Ezekiel 37: 1-2
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.
Isaiah 43: 1-2; 18-19
But now, this is what the Lord says –
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze....
.....‘Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
There are some places in life that you visit and never want to return to. Perhaps the photos in the brochure of a holiday resort painted a completely false picture of what awaited you. Maybe you have memories of a place which are painful and unpleasant. It could be that something happened during a season in a location and you just want to move on and put it behind you. At times in life we all find ourselves in places we'd rather not be and in front of things we wish we could avoid seeing.
This valley where God sets Ezekiel down is one such place, at least to begin with. Look at what we read:
"...the Lord...set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry." (vv 1-2)
It’s like a scene from a horror movie. Ezekiel finds himself ankle deep in hundreds of bones. There's skulls and shoulder blades, kneecaps and ribs, femurs and vertebrae, hipbones and finger bones, everywhere he looked.
It tells us that they are very dry as if they’ve been lying out there on public display, exposed to predators, scorched and bleached by the hot sun for a long, long time. It’s a pitiful, shameful and sad sight. No one even cared enough to give them a funeral. They're not even ordered, complete skeletons. Just piles of bones - disordered, dismembered. It’s a painful picture of death, devastation, hopelessness, helplessness.
We saw yesterday that God is giving Ezekiel a vivid picture of Israel’s spiritual condition:
“Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” (v 11)
God’s people are spiritually dry and dead. There is no spiritual life in them whatsoever. No vitality, no passion, no devotion. Israel, cut off from the life of God, find themselves spiritually dead, scattered, defeated, done.
Whatever way we look at it, these bones were unable to help themselves. If it depended on their own ability, strength, ingenuity or determination, they were done. However, with God, what often feels like rock bottom is actually the foundation for a miracle. When all around you is death and discouragement, God is getting ready to breathe hope and birth new life. The greatest setback is often His best setup for a comeback. While you are walking through the valley He is leading you into the future He intends for you to inhabit.
As I studied this passage in prayer I saw a picture of a bag filled with hundreds of jigsaw pieces, but without the box they were pretty much useless. You could try to put them together but it would only lead to frustration and time wasting. However, when you are handed the box you get the full picture, and you can now see where all the pieces fit. That which was formerly scattered and chaotic now starts to take shape, it comes into focus.
That's what I believe is happening with many people in this season of shifting and transition. Everything is not what it seems. The valley of death is very real, but it's not the whole picture. The scattering and chaos is present, but it's not where you'll finish up. Seek God for the whole picture, ask Him to reveal where He's leading you, don't give into frustration, fear or discouragement. As David said in Psalm 23, the valley is a place you walk through, you don't live there.
As I finish today, look back at verse 1 again:
“The hand of the Lord...brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.”
Notice those two phrases: The Lord....'brought me out' and 'set me in'. This is a season of transition for many, a time of movement and change. The Lord is bringing some of you out of some things because He has somewhere else He wants to set you into. He is re-positioning you, re-orientating your life, re-configuring your priorities, giving you new focus and perspective. This shifting is unsettling, and like Ezekiel, at first it will look like you've ended up in a place you don't want to be, but hang in there. What you currently see is not how it will stay. Right now it's a place where you see death, disorder and despair. However it will become a place of resurrection and revival where you will experience incredible life and unity and purpose. The key is this: don't focus on what you see, listen closely to what God is saying.