9 June, 2023

September 18 | Dry Bones

by | 12 September, 2022 | 0 comments

Unit: Ezekiel (Part 2)
Theme: Hope for Sinners
Lesson Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Supplemental Text: Genesis 2:7; 1​ Corinthians 15:42-44, 52-54
Aim: Ask God to breathe new life for his glory into you, your family, and your church.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_September18_2022.

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By Mark Scott

Ancient philosophers—such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—who probed the elements of the universe (e.g., fire, water, and wind) may have actually found their way to God (Acts 17:27; Jeremiah 29:13). The Bible likens these basic elements to God himself. God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). The Holy Spirit in us is like water (John 7:38-39). And Jesus told the woman at the well that God was Spirit (“breath,” John 4:24).  

Every scientist knows that water is necessary for life—but so is breath. In the beginning God breathed into man (i.e., blew with his Spirit), and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). For true abundant life (John 10:10) people need the breath of God. That is especially true if your life situation has stolen all the breath out of you. The Israelites living in exile in Babylon felt breathless. The wind had been knocked out of them. Could God make them breathe again? 

The Valley
Ezekiel 37:1-3 

God had promised Israel a new heart (last week’s lesson). Now the Israelites would need a new Spirit. The vision of the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel was given pictured this new life and restoration of Israel to their homeland. The setting of this vision was a valley (plain—like the plains in Babylon). The year of the vision was sometime after 586 BC. 

That it was a vision from God is not in question. The phrases the hand of the Lord and brought me out by the Spirit ensure that this was a vision. Ezekiel noticed that this valley was filled with bones (the result of a battle?). This would indicate death, decomposition, and lack of burial. God gave Ezekiel a tour of this valley. Ezekiel noticed that the bones were very dry. They had been exposed long enough to be bleached and baked by the sun. God engaged the prophet by asking him, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel “pleaded the Fifth.” Only Adonai Yahweh knew.  

The Bones
Ezekiel 37:4-8 

After Ezekiel toured the valley, God called him to prophesy to these bones. He was not told to organize the bones, hold a seminar for the bones, or even equip the bones. He was told to give God’s inspired message to the bones. He was commanded to speak to these seemingly inanimate objects. (Previously God had asked Ezekiel to speak to the mountains [6:2; 36:1] and forests [20:47].) God would use Ezekiel’s preaching to bring breath into the bones. The Hebrew word for wind, breath, or Spirit is ruach (pronounced “ROO-akh”). It is a word that originally meant something pulsating like a lung.  

God promised Ezekiel that if he prophesied to these bones they would come to life (a symbol of God restoring life to the beaten-down exiles). Tendons and flesh/skin would attach themselves to these bones. This would indicate God’s restorative hand exercised on Israel. When Ezekiel obeyed this command, he heard a rattling (earthquake or rushing). Bones, tendons, and flesh came together to form human beings again. 

The Breath
Ezekiel 37:9-10 

A body needs breath to exist. Ezekiel’s second task was to prophesy to the breath so it would enter these bodies. The war that had taken place in the valley sucked the breath out of the soldiers. So, God’s breath was brought from the four winds (a symbol referring to his complete process of bringing life to these dead bodies—as in the expression “the four corners of the earth”). Once the bodies had breath, they stood up on their feet

The People
Ezekiel 37:11-14 

This vision of the valley of dry bones referred to the people (house or family) of Israel. Captivity had taken the life taken out of them. They felt dried up, as if their hope were gone. They felt cut off (an expression in the Old Testament that meant rejected or excommunicated).  

But Ezekiel gave the people hope by using a second metaphor. Not only did God have the power to resurrect bodies, he could also open graves. So, the metaphor of a cemetery is enjoined. While this could refer to some kind of “end-time” resurrection of the nation of Israel, it more likely was used metaphorically for God bringing Israel back to their homeland. If they get home, they would know that God did it. Death Valley and cemeteries are no problem for the God of creation. 


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