Revival In The Valley
Updated: May 21, 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14 NRSV
37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 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
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your
own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
In our text, we meet Ezekiel who was a Hebrew prophet of the exile. He lived during the time of the Babylonian captivity and it is believed that he received his call during this tumultuous time. Funny thing how ministry is often birthed right in the middle of mess. Perhaps some of us could attest to a similar call that came in the midst of trouble and chaos. Ezekiel’s assignment was not for the weary as he was commanded to deliver a series of oracles announcing the judgment of his own people and to foreign nations which have had a hand in their oppression.
The work I’m sure was quite exhausting. Being an exile himself, I can’t help but to wonder as Ezekiel surveyed the valley and being perplexed by what he witnessed saw himself in those bones? “That’s me, displaced dismembered, and disinherited”.o be in exile and to prophesy of more destruction would be reasonably depressing. Hope seems unattainable.
QUESTION: Have you ever felt called to prophesy to something or someone in the same predicament as yourself?
But despite their condition and present tribulations God had not forgotten about them and God’s mindfulness of his people is demonstrated in a vision he gives to the prophet.
Ezekiel describes the details of this vision where he is led by God into a valley full of dry bones. It is a horrific sight of gloom and ruin, death and desolation. It is imagery which stands as a far cry from the hopeful and promising visuals of blessing, renewal, and increase over the house of Israel found in the previous chapter. This vision is real and raw making known the inner and outer realities of a people in exile. Dried bones are a metaphor for a downcast spirit (prov. 17:22, 15:30). They are scattered, dried up, stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Valleys are low areas between hills or mountains often with a river running through it. Some of the most complex and unique societies like the Nile or the Tigris-Euphrates originated in the valley. But this valley was not the scene of innovative culture or a thriving metropolis, but
was in fact a crime scene, a site of injustice and despair. This was the place where a vast multitude, a great army of folks had met their fate falling victim to the weapons of an enemy stronger, faster, and bigger.
Their remains were scattered everywhere and with time had become very dry. The dryness of the bones could indicate the absence of water, something quite common in valleys. If this were so then not only were the bones dry but the environment in which these bones existed had also become depleted, exhausted, and impoverished too.
The presence of God in the midst of such chaos is reminiscent of Genesis 1, where God is seen in his most creative mode. Friends, whenever you see God showing up in such a situation you can expect something awesome to emerge. No doubt, all those bones in those
shallow graves carries the obvious tone of death and burial. I mean, it is our custom to take remains and give them a proper burial out of respect. But with all due respect, God is not preoccupied with closure and ceremonial cover ups! While we may find it difficult to look past or garner hope, God is hovering in the midst of death and desolation pondering a plan for a comeback. Even with no skin, no breath, and no life God is not through with you! While we see remains, God sees revival!
Revival is God’s specialty and she invites us into the precious work of it. But before Ezekiel begins doing any work, it is important for him to understand the power of God in relation to the work. God calls for the prophet to consider this question: can these dry bones live? In other words, can the impossible be done? God is interested in knowing if the prophet believes the impossible can be done. I ask you today, in your own context, “can these dry bones live?”
There is something worth gleaning from his reply. Rather than make an assumption he leaves it in God’s hands. I feel it imperative to advise you that as you go into the various places and contexts God will lead you to not make assumptions about the possibilities, to leave room for the impossible to take place. When you minister to those struggling
with addiction, mental illness, seemingly uninterested teenagers, and yes, even relatives remember that dry bones can live! As you prophesy God’s truth to community members and leaders remember that dry bones can live! The impossible is possible with God!
The revival begins with a word! Within our text, Ezekiel is commanded
by God to prophesy to three things: the bones, the breath, and the
To begin Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. Bones make up the framework of a person, place or thing. They are also the last physical remnant of a person. Verse 4 says "O bones, hear the word of the Lord" Wait a minute! Hear the word of the Lord? I have a
problem with that. You see, bones cannot hear! I can vibe with the text that says “he that hath an ear let him hear” but in this case, there are no ears. How can bones hear? Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy to something seemingly non-receptive!
This serves as a reminder to us that sometimes we will have to prophesy to that which seemingly “won’t hear us”. Just because you see dry bones, don’t assume they can’t hear!
Because you see their “Make America Great Again” bumper sticker – don’t assume they can’t hear. Because they chant “All Lives Matter” in response to people lamenting their particular injustices – don’t assume they can’t hear. Just because that congregation has never had a woman in the pulpit, don’t assume they can’t hear.
Friends, we are called to speak to that which seems unresponsive. Don’t talk yourself out of your assignment because you think it won’t go over well. Instead we must be like Ezekiel who, not leaning to his own understanding looked to God and declared “Lord, you know”.
Prophesy to all who have been picked clean by social inequality and racism, gentrification and unemployment, hate crimes and terrorism, rising healthcare premiums and decreasing
healthcare coverages, mass incarceration and a corrupt justice system! Prophesy to religious, political, economic, academic structures that they will receive breath and live. Speak until there is unity. Speak until you see the sinews and flesh come upon them, that is, until you see everyone covered, everyone protected, and everyone sheltered. Speak until the most vulnerable are shielded from poor education systems, deliberate disenfranchisement, the elements of abuse, abandonment, exploitation, and deportation.
We are called to the valley of inner cities, suburban neighborhoods existing in the myth of safety of virtue, congregations that have historically been closed to new ways of thinking and being, to preach a word to Politicians, Generations, and Relatives who outwardly reject the good news of God’s word! Friends we must not be dismayed or discouraged for God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind!
Now after the bones have come together and you notice there is still no sign of life, prophesy to the breath! Prophesy to the breath by calling forth whatever is life-giving, vitalizing, and energizing. Prophesy until the environment responds and comes to your aid. Speak truth until power structures yield to the life-transforming move of God.
Prophesy to the breath like Ezekiel did, and call it to come from the four winds and command it to breath upon these slain that they may live! O breath, come from the North wind - which brings rain and refreshing – this means that not only does God plan to revive you but everything around you! Neighborhoods will be revived, colleagues will be revived, relationships will be revived, schools and programs will be revived, activists will be revived,
movements and life-giving policies will be revived. Come from the South wind - this is the gentle wind which helps growth. Breathe maturity, wisdom, and increase on those slain. Come from the East wind - stormy, powerful enough to wrecks ships – I don’t know about you but I need a strong wind to wreck some of the foolishness happening in our nation and
world today. A wind that will wreck homelessness and unemployment, a wind the will wreck trafficking and slavery. And lastly, come from the West wind- which was the wind that blew away the plague of locust. We need a breath that can blow away the locust of poverty, locust of drugs and alcohol, the locust of institutional racism eating away our communities and loved ones – breath on these slain with the breath of revival!
And once they have been infused with new life, as they stand prophesy to this great army rising before our very eyes. Prophesy to these courageous beings a word of hope and healing and remind those you are called to that God has a plan for his people, that revival and restoration is their inheritance. Remind God’s people that they serve a God who not only speaks but will act on their behalf.
A revival is happening in the valley and each one of you are called to participate in this great work of God. You are equipped and ready for the task at hand. Go, prophesy the word God has placed deep within your soul and when you have done all you can, stand, and see the
salvation of the Lord.