Bag of bones
Though not a constant feeling, there have been a few times in my life when I felt all dried-up and useless – like old bones. Our spiritual lives are so dependent on maintaining our relationship with God that, if we allow the world to get in the way or take priority for a season, we lose the power and life we need to flourish. There may even be times when we feel our prayers just slam into the ceiling.
Yes. And I’ve been there. That just means to keep on, in faith. Continue to study and pray. The season of “bones” will pass in time.
Creating the bones
Today we are in Ezekiel 37.1-14, for the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. As background, Israel had been divided into 2 nations: Israel in the north and Judah to the south.
Israel had followed their kings who were all wicked. Judah had only a few good kings. Both nations brought in idols and turned from God. And God had sent prophets to warn them to stop or be punished.
Eventually God allowed Assyrians to scatter Israel, and a few years later Babylon forced Judah into exile.
And God’s people felt like dry bones. Having made the choice to worship other gods, their connection with the One True God was damaged. No doubt they had felt dry and withered for some time. Maybe even searching for something to give their bones life again.
But they ignored God and His prophets.
A vision of bones
In Eze 37.1-2, we see God taking Ezekiel by the Holy Spirit to a valley full of bones. Then He led Ezekiel back and forth among the bones. The prophet sees that they are very dry. These bones are scattered over the valley floor – not buried. As if left where they fell in battle. Flesh gone, and dried from many years. Disjointed to the point that the prophet AND GOD walk among them.
The Jews in Babylon were like this – unlikely to ever come back together even as a complete skeleton – much less as a body. BUT, they were not buried. They lay scattered but in the open valley, under God’s watchful eye.
So He asks Ezekiel if the bones can live (v. 3). Ezekiel replies, “Sovereign LORD, You alone know.” Sovereign LORD is Adonai Elohim. Elohim means Mighty One. Adonai means My Great Lord, and is the plural of Adon which was used to mean “master” or the lowercase “lord” AKA boss. During the exile, God told them to stop using “LORD” and use Adonai instead.
So our prophet shows reverence and great wisdom. He demonstrates that he has not put limits on what Adonai can do. He also shows reverence for who he is speaking to.
Speak to the bones
In verse 4, Adonai commands Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones: “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!” (Here’s a great worship song for you with the same message.)
Then (in v 5-6) God tells him to say:
- God will put breath back into them
- they will come to life
- He will attach tendons…
- …and flesh…
- …and cover them with skin.
- THEN they will know “that I am Adonai.”
So Ezekiel did as God commanded. And with a great rattling sound, the bones came back together and tendons and flesh appeared. “But there was no breath in them.” (v7-8)
Since the FIRST thing God commanded His representative to say was noted here as the LAST thing – and the only part that was incomplete – I think it is important to take note. Perhaps Ezekiel was shocked by the sight of bones turning into men. Or he saved the “breath” part for last. I mean, you have to have lungs to have breath, right? Hmm, that’s an odd human logic thing in the midst of a mighty God moment.
God put “breath” first. HIS LOGIC is really what matters. And we should take note. The word for “breath” is also translated [wind or spirit] in other Scripture verses. For God, the 1st step was His Spirit entering the bones, and Ezekiel hadn’t said that part. How do I know? Because of what is recorded next:
Additional words to the bones
Verse 9: “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.”
In a single verse, God tells him to prophesy (or say) THREE TIMES. I make it a habit to pay close attention to things that are repeated in Scripture. Because of the 3 times God told him to speak for the breath, I get the very strong feeling that Ezekiel had – to that point – not mentioned it for whatever reason.
But God needed Ezekiel to do this for the bones to come to life. Until then, they were just reassembled men sprawled on the valley floor.
An Army Rises
Once Ezekiel speaks of the breath (v10), they come alive and stand as a great army. As God and Ezekiel stand in this vision before this reassembled, unmoving crowd, Adonai Elohim explains the vision:
- The bones are the people of Israel, who have lost their hope and describe themselves as dried up bones. (V11)
Then God commands him to tell the people that He will open the people’s graves and bring them out from them. That He will bring them back home to Israel. (V12) He continues (v13) to say, “The, you, My people, will know that I am Adonai, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.” And He says (v14) “I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am Adonai.”
Note the order of things in those verses:
- v10 – Prophesy of breath; life
- v11 – bones are dried up; hope’s gone
- v12 – God will open graves; bring you out from them; return you to Israel – promised
- v13 – you will know God is Adonai
- 14 – Adonai’s Spirit comes in them; they will live; they will actually return to Israel; they will know who Adonai is – that He is God
Remember that their exile was because they had forgotten just Who had done all these miracles for them. They turned to the false gods of other people groups. God had to take drastic measures to get them to return to Him and remind them of THE God who actually has power.
“They will know” is also a repeated phrase all throughout the book of Ezekiel. Just is this one story, we see it in verses 6, 13, and 14.
What it all means for me:
- There is God. Don’t put limits on what God can do. He is the God of the impossible. He’d can put us back together when we fall apart.
- There is new life. He pulls us from the dry bone valley of sin by salvation and moves us into new life with Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
- There is hope. The bones were unburied, but God repeats that He will pull His people from their graves (v12-13). They said they had no hope. I think the point is that we can get buried in dry-bone helplessness, covered by worry and sin. But God can and will pull us out. And, in 1948, He brought Jews from all the world to reform Israel.
- There is order. God is just. Our choices to abandon Him will lead to a valley of dry bones, but He hasn’t abandoned us during that time. Verse 11 is proof that God heard His people and their desperate prayers.
- There is Jesus. God made a way to escape the valley of death. His Son’s sacrifice on the cross is that way. If you don’t know Jesus, check this out.
- There is Spirit. The filling of the Spirit of God was to come before God would return them to Israel. Meaning that I need to rely on Holy Spirit when I am doing Kingdom work.