Ezekiel does not leave us too long in the dark about the ultimate meaning of this unforgettable scene. "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They (that is, the defeated exiles in Babylon) say, 'Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are completely cut off'" (Ezek. 37:11). So the real congregation for Ezekiel's sermons is in fact the exiles of Israel, who feel exactly like a heap of dry bones. But the promise of YHWH is "I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am YHWH, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves. I will put my spirit (breath, wind) within you and you shall live; I will place you on your own soil, so that you will know that I, YHWH, have spoken and will act" (Ezek. 37:13-14).
Ezekiel promises, as does the writer of Isaiah 40-55, that YHWH still has a future for the chosen people, and that future will be in the ancient land of Israel, though, YHWH knows, Babylon is a long way from Israel. And, of course, the way of our lives is a long way from the way of Jesus. Lent tells us this every year. We journey through Lent looking for the way of Jesus but too often following our own way once again. We are Ezekiel's dry bones, waiting for a fresh breath of the spirit to give us new sinew and flesh and skin so that we might become whole again. May this be so for us this Lent.
Author's Note: Do not forget the Baltic cruise on which I will lecture on the book of Job and during which we will see some of our world's great capital cities. Go to eo.travel for full details.