Read Ezekiel 37:1-14, John 3:8
In this vision of the prophet Ezekiel, he is set down in a valley filled with dead men’s bones. God condescends to where we are to save us. He finds us as we are but doesn’t leave us in that condition. He doesn’t just bring us into heaven as we are. We must be changed. We must become a new creation.
There were very many corpses, long dead, bleached by the sun, very dry, unburied, and very dead. The fact that they were unburied was shocking and suggests a violent death. It was a miserable condition and would have been a discouraging and distressing image for Ezekiel since God’s people were in exile at this point.
He is asked a question by God. “Son of man, can these bones live?” What a question! Can the dead live again? Can the spiritually dead be brought to life? If anyone else asked it, the question would have been rhetorical. But Ezekiel suspected he knew why the question was asked.
He answers, “O LORD God, you know.” Only God imparts life. It’s a supernatural work. Apart from it we would remain spiritually dead and would have no hope of a physical resurrection.
Wayne Grudem says regeneration is “a secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. This is sometimes called ‘being born again’.”
Like Adam, just a lump of clay, until God breathed into him and he became a living breathing soul. (Gen 3:27) In John 3, Jesus is explaining the new birth to Nicodemus. “You must be born again.” Wind is an emblem of His quickening power. He says, “I will cause breath to enter into you and you will live.” It is a divine initiative.
Like Lydia (Acts 16:14b) “…The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” She could not believe until God opened her heart.
While it is a supernatural act, He uses means to accomplish it. Ezekiel is given the strange command to prophesy to the dead bones. It seems foolish. They’re dead; thoroughly and completely dead. Similarly through the foolishness of preaching, we are to speak the words of life to dead men and women. Therefore, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. “ 1 Cor. 1: 21b
Prophesying can either mean to foretell events yet to be, or to tell forth a message from God. The second meaning is in view here. Ezekiel is to speak under inspiration. Do we realize that preachers are speaking to the dead? They are truly dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) not merely sick.
We need a heart transplant. In Ezekiel 36:26, 27 he speaks of God removing our stony heart and replacing it with a heart of flesh so we can obey Him. God can convert the most hopeless sinner, because what’s more hopeless than being dead? We are all dead, and not just “mostly dead” like in the movie, The Princess Bride.
So Ezekiel did as he was told, in spite of his lack of control over the results. His job was to be obedient. “So I prophesied as I was commanded.” The bones ‘heard’ the word of the LORD. Scripture is needed. See the necessity of preaching in conversion. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom.10:14 ”So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10:17
Who do these dry bones represent? Verse 11 says it is “the whole house of Israel.” These are the people of God throughout all ages. We are the “Israel of God.” Gal. 6:6
The immediate benefit of hearing this message was encouragement and hope for the exiles to return to their land and be invigorated with spiritual life. But like most Old Testament prophesies, they also have a future application. The ultimate hope is that He gives us new spiritual life now through conversion, (our dry bones live), and we have the hope of resurrection. “I will open your graves.” Vs. 13 We will be brought out of our graves to our own land, the New Jerusalem.
So Ezekiel preaches to these dry bones the Word of God, they hear, and a rattling begins as the bones rejoin, and flesh, bones and skin are added. Yet, although they look like people, they are still unsaved; like the unregenerate in our congregation. They look like us, but they are missing new life. These bones were almost complete. The Spirit is needed to impart life. “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” John 3:5, 6 We need to pray for the Spirit to accompany the Word and powerfully impart life in the hearers.
What is the purpose of raising these dead bones to life? “Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” Vs. 13 The ultimate goal is His glory. We are saved for a purpose. “It became an exceeding great army.” Vs. 10 We need to know God keeps His covenant. Vs. 14
We are part of the church militant. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Tim. 2:3, 4