Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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 37:4-6, NIV)

This is one of the most famous passages in Ezekiel, and what a wild scene! The throwback King James English calls this passage “The Valley of the Dry Bones.” Ezekiel prophesies over this valley of dead, picked over, sun-bleached bones, and “behold, a rattling…”—there are muscles and tendons and skin and hair and eyes, and life is breathed into them.

It almost reminds you of a Tim Burton film, doesn’t it? Burton is the master of the macabre: maybe you’ve seen one of his more recent movies, Corpse Bride (2005). In Corpse Bride, the art directors worked to create two different worlds where the movie would take place—Victorian England and the Afterlife. Ironically, the world of the living, Victorian England, was painted almost exclusively with grey tones: the people, the buildings, and the church are all greyscale, and the world of the dead has jazz music, vibrant colors, beer-guzzling skeletons and reanimated dancing corpses. The film’s mood seems to ask its viewer in simple terms: what if the world after this one is better than the world we’re in? What if life, love, and happiness come after we kick the bucket here on earth?

Ezekiel’s prophecy here promises what Tim Burton’s colorful underworld can only vaguely gesture. He speaks these words to Israel, who by this time is exiled from home. Israel pleads for help, with nowhere else to turn, to the God who has left them: “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are indeed cut off.” This prophecy is the message of hope to them: you are dead, but you will be made alive. From dry bones in a valley, God will make you whole again—He will breathe you back into existence, just like He made you back in Genesis 2.

Our situations may sound familiar. When the world hits us hardest, we start to see things in shades of grey. The realities of our own personal strife, of death itself, and the inability to escape either, all show through in Tim Burton’s ghoulish universe and in the universe of Ezekiel’s prophecy. And yet, God promises that He will not leave us here. He will raise us from the dead, filling us with His Spirit and, in doing so, will make certain we never forget we are His people. He has not just created us, proclaims Ezekiel, but will one day re-create us, breathing resurrection into these dead bones.