Ezekiel 37:1–14 (NRSV)
37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, 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. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
It is always breath that breaks the silence. The hand of the Lord came upon Ezekiel and brought him, by the Spirit, to a valley full of bones. Ezekiel is led to know the landscape of the valley: It was full of many and very dry bones.
God calls Ezekiel to prophesy three times: to the bones, to the breath, and to the beit, the Hebrew word for “house”. The bones are the whole house of Israel. Their bones were dried up. Their hope was lost. They were cut off completely. Exile tends to do that to a people.
In God, hope is found even in the valley. Like breath to bone, hope returns not because we have found our way out of the valley, but because God has found a way in. When all hope is cut off, it is breath—God’s breath—that will break the silence and pull us up from our graves.
Open our graves, O God, and breathe your life into our death. Set us again on the ground where you have formed us. Tell us, again, that we shall live. Amen.