37.1 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.
2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor
of the valley, bones that were very dry.
3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say
to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!
5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make
breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life.
6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you
and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you
will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was
prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the
bones came together, bone to bone.
8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered
them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy,
son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign
Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and
breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered
them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a
11 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.’
12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you
up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord,
when I open your graves and bring you up from them.
14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will
settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the
Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the
Respond to God’s Call
The people of God have always responded to God’s call, through
persecution, through prosperity, and yes, even through plague. And
it is in the toughest moments, individually and collectively, where
we are compelled to ask: What is God doing? Today, our nation and
world face an unprecedented crisis, a pandemic which has brought
alienation, sickness, and to so many, death. We might be asking,
what is God doing? And what I am supposed to do, as a follower of
Jesus Christ, to faithfully live out my calling in this time?
In our Scripture text for today, Ezekiel lived in a time when God’s
people were surely asking, What is God doing? What am I supposed
to do, as God’s servant, to faithfully live out my calling in this time?
This was a time of Exile, a time when God’s people had been forcibly
removed from their homeland by Babylon, and a time of
unprecedented change. Living away from their homeland, they
surely wondered if all was lost, if there was any hope of restoration.
God’s answer to Ezekiel came in the form of a vision. A vision of dry,
dead bones, in a valley. Some commentators believe that Ezekiel was
imagining the bones of his countrymen strewn about the streets of
Jerusalem during the exile.
God asks Ezekiel a question
In the midst of such a ghastly sight, God asks Ezekiel a question. Can
these bones live? Now, Ezekiel was probably thinking, what kind of
question is that? On a more profound level, there was probably a
deep sense of mourning, wondering, can new life come from the
death and destruction that was brought upon God’s people?
Ezekiel’s only answer was one that acknowledged he didn’t know–
”God, only you know.”
Then something remarkable happens. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy
to these dry bones that they may live. The dead, dry bones assemble
together, flesh gets placed on them, and God breathes the breath of
life into them!
In this profound moment, God had taken Ezekiel’s mourning, grief
and doubt, and answered it with life and with hope. God’s people
will not be utterly lost. There is new life, a new life that only God can
Ezekiel’s first call in the midst of this profound crisis was the call to
hope. It was not a call to hope in something he could do, but a call to
hope in God as the only one who can bring the dead to life, who can
bring new creation, who can overtake the darkness with light.
As we face the uncertainty, doubt, fear, and grief that this pandemic
has brought to our world and to our lives, our first call is a call to
believe in the God of hope. To believe in a God who is still working.
To believe in a God who is bringing and will bring new life out of this
crisis. To believe in a God who can do things that only God can do.
Renew Your Faith
Our first call in the midst of this crisis is a call to renewed faith.
The world that Ezekiel experienced was profoundly different from
the world before the exile–nothing felt the same, nothing looked the
same. Ezekiel’s vision instilled in him a hope that God would
restore, God would bring new life to a nation that had, for many
literally, and for all in a very real sense, died. But make no mistake, it
would not be a return to the way things were before. Nothing would
look the same. The return from exile was not a restoration of the old
kingdom, but the recreation of something new, something hopeful,
something exciting. This new thing was not only a different look and
feel to the physical makeup of the temple and the city, there was a
new spiritual awakening, one in which God’s Spirit would be written
on the hearts of the people. It was indeed a revival.
I ask you to think with me today, when things return to a sense of
normalcy, when social distancing is a thing of the past, make no
mistake, things will not be the same. When God’s church comes
through this crisis, and it will by God’s miraculous power, let us
creatively imagine how God is going to create something new, how
God is going to prune His Church, to make her more into the image
of Jesus Christ. How we experience church as the people of God will
and should look different on the other side of this.
Not only will how we live out our calling as the collective people of
God look different, how we live out this call as the church scattered
in the world will look different. God’s work extends in and through
God’s people in their everyday lives, including their work. For many
of us, our work has already changed in profound ways. As a high
school teacher, I am delivering online English education to about 50
high school students for the foreseeable future. Those working in
health care are thrust into a role of bringing life and healing on the
front lines of danger. For many of you, you surely have had to
change the way you work, which has brought new challenges and
new stress along with it. For others, you may have lost working
hours and perhaps the job itself because of this crisis. For all of us,
work on the other side of coronavirus will look fundamentally
different. But I believe that God is already doing the work of new
creation, reshaping us such that our vocational lives both now and
on the other side of this crisis, will be a striking witness to the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. The people of God are called to live into this
hope, even in the midst of crisis.
