The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon 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 I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, 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, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 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.” Ezekiel 37:1-14 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit brings breath to the bones. As much as we think we know in the 21st century, we still don’t get the mystery of how “breath comes to the bones,” or how life enters into elements that were once dry and dead and inanimate. This is a mystery, an understanding, and a power that is reserved for God.
Ezekiel was a prophet who spoke to the people of Judah, when the kings of the line of David had been defeated and the people of the Judean kingdom were exiled in Babylon. (2 Kings 24:10-16) It seemed as if all was lost to them. The temple was destroyed, their kings were no more, and their land was taken over by foreign pagans. It seemed to the people of Judah that God had abandoned them, and that their heritage and their family were defeated for good. Yet God had other plans for them- God, who keeps His promises, God who raised up multitudes of Abraham’s descendants from Isaac, the child of the promise. From the seemingly dead and dry bones of the line of David, the King of Kings would arise, just as He promised David.
One of the least understood and perhaps under taught concepts included in the Apostle’s Creed– which is one of the primary statements of Christian faith that Lutherans and all other orthodox Christians believe- is that of the resurrection of the body. Because of the curse of the Fall, all of us are doomed to death in these mortal bodies. But in Christ we will rise from the dead just as He did- in new bodies. God the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into dry, dead bones, will breathe eternal life and incorruptible flesh into our dead, dry bones.
We see in Job 19:25-27 that Job in his earthly torment believes – and that George Fredrick Handel echoes in his musical work The Messiah- “although worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” The apostle Paul explains to us in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 that when Jesus comes to establish the “not yet” part of the kingdom of God, the trumpet will sound and we will be changed into our incorruptible bodies in a twinkling of an eye. Our mortal, decaying, corruptible bodies will be remade like Jesus’ resurrected body. We will live forever in God’s kingdom with bodies that won’t get sick or scarred or die. The Spirit will bring breath to our new incorruptible bones and flesh!
Nothing is impossible for God. When we think there is no hope for us, we are called to trust that God will restore broken creation and that He will make us new. He promises us that He will breathe life into long-dead bones. We can be confident that there is hope. We are baptized into Jesus’ life and death- and we will share in Jesus’ resurrection.