Recently, on a hot afternoon in Arkansas, a woman was sitting in her car in a grocery store parking lot when she heard a loud pop followed by a sharp pain in the back of her head.
When she reached behind her to probe the damage, she felt something warm oozing down the back of her head. She concluded that she had been shot and in her hands she was holding the remnants of her brain.
To avoid any further bleeding and the possibility of her brains rushing out of her head, the woman held her hands tightly over the wound. Her only hope was that somebody would walk by her car, see her in her critical condition, and call an ambulance before she passed out and died.
A few long minutes later, a voice behind her asked, “Ma’am, are you OK?”
“I’ve been shot in the head,” she cried out, “and I’m holding my brains in.”
“Lady, I don’t think those are brains.”
The inquisitor then opened the rear car door and reached to grab something…
“A canister of Pillsbury biscuits in the back seat exploded from the heat and some of the dough hit you in the head.”
When people share their near-death experiences, surely this woman will talk about how the Pillsbury doughboy changed her life.
Death Is All Around Us
Death greatly impacts our lives. We all think about it, dream about it, and do anything we can to avoid it. We work out and eat right in order to delay its inevitable arrival. We lament the departure of our loved ones while watching movies that glorify the living dead, whom we call “zombies.”
Woody Allen once said, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
Death is so extreme, so painful, so…final. When someone dies, you can’t go back and revive the person.
In Ezekiel 37, God escorts Ezekiel to the middle of a valley. All around them, as far as the eye could see, are piles of bones. Not comatose bodies that can be revived. Not even decaying carcasses. Dry bones
God and Ezekiel wade through the sea of bones before the Almighty asks his companion, “Can these bones become living people again?”
Assuming this was a trick question, Ezekiel replies, “God, you tell me!”
I can imagine Ezekiel was thinking What do you mean, “Can these bones become living people?” I’ve seen you do some amazing things. You’ve given me words of prophecy that have been fulfilled. You’ve provided for me and protected me. But let’s get serious—raise the dead? From these dry bones? God, I’m leaving the answer to that question up to you.
Later, God tells Ezekiel, “These bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off’” (v.11).
At the time, Israel was enslaved by the vastly superior Babylonians. Israel’s strongest and smartest were living in Babylon while the poor and uneducated were struggling to stay alive in what was left of their war-torn country.
The chances of Israel rising from the ashes was about the same as the chances of the dry bones returning to life. All hope was gone.
Then God instructed Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’”
Soon Ezekiel heard a rattling sound from the bones coming together. Tendons appeared, then flesh, then skin. Bodies appeared everywhere, but they had no life.
The God instructed Ezekiel a second time: “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ”
Suddenly, the bodies began to move. They stood to their feet fully alive. A valley of dry bones transformed into a vast army.
Where are you in this story?
How often do we encounter situations when we expect life, but instead, we experience death?
- A miscarriage
- You get laid off from your job
- A bad investment buries you under an overwhelming load of debt
- Your marriage fails to live up to your expectations
- A lifelong dream dies a slow death
I have good news for you.
Just because you’re surrounded by dry bones doesn’t mean they’re going to stay that way. Regardless of what you feel and see, God knows your situation and he’s already at work. The results may not appear like you expect, but God is good, he’s powerful, and he knows what he’s doing.
Like the woman in her car who thought she was dying, you may think you’re holding your life in your hands, but it’s only the remains of a Pillsbury dough mishap. Your life is in God’s hands.
At this point in our Lenten journey, death is all around us. We see the hopelessness of our own condition. But remember that Easter is coming.
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. If you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join the for worship on Easter Sunday. You can learn more at http://www.tnc3.org.