Summary: We are conditioned to think that death is the final act of life. But God wants us to know that He is the one who gives life now and eternally.
Ezekiel 37. 3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." 4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
We are all conditioned by life to believe that there is no overcoming death. This fact became reality for me many years ago when I was in high school. I worked at an airport doing a variety of things that were mostly uninteresting. One day was very different. A hearse came to the airport with a body of a man who had died suddenly in our town. His body needed to be flown to his home in another state. My boss asked me to help load the body that was lying on a stretcher and covered with a sheet. He took one side, and I took the other. The plane was small, and I knew this was going to take a little angling and adjusting to work. As we were straining and struggling to get this stretcher in the plane, the man’s right arm fell out from under the sheet and fell across my arms. It was the first time I had touched a dead body… Maybe I should say it was the first time a dead body touched me! My boss just about died laughing at this 17 year old kid who had turned white as a sheet.
According to human experience alone, death is the final act of life. There is no changing it. It is the end. There is nothing we can do but walk away and go on. Most people avoid thinking about death. But God wants us to think about it. He wants us to know that death is because of sin… “The wages of sin is death…” However He also wants us to know and believe that the one who imposed this sentence is also the one who can reverse it. As the passage continues… “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6.23). In another place God says, “There is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive…” (Deuteronomy 32.39). Will we believe this?
Ezekiel was a prophet of the Lord sent to resurrect the faith of God’s people. They were nothing but dry bones because of the punishments that God had imposed on them. They had turned away from Him to false religions that worshiped creatures instead of the Creator. They had forgotten the commandments to love their neighbors. And for all of this, God removed them from their land to Babylon and destroyed their temple. So now they sang, according to Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept, when we remembered Zion.”
God gave Ezekiel a vision. There was a valley of bones, a valley of death. But God wanted to teach his prophet that death is not the end of life in His world. These bones could live. These people could stand again and serve the Lord. But how? Would it take some kind of magic? Some kind of secret incantation? No. It would only take the word of the Lord. God told Ezekiel to prophecy, which is really just another way of saying “preach.” Preach to the bones the word of the Lord. God showed Ezekiel and us that where the word of the Lord is so is God’s Spirit. Just as God’s word brought the world into existence in the first place at creation, so here, Ezekiel saw how the word of the Lord brought the dead to life.
Jump ahead six hundred years from the time of Ezekiel to the time of Jesus. A small remnant of people were still clinging to the hope that death is not the end. Two sisters, Mary and Martha, grieved because their brother Lazarus had died. Whenever someone dies, Satan wants us to give up. Satan wants us to crawl into our Babylon of hopelessness and to give up on God. Satan wants us to remember the first truth… “I kill…” And, “The wages of sin is death…” But he wants us to forget the second truth… “I make alive…” And, “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now the world was ready to see. The world was ready to know. God keeps His promises. His word and His Spirit bring life from death. We are not to live under the condition that death is the end… That there is no hope. In a prequel to Easter Jesus came to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. There John says He wept. God knows that the first truth is painful. He knows far more than we that sin is a terrible thing that brings nothing but heartache, pain, and sadness. But then came the prophecy, the preaching, the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus simply said, “Lazarus, come forth.” If human beings are frightened by dead bodies moving, imagine the shock Lazarus must have given them. Still in his burial clothes and having been dead for four days, Lazarus appeared alive.