He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Israel was in captivity. God had warned them over and over this would happen if they didn’t repent. In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and the first of the captives are deported to Babylon. Daniel was in this group. In 597 BC, more captives, including King Jehoiachin, are taken into exile when Nebuchadnezzar seizes Jerusalem and plunders the Temple. Finally in 586 BC, Jerusalem is destroyed and the people of Judah are taken into exile. The southern Kingdom of Judah comes to an end.
Ezekiel begins his ministry in 593 BC in Babylon, a few years after the second deportation. He prophesies of the final destruction of Jerusalem prior to its fall, but afterwards, he begins to prophesy a new vision of hope for Israel. Ezekiel shows that God is still faithful to the covenant He made with Abraham. The nation of Israel was God’s prodigal.
When God gives Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones in the valley, we see what God plans to do for His prodigals. In the vision, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones. He leads him back and forth and Ezekiel sees that the valley is full of bones. Then in the vision, God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live again. The expected answer would be “No” because they are bones. But Ezekiel recognizes that He is speaking to God Almighty, who can do the impossible. So he turns the question back to God and tells Him that He is the One who knows the answer to that. Our faith should always be in God, not what we can see with our physical eyes. It is always about what God wants to do.
In this vision, God shows Ezekiel that He wants to make the bones live again. He tells him to prophesy to the bones:
“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 my breath in you, and you will come to life.
Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ”
Ezekiel 37: 4-6
As Ezekiel obeyed and prophesied to the bones, he saw God do exactly what He had just said He would do. The bones begin to rattle and they came together…bone to bone. Tendons and flesh appeared on them and they were covered with skin. They were now bodies, but they weren’t alive because there was no breath in them. So God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath and call it from the four winds:
“Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it,
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds
O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ”
Again, Ezekiel saw God do what only God can do, when he obeyed. He prophesied as God commanded him, and breath entered into the bodies, and they came to life. They were a great army.
This prophecy has a dual meaning: both meanings represent Israel. While in captivity, the Israelites were as good as dead…like dry bones. But God had a plan to restore them. He used Nebuchadnezzar to bring them into exile and He would use another king to release them from their captivity. In 539 BC, King Cyrus conquers Babylon, and in 538 BC, God puts it in Cyrus’ heart to release the captives and they begin to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their walls. Daniel returns in 535 BC, exactly 70 years after the first invasion. Some of the prophecies Ezekiel gave will not be fulfilled until the second coming of Christ when again, Israel will have a spiritual revival. They will know that Jesus is Messiah and they will “come to life”.
In many ways, Israel is still God’s prodigal. They do not know Jesus as Messiah. They are still living under the law. God loves all His prodigals. The vision here for Israel helps us see God’s heart for not only Israel, but for prodigals everywhere and for those who are still “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). God is capable of raising to life those who are physically dead, but He is all about raising to new life those who are spiritually dead. Whether it be restoring them to their former life when they did recognize Jesus or bringing them to life for the first time, we can know it is God’s will for them to be “alive”! God does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
So continue to call out to dry bones to come alive!
Come Alive by Lauren Daigle
Through the eyes of men it seems There's so much we have lost As we look down the road Where all the prodigals have walked One by one The enemy has whispered lies And led them off as slaves But we know that you are God Yours is the victory We know there is more to come That we may not yet see So with the faith you've given us We'll step into the valley unafraid, yeah As we call out to dry bones Come alive, come alive We call out to dead hearts Come alive, come alive Up out of the ashes Let us see an army rise We call out to dry bones, come alive God of endless mercy God of unrelenting love Rescue every daughter Bring us back the wayward son And By your spirit breathe upon them Show the world that you alone can save You alone can save As we call out to dry bones Come alive, come alive We call out to dead hearts Come alive, come alive Up out of the ashes Let us see an army rise We call out to dry bones come alive So breathe, oh breath of God Now breathe, oh breath of God Breathe, oh breath of God Now breathe Breathe, oh breath of God Now breathe, oh breath of God Breathe, oh breath of God, now breathe As we call out to dry bones Come alive, come alive We call out to dead hearts Come alive, come alive Up out of the ashes Let us see an army rise We call out to dry bones come alive, yeah We call out to dry bones, come alive Oh come alive