“The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ So I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know'” (Ezekiel 37:1-3 NKJV).
Has the world ever seemed to be in worse crisis than it is right now? Admittedly our perspective is narrow and our experience is limited. One cannot really compare different eras and millennia objectively because we simply don’t have all the necessary information.
Still, there is much evil in our generation which often produces hopelessness and despair. Terrorism, crime, wars, and malicious acts of violence are reported daily in all parts of the world. Will it ever get any better? Can even God change the prejudice, hatred, and violence so prevalent in human hearts today?
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones is a graphic picture of hopelessness. He saw a huge number of long dead people for whom there would seem to be no hope of life whatsoever. Yet when God asked, “will they live?” Ezekiel answered in faith, “You know.” The prophet basically said to God, “That would be up to you.”
So long as God lives (and that means for all eternity) there should be no such thing as hopelessness for believers. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
It is too easy for us to write off certain people or nations as being beyond hope of change. We see the hatred of religious fanatics and become convinced that only death can stop their evil. We watch the corruption of various governments and see no hope of any solution for their oppressed people. We are appalled by immorality displayed by celebrities and are ready to call God in judgment against them.
And yet the Gospel of Christ which we preach is above all a message of hope and change. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
No passage contains a greater assurance of Christ’s ability to transform sinners than this:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The list of offences Paul gives in these verses include some of the vilest and most destructive acts known to mankind. Many of them are deemed to be ingrained in one’s nature and beyond the human will to control.
Yet Paul clearly says that some of the Christians in Corinth had possessed these traits in the past, but that they no longer participated in them. In Christ they had become different.
It is true, people can and do change. Serial murderers, child molesters, and other hardened criminals have learned remorse, repentance and conversion. When we read or hear of terrible events in our world today, let us not give in to despair. Let us rather pray that the “God of the possible” will exert his power and take control to bring new life and hope to the lost. “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?