By Paul Keim, professor of Bible and religion at Goshen College
Reprinted from Lenten Devotions
“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, now hear the word of the Lord.” It is one of the most powerful and enduring of all biblical images. The prophet Ezekiel is plucked from his station among the exiles in Babylon and taken up by the power of God on a visionary journey. Through his poetic description we see the piles of bones covering the valley floor. We hear the rattling as they reconnect and become reconstituted bodies. Then Ezekiel prophesies to the breath in the wind and the bones come alive.
Our imaginations are held captive to this image and we dwell upon it. But the interpretation of the vision follows, and should not be neglected. These bones are the house of Israel, those living in exile, mumbling to themselves that their bones are dried up, their hope is burned out, life as they knew it – over. Once a people, now No People. Survivors whose fate seems death-like. They might as well be lying in their graves.
But, like the reconnected and revivified bones, they too may come to breathe again, to believe again, to live again. Plucked from their tombs of despair, these exilic zombies receive God’s breathy resuscitation. They are no longer grist for the boneyard but living signs that God is with them, has never abandoned them.
All of us will die someday. But while we live, we should live as living, breathing beings, with all the rights, privileges and obligations pertaining thereto.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)