Summary: God asked Ezekiel "Can these bones live?" And they did. What did that vision mean then, and what does it mean to us today?
(We began with this dramatic reenactment of the Ezekiel 37 passage found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lKpzzOEhyY)
What you just saw was a powerful reenactment of the vision that God gave to Ezekiel (the video showed a view of the valley of bones being bought to life while a narrator read the vision from Ezekiel 37). A valley of dead… dry… bones being brought to life again. It seems a little bizarre. But it was a such a powerful vision that it still catches the imagination of people to this day.
Ezekiel had been a priest of God until Nebuchadnezzar came down and captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 587 B.C. Most of the tribe of Judah had been led away in chains… including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Ezekiel. This was a time of hopelessness and despair for God’s people. They’d been punished for their sins… just as God had warned them and now their lives were empty and miserable… and they felt dead inside, as if there were no more future. There was no way out. They were trapped.
And so God gives Ezekiel a vision. He shows him a valley filled dead, dry bones. Bones were everywhere, scattered by wild animals. There seemed no hope of them every being brought back together again. And then God asks Ezekiel: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel 37:3
Now, that’s a dumb question. Of course they can’t live. They’re dead! They’ve been dead for a really, really long time. They’ve been whitened by the sun, dried out by the wind and scattered all over the place. It would take (long pause) a miracle to bring them back together and give them life again. Oh yeah (pause)… a miracle would do it.
Now, Ezekiel’s a pretty smart guy. He knows what God is asking. He knows God has presented him with an impossible situation, and there is no normal/natural way these bones would ever come back to life. Unless (of course) God brings them back to life.
So, notice Ezekiel’s answer. God has just asked if these bones could live and Ezekiel replies: “O Sovereign LORD, YOU know.” (Ezekiel 37:3) God, if YOU decide to bring them back to life… they WILL live again.
For the past 3 weeks we’ve looked at miracles that showed mighty power of God. The Destruction of the Tower of Babel; the Fire and Brimstone that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah; the Sun Standing Still in the Sky for Joshua so he has the extra time to destroy his enemies. And each of these Biblical miracles has been mocked and ridiculed by skeptics down thru the ages, because these things couldn’t possibly ever (ever/ever) happen. But… of course they did. Because, well, God KNOWS (that’s what Ezekiel said: God YOU know)… God KNOWS how to do stuff like that.
And now, God has pulled Ezekiel aside for one of the most important lessons in Scripture. In fact, it’s a lesson taught over and over and over again throughout the Bible. And the lesson is this: God can make these bones live again. God can give life back to that which is dead.
That’s the lesson God gives us over and over again. And it was the lesson He was now giving to the Israelites through Ezekiel: You’re dead as a nation. Babylon has crushed you and has scattered your hopes across a valley of death, and there is no reasonable way you’ll ever be brought back to life. But I can give life to that which is dead! And I WILL restore you as a nation.
Through the prophet Daniel (who was also in Babylonian captivity) God promised that in a period of 490 years, not only would Judah be restored as a nation, but God would "… finish the transgression, … put an end to sin, … atone for iniquity, … bring in everlasting righteousness, … seal both vision and prophet, and … anoint a most holy place.” Daniel 9:24
At that exact year (490 years after Jerusalem was restored) Jesus’ ministry began. And, with His ministry and death and burial and resurrection, Jesus finished transgression, atoned for iniquity… and brought life to those dead in sin.
God had plans for Judah and Jerusalem, plans for hope where once there was no hope. That’s what Jeremiah 29:11 said: “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God had plans for His people to LIVE where once they were dead.
But, what about the original question: Can These Bones Live Again? Can God actually bring a literal physical body back to life? There’s a lot of people who don’t think so.
ILLUS: A few years back, Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University asked a cross-section of America this question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected?” Only 36% of adults surveyed said "yes." There were 54% that said they did not believe, and 10% were undecided. Nearly 64% of Americans answered God’s question: “Do you think these bones will live again” by saying Nope, I don’t think so.” They didn’t think it was possible. Dead people tended to stay dead. (http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=RESURRECTION)