Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Valley of Dry Bones

"He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3).

Early in his ministry, Ezekiel was told to prophesy against the mountains of Israel. On these mountains, the wicked people were offering sacrifices at “high places,” shrines to various gods, including shrines sinfully erected to the Lord, which He had forbidden. God told the people through Ezekiel that he would slay those who worshiped at these altars and would scatter their bones around their shrines in the mountains. This would happen when God brought judgment upon the nation.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was taken by God in a vision to a valley full of bones. These were the bones of the idolators. representing the death of Israel as God’s holy nation. God asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Well, maybe some bones might live, but these? These, the bones of the most wicked nation of all, the nation that knew God and then rejected Him? Can such bones as these live?

If these bones can live, then any bones can live. Ezekiel expressed his hope that it might be so. “You know, O LORD,” he said.

Ezekiel was told to prophesy to the bones. The prophetic message that originally “slew” the wicked nation would now be a means of her resurrection. As Ezekiel preached in this graveyard, he heard a rattling sound. Bone began to join with bone, and then sinew came upon the bones, and soon the valley was full of corpses.

Then God told him to prophesy to the Breath, a reference to God’s Spirit. “Call on the Breath to enter these corpses,” said God. So Ezekiel did so. and soon the corpses came to life again, standing as a holy army ready to do God’s will.

This picture of national resurrection draws from God’s original creation of Adam, when God made Adam of dust and then breathed into him the breath of life. Resurrection, we are taught, is a new creation. This prophecy received its first fulfillment after the exile, when the Jews came back into the land and were reestablished as God’s people.

Though this passage focuses on national resurrection, the imagery also tells us that God will raise our mortal bodies. Our hope for eternity is in the resurrection of our total persons.

Surely we need a resurrection in our lands today. We need “prophets” who will pray and preach to the dry bones in the church and in society. All of us are called to be prophets. Ask God to show you how to carry forward in some sense Ezekiel’s task in your own situation.