Therefore, let us follow God’s call to think creatively about how the
church, and our lives, will look different on the other side of this.
And lives that don’t just look different for different sake, but
vocational lives which are shaped by the questions: What is God
doing? What is God recreating?
The Scriptures also illustrate that the restoration of the people back
to the land, the one prophesied through the miraculous bringing of
new life to the dry bones, would require significant spiritual,
physical, and emotional labor. Was it miraculous, something only
God could do? Yes, and God made sure that Ezekiel recognized that
God is indeed his only hope. But our faith and hope in God also calls,
drives and compels us to action. The story of the people’s
restoration back to the land would require significant human and
The story of Nehemiah bears this out. Nehemiah, like Ezekiel, lived
during the time of exile, during this unprecedented crisis for the
people of Israel. As the cup bearer to the king, Nehemiah held a
position of privilege –and yet he bore the burden of a profound
sadness. A sadness over the wall of Jerusalem, over the
displacement of God’s people Make no mistake, Nehemiah was
grieving, but his grieving was not without hope. He believed that
God would bring new life to Israel, and when he heard God’s call to
return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, he acted. His hope in the God
who could bring life to dry bones led him back to Jerusalem, back to
the place of the broken wells. Read the book of Nehemiah–the labor
to rebuild the wall was met with opposition from without and from
within; and yet, it was the collective labor of love from God’s people
which saw it through to completion. It was also a time of spiritual
restoration, through Ezra’s reading the Law, that the people were
reminded of who they were as God’s people, and that their faith and
hope was in the God who would restore God’s people to new life.
Many of you find yourselves in precarious and uncharted waters.
Conducting church services online, giving pastoral care over the
phone, trying to find creative ways of ministry in a time of social
distancing, being a nurse on the front lines of a coronavirus
epidemic, being a teacher who is pushed into teaching online classes
overnight, being a parent who is thrust into the role of
homeschooling, being a grocery store worker who helps deliver
essential goods to those most in need, being a waitress at a
restaurant whose job may have changed or who may be seeking new
employment–these are all profound changes.
I want to encourage you to know first that even through the new
challenges and stress, this labor is not done in vain, as it is done to
the Lord. You are making a difference. As with Nehemiah, our labor
is born in a hope that God is doing something new, that God will
bring new life out of this profound crisis. The work is tough, the
work is new, and the work will require us to think differently, But
know that as God was with Nehemiah and all those laboring to build
the wall in the hope of God’s re-creation, God is with you in your
labor. God has gifted each of you uniquely, and has equipped each of
you to meet the challenges that this time demands. Let us follow
God’s call during this time, to continue laboring in love of God and
neighbor, in the hope that the God who brought life to the dry bones
is indeed making something new today.
I would like us to conclude today with the reading of a second
Scripture, one that will be familiar to us on this Palm Sunday, and
witnesses to the God who indeed brings new life:
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage
on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying
to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you
will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie
them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to
you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send
them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed
them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed
their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large
crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut
branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was
stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from
Nazareth in Galilee.”
It was hope of new life for the world which led Jesus to enter
Jerusalem on what we celebrate today as Palm Sunday. While
people raised their palm branches and cloaks and shouted
“Hosanna!”, Jesus surely thought about what was coming. Jesus was
being called into a period of intense suffering, one which would cost
him his very life on the cross. And yet, Hebrews tells us that Jesus
endured this suffering for the “joy that was set before him.” How
could he find joy in suffering? Because he believed in hope in a God
who raises the dead, who raised the dry bones to life, who brings
light into the darkness, who renews, restores, and forgives. Jesus
knew that from the cross would come resurrection that brings life to
the world. The price he paid, as fully human but also God incarnate,
would bring forgiveness, and the hope of new creation. Jesus knew
that the world on the other side of the resurrection would be
entirely changed and that things would never be the same.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, our hope does not come by waiting for
the end of the virus and nor does our hope come in any of our best
human efforts to contain it. Our call to hope is a call to believe in the
God who raised the dry bones to life, and the God who raised Jesus
Christ from the dead. It is this hope which drives us to work, drives
us to love and drives us to re-imagine a world which God is indeed
David Guzik, “Study Guide for Ezekiel 37 by David Guzik,” Blue
Letter Bible, accessed March 26, 2020,