Tim’s Daily Bread Devotional 6.2.22

By June 2, 2022Daily Bread

Good morning!

I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.

Today’s Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14

 1 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. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

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. 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. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] 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.”

 

Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today

Back in 1994, George Barna, one of the primary researchers surveying the spiritual landscape of our nation, published a book entitled If Things are So Good, Why Do I Feel So Bad? (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1994).  Even back then, Barna’s surveys indicated that many people felt a nagging emptiness deep within.  Barna wrote that in the realm of spirituality, many people reported feeling spiritually dry—and even spiritually dead.  That was 1994.  Is it better today?

Perhaps the question for you today is the classic question of spiritual direction:  How is it with your soul?  Are you experiencing a time of spiritual dryness?

Of course, the prophet Ezekiel’s time was very different from our own.  After all, it was 2,600 years ago.  Yet, it also was a time of struggle to find hope and meaning.  He lived among the people of God who were in exile following the fall of Jerusalem in 597 B. C.  Their nation was in ruins.  They had been utterly defeated and humiliated.  They felt dead.  All seemed utterly hopeless.  But, in that desperate hopelessness, Ezekiel the prophet had a powerful vision that is recorded in today’s scripture reading.

In that vision, he says the hand of the Lord took him to a valley–better translated as “plain” from the Hebrew.  Imagine Ezekiel’s vision in your mind’s eye: a vast desert valley, flat at the bottom, forming a vast, dry and rocky plain–full of dust and dry bones, bleached white and baking in the sun.  Ezekiel says that the Lord didn’t just take him to the valley plain and show it to him; God walked him back and forth through those dry bones in that desolate and lifeless place.  Just imagine the crunch, crunch, crunch on the rocks and the sand and the dry bones underfoot as the hand of God walked him back and forth, back and forth through that valley.

In the eleventh verse, the Lord says to Ezekiel, “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.’”  Today, many people, communities, churches, families, and nations look across the landscape of their lives and see dead bones parched dry in the desert sun with no apparent hope.  They feel that hopelessness in the very depth of their bones.

Do I have a future?  Do I have any quality of life ahead of me?  Can our marriage be saved?  Can I ever break free of these chains of addiction?  Can I go on without him (or her)?  Is there hope for a different future? These are the kinds of questions we ask in the valley of dry bones.

In Ezekiel’s vision, it is God who asks the question.  As they walked, the voice of God said to Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?”  If you were in Ezekiel’s place, what would you have answered?  I would have said, “No way!  It’s not possible!”

Ezekiel answered, “O Lord God, you know.”  In today’s words, Ezekiel might have said, “God only knows.”

“God only knows.” Now, that’s an expression that we hear a lot today when people talk about the realities of their life and the realities of our society.  Surveying the vast valley plain of their lives, many people say “God only knows” with a kind of dry resignation as they ponder their future.

There are times when we survey the spiritual landscape of our own lives, and we see dry, desiccated, sun-bleached bones.  That’s about as dead as it gets.  And I wonder if you can identify with that, if you’ve been there in your own life or perhaps if you’re struggling with that right now.

The Good News is that Ezekiel’s vision did not end at this place.  God said to him, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  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 Lord.’”

So, Ezekiel prophesied as God had commanded him.  And as he prophesied, suddenly there was a noise—can you imagine that—a noise, a rattling sound.  The bones came together, bone to its bone. And he looked and the muscle formed on them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them.  Then God said to Ezekiel, “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.’”  Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

In that time of spiritual dryness, God’s message to Ezekiel was one of hope:  “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.’  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.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.”

I’ll never forget leaving the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum in Israel and seeing the inscription from Ezekiel 37: “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”  Our guide had me read the entire passage to our group.  In that context, the message of hope was almost overwhelming.

Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, has written on Ezekiel in the book Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible. He points out that there is no date on Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones because every single generation needs to hear, in its own time, that these bones can live again.

Are you spiritually dry right now?  In the times of spiritual dryness, when we can say with the people of Israel, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost; we are cut off completely,” God has a message for us:  I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live! 

 

Hymn: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”

by Edwin Hatch (1878)

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.

Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture.  I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.

Grace and Peace,


Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

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