By Stuart Powell
In Ezekiel 37, God showed his prophet in exile a vision of a valley filled with human bones. It was a gruesome picture descriptive of how the exiled Jews viewed themselves. The ancient Babylonian empire was the “grave” for many nations. The Jews’ hope collapsed when they heard that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Without a homeland or a temple for God’s Name, the covenant people of that age feared their extinction. After God showed Ezekiel the immeasurable collection of bones, he explained his message:
Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Therefore prophesy and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11-12).
The Jews in exile forgot the key difference between God’s kingdom on earth and all other nations. Israel’s hope was founded on God’s promises.
Where is our hope? How often are we overwhelmed by life’s circumstances? Do we fear these ugly circumstances will become our grave? We need to build our hope on what God promised through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Only in Christ’s sacrificed body and blood can we find hope that will endure. A hope that can fill our presence with a purpose and joy the world can’t steal. A hope that will prepare us for eternity in God’s presence.
In the vision, God promised that Babylon would not become a grave for the exiles. Instead, it would be the place of resurrection for the Jews. In the loaf and cup of Communion, we should see a reminder that Jesus’ grave in Jerusalem was not a place where his body decayed. Instead, it was the backdrop from which God called his Son as the firstborn among the resurrected.
God promised that this world will not be our grave, either. As we come together to eat and drink, let’s celebrate the promise of our coming resurrection. Rejoice in the victory God has already provided us through the cross. Then we can look forward to the last promise—that God will bring Christians out of the graves of this world by his grace.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.
Image: A sketch for “Vision of Ezekiel” from 1875 by Paul Falconer Poole, an oil on canvas in the collection of the National Gallery of the United Kingdom, London.