Ezekiel and those dry bones.
God gave a vision to
As we have discussed before, there are a lot of events in the Old Testament that a lot of people would consider…well…kind of weird. Elisha saw an axe-head float. Elijah just sort of floated up to heaven. Seas parted and plagues descended. Samuel was summoned by a witch. One of the most interesting events involves the prophet Ezekiel and God’s vision where He commands Ezekiel to have a conversation with a bunch of human skeletal remains.
If you are unfamiliar with this event, you can find it in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Ezekiel was a prophet and priest called by God during the Babylonian Captivity. While false prophets were predicting a quick return to Jerusalem, Ezekiel was telling them that their beloved capital would be destroyed and their captivity prolonged. He also told them that even though their sin had to be punished, God would also eventually forgive and restore the nation of Israel into His good graces and reaffirmed the covenant he mad with Abraham.
Many times God would impart information to his prophets with audible words from above while other times He used dreams and visions. In Ezekiel’s case, He seemed to do a combination of these things. While Ezekiel certainly seems to have heard directly from God via an audible voice, he also received God’s truth via a series of visions. One of the most interesting of those visions includes God’s command for Ezekiel to speak to a valley filled with the dry bones of countless people who had obviously been dead for some time.
Ezekiel states: “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” (Ezekiel 37:1). He then went to say that the valley was completely full of these bones and “indeed they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:2b). The point of the dryness was to point out exactly just how dead these bones (or rather the people they represented) actually were. They were dead and had been that way a long time.
God then asks a strange question. He asks, “can these bones live” (Ezekiel 37:3a)? God gets maybe an even stranger answer. “O Lord God, You know” (Ezekiel 37:3b). In other words, what should have been an obvious “no” answer to that seemingly obvious question, turns into an answer that leaves questions of life and death and miracles to the God of the universe. Ezekiel did not limit God, but neither did he know what God had in mind.
God then makes and even stranger command. He tells Ezekiel, “prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:4). In other words, God tells Ezekiel to start proclaiming the word of the Lord to these dead, dry bones. But God’s not through. He then speaks to the bones and states that after they hear the word of the Lord, that God will actually (in a sort of reverse decomposition) bring them back to life by causing “breath to enter you” (Ezekiel 37:5).
As good as His word, as Ezekiel proclaims the word of the Lord, the sinews, flesh and skin come back onto all of the skeletons. But they were not yet alive. God causes the wind He calls His breath to breathe life into the formerly dead bodies completing the regenerating process. And then God finally tells Ezekiel why he wanted Ezekiel to do this in the first place. He tells Ezekiel that the dry bones are the nation of Israel. And though they have been dead in their sin and rebellion for a very long time, God would breathe new life into them, renew His covenant with them, and they would once again as a nation be alive in Him.
But like so many things in the Old Testament, it would be foolish of us to think that this has no meaning for us today as a 21st Century New Covenant Believer. Make no mistake about it, the primary reason for this vision was for those people at that time going through those issues. We cannot reinterpret Old Testament passages into first century interpretations. But there are underlying truths that have to be for us today along with the literal truths meant for the folks of that time. What might they be?
Like those dry bones, outside of a saving relationship with Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Like those dry bones, we will not because we cannot do anything to give ourselves life. Like those dry bones we need God to breathe life into our lifeless bodies so we know Who the true author of salvation actually is. Like those dry bones, there is nothing we have done to earn this breath of life. God simply chose to give it. Like those dry bones, it was only after hearing the word of the Lord, we’re able to receive the breath of life. And like those dry bones, because of His word, and due to His sacrifice on a cruel cross, we can become alive in Him forever more. How cool is that?
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project, keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.