Ezekiel 37:1-14 is a familiar passage, but one which speaks again and again into hopeless situations. Israel was in exile and in despair, but through Ezekiel, we see God speaking to His people and to the nations, showing them where they have gone wrong and showing them the way back, showing them His desire for faithfulness and obedience and promising restoration. We can be reassured that even when we are faithless, God is faithful. (2 Tim 2:13)
Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones speaks of death and decay; there is no coming back from this situation, naturally speaking. Into that bleak situation, God asks Ezekiel a question. ‘He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”’ (Ezek 37:3) Ezekiel’s answer is honest and rests on God’s sovereignty. Naturally speaking, the bones could not live and Ezekiel is not glib about the possibilities. He is, however, obedient to God’s commands and speaks out God’s words – something which must have seemed frankly crazy.
God uses words to speak life into what is not alive. God spoke in the beginning and created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1-3) Jesus sustains everything, all life, by His powerful word. (Heb 1:3) The Son of God is known as the ‘Word.’ (John 1:1) Paul reminds us that we serve ‘the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.’ (Rom 4:17) We may not understand why words are so powerful or why God uses words, but the fact remains that words are the means God often uses to do things. As Paul says, ‘It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”’ (2 Cor 4:13, quoting Ps 116:10) He goes on to tell the Romans, ‘“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’ (Rom 10:8-10) Speaking words is often the way God works, and He gives us also the opportunity to work as He did by telling us to speak words, His words, into situations.
Ezekiel’s speaking came in two stages: first, to the bones, then to the breath. The message of life from death was one which gave hope to the people in exile, and this message was communicated by God’s servant, speaking God’s words. God consistently gives us the words and the confidence to speak; ‘whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ (Mark 11:24) Faith is the fuel that will open our mouths and cause us to speak out what God has said to us; faith is what will keep us believing when we do not necessarily see anything happening. Faith and speaking go together; we need to learn to speak out what God has said to us so that we can see it come into being.