Dry Bones and New Hope
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-13
It is common knowledge that people who live under extremely difficult conditions often literally stay alive through hope. When such a person then loses this hope, s/he soon after also gives up the struggle for life.
In the light of this it is a very important event when God puts new hope in the hearts of Israel through his prophet Ezekiel. When Israel says, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (verse 11), God says that there is still hope! God “demonstrates”, through the vision of his prophet, that He can bring new life to a hopeless situation.
When you look at how churches and Christians react to the aids pandemic, you are often amazed by the extent of their un-involvement and detachment. What may the reasons for this be?
Is it ignorance? Is it denial?
Or are the people so overwhelmed that they do nothing because they have already admitted defeat? (“We are doing nothing because it won’t help anyway…” To use the words of Ezekiel 37: “our hope is gone; we are cut off”.)
If the reason for the un-involvement of individuals and groups in the aids pandemic is the latter, it gives us cause for concern. For then we are living in a situation where people and communities are already in the process of losing hope!
You may think the last suggestion is an exaggeration (I hope it is!). Nonetheless the church and its ministers can’t afford not to consider it seriously.
The message of the good news of Jesus the Saviour and Conqueror is in its very essence a message of hope. But hope is not spread around when people refuse to acknowledge the need of others or put it into words. How could Ezekiel have brought the message of hope to his people if he had concealed and ignored their hopeless situation?
In 2002 more South Africans between the ages 25-39 (172,602) died than all deaths of those 60 years and older (157,835). (Newest report of Statistics South Africa.) When we preach about a passage like Ezekiel 37 and ignore or keep quiet about the state of affairs in our own country, we are definitely not bringing the message of hope. And when people don’t hear very clearly that there is hope because God can bring new life to a hopeless situation, they will be more convinced than ever that their perception of hope-less-ness is the correct one.
If there is one text this year that wants to create the opportunity of spreading the message of hope, then it is Ezekiel 37. If there is one context that is pressing us to talk about the hope of the God of Ezekiel 37 loudly and clearly, then it is the context of the aids pandemic in which South Africa finds himself at the moment.
On our way to Good Friday and Easter Sunday way are able to proclaim that we definitely receive hope from God. We are not only recalling the wonderful vision of Ezekiel – we are recalling the cross and empty grave of Jesus the Saviour and Conqueror.