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 Valley of Achor had a reputation. Its name literally meant “trouble.” On the heels of an astonishing victory in Jericho, God issued a command: no one was to take the spoils of the city. Silver and gold were brought into the house of God but everything else was destroyed. Or so they thought. A man named Achan simply could not resist the luxurious leftovers. He hid them among his belongings, hoping no one would notice. When their next battle produced a horrific defeat, Joshua sought the Lord, who instructed him to root out the thief. It was after Achan’s punishment that the valley earned its sad name.
The stones marked Achan’s grave for many years. They had built altars in the early years to remember God’s miracles but Achan’s grave commemorated trouble. It was etched into their minds as a continual reminder of the judgment for sin, seared into their memories as a place of failure.
We find the Valley of Achor again in a somewhat unlikely place. Isaiah was nearing the end of his prophecies. Directly after a passage on judgment, he began to describe redemption, recasting a vision of a valley that had been associated with trouble for so long:
“And the Valley of Achor [shall be] a place for herds to lie down” (Isaiah 65:10).
The valley bore a mark of trouble, but Isaiah promised it would become a place of peace where cattle and sheep could be nourished.
Hosea reiterated the promise. He had described a relationship in which his people constantly failed God. They had promised to be faithful and had strayed time and time again. Hosea wrote about God’s justice but then immediately reminded them that God’s love and mercy are unfailing:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her. I will give her the vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope” (Hosea 2:14-15).
Of all the transformations God has wrought, how beautiful it is that He turned the Valley of Trouble into a door of hope.
Perhaps the old song says it best: “In the valley He restoreth my soul.”
You may have a Valley of Achor in your life – a moment that seemingly marks you and tells you that you will forever bear the burden of your mistakes. Perhaps you are simply going through a season of trouble and there’s no end in sight. But God specializes in both creation and re-creation. Trouble may have defined your life for a time but He can take the most troubled valleys in our lives and turn them into gateways of hope.