Ezekiel and Dem Dry Bones

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Ezekiel 37:1-10

 These verses give us the concluding illustration of a message Ezekiel began back in 36:16.  Bible readers and church goers are very familiar with the vision of the “dry bones” thanks to famous song.  In spite of their fame, these verses are often misunderstood and taken to mean things they do not.

In fact, the bones in the vision refer to “the whole house of Israel,” as The Lord Himself says at the end of the vision:

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.’  (Ezekiel 37:11-12 NIV84)

As a nation, Israel had been scattered among the nations, like bones thrown into a valley.  Thanks to their sin and rebellion, God’s people had become a nation without a homeland.  For half of Ezekiel’s book, he had spent time explaining to the people why their Babylonian exile had to happen; why they were being punished.  Naturally the people were angry, frustrated, sad, depressed, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness had fallen over the exiles.

A rough patch can make anybody feel like that.  Human beings end up in trouble all the time, sometimes that trouble is a result of sin – decisions we make that are selfish or just plain wrong.  Sometimes trouble comes into our lives for no apparent reason.  Regardless of how we end up in our rough patch, if we’re stuck in that rut long enough we’re apt to lose faith; to lose heart; to feel hopeless and dread.  That’s how the Jews in exile were feeling.

So after many messages about how bad they were and why they were being punished, the Lord, through His prophet Ezekiel, is about to encourage them; to give them a reason to hope.  The time would come when the breath of God’s Spirit would blow over them, and return life to them.  Now, flat on their backs, one day they would be standing up tall and straight, restored to their homeland, stronger than ever.

Of course, this is prophecy.  It hadn’t happened in Biblical history and it hasn’t happened yet.  But it will.  God always keeps His Word and fulfills His prophecies.  But there is a present-day application to this chapter as there is to all of Scripture because it is all divinely inspired. 

1.  How the vision came

The hand of the Lord was upon 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.  (Ezekiel 37:1 NIV84)

 Here is a most remarkable vision.  It’s a vision.  It never really happened.  The bones weren’t real.  But we need to understand that Ezekiel simply recorded what he saw, or more accurately, what The Lord showed him.  That being the case, we need to take it literally.  God will interpret the vision for Ezekiel and us later.  We are not allowed to assign a different meaning to what Ezekiel saw.   The interpretation of this vision is the complete restoration of national Israel, physically and spiritually, and nothing more.

This vision, regardless of how it sounds, has nothing to do with the resurrection of the dead or the restoration of the Church.   We need to be very careful not to spiritualize passages of Scripture that God has interpreted for us.  If we take this prophecy and all Biblical prophecy literally, respecting  the meaning The Lord has assigned to it, then the the Word will always make sense.

Ezekiel was a prophet on the move!  This wasn’t the first time Ezekiel was transported by the Lord.  Back in chapter 8, God beamed the prophet to Jerusalem:

He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood.  (Ezekiel 8:3 NIV84)

 Was Ezekiel really in the Jerusalem?  Was he really in a valley?  Scholarship is divided.  Some write that all this happened in the prophet’s head; that God gave him visions in his head at his present location.  But others teach that God miraculously transported Ezekiel to Jerusalem and to this certain valley and there gave him the visions there.  God is certainly capable of doing that, if He so desired.

The take-away-truth from verse one, though, is that we must be “in the Spirit” if we want to hear from Heaven.  If we want to hear from God we can’t be worldly minded; we must be walking and thinking in the Spirit.  A carnal Christian will never hear from God.  Not only that, if you want to see things the way they really are – if you want to see your life in the right perspective – you must be “in the Spirit.”

2.  What the vision was

The valley was full of bones in Ezekiel’s vision.  The bones, we will learn later, represented both the nation of Israel and individual Jews.  They were a wrecked and ruined nation and they were people with no hope.

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.   (Ezekiel 37:2 NIV84)

Those many dry bones characterized in symbolic form the people of Israel.  Through their constant backsliding and indifference to the Word of God, they had become like skeletons.  They had become worse than skeletons – they had become like a pile of loose, unconnected bones, piled one on top of the other.   Spiritual pride and worldliness had drained the life right out them.

