Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, 2017
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
How can we instill hope when it seems all hope is lost? When an entire nation is defeated, uprooted, held in captivity, and all of the elements of their religious and cultural identity have been eradicated, there is little anyone can say or do to provide encouragement and hopefulness for a better future. They have become spiritually dead. Their condition is symbolized by the dry bones God reveals to Ezekiel at the beginning of today’s scripture reading.
It will take more than preaching and promises to bring the exiles in Babylon back to spiritual life and restore hopefulness for their future. It will take a prophetic and poetic vision from God through Ezekiel. It will take a fantastic image they will never forget – the image of dry bones coming to life! Several times God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones; God will put breath in them. When it happens, God says “Come from the four winds, o breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (37:9). But this is no ordinary breath, for God says, “I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live…and I will settle you in your in your own land.”
The exiles in Babylon would have known the Hebrew word for “wind”, “breath”, and “spirit” in the context of this prophetic vision is one and the same. Not only would their dry bones come to life, but they also would become filled with the Spirit of God and God’s Spirit would bring them back from exile.
Throughout history, and even today, whole populations have been displaced as exiles, slaves, or refugees. This passage in Ezekiel is confined neither to one era nor to the people of Israel. It speaks to all such circumstances. It also speaks to us in times when we have become spiritual exiles ourselves, when events surrounding our lives have seemed hopelessly irrational, or hardships seem unbearable, and we begin to wonder how God could be present in these circumstances. During these times we can be assured the same Spirit, the same wind, and the same breath that gave life and hope to the dry bones of the ancient Israelites is also at work in us.
In this season of Lent, as daily we draw nearer to the cross, this prophetic vision restores in us the assurance that we are filled with the Spirit of God who dispels all hopelessness, and sustains in us the knowledge that by grace we are saved for all time through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“… He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11b)
Thanks be to God!