Summary: This Scripture refers prophetically to the entire nation of Israel in the last days although it is set during the Babylonian captivity of Judah.
THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES
1 The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.
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!
5 ’Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
6 "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. “
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.
8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
9 Also 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 breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ’Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’
12 "Therefore prophesy and say to them, ’Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
13 "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.
14 "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD. " Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NKJV)
Our greater text is Ezekiel 37:1-14. This Scripture refers prophetically to the entire nation of Israel in the last days although it is set during the Babylonian captivity of Judah. The northern nation of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. with many carried into captivity. The assimilation of the Assyrians and the remaining population of the ten northern tribes of Israel resulted in the formation of Samaria. Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. and never recovered national status except for brief periods of priest-king rule in the Maccabean period.
I. The Valley of Dry Bones as a Vision of Judah in Captivity.
The despair expressed in Ezekiel 37:11 is echoed in Psalm 137:1-4. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the willows we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?”
Judah was in Babylonian captivity for seventy years. The early years of their captivity were especially difficult as they longed for their homeland. But as the years passed, and other generations were born, much of that hunger abated and many of the Jews remained in Mesopotamia even after they were free to return to Judah. A similar trend can occur in the spiritual lives of people today. Someone who has been active in church and faithful in attendance relocates due to a job change, or some other cause, and if that person remains out of fellowship with the people of God, often they grow content in their new situation and find it easy to remain apart from the church.
II. The Valley of Dry Bones as a Picture of the Modern-day Church.
Many preachers and pastors have employed Ezekiel 37:1-14 as typifying many modern-day churches, describing them as dry and lifeless. The church in Sardis and the church in Laodicea have been used by some as being typified the dry bones.
First, let us consider the letter to the church in Sardis. “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: “The One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says: I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. But if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come against you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:1-5 (HCSB)