“Dem bones dem bones, dem dry bones…” Perhaps we are familiar with the song or even the story, but what does it mean? Why did God give Ezekiel a vision of dancing skeletons? This lesson looks at the story of Ezekiel and how it represents a message of hope for Godly renewal.
Lesson focus: Sometimes we feel that life is bleak or meaningless, but God promises that if we focus on Him, He will lift us up and renew our joy and hope for living.
Passage: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Key Verse: The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. -Psalm 146:8
Target Audience: Pre-k through sixth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Dry pasta noodles, Q-tips, tooth picks, pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows, yarn, skeleton pictures and/or puzzles.
Lesson Opening: Skeleton race…bone hunting! Begin with a “skeletal” activity or two…if available, provide a skeleton puzzle or model, and have students put it together (if multiple, team up the kids and race the puzzles). If you don’t have a bone puzzle available or need something more, provide students with long items: Q-tips, straw pieces, tooth-picks, and see what sorts of pictures they create. Play a clip of “’Dem Bones” and talk a little about bones…
There is a reason for the bone discussion…explain for students that today’s story involves a strange vision. Set the stage by describing the background of Ezekiel the prophet. Remind kids of a prophet’s job: sometimes they predict things that are coming, and sometimes they tell people something that needs to change or happen. Ezekiel was one of the people taken into Babylonian captivity. A lot of the things God told Him were communicated through special dreams or visions. One in particular promised that hope was on the way…
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life.6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-6
Bringing bones to life? Is this possible? Hold up a dry pasta noodle. Does anyone want to sample? Most people don’t much care for dry noodles…but throw them in some boiling water for a while, add a little sauce, and you have a delicious dish! You have brought them “to life” in a sense. Well God is telling Ezekiel to command life into the bones. If it sounded strange, that didn’t stop Ezekiel:
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “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.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. –Ezekiel 37:7-10
It’s one thing to bring bones together…but now it’s time to bring them to life! God tells Ezekiel to bring the wind and breath into them…and he does. But what does that mean? Why the vision?
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” -Ezekiel 37:11-14
Re-visit the setting of the prophet…the people of Israel are basically prisoners. It must have seemed pretty hopeless. Israelites are supposed to be the chosen people, but here they are in bondage. Had God forgotten them? This image for Ezekiel assures him (and the people) that things are not over completely. God promises that there will be a return. There is hope and renewal for the people of Israel. Sometimes prophets have to give bleak messages warning people of misdeeds or need to change. But this message is one of joyful promise: a new dawn is on the horizon, and new hope will come.
Ask students what “hope” means to them…what kinds of things can be worrying or stressful? What do we put hope in or believe in? God is our hope. The Lord can bring new life to anything, even things that seem hopeless and lifeless.
Bone-rattling jewelry…use the dry noodles and string to put together necklaces to recall the dryness come to life theme. If time allows, you could also have students use the Q-tips and/or toothpicks to spell out the word “hope” on colorful paper.
Snack option: Make “bones” with pretzel sticks and mini marshmallows! (Or have REAL bones with some gelatin…)
Close with prayer and thank God for giving us new hope and new life. Ask Him to help us see and continue to place joy in that hope.