The same principle is at work in the lives of Christians today.  If a Christian’s walk with The Lord is “out of whack,” they shrivel up in their spirit.  No doubt there are a lot of carnal, worldly Christians who through neglect are literally starving their spirits to death.  When you don’t read the Word and when you don’t get good, wholesome Biblical teaching, you are starving your spiritual selves.

3.  A probing question

 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”  (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV84)

A question like that tells us a lot about Ezekiel.  He was a spiritually-minded man.  Only somebody living by faith and walking in the Spirit is able to see the spiritual needs, not only of his own life, but of those around him.  Some Christians dearly want to be used by God but He can’t do anything with them because their minds are worldly; they are not attuned to  spiritual things.  If you want God to use you, and if you want God to speak to you, your mind has to be inclined in His direction.  It has to already full of His Word.  Worldly-minded Christians are like the people Paul warned young Timothy about.  They have–

…a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV84)

They look the part, but they are nothing but bones, barely holding on to life.  When you start seeing through spiritual eyes, you’ll see the world the way God does:  full of lost, hopeless people so spiritually dead they can’t  help themselves.  These are the ones Jesus came to save; these are the ones He wants to rescue through you!  But if you don’t see the lost around you as sick and dying, He can’t empower you to do the work.

4.  A truthful answer

Ezekiel saw the bones – the true state of his people – and he knew that God knew, too.  God knows the hearts of people.  Are you worried about an unsaved loved one?  God knows!  Are you concerned about all the lost all around you?  God knows, and He’s even more concerned than you are!

5.  The cure

God has a sense of humor.  God’s command to Ezekiel in funny on a couple of levels:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!”  (Ezekiel 37:4 NIV84)

 First, how ridiculous is it to “speak” to piles of bones?  Now, if they were piles of ears, maybe!  But just piles of old, dry bones?  What good would speaking to them do?  So on one level, Ezekiel is being told to do something that made little sense.

Second, did God really think those bones could hear the Word of the Lord?  Wasn’t He simply expecting the impossible?  Did you know God excels at doing the impossible?  You may think it’s a complete waste of time sharing for faith with a certain person, or even praying for them.  But God may be wanting to do a mighty work in their life and maybe He wants to use you!  You could be the catalyst in the salvation of their soul!

Ezekiel looked out over all those dry bones and he’s about to speak to them.  By the way, many a preacher is expected to do the same thing every Sunday!  There are a lot “dry bones” lying in pews all over the land, and some of them are barely Christian!

As Ezekiel declared the Word of The Lord to the dry bones, a most remarkable thing happened:

This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.   (Ezekiel 37:5 NIV84)

You can’t help but compare the valley of the dry bones to the condition of Church today.  Many members are skeletal, barely clinging to life.  But we all need a move of God if we are to have a vital spiritual life.  It’s the Word of God, carried by the Spirit of God, that brings life to a believer.

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army.  (Ezekiel 37:10 NIV84)

 The meaning of this verse in the context of Ezekiel’s vision is startling.  At some point in the OUR future, God, by a work of His Spirit, will completely restore the nation of Israel.  It will be strong and vital, like a vast army.  Consider the order of events in this vision and you’ll see the dynamic of Biblical prophecy as it relates to the nation of Israel.  The bones were:  (a)  scattered all over the valley.  In other words, Israel as a nation was as good as dead; it’s people scattered all throughout the Babylonian Empire.  (b)  the bones began to be drawn together, flesh and sinew began to cover them.  They were still just dead bones though.  Here we have very beginnings of the great regathering of Israel to its homeland.  (c)  God’s Spirit brought life back to the bones and they lived again, standing tall, upright, like an army.  What a glorious future awaits the nation of Israel on that great day of days!

That’s the meaning of the vision.  The application for believers is just as powerful.  Without the power of the Spirit behind us, we are as good as dead in terms of our service to the Lord.  May we all realize our place in the Kingdom and may we, like the believers who gathered in Jerusalem, receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit so that we may go forth like a mighty army, breathing out God-given life so that others may live.

Israel’s future as a nation is all part of God’s plan for the world He created.  But God has a plan for people, too.  He wants the lost to come to know Him as a loving heavenly Father.  He wants all people to be saved.  God alone, by His Spirit, is able bring eternal life to the helpless, hopeless piles of old bones that are the lost.

1 Response to “Ezekiel and Dem Dry Bones”


  1. 1 Hellen July 20, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Wow I’m so blessed.. Its a Revelation :)


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