Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 1 2019 - Ezekiel 37 – The valley of dry bones

Try to imagine yourself in Ezekiel's shoes as, in a vision, the Spirit of God came upon him and carried him off into a valley full of dry bones. The bones were like those of bodies that had long been dead, picked clean of flesh by wild animals and birds and now bleached dry in the fierce heat of the sun. As Ezekiel surveys this grim scene the Lord asks him, "Son of man, can these bones live?" How would you have responded? Ezekiel replies, "Sovereign Lord, you alone know." Ezekiel knows that with God all things are possible.

So Ezekiel is commanded to prophecy to these dry bones – to proclaim God's word to them; to preach to them. As Ezekiel proclaimed God's word, "there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone" (v. 7). Then tendons, muscles and skin clothed the bones so that they were whole bodies – except that they were still dead, without life. Ezekiel is now called to preach to these dead bodies and command the wind to fill them with breath. As he prophesied, "breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army" (v. 10).

This reminds us of the poetic description in Genesis 2:7 of God's first creation of human beings. He formed a man from the dust of the ground – from stuff as lifeless as dry bones – and then breathed into him the breath of life. The breath of God, the Spirit of God, is the giver of life.

And this, says God, is what he is now going to do with his people. They feel themselves cut off from the life of God and as good as dead. God is going to breathe on them with his breath of life and create them anew – they will be a new creation. They will be a people filled with his life and enjoying his blessings. God will gather his people from the nations and bring them again under the rule of his anointed king – called here "my servant David". He will make a covenant of peace with them and will so bless them that the whole world will know that the Lord God of Israel is the living God.

This wonderful vision points us towards the Lord Jesus Christ in whom it finds its fulfilment. When we were dead in sin and rebellion against God, Jesus came into the world to rescue us. He took our place when he suffered the death we deserved at the cross. His lifeless body was buried in the tomb. But God breathed his life back into that body and Jesus rose from the dead. The Spirit who gave him life is now at work in the world giving life to all who believe in him – we have been raised to new life in Christ. As Christ breathed on his disciples in the upper room and told them to receive the Holy Spirit, so he has breathed his Spirit into us; we have become God's new creation.

And by that same Spirit, God is gathering a people for himself from every nation under heaven – a people with whom he has made a covenant of peace and over whom he has installed his anointed, his Messiah, David's greater Son, Jesus the Prince of Peace.

We have now been entrusted with the word of life – the life-giving message of the Gospel. The risen Christ calls us to proclaim this word to people who are dead in sin – to preach to dry bones. It may seem a desperate and thankless task and we may be tempted to ask the Lord, "Can these dry bones live?" But we know from our own experience that nothing is impossible with God. The God who raised Jesus from the dead has given life to us and is able to give life to the driest of bones – to those who have yet to hear of Christ and to individuals and churches that seem to have lost all sign of life. The promise and power of God should encourage us to tell others of the Lord Jesus.

That same power will give life to our mortal bodies when Jesus returns, even if those bodies are dry bones or scattered dust and ashes. God's work of new creation will then be complete.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus in whom we have been given life which death can never destroy. Holy Spirit, Lord, the giver of life, revive your church and fill us afresh with your life and power. Breathe through our words to give life to those who live in the darkness and despair of death's shadow. According to your promise, save for yourself a people from every nation under heaven. Make these dry bones live.

Peter Misselbrook