The hand of 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. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ‘“So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ‘“So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Can Dry Bones Live?
Ezekiel was a prophet of the exile exhorting the people of God to not lose hope in the face of the destruction of the nation of Israel. Babylon had conquered the once great nation beginning a seventy-year captivity marked by despair and defeat. A complete generation of people would pass before a remnant would be allowed to return. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah proclaimed the calamity in stern warnings mixed with the hopeful renewal of a promised return. The Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry bones to show His power, and His promise to His beloved people giving assurance that with God anything is possible.
The valley was filled with untold numbers of bones that were very dry. Ezekiel walked among the remnants of death that no man could change. The sight of these bones must have overwhelmed the heart of the prophet with complete hopelessness and despair. There could be many reasons these bodies were in the valley; probably because of a great battle. Death filled the air. The sight of these bones reminded Ezekiel of the limitations of man as there was no possibility to bring life to dry bones. No medicine, technology or devising of man could restore life to the carnage the prophet beheld that day. And then God spoke to him.
What changed for Ezekiel was the word of God. The question posed by the Lord was an impossible task. Dry bones cannot live. Modern science can change the lives of many people but very dry bones will only be dry bones. Ezekiel does not hesitate in answering the Lord but answers carefully. He knows if life is to be given to the dry bones God has the power – if He is willing. The first thing the prophet must do is tell the dry bones to hear the word of the Lord. Life comes when the Lord works His power covering the bones with flesh. Breath came into the bodies and life was restored. A exceedingly great army stood before Ezekiel as his eyes marveled at the wonder-working power of the Almighty God. A valley full of very dry bones was now filled with a multitude of living, breathing people.
The immediate lesson is clear. Israel seemed a doomed nation but they would find life again through the power of God. Their bondage was the very dry bones. There was no hope apart from the Lord. Israel could not come out of the captivity without the will of the Lord. Like very dry bones, there was an impossibility of hope. They were dry, their hope was lost and the people were cut off. The grace of God made possible their release after seventy-years when Cyrus signed the decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. This could only be done because of the power of God’s will. Ezekiel is seeking to infuse hope in the hearts of the faithful that the Lord has not forgotten His people and He will bring them up once again.
There are eternal lessons from the valley of dry bones parallel to the joy of being a Christian. Sin drains all life from the spirit of man. Condemned before God, there is no hope for man. All men face the day when they lie in the ruin of Satan’s vicious attack, dead in trespasses and sin. There is no hope. There is no life. There is no victory. Jesus came to bring life to men. Hearing the word of the Lord is the beginning of a miraculous transformation where sinful man transforms by the renewal of God’s word to a living sacrifice. The eternal breath of life is given to sinful man and he becomes a child of God. Becoming a Christian proclaims that God is Lord.
A final lesson is the hope of eternal life. In a literal sense, man will die and nothing can bring life. Death is certain, it is final and it is complete. Two thousand years ago a man was buried following his death. Like all men, he died. Unlike any man, He arose on the first day of the week and lives forever. The promise of eternal life is given to all those who hear the word of the Lord and live in the Spirit of the Lord. Death may seem final for the eyes that weep but the heart knows that eternal life is given to dead bodies of His saints. Like the valley of dry bones, life comes from the word of God. The nature of life is like a vapor. The promise of life after death comes by the power of God who can take very dry bones and give them life. He will do the same for you. Hear His word and obey. Life is promised. Let those dry bones live.
What reason have atheists for saying that we cannot rise again? Which is the more difficult, to be born, or to rise again? That what has never been, should be, or that what has been, should be again? Is it more difficult to come into being that to return to it? (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 1670)