“Read the dry bones mum.”
She would read the Bible to me every night when I was a child. And when the notes ran out, she gave me the choice, and I always chose this passage.
I took it as an illustration of the same creative power by which God made the world. Metaphor seems too grand for a kid, it was a vibe. A vibe about what God is like, and what he can do.
Take a bunch of bones and knit them into bodies, take the bodies and breathe life into them. I had no trouble believing God who made everything could orchestrate the vivid scenes that this passage fired up in my mind, kids are like that.
Ezekiel does a stick trick in the second half of the passage that sort of repeats the bones vision, on a national scale. He writes “Israel” on one stick, and “Judah” on another stick, and then holds them together, like they are a single stick, a promise that the divided kingdom of the Jews will be one again.
Mum showed a judicious sense of drama and used to stop reading before she got to that bit. As sheer theatre, it’s somewhat anti-climactic after the bones vision.
It’s messianic, the Messiah is simply called king David. But the ruler of the joined sticks has the characteristics of the eternal kingship of God.
And here I am at 57, days into 2020. Zero honeymoon of new-year optimism as our bushfire season is catastrophically exacerbated by climate change, and the middle East seems destabilised, maybe headed for war.
I have a tiny role in that messianic vision of nations bought together under god’s love and grace, Jesus’ work happening now and promising a grace-filled and blessed destination for eternity.
The bones trick, people having new life, getting beating hearts and the breath of God as he washes away their idols… I see that regularly in the salvation army, and at church too. It’s beautiful.
The stick trick, I do believe, I draw great comfort from it. But it seems like a few steps back more than a few steps forward at the moment. It seems like the more amazing one right now.
Give me, and use me for, peace, life and hope in 2020 lord Jesus Christ.