The hand of the Lord was on 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. 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. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people 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: 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. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
- Ezekiel 37:1-14
“Can a sinner be turned into a saint? Can a twisted life be made right? There is only one appropriate answer— ‘O Lord God, You know’ (Ezekiel 37:3). Never forge ahead with your religious common sense and say, ‘Oh, yes, with just a little more Bible reading, devotional time, and prayer, I see how it can be done.’
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do? The degree of hopelessness I have for others comes from never realizing that God has done anything for me. Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power and might that I can never have a sense of hopelessness for anyone else I see? Has any spiritual work been accomplished in me at all? The degree of panic activity in my life is equal to the degree of my lack of personal spiritual experience.
“‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves…’ (Ezekiel 37:12). When God wants to show you what human nature is like separated from Himself, He shows it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has ever given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He will only do this when His Spirit is at work in you), then you know that in reality there is no criminal half as bad as you yourself could be without His grace. My ‘grave’ has been opened by God and ‘I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells’ (Romans 7:18). God’s Spirit continually reveals to His children what human nature is like apart from His grace.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I went down memory lane before starting to write this. Then I had to fold a load of towels fresh out of the dryer, and I sang the song while folding.
“The head bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the shoulder bone, the shoulder bone connected to the foot bone… Now hear the word of the Lord.”
Then a voice came to me and said, “Those bones are not connected the way they are supposed to be connected.”
I yelled back, “He was in an accident!!”
But when God puts the bones back together, it will not be accidental. All the bones will go back in their proper place, even if the bones were cremated and are now nothing but ash. The old Spiritual may have been a rudimentary anatomy lesson more than the message sent from God, but it holds a fond place in my memory.
But do we really understand this story from Ezekiel? Probably the people who first heard and read Ezekiel’s prophecy thought that the nation of Israel (Judah) would be restored and their captivity in Babylon would be over. The bones of a nation would be set back into place. The meaning of the prophecy was merely figurative in their eyes.
But when Jesus returns, the dead shall rise and meet Him in the air. These Saints will reign with Jesus.
I wonder why God saw fit to have me join the Army for a few years. That interrupted a very successful career as a chemical engineer in Texas. I never got back to chemical engineering, other than an occasional “honey do” project here or there, and I never got a chance to return to Texas. I have often wondered “WHY?”
Then I have talked to other people who had similar situations. In those people, other than me, I can see how those skills that they learned in that career detour were being carried forward, but not in every case. There are so many people who have experienced strange detours in their careers, and you wonder, WHY?
Could it be that when the dry bones reform into flesh and we meet Jesus in the air, Jesus will turn to us and say, “Remember that detour? It is time to use those skills. Join my army.”
That’s just my wild thought for the day, but the prophecy of Ezekiel is not just a figurative story about dry bones becoming an army. There will some day be the resurrection of the dead. Jesus was resurrected and there were a lot of witnesses. We can cling to that truth. We know that one day this image by Ezekiel will be a reality.
But in the searching for the old Spiritual, I found a different sort of song. Lauren Daigle sings Come Alive. It’s about the same Scripture but focuses on the meaning of the prophecy.
But for the people who still remember the old Spiritual, here is the Cathedrals Quartet singing Dry Bones.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.