The relationship between God and his people is full of ups and downs.
There are hilltop experiences where Israel experiences his deliverance and compassion and then periods of complete rebellion toward even the thought of God in their minds.
A time where all men do as they see fit in their own eyes.
They bend even the person of God and mould him into something of their own making.
They make him out to be a God content to witness them make sacrifices of their children to idols one moment and then the same day come into his temple.
The lists of sins and grievances are long.
Ezekiel is a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel.
He was taken into captivity by the Babylonians after Jerusalem was sacked the first time by king Nebuchadnezzar.
While Jeremiah’s ministry was with those left behind, Ezekiel’s ministry is to his fellow Exiles.
He started after about 5 years in captivity.
In approximately the 4th year of his ministry Ezekiel has the unenviable position of letting his fellow exiles know that Jerusalem has been sacked for a second time by Babylon.
A prophet is not a position that would have been eagerly sought.
It is truly unenviable.
God tells him his wife will die and that he is not to weep for her.
This is a sign to his fellow exiles whose pride had been in their families and children that they too were not to mourn for their children.
In essence he was telling them not to mourn, nor repent.
The messages that Ezekiel was given for proclamation may be highlighted by a few of the chapter descriptions.
“The seige of Jerusalem Symbolized”, “Jerusalem Will Be Destroyed”, Judgement Against Idolatry”, The Day of the Wrath of the Lord”, “Abominations in the Temple”, Idolaters Killed”, and “The Glory of the Lord Leaves the Temple.”
He goes on then too announce his judgment against the nations that took advantage or gloated in the face of Israel’s punishment.
Throughout though, and Taylor J.B. states it succinctly “Ezekiel had been promising his people a change in their fortunes: new leadership, a restored land, rebuilt cities, and many of the features of the Messianic era.”
Taylor, J. B. (1969).
Ezekiel: an Introduction and commentary (Vol.
22, p. 228).
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Now I have set the stage.
Chapter 34 is the upswing and now we arrive at 37.
Hope in the Valley
First, I need to clarify that this is not an Old Testament teaching on bodily resurrection.
The last section of verses will give full disclosure on the intent and purpose of the vision, in its context.
This needs to be clarified because, if you remember last week I spoke about Lazarus.
This is a vision, prompted and carried out through the power of the Lord moving through Ezekiel’s life.
We are told this in verse 1.
So he was carried in the spirit and set down in the middle of a valley of completely filled with very dry bones.
There is no evidence of life, these people, are long dead.
Not a little dead, but all dead.
Beyond hope of help.
Long past decay, dry bones are all that fill the valley as confirmed by his little tour around the space.
The bones, as will be revealed later represent the nation of Israel.
They have been in captivity now over a decade, they have received news about the destruction once again of Jerusalem and probably all who they knew or cared about.
Their identity as a nation has been extinguished, their pride or hope in themselves, or their own ability and strength is gone.
Their faith and religion, as confused and idolatrous as it was, now with the destruction of the temple has cut them off from any potential source of promise.
In their minds, God’s done it, he’s finally cut them off.
Perhaps there is someone here today that feels their hope is gone?
Faith and relationship is just a practice of going through the motions.
When we’ve exhausted every avenue in our own strength, or our striving has continually failed to move us to that higher/deeper place of relationship or spirituality we may fall back into hopelessness at our continued failure, because striving has come from a place of mistaken identity.
It has come from our tribe, or our denomination, our works or habits, hobbies, strength and ability, our idols.
Perhaps we have allowed our religion to define us, our country, province, politics or even sexuality.
The source of our strength has laid completely in the realm of our own power.
2. Hope for lost family and friends.
And then God asks Ezekiel the question: Can these bones live?
God always makes the first move.
He first loved us.
This vision God is showing Ezekiel is his own response to the sins of his people and the circumstances they have landed themselves through.
It reveals his goodness and compassion.
Often I think in our state of despondency we feel that he is ignoring us or has forgotten us.
That we have finally reached the limits of his goodness and grace and that His faithfulness, compassion and love no longer can touch us.
From our point of view we are always asking and seeking him with limited or at best mixed results.
The obvious answer to God’s question is no.
But Ezekiel believes and trusts in the Lord.
It once again revealed humility, hope and even excitement about where the Lord was leading him with this question.
‘O Lord God, you know,’ submits and allows room for the working of the Lord by his spirit in this seemingly impossible situation.
At the same time he is not willing to lead or try and dictate the direction God is going.
He holds faith.
Then the Lord sets him a seemingly impossible task.
He tells him to prophecy over the bones.
While Ezekiel admits that anything is possible with God, and that whatever is worked or accomplished is done in God’s power, God still desires to involve Ezekiel in this process of renewal.
This is anything but a rapt audience.
But he is instructed to prophesy life into the impossible circumstances of Israel’s spiritual depravity.
I’m thinking that this probably felt a bit familiar to Ezekiel, considering his ministry over the past years.
Vs. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, ‘I will cause breath (this word, also interpreted as spirit is mentioned again in vs. 6, 9, 10) to enter you and you shall live.
Life in the Valley
Life in the Valley
The Bones Raised
The Bones Raised
Life in the Valley
The miracles that is performed here takes place in two parts.
First he does as he was instructed and he prophesies to the bones.
He starts preaching to the dry bones.
Then something starts to happen.
There was a rattling and this is either interpreted as the sound of thousands of bones snapping into place, or earthquake.
The bones form together to create individual bodies.
Flesh starts to appear on the bones.
This was progress, now he was standing in a valley of corpses.
It was full of completely formed bodies that were never the less dead.
Ever feel like it needs to get worse before it gets better?
What is more unsettling in your own mind?
Standing in a valley of the long dead bones that have become so scattered and mixed that you can’t even tell in the mess of it all, what all belongs to what body.
Or standing in a valley of cadavers.
Now he can see faces, suddenly its become more real.
While it’s less of a mess, now he sees fully formed and lifeless individuals.
He can distinguish individuals and features.
It’s become more familiar.
It’s become personal.
They are no longer countless bones without a face.
But God is not finished.
Now he is commanded to prophesy to the breath, some translations have wind, but the word is Ru’ah and it is literally the spirit.