As Ezekiel stood in the valley of the dry bones, Israel as a people had ceased to exist. According to the Expositor’s Bible commentary on the text, seemingly cast off by its God, driven from its land, dismembered and deprived of its political organization, to the feeble and demoralized remnant who had survived the fall of the state, the restoration of national life was beyond what their minds could conceive. The commentary continued, “The most formidable obstacle to faith on the part of the exiles in the possibility of a national redemption was the complete disintegration of the ancient people of Israel. . .. Not only were the outward symbols of national unity destroyed, but the national spirit was extinct. Just as the destruction of the bodily organism implies the death of each separate member and organ and cell, so the individual Israelites felt themselves to be as dead men, dragging out an aimless existence without hope in the world.” God had heard their thoughts and repeated them back to the prophet, “These bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost. We are completely cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11, AMP). In their hearts, the light had gone out on their dream.
What do you do when a dream has died? This question came to mind as I reflected on Ezekiel’s uncommitted answer to the question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (v. 3a). As a prophet, he knew the power of God but in his mind, the realities of the situation were impossible to ignore. From the Expositor’s Bible, “The hardest part of Ezekiel’s task at this time was therefore to revive the national sentiment, so as to meet the obvious objection that even if Jehovah were able to drive the heathen from His land there was still no people of Israel to whom He could give it. If only the exiles could be brought to believe that Israel had a future, that although now dead it could be raised from the dead, the spiritual meaning of their life would be given back to them in the form of hope, and faith in God would be possible.” Ezekiel knew what he had to do; he just did not know if it was possible. “O Lord God, You know” (Ezekiel 37:3b) was the best answer he could come up with.
Some of us have been there. At one point God placed a dream in our hearts but as time went on, the likelihood of it coming into reality became impossible from our perspective. Some no longer entertain thoughts of the dream because why bother? If we were in Ezekiel’s sandals, our response would have been a resounding “No!” Whether it be the lack of finances, opportunities, time, the right connections, or some other variable, we do not see it happening. But if God gave us a dream, should we not fan the flame to keep it alive regardless of circumstances? If He gave us a promise, as long as we do our part isn’t He responsible for its fulfillment? Yet even as we stand at the crossroad of faith and doubt, we would do well to remember, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).
If God promised it, it will come to pass. Yes, there are times when everything around us contradicts what has been promised, but in the words of the Hebrews writer, “Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]” (Hebrews 10:23). How do we do that? By reminding Him of His promise(s). Has He forgotten? Of course not, but we fan the flame and keep the dream alive every time we say, “God, you promised…” or “God you said…” for as William J.C. White reminds us, “You can never pray with greater power than when you plead the promises of God.” The ancient Israelites did not do that but focused solely on their own thoughts about the circumstances. David said of God, “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2, KJV). That is the God that we serve. His reputation rests upon His word and He will do whatever it takes to bring His word to pass. If He can bring dead bones back to life, He can handle the dream He gave you. Fan the flame; keep the dream alive.