Summary: Although the vision of the dry bones applies to Israel, we can learn much about God's character and how to live our lives from that object lesson.
As I read the Bible, I’m constantly amazed at how God uses some very common objects to demonstrate deep spiritual truths. It’s as if God uses a consistent dose of simple “In the Bag” object lessons in order to help us understand that which He wants us to apply in our lives.
This morning we’ll look at one of those object lessons, which is found in Ezekiel 37. So go ahead and turn to that passage in your Bibles and follow along as I read the first 14 verses.
1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had 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 the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (ESV)
Ezekiel helps us to put his ministry into the proper historical context at the beginning of his book:
In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
Ezekiel 1:1-3 (ESV)
The “thirtieth year” appears to be a reference to Ezekiel’s age when he begins his prophetic ministry. It is in the fifth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin, which would have been 593 BC. Ezekiel had been taken into captivity five years earlier along with Jehoiachin and several thousand of the leading citizens of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s final recorded vision occurs twenty years later (Ezekiel 40:1).
Ezekiel’s message can be divided into three distinct sections that correspond to what was occurring in Jerusalem:
• Chapters 1-24 – God’s Word to Jews in exile before the fall of Jerusalem – focuses on God’s coming judgment on Judah
• Chapters 25-32 – God’s Word to the Gentile nations during the siege of Jerusalem – focuses on judgment against those who scoff at Jerusalem
• Chapters 33-48 – God’s Word of hope to His people after the fall of Jerusalem – focuses on future restoration
The visions that we’ll look at over these next two week in Ezekiel 37 fall into that third section of Ezekiel. That section serves a function that is not altogether different than what we saw in Daniel. The Jews, who are in exile in a foreign land, learn of the destruction of their city and their Temple and the natural tendency was for them to begin to question whether God had forsaken them. But God sends prophets like Daniel and Ezekiel to His people in exile to assure them that this isn’t the end of the story. God is still faithful and sovereign and His purposes, plans and ways will ultimately prevail.