An old song from my childhood days popped into my mind the other day. I don’t think I ever knew all of the lyrics, but back in those days I never connected the song to the event in Ezekiel. The tune was catchy and lyrics seemed cute. The first verse started with the toe bone connected to the foot bone and finished with the neck bone connected to the head bone. The second verse reversed the order as if the bones were now being disconnected. It was written by James Weldon Johnson in the early 1900’s. This was an African-American who was an author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, civil rights leader, and, yes even a song writer. Given his accomplishments, I wonder if cute was really what he was aiming for.
The basis of the song is in Ezekiel 37:1-14, where God gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. Ezekiel was to speak to the bones the fact that God would bring them to life. As he was speaking, the bones began to become connected by tendons and flesh began to cover them, but they had no life. Again, God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones and this time this time breath came to them and they stood up as a great army. The bones represented Israel in their spiritual deadness. God was promising that he would bring them back to life and return them to their homeland and He would again be their God and they would be His people. However, this seemed remote in light of Israel’s present condition. She was “dead” as a nation, deprived of her land, her king and her Temple. She had been divided and dispersed for so long that unification and restoration seemed impossible. So God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones as a message of hope. While Israel’s restoration has yet to take place, most of the signs and events leading to it have occurred. Those bones are just waiting in anticipation.
And for me, the most important words in Johnson’s song appear at the end of each verse and each chorus: Now hear the word of the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:4) If He said it, I believe it. Amen.