Dry Bones Live Again
1Some time later, I felt the Lord's power take control of me, and his Spirit carried me to a valley full of bones. 2The Lord showed me all around, and everywhere I looked I saw bones that were dried out. 3He said, “Ezekiel, son of man, can these bones come back to life?”
I replied, “Lord God, only you can answer that.”
4He then told me to say:
Dry bones, listen to what the Lord is saying to you, 5“I, the Lord God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. 6I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
7I did what the Lord said, but before I finished speaking, I heard a rattling noise. The bones were coming together! 8I saw muscles and skin cover the bones, but they had no life in them.
9The Lord said:
Ezekiel, now say to the wind, “The Lord God commands you to blow from every direction and to breathe life into these dead bodies, so they can live again.”
10 As soon as I said this, the wind blew among the bodies, and they came back to life! They all stood up, and there were enough to make a large army.
11The Lord said:
Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12So tell them, “I, the Lord God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13and when that happens, you will realize that I am the Lord. 14My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the Lord, have spoken.”
News of the fall of Jerusalem has just arrived. The people blurt out, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone” (v 11 NIV). The Lord responds by giving Ezekiel a graphic vision – the third recorded in his book (see also chs 1-3; 8-11).
Up to chapter 33, Ezekiel’s oracles were heavy with warnings of judgment. Now that the judgment has fallen, Ezekiel becomes a messenger of hope because he sees a mass of dried, bleached bