in their hearts, often sealed in a chamber just under the surface. They might be like me — carrying the burden of the spiritual death of a loved one. Or they might be carrying their own deadness or the grief of a dead situation. Either way, it’s a feeling of utter hopelessness. It’s not 99 percent despair and 1 percent hope. It’s not life support. It’s death.
Sometimes we must strain through tears to remember that God works with dead things.
Dead things even seem to be God’s choice creative raw materials. The prophet Ezekiel shows us this. At the end of this story stands a strong, healthy army, but the raw materials aren’t wounded soldiers but bones. And the Bible wants to make it doubly clear how dead these raw materials are. These are dry bones. No tissue, no life, no moisture left.
So how does God do it? Well, He does it through a regular feature of a worship service: the proclamation of the Word of God. God interrogates Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s answer is funny: “O Lord God, You know.” It sounds like a respectful way of saying, “Of course not! They’re bones! But I’m not about to say that to You, because You’re God.” And so God tells Ezekiel to proclaim, to prophesy. And as God’s Spirit moves Ezekiel to proclaim the Word of the Lord, dead things come alive.
It takes the rest of the Bible to fill out just how this moment worked. We must journey to the other end of the Scriptures to realize that any and all death-raising comes from the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God (John 1:1) and whom Paul calls the “firstfruits” of all subsequent resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). When Ezekiel prophesied, he was ultimately preaching the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ — who He is and what He has done. This is what hearing the Word of the Lord always ultimately means.
- Worship services, at their best, are always held at gravesides.
God loves camping out with His people in valleys of dry bones. Why? Because worship services are places of prophecy, Spirit-filled locations where the Word of God can be unleashed to do resurrection work. Worship songs and hymns that sing the Word and allude to the Word; prayers saturated with the Word; sermons that preach the Word; sacraments and ordinances that give the Word to our five senses — they’re all, through the Spirit, packed with resurrection power.
Sometimes a service filled with that Word reminds our despairing hopelessness that there is hope, even at a graveside. When we’re reminded of the power of the resurrecting Word, we’re filled with hope that God can take the dead things in the world and bring them to life again. And so we can turn to prayer, particularly to ask the Holy Spirit to unleash the Word to faithfully do this hope-giving, life-inspiring work. And maybe, just maybe, a resurrection will be waiting for us on the other side of our dry-boned valleys.
Aim your prayers in this direction:
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to both “bring you out” into the valley where the deadness can be identified, and to fill all the elements of worship to proclaim the resurrecting Word.
- Pray for silent sufferers who bring their despair into the worship service undetected. Ask the Lord to minister to their pain and to open the eyes of people around them to their need.
- Pray bold prayers, asking for divine and miraculous intervention in any of the impossible dead places in your life or in the life of your church.
Excerpted with permission from Before We Gather by Zac Hicks, copyright Zachary M. Hicks.
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Are you asking, ”God where are You?” Is someone you love dead spiritually? Or, are you the one who’s dry bones today? Take yourself to Jesus even if you come crawling. He is the God of bringing dead things to life! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily