The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know” (Ezekiel 37:1-3).
Ezekiel saw a valley of bones desiccated and jumbled, too decayed to ever hope for new life. Thus, when God asked, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel was reluctant to answer, polite enough to remember that God can do amazing things, but doubtful that anything could be done for such overwhelming deadness.
God provided Ezekiel this vision to demonstrate that He can indeed give life to such dead ones! God commanded Ezekiel to speak to the bones.
Thus says the Lord God to these bones, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”
As Ezekiel spoke, the bones came together, and flesh formed new bodies. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath.
Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”
And so it happened, and “they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (37:4-10).
What a scene!
God explains to Ezekiel that the bones represent “the whole house of Israel” (37:11). This is fitting. Israel had suffered defeat and death at the hands of the Babylonians. Jerusalem was a smoldering ruin. The temple was destroyed. The few survivors were hundreds of miles away in captivity. What hope did the people of God have of ever being a nation again?
God does some of His most impressive work in circumstances that seem impossible to people. God had a plan to accomplish, with all its associated promises: to bring the Messiah to mankind through the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 22:18) and the royal lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:16), to inaugurate in Mt. Zion (Isaiah 2:2-4) the Messiah’s kingdom, which would from there extend throughout the whole earth.
Israel was not done for! Far from it! God would restore their exile, rebuild their nation, and reestablish their presence in Palestine. Through the Spirit of God, life would come to this utter desolation.
But, fulfillment of this passage only barely begins when the Jewish remnant returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple. God’s Spirit never took up residence there as it had before (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11); that happens when the Spirit descends upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16) and dwells in the new temple of Christ’s body (Ephesians 2:21-22, 1 Peter 2:5). Only in the New Covenant does Ezekiel’s reference to clean water (36:25) come to pass (John 3:3-8). Only in the New Covenant does his reference to replacing the heart of stone with a heart of flesh (36:26-27) come to pass (Hebrews 8:10). This passage finds its true fulfillment when God’s Spirit dwells in the church (John 20:22, Acts 2:38)!
Can THESE Bones Live?
Deadness is present all around us, too. Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-3,
You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Those who live in sin are dead in sin. They walk about, but are spiritually lifeless (1 Timothy 5:6). Christ provides newness of life (Romans 6:4). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Can you, O sinner, find new life to replace the fruitlessness of your old life? In Christ alone you can!
Some worship in small, struggling congregations. Can God bring life to this valley of dry bones? Yes! If God’s people will be faithful and reach out with the gospel, God will provide the increase, and the church will emerge from its state of lethargy and disrepair to provide a river of life and blessing to the community.
Some experience the decrepitude of the body. Can God bring new life to faithful Christians’ bodies? He can and He will (Romans 8:11)! From heaven “we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21).
With so much wrong in the world, this domain of darkness, don’t you desire to partake of the new life that God provides in Christ? –John Guzzetta