By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ezekiel 37.1-14
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Ezekiel in conjunction with this article.
I See Dead People
As many readers are sure to be aware, this week’s title seems to readily hearken back to a big movie hit from 1999: Sixth Sense. After reading a certain passage in Ezekiel my mind cried out in a whispered voice the tag line from the movie, “I see dead people.” But not dead people in the movie application and not really dead people in Ezekiel’s application, but a spiritual application to the dead no less. So this week, let us consider the dead.
What Is Death?
Death is probably most readily defined as life no longer living. Frogs die. Trees die. People Die. But this is not the death with which we should be enamored, no. Instead, consider another type of death – emotional. We know love, not the kind of love one has for an automobile or home, but the love of/for another person.
This kind of love goes beyond words; goes beyond intellectual thoughts; goes beyond poetry. Yet, there are times that this type of love dies. Perhaps, aside from physical death, this type of death is one of the most tragic and difficult deaths to overcome, especially when the one you loved is still living. This type of death brings sadness, depression, and in some instances long term health problems. Yet, love can be reborn; can be given new life; and with it one can be reacquainted with belonging and value – hope is reborn. But what happens when this does not happen? That situation is death – love died. This type of death fuels the feeling of lost hope, loathing in sorrow and doubt wondering “will I ever find love or be loved, again?”
Now consider another type of death – spiritual. Spiritual death seems harder to identify, but one must still try. Spiritual life not only gives zest to life, but also purpose. Now some might want to argue this, but it is with confidence that this author states that even if one finds zest and purpose in life through their job, their recreation, or their sensual appetites, then whatever is giving them zest and purpose is their spiritual life. In this instance, I think it is right to say that “I see dead people.” One might ask why? Allow me to explain a little further.
People in the above situation believe they have found their personal identity, meaning and purpose through the way in which the live life. They have achieved, or believe they will achieve fame and fortune. Yet, what does the pursuit of this illusive carrot bring? It is the rare exception that a well-known and famous person lives a healthy emotional, familial, financial, spiritual life. If all would be honest, behind the lies of smiles lives a life of depression and failure caused by desiring a carrot that does not give what it promises. For instance, how many husbands, wives, parents, children – families – are destroyed because of misplaced zest and purpose? To use an adage: sometimes we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Physical death and the death of love measure beyond words, but spiritual death has to be the greatest immeasurable death one can experience, if not the greatest death. As long as we draw breath, our spirit hopes that things will improve, but what if one dies and things did not improve? We have spent enough time talking about death, let us turn our attention to life.
Life from Death
What is life, if life is not hope? Hope allows us to wake up. Hope motivates us to work through the tough times. Hope, as it is said, “springs eternal.” With hope, life is worth living. Ezekiel’s Valley of Bones vision is a picture of hope that captures the imagination. It is a depiction that would provide any talented movie director with opportunity. It truly is an image of life from death.
For a moment, consider our previous examples. Most who have experienced the death of love want to experience new life and most who have experienced spiritual death want to experience a new hope for life. Like those who have been touched by the angel of death in love and spirit, Ezekiel finds himself surrounded by death in a quantity that astounds him.1 Like many who may dream of new love and spirit, some may say that Ezekiel was simply dreaming. But this vision is not just a simplistic wish for life resurrected, no. Ezekiel is able to see life resurrected, not just for one or two, but a whole army.2 For someone in the bowels of despair, Ezekiel’s vision gives hope of actuality.
What is Life?
In this passage, Jehovah is seen as being the giver of life. The making of other choices had brought death, but from dry useless bones3 God will build life piece by piece. For life, bones need ligaments, flesh and breath.4 But life does not happen at once, it occurs in two stages. First, the capability of movement and animation is given yet it is without life.5 Second, life’s animated force is given to the ligaments and flesh,6 and that life force is God’s spirit.7
How does this apply for us? While one can choose to live life in various ways, no matter the god one serves, all gods expect things, but not all gods give life, most take life. These gods steal our sanity by removing our emotional and intellectual capabilities, and possibly destroying familial and financial stability. But this passage shows that not only can Jehovah rebuild, he can rebuild from hopelessness. But for those watching the rebuilding that Jehovah does, we must remember that life – full life – occurs in stages. We cannot become discouraged or dismayed at the rebuilding process. Life will happen, and when it does it will be a full life, because that life embodies God’s spirit. When Jehovah rebuilds and reanimates a person that person is truly exceptional. May the LORD bless us as we share the Good News about Jehovah’s life giving force.
1. “Death Surrounds Ezekiel.” Ezekiel 37.2, NASB.
2. “A Whole Army Resurrected.” Ezekiel 37.10, NASB.
3. “Dry Useless Bones.” Ezekiel 37.2, NASB.
4. “Bones Need Ligaments, Flesh and Breath.” Ezekiel 37.6, NASB.
5. “Ligaments and Flesh, but No Life.” Ezekiel 37.7-8, NASB.
6. “Ligaments and Flesh Receive Life.” Ezekiel 37.9-10, NASB.
7. “Life Is God’s Spirit.” Ezekiel 37.14, NASB.