by Pastor Mark Hudson
This is some unusual preaching. Preaching to dry, dead, bleached bones. But there is an abundance of truth in this passage. We will only look at vs. 1-14. During Ezekiel’s time in Babylon after the exiles heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s temple, they were saying, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off” (v. 11). This is a dark, hopeless time. This is not losing a job, watching a spouse die, losing a parent, as heart wrenching as those events are. This is wondering if God will ever forgive them. This is questioning if they will ever see the land God had promised them ever again.
God takes Ezekiel to a valley by the Spirit (key word) of God. God shows him the result of sin. This place is not a garden. There is no water; it is devoid of life. There are no corpses. Just dry, very dry bones. These bones were not buried but laying on the surface of the dry ground. It must have been a horrific sight. Was it hundreds of former people or thousands? God and Ezekiel walked “around among them” in v. 2. Ezekiel had to be wondering why he was here and what God wanted.
“Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel is looking at parched, dry, human bones with no flesh around and in a death valley setting. He gives a non-committal answer. “O Lord God, you know.” We don’t know what he was thinking. Ezekiel knew and loved God. He is a faithful messenger. Was he thinking about verses that spoke of God’s power over life and death (Deut 32:39, I Sam 2:6; Ps. 104:29-30). Was Ezekiel thinking about events when God did miracles (I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:18-37; 13:20-21)? Or was he thinking, “You can’t be serious God.” One author writes, “He had the knowledge not to deny God’s ability, but he lacked the faith to believe in it.” (Taylor, J. B. Tyndale O.T. Commentaries. IVP, 1969).
It would have been one thing to watch God make the bones live. Ezekiel was commanded to be active participant. He was told in v. 5 to preach to them. Preach to very dry bones. “Now it is a well-attested anatomical fact that although ears have many bones, bones do not have any ears.” (Christopher J. H. Wright p. 306). This is the same person who faithfully preached through the death of his dearly loved wife, opposition, travelling from Jerusalem to Babylon so . . . “I prophesied as I was commanded” v. 7. Wright comments: “That’s all. He just spoke aloud with ordinary words. No magic. No secret incantations. No conjuring tricks with bones. Just the living power of the word of the living God invading the valley of the shadow of death” (Ibid.).
Now Ezekiel is watching what no human has ever seen. “There was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” In verse 7, the bones and come back together to form a human skeleton without anyone assisting in the process. Then we watches sinew, muscle, flesh, and skin to make a human being. Imagine seeing that. But “it all suddenly grinds to a halt” (Ibid). These ‘humans’ need breath.
Ezekiel is told to prophecy again to these skeletons. This is like Genesis 2:7. This is now returning to the garden of Eden. The Spirit/breath is repeated over and over again in this passage. This is used 10 times in this section. When the breath “came into them” they lived and became “an exceedingly great army.”
Now the application. In verse 11, God’s people are low. If country music existed, this is where someone would compose a song about losing their woman, their truck, their dog, and their farm. They are not in a literal grave but living in Babylon must have felt like a grave. God says that He will do the same for His people. “I will open your graves and raise you from your graves. . . I will bring you into the land of Israel . . . I will put My Spirit within you . . . I will place you in your own land.
Notice the emphasis on God accomplishing His will by His Word and Spirit. God often speaks to individuals on mountain tops but He is moving mightily in this valley. His word created the world. His word is now creating life into dead bones. His word creates life into dead spiritual people in lives that are like graves bound by sin. His Spirit and His word work in tandem. They always have and always will. We can have great confidence in his Word when His Spirit is applying His truths to any heart.
I can imagine you thinking this is a nice historical lesson. But I am not in exile in Babylon. Peter thinks you are in exile though for he writes, “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,” I Pt. 1:17. So does the author of Hebrews in chapter 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Then back to 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
Father, we indeed do not belong to this world. We are increasingly feeling like strangers and exiles. We are in the midst of a great battle with mounting opposition and the future can look bleak. Turn our eyes away from the beguiling and bewitching world to Your word and Spirit. Keep our faith centered on Christ. Remind us of the hope we have in Christ. In the name of the One who raises the dead and Who was raised from the dead. Amen.