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Verse 1 says, “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.” It was the Spirit of God who enabled Ezekiel to see this vision. Then verse 2 says, “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.” In the vision he sees a valley of dry bones. The scene is desolate and hopeless. It is a picture of Israel’s people.
Verse 11 says, “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.’” The people of Israel here includes both northern Israel and southern Judah. The hope of these people has withered.
Will God really restore such a desolate people? That is the main question of today.
Verse 3 says, “He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’” Of course, dry bones do not come back to life on their own. And yet, Ezekiel’s response was “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Because nothing is impossible for God. Verses 4 and 5: “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.’”
The breath of the Lord. The breath of the Lord—or, the Spirit of the Lord—when it fills a person in despair causes hope to rise, life to overflow, and miracles to happen. Verse 6: “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.” All humans are made of flesh. But believers in Jesus are also filled with the Spirit of God, the life of God.
When God created the first human, his body was made of the dust of the earth, but, as Genesis 2:7 says, the Lord “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Beings infused with the breath of life: that is what we are. It is by the breath of God that we live. And we are precious creations, made according to the image of God. Because we are made in the image of God, we have the power to create, we are able to respond to God’s love, we can have a heart that worships God, and we can live in friendship with God.
Moving on, verses 7 to 10 show that Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded him. And then, “the bones came together, bone to bone . . . tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them”. In verse 9, God then said, “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.’” Verse 10: “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
Now let’s summarize what we have read. Through Ezekiel’s vision, we see a picture of God’s restorative work. We see this especially in verse 9, which is very striking: “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.’” These words, “Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live” powerfully convey the message of God’s restoration to the people of Israel who had lost all hope.
I believe this message also brings great hope to those of us who live in the New Testament era. When the Holy Spirit is poured on people suffering because of sin, their eyes are opened and the work of new creation takes place. It was through such work of the Holy Spirit that the Church was born.
It began with the disciples of Jesus who had lost hope after Jesus was crucified, the disciples who did not believe he would come back to life. But hope returned when we met the resurrected Christ face to face. Later the disciples were persecuted by their fellow Jews. And then by the Romans. In light of this, the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day must have really changed their hearts.
In Ezekiel’s time, the people of Israel were disappointed and suffering, living in a hopeless situation. That was their condition. And so God gave them hope through Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones.
Verse 14 says, “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.” God will pour out his Spirit. There will be restoration. It will be a work of the Holy Spirit. Even today, the Holy Spirit works within us in a process of restoring our hearts.
What kind of restoration will God give to the house of Israel? It includes the restoration of two divided groups: northern Israel and southern Judah. Verses 15 to 23 talk about this. This next section is about the joining of two branches. One branch has the name of Judah and the other branch has the name of Ephraim written on them. In verse 17, God told Ezekiel, “Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.” The two branches represent the divided kingdoms. Despite being from the same people, the two kingdoms had fought with each other and then were conquered by other nations and taken away as captives—God now intends to unite them again. Part of the prophecy is this: in the center of this united kingdom will be Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Following his footsteps, Christians today are called to be part of the ministry of reconciliation.
Moving on, verse 22 says, “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” Verse 24 adds, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.” The one who will unite the kingdoms is Jesus Christ, who was born from the line of David.
As verse 24 says, there will be only one king, one shepherd, the Lord’s servant David. Furthermore, God also says in verses 26 and 27, “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The vision of Ezekiel ends with an image of a peace covenant and the building of a sanctuary. Although this is first of all a prophecy of Israel’s release from captivity, it is also a prophecy for our own future during the end times.
Through Christ, we receive a covenant of peace. We receive hope: that Christ is present in our midst when we gather in his name to worship, and that Christ himself will be our sanctuary. That is how the era of the new covenant took place.
As believers, we gather in Christ’s name and live by this new covenant. Let us lift our voices to praise Him for his work on the cross; let us offer our prayers to Him; and live with confidence that He is walking alongside us.