I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Giving Life to the Spiritually Dead
As a young man, D. L. Moody was called upon suddenly to preach a funeral sermon. He hunted all through the Four Gospels trying to find one of Christ's funeral sermons, but searched in vain. He found that Christ broke up every funeral He ever attended. Death could not exist where He was. When the dead heard His voice they sprang to life. Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and the life. (John 11:25)
With God there are no hopeless situations. He is the Omnipotent, or all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe and nothing is impossible for Him.
And what seems more hopeless than death? When you enter a graveyard, it feels so eerie when looking out across all of those gravestones, each one marking the body of a person who was once just as alive as you and I are. They had hopes and dreams for the future. These people had families and jobs. They celebrated victories and suffered defeats. Some of them were looked up to in their lives for the great accomplishments that they had done. Others just lived quiet lives and very few people even knew that they were on the planet.
However, now they all have one thing in common. They are all dead. And what remains of their earthly bodies are in this graveyard. Further, if their bodies have been there a while, there is nothing left except dry bones and some ashes of what used to be the miracle of life.
Is there anything more tragic in this life, than a person staring at dry bones and knowing that one or many of their loved ones are among them. And what is worse yet, knowing that some day everyone they know, including themselves, will be just like those bones, dead and dry!
The prophet Ezekiel was faced with just such a situation in a vision given to him by the Lord Himself. Chapter 37 of his book depicts a set of circumstances in which God transported His servant to a valley full of dry bones and directed Ezekiel to speak to them. This vision comes to him right after the Lord had ordered him to prophesy the rebirth of Israel in chapter 36 of that same book.
In this marvelous section of Scripture we can not only find out what God was, is and will be doing with His covenant people Israel, we can also apply these truth's to our own lives as well. For God can take any hopeless situation and breath new life into it, thus giving us the hope of a victory out of any defeat we may be experiencing in our world.
Let us begin our study by looking back at what was happening to Ezekiel and the people of Israel at the time of this magnificent vision.
I. The Background Behind the Vision
First of all Ezekiel, whose name means 'Strengthened by God', received a call to prophesy in 593 B.C. while in exile in Babylon. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and now the Babylonians were rising to power and beginning to conquer the world, which eventually would include destroying Jerusalem, the capital of Judah the southern kingdom, in 586 B.C. and taking many of the people into captivity. This happened, according to Scripture, because of their disobedience to the Lord and their following after other gods.
Ezekiel and his wife, who is mentioned in chapter 24 of his book, were among 10,000 Jews taken captive to Babylon in 597 B.C. They lived in Tel-abib, on the bank of the Chebar River. This is probably S.E. Babylon. Ezekiel writes of his wife's death in exile in chapter 24. However, the book doesn't mention the death of Ezekiel, which rabbinical tradition suggests occurred at the hands of an Israelite prince. He had rebuked the idolatry of that prince and was killed by him in 560 B.C.
At the beginning years of his ministry, (593-585 B.C.), there were false prophets who were deceiving the exiles with assurances of a speedy return to Judah. However, Ezekiel warned that their capital city would be destroyed and that their exile was to be prolonged. So there would be no hope of an immediate return.
In 585 B.C. an escapee from Jerusalem, who had alluded the Babylonians, came and told Ezekiel that the capital had fallen 6 months earlier. This dashed the false hopes of any immediate return of the exiles. So the remainder of the prophesies that Ezekiel gave were regarding Israel's future restoration to its homeland and the blessings that they would one day receive in the promised Messianic Kingdom.
And one of these prophecies was Ezekiel's unusual vision concerning the Valley of Dry bones.
Now that we have an understanding of the background leading up to this message from the Lord, let us now look at the actual vision and see what it means.
II. The Meaning of the Vision
As we stated , Ezekiel is brought by the Spirit to this Valley of dry of bones. Here is what the Scriptures tells us:
"The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ ”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ”
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army." (37:1-10).
Can you imagine being given this power by the Lord to talk with objects, once full of life but now dead and dried up, and having them listen to you?
