September 8 (Daily reading: Ezekiel 37-39) Perhaps Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is his best-known prophecy. As the prophet viewed the bones scattered over the floor of the valley, God asked: “Can these bones live?” He then told Ezekiel to prophecy over the bones: “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD … I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life … and you will know that I am the LORD” (37:4-6). Ezekiel did as he was told, and in his vision, “they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (37:10).
God explained the vision to Ezekiel: “These bones are the whole house of Israel … I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it” (37:11, 14). After the prophecies of judgment came the message of hope. Israel would be restored and live again in the land that God had given them. “‘I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel,’ declares the Sovereign LORD” (39:29, NIV).
At the end of the 19th century, James Weldon Johnson heard African American preachers use Ezekiel’s vision to foretell that the African American people would survive slavery, just as the nation of Israel had survived their exile. He would grow up and put the vision to music as a spiritual called “Dry Bones.” There is truth in the conclusion of the lyrics: “Dem bones gonna walk around.” God can bring life to what is dead! Jesus said, “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn. 5:24).
– Al Gary