Thursday 27 February 2020

Bible Book:

Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. (v. 12)

Ezekiel 37:1-14 Thursday 27 February 2020

Psalm: Psalm 147


Ezekiel prophesies to the people who live in exile and hope for the return to the land of Israel. But the people’s dreams are as dry bones in the desert – wasted, barren, desolate: “Our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” God commands Ezekiel to tell the people that the hope they have lost was not in vain and that “I will bring you back to the land of Israel … I shall put my spirit within you, and you shall live.”

Where is our hope? Is it lost? Do we feel as if we are cut off completely? There is, of course, a foundational story of hope in the Christian message. There is hope even on the cross because three days later the Son of God was raised to new life. Good Friday is followed by Easter. Even in the darkest experiences, there is still life to come.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if we rush too quickly into the celebration of Easter Sunday. It can be too easy to preach a message of light optimism, too simple to say, “It will all turn out right in the end.” For those of us whose hope is lost, this message of optimism can bring little comfort if our darkness lasts longer than three days. How can we cope with that which is almost impossible to bear when hope and the future is too difficult to imagine?

In The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien wrote: “In the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

Ezekiel suggests how we might reflect on the darkness of Good Friday and the waiting before the light of the Resurrection, or indeed how we might approach a period of study, penitence and abstinence during Lent. God promises return but he does not do so lightly. The image of dry bones in the desert is not a glib one: what hope can there be for bones in the barren wastes? But God promises to breathe new life through his ‘spirit’ or ‘ruach’ in Hebrew; the same life-giving breath or wind spoken of in Psalm 147:18. So it is not a false hope for it is a solemn, consistent promise of God. Nor is it blind optimism because its truth is only glimpsed when the people of Israel’s hope is at its very lowest. Instead, it is an honest reckoning with the reality that sometimes life is desolate and without hope, but even then, especially then, there is a voice which says, “You shall live, and I will place you on your own soil.”


To Ponder:

  • When have you felt lost or found hope difficult to discern?
  • How can we pursue a truthful hope?
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