Ezekiel had had quite a journey. Carried away from Judah into captivity at a young age, he had seen his nation scattered and absorbed into the ever-expanding Babylonian empire. In his latest vision, he found himself wading through a hot, dry valley scattered with bones – dusty, remembrances of lives that had surrendered to their inevitable end. Just as Babylon had taken the identity of his people, this valley represented the triumph of death. Bones were mixed together in such a way that each life represented was indistinguishable from the last. The graveyard stretched before him, filling the open valley with its dreadful presence as he stared across the vast sea of lost lives.
And then a voice from heaven broke the solemn silence:
“Son of man, can these bones live?”
It might have seemed a strange question to Ezekiel. Could these innumerable dead really rise up? But he had learned early in his ministry to focus on the God who could do all things.
At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel delivered a message of life to the dead bones. As his words floated across the desert winds, he heard the distinct sound of rattling. Bones that had been scattered across the valley came together to form the people they had once been. Muscles crept across skeletons, quickly covered themselves by skin. But God’s purpose for the bones to live – not to merely have the appearance of life. So once again Ezekiel preached, this time calling for them to breathe. As lungs began to take in the dry desert air, that mess of bones suddenly became a mighty army standing at attention, a picture of God’s promise of new life for His people.
So often our own valleys are littered with personal boneyards – wide stretches of land scattered with the lifeless remains of dreams, plans, hopes, and potential. We see opportunities we have squandered, chances that have passed us by, relationships that did not work out. But, just as He spoke to Ezekiel, God begins with a simple question:
“Do you believe I can bring newness into your life?”
It is in those moments that He reminds us that He is the life giver. The same God who breathed physical life into man in Eden also breathed spiritual life into His church at Pentecost.
What are the dry bones in your life right now? Whatever you may find yourself facing today, remember that the very same God who spoke the world into existence can speak new life into your situation. Dry bones can come alive and broken lives can be reborn. It is truly remarkable what we can find in a valley when we take the time to let God speak to us through our lowland experiences.
This concludes our 10 Things You’ll Find in a Valley series. Thank you for joining us!
The sun was hot over the Wilderness of Paran where a group of expectant families looked to the land of Canaan, anxiously awaiting the return of the twelve men who had been sent to check out the land. Everything in their lives hinged on the moment they would cross the Jordan River. The long hours they had toiled as slaves in Egypt, the years spent in the desert, the stories they had heard as children – everything was building up to this.
Then, to their families’ delight, a dozen tired men cast shadows on the road home. What tales of the land would they bring? What were they carrying? Could it be fruit? Indeed, two men were carrying an enormous cluster of grapes on a pole between them. Others had packages laden with pomegranates and figs. Taking everything in, their hopes must have soared. The Promised Land was everything they had hoped it would be.
But then the spies issued their report.
In spite of the riches they had encountered, most were upset. In observing the people of the mountains and the harvests of the valleys, they could only see trouble. In spite of the fertile soil and abundant harvests, they only saw the hardships ahead. In spite of God’s awesome promise of provision, they could not seem to take Him at His word. When they looked across their valley, they could only see the giants that blocked their pathway – not the nourishment that would keep them through it all. Sadly, it was this mindset that caused Israel a forty-year delay before they could set their feet in the Promised Land.
But the story goes on.
With their aged leader near the end of his life, the children of the previous generation looked across the fertile valleys, awaiting Moses’ instruction. They were ready. They took in the rolling hills and bubbling springs and could not wait to cross over. God had promised that there were valleys filled with nourishment. For a people who had spent years as slaves, struggling to get by, then years in the desert, living on faith that God would provide, it was an awesome promise:
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9)
While it is wonderful to live in the promises of God, it does not mean we will not walk through valleys. It does not mean there will not be obstacles to face. But it is often in the valleys were the soil is richest and nourishment abounds. If we only focus on the giant obstacles that block us from reaching everything God has for us, it can be so easy to overlook the blessings He provides for us along the way. Even in the darkest valleys of life, God provides everything we need to flourish.
Joshua surveyed the Valley of Aijalon that stretched out before him. Reason told him it was too late. A troop of Amorites rushed across the plain, fleeing his army as quickly as the rolling hills of the Shephelah would allow. The moon had already risen over the valley. Night was falling fast and there was no human way his army could complete the chase.
When they had left Gilgal in pursuit of five Amorite armies set to attack their ally in Gibeon, it had been an intense journey. They had climbed uphill for the entire night in their efforts to cover the sixteen miles that separated them from their foe. Even after exhaustion had set in, they had managed a furious fight, mowing down a significant number before the remaining Amorites chose to scurry down the mountain and flee.
Sleep-deprivation notwithstanding, they had chased the five armies into the foothills, running an additional seven miles until they arrived at the Beth-horon pass where Joshua now stood. Just below, the plain of Aijalon glowed with the impending moonlight and he saw the enemy escaping toward the Mediterranean coastline. He had led an army as far as he possibly could through his own strength. If the sun set, Amorites would be lost to the cover of nightfall before he could fulfill the promise he had made to his ally. And so Joshua turned his eyes upward.
There was one truth he had carried throughout his life: the land beneath his feet was promised to him.
He was a child of the covenant God had made with his ancestors – a part of something bigger than this individual moment. Joshua knew that victory was promised. He had heard it growing up as a slave in Egypt. He had believed it when he had scouted out the land. He had watched God part waters and level a city without a single clashing of swords. Perhaps he thought of Jericho’s ruins in the moment. Perhaps he saw the hail storm forming on the Mediterranean and rushing furiously across the Valley of Aijalon toward the Amorites. Whatever the case, Joshua lifted up his voice in one of the boldest prayers ever uttered:
"Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.” (Joshua 10:12)
And, incredibly, heavenly bodies froze in their appointed places. The sun shone over Gibeon and the moon glowed over Aijalon simultaneously. The day was extended, allowing time for the impending storm to wipe out the majority of the rival armies and lasting just long enough for Joshua to finish his conquest of the valley.
Valleys often seem full of impossible timings. We strive to do everything right but sometimes it seems like moments and opportunities have passed us by. But God operates on a different timetable. When He makes a promise, He knows how to live up to it. In so many situations, it is through His perfect timing that He receives all the glory.
We may have to climb a mountain at midnight with our target just out of reach but God can cause time to stand still and bring victory to us.