It must have have been a magnificent sight to see all of the bones and ligaments, the tendons and muscles come together, and new flesh forming to make a vast army of people right in front of you? And then to be given the power to call for the breath of life to enter into them just as God originally breathed life into the first human being at creation. It must have been an awesome sight to behold!
But what does it mean? What is the significance of such a vision. Well, Ezekiel doesn't have to wait long for his answer. The Lord explains it in the next few verses (11-14).
The vision is that of the entire Nation of Israel who is spiritually dead. They are dead in their dispersion, or scattering amongst the other nations, and waiting for a resurrection, which only God can give. The Lord pledges to reassemble Israel from around the world and restore them to new life, placing His own Spirit within them. In short, the Valley of Dry bones pictures the resurrection and salvation of national Israel.
In the end it is God's reputation that is at stake. He had made many promises to this once great nation and He has to fulfill them. He must do this so that everyone will know that He alone is Lord!
III. The Application of the Vision
Of course, we can get many applications from this short vision by the prophet Ezekiel. One being that the same God who can bring life from death, and who can put together that which is no longer able to be mended by human hands, is the same Lord that we serve today.
He can take any impossible situation and make it possible. Diseased bodies, broken dreams, shattered relationships and lost jobs are nothing to Him. He is able to put it all back together if He chooses. And If He doesn't want to do these things it is because the Lord has something far greater in store for you and me than we can ever imagine for ourselves.
Not only that, but the Lord is a promise-keeping God who has both the power and the character to do what He says He'll do. The Almighty absolutely never forgets, backs out or changes His mind when He tells us that He'll do something. He won't back out with Israel and He won't do it with us either.
Further, our Sovereign Lord is a God of grace and mercy. Israel failed Him over and over again to the point that in the time we are living now, which is the Dispensation of the grace of God, they have been temporarily set aside. But despite their wickedness and unbelief the Lord's unmerited favor persists with them. I love what the Apostle Paul tells us concerning this prodigal nation in Romans 11. He instructs us in this way:
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:25-32).
The God who loves wayward Israel, loves you as well. And I dare say that nothing that you've done beats all the sins and idolatries that were performed by His covenant people.
If you are living in sin and don't think God will forgive you, just remember He is still going to deal with the Israelites in love and mercy. And just like they, you who know Jesus but have wandered away, need to repent of your sin and turn back to Him. And He will receive you with open arms.
For some who are older and think that they have wasted their lives it's not too late to do what you might have done if you'd followed the Lord your entire life. That may be why He still has you here. He may have a work in store for you that only a person with wisdom that comes with age can accomplish.
And lest any of us forget, no matter how much time we may or may not have left on this planet, death is not the end for any of us. The God who brought life from dry bones has promised believers in Him eternal life in the New Heaven and the New Earth. And with that, we have an eternity to fulfill the Lord's purposes for our existence. We should never give up no matter how dry and barren our lives may be at the moment. With the Lord there is always hope for a better future.
We can conclude from this story of Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones that there are no hopeless situations when it comes to God. I like a story once told by James DeLoach, who, in 1989, was the associate pastor of the Second Baptist church of Dallas. He said this:
I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family's sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain't dead!"
That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain't dead keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world.
In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world."
And just like like the picture of the burned out shack points us back to God's control over everything, the vision of the valley of dry bones also points us back to Him as well. We see the bones. We see them come to life again. And we too say: "Hush! God's ain't dead!" And with that we know that someday, maybe soon, everything is going to be all right!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on September 14, 2020:
Thanks for sharing Sheila! God bless!!
Sheila Craan from Florida on September 14, 2020:
There's a song in that reminds me of the situation in Ezekiel.
In The Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
The evil one is scattered
The evil one is weakened
All to make God's Kingdom Come.
Jesus' Blood protects God's children
HE IS THE LIVING WATER
We eat to glorify the Lambs of CHRIST.
JESUS DIED TO SAVE GOD'S CHILDREN.
CHRIST Gives US the Victory
We sing praises to JESUS HOLY NAME.