God spoke to the Prophet Ezekiel, whose name means “God strengthens me”, through dreams and visions. In the record of his 22 year ministry, we find at least six separate visions that Ezekiel received from the Lord. Perhaps his most recognized vision, one that even many who have never read the Bible or have never been in a Bible preaching church are somewhat familiar with is concerning a valley filled with lifeless, dry, sun bleached bones. This vision revealed Israel’s conquered crushed condition in captivity and its restoration. While this vision recorded in Ezekiel 37 was to Israel there are spiritual applications for us. Showing him the old dry bones God asked Ezekiel if these bones could live. As I look at this passage I find three elements necessary for the bones to live. Let us examine the valley of dry bones.
The Picture of our Hopeless Condition
Before the bones could live one must have the picture of man’s condition.
Ezekiel 37:1-2 ” 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. 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.”
God had transported Ezekiel to a valley filled with the bones of dead Israelites. There are those that believe that it was the Chebar River valley, where Ezekiel had his first visions. Others believe that it was the valley of Dura, and the bones were the remains of those that were slain by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Still others say these were the children of Ephraim, who had been slain by the men of Gath in their plundering of Israel. Regardless of where the valley was the vision given to Ezekiel pictured the whole House of Israel that was then in captivity. Like unburied skeletons, the people were in a state of living death, pining away with no end to their judgment in sight. They thought there was hope for all hope had vanished and they were cut off forever. Those surviving Israelites who went through Babylon’s devastating assault and conquest of the land felt their national hopes had been dashed to pieces and the nation had died in the flames of Babylon’s siege without the slightest glimmer of hope of resurrection.
Ezekiel went round and round several times the bones, that he might take exact notice of them, of their number, situation, and condition.
The scripture makes it clear from a human perspective there was absolutely no way that there would ever be life there again. Verse 2 – “They were dry” no life remained in them.
When it comes to man without Christ. We must see mankind as God sees them if we are to do God’s work among them. There are those who do not believe that the man is dead in sin, or who, while believing it, are unconcerned as to the tragedy of the fact that without Christ there is no life, no hope, no future.
Ephesians 2:1 says that we are “dead in trespasses and sins.” John Piper says that the point of deadness is man is incapable of any life with God. Man’s heart is like a stone toward God… Man’s hearts is blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6) and totally unable to reform ourselves.
No created power could restore human bones to life. God alone could cause them to live.
Someone has said, “The activities of godless lives mask the real spiritual death, which is the condition of every soul that is separate from God. Galvanized corpses may have muscular movements, but they are dead, notwithstanding their twitching. They that live without God are dead while they live.”
Having clearly in his mind the picture of a hopeless, helpless, people without life, Ezekiel is asked by the Lord in verse 3 “Son of man, can these bones live?” And while Ezekiel saw the powerlessness helpless estate of these sun bleached dry bones he didn’t despair. The question which God posed had with it a glimmer of hope. Knowing the One in whom he trusted Ezekiel responded ‘O Lord God, You know.’ While the question is somewhat rhetorical Ezekiel’s answer was not one of uncertainty but with the assurance that with God all things are possible and if God so desired life would be given. this should be the mindset of every believer-we worship a God Who knows all, the beginning from the end, the alpha and the omega and everything in between.
The Proclamation of the Word of God
Ezekiel 37:4-7 “Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 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. 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.
The text presents us with the truth that God employs human in the work of bringing new life to dry bones.
Ezekiel immediately obeyed and proclaimed the Word of God to the bones. “So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied”
How foolish it might have seemed to anyone observing his actions. This was absolutely ridiculous from a human perspective.
1 Corinthians 18:21 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
God could bring the bones to life without us but He uses us, and that’s one of the great thrills of witnessing for Christ. God says ‘Come with Me, I want to use people [like you and me]. I could do it on My own; I could use anything I want to bring the bones alive, but I want you to prophesy to the bones.’ And all Ezekiel does is speak the word of God. Evangelism is not measuring the results. Evangelism is sowing the seed. Let God do the work! – David Meredith
There was a gradual progression in the process of restoring the bones to life. Ezekiel says as “I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 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. ”
Romans 10:17 ” faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Note verse 8 tells us that not only had the bones come together but the muscles and flesh were restored but there was no breath in them.”
The Hebrew word for breath or wind is “ruach”. The Hebrew word is exactly the same as that for spirit and is referenced to the Spirit of God.
Ezekiel 37:9 “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.”
The Holy Spirit is crucial to salvation. God’s Spirit has a threefold task in drawing men to the Lord—He convicts of sin righteousness and judgment.
Apart from the breath of God man is no more than a lump of clay.
Bringing the quickening and sustaining breath of God to the cold, dead heart of the believer is the dominant ministry of the Holy Spirit. Beginning with Jesus’ teaching in John 14-16 and throughout the remainder of the New Testament, the revelation, ministry, and role of the Holy Spirit takes center stage.
We need a new breath of life. With our constant exposure to an increasingly secular culture we feel like we’re living in a desolate wasteland. We can’t presume to know what God may do in our situation. We feel cut off and without hope. But this we know: God–in His time–will breathe new life into us and revive us.
The Power of God to Raise the Dead
Ezekiel 37:10 “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
When the power of God is unleashed within the human heart and soul new life immediately begins.
God’s power to change any situation, is essential to fresh hope. With it, no situation is hopeless… without it, we are left to try to “raise the dead” in our own strength.
God’s power gives life and strength. In Romans 4:17 we read that it is “God, who gives life to the dead.”
The vision of dry bones demonstrates the enormous power of God, the glorious truth that God has the power to conquer death. He who has the power to resurrect the dead nation of Israel also has the power to resurrect the dead bodies of the human race. He can find all the minute particles (atoms, protons, or whatever) that made up the body of a dead person and refashion them into the original human body. And God’s Holy Word declares that He will do this. He will resurrect the dead. A day of resurrection is coming, a day when He will raise up every human being who has ever lived. All will stand before Him to give an account for their behavior, whether good or bad. Some will inherit eternal life, and some will be condemned to eternal death.
God gives Ezekiel this vision to let the people know that there is still a source of hope and security in their lives – God Himself. He has not forgotten them; He has not forsaken them; He is not finished with them. Because of their sin, that’s exactly what they deserved, but God, in His mercy and grace, reveals that He is sovereign over everything that is going on and that one day He is going to restore Israel to her land and, even more importantly, restore them spiritually. If they will trust in Him, they can have hope right now, even in the midst of circumstances that look completely hopeless.
Another major cause of hopelessness and despair in this world is that people, sometimes even those in the church, are trying to find their hope and security in all the wrong places.
Some of us are relying on other people for our hope, but, unfortunately, one day, because they are human, other people are going to disappoint us. Some people look to the government for their hope and security. But right now governments at every level all around the world are facing huge financial problems that are eventually going to limit what they can afford to do.
Some people try to find hope and security in their jobs, their money and their possessions. But with unemployment, foreclosures, inflation, and so much uncertainty we can’t find our security and hope in them.
God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His plans cannot be thwarted. So if we want to truly have hope, we need to put our trust in God alone.
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