Summary: How long-dead sun-bleached bones revived, and become an exceeding great army.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DRY BONES
When confronted with insurmountable difficulties we often ask: “Can these bones live?” Yet the question originates with God, and is addressed to man.
The LORD thereby challenges us within our seemingly impossible situation - whatever it may be - to lay hold upon faith, and see things as God does. The answer then becomes: “O Lord GOD, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3).
The context of this familiar word of prophecy sets us in the midst of the exile, and as such the resurrection of the dry bones stands as a metaphor for the return from exile (Ezekiel 37:11-12). On another level, the Apostle Paul also uses resurrection imagery in relation to Israel (Romans 11:15).
The question is: can a vast miscellaneous collection of sun-bleached, long-dead bones live? The LORD addressed the prophet as “son of Adam” (Ezekiel 37:3) - which perhaps gave a clue to the answer. We are dealing with the God who created us: who first formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the spirit of life (Genesis 2:7).
The answer to our prayers sometimes comes in the form of a test of obedience. “Prophesy to these bones” - what, these dead bones? Yes, preacher - and speak only the words that God has spoken: say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:4)!
Suddenly the impossible becomes possible, but we discover it only by stages. The word of faith is, “you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5; Ezekiel 37:6). Speak into the silence, and it will amaze you what God can do!
A noise, a shaking, and the bones become skeletons (Ezekiel 37:7). Then the sinews and the flesh came upon them - the priestly prophet was seeing flaying in reverse - but there was still no breath (Ezekiel 37:8). Like the importunate widow (Luke 18:1-8) we must persevere in prayer - don’t give up at the first time of asking.
Ordinarily I expect prayer to be addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son (John 14:13), and by the mediation of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). Yet - since there is just one word for wind, breath and spirit - Ezekiel is here being instructed to address the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9).
The reference to the “four winds” (Ezekiel 37:9) adds a sense of universalism. The exiles are to be gathered from the ends of the earth. The converts to Christianity are similarly to be gathered from all nations (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 28:19).
Not only did the prophet persevere in prayer, but he also continued in obedience (Ezekiel 37:7; Ezekiel 37:10). Don’t expect the Lord’s converts to enter into life fully formed: like any newborn child, they must first go through various stages of growth, and will need continuing nurture and prayer through all the ups and downs of their individual journey. Then, and only then, is the transformation complete (Ezekiel 37:10).
A people who had lost hope (Ezekiel 37:11), had a glorious homecoming (Ezekiel 37:12). At another level, those who had no hope in the first place, are brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13). The LORD puts His Spirit within us, enabling us to live (Ezekiel 37:4), and walk and obey (Ezekiel 36:27).
The LORD is the One who knows that these bones can live (Ezekiel 37:3). It is for us to “know” that the LORD who has spoken it is also the One who has performed it (Ezekiel 37:6; Ezekiel 37:13; Ezekiel 37:14). He who has begun a good work within you will also see it through to the end (Philippians 1:6).