When God’s people were in their darkest hour, Ezekiel shared a vision of hope which reminded them that they would once more be a people of God, following His laws and living in peace.
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. 2 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. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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.’”
7 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. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 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.’” 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.
11 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.’ 12 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.13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 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.’”
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.
18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 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. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
24 “‘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.25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.26 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. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
This is an amazing chapter in the book of Ezekiel. It helps to know where this vision from the prophet Ezekiel comes within the context of Jewish history: God’s people have suffered a crushing defeat to the Babylonians – Jerusalem, its temple, its people, and the Davidic monarchy, are destroyed.
Ezekiel’s vision occurs in a valley full of bones. The valley full of bones in the vision IS the people of God: While they may be physically alive, they are spiritually dead towards God. Sin and disobedience have brought the death of God’s people. But what about God’s promises? Are they dead too?
Ezekiel’s vision is a message of hope. In the vision God is telling Ezekiel to prophesy TO the bones (to God’s people), to tell them that God will breathe life into them. This is a strong message of hope and restoration for God’s people – that God would breathe life into them and fill them with his Spirit.
God’s remnant people would not see what it took to make this promise a reality. It took the death of God’s son, the true Son of David, who was cursed and cut off for our sake. Now Jesus pours out his Spirit on us to give us new life, and new hearts, and a great hope so that we never might never be forsaken by God.
If you feel helpless and hopeless as God’s people did in the Babylonian time, this passage is a reminder that you are not alone. There are many reasons why our life might feel like a ‘valley full of bones’, but this passage is a reminder that God has changed us from death to life. Call out to God, and make some time to speak to someone you trust. We need to be there for each other.
Head: How does understanding the history of Israel, and the Babylonian Exile, impact your understanding of this vision and the valley of the bones?
Heart: Can you imagine what it would have felt like during this period of exile to hear this message of hope and restoration via the prophet of Ezekiel? Does it have relevance to you today?
Hands: Do you need to share with someone about a challenging experience that you are currently having? Do you need to support someone who is currently experiencing a challenging time?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for this reminder that you see our pain and our personal struggles. Thank you that we can come to you with our true experience and hand that over to you. Many of these people never saw Ezekiel’s vision realised, but we give you thanks for Jesus gives us the Spirit, and life, and rescue from death. Please help me to remember your message of hope as I walk through my day today. Amen.
A song to listen to: Gracious Redeemer
This Grow Daily was originally posted as part of the Bible in 10 series in 2017. During the School Holidays we take the opportunity to look back at the best of Grow Dailys over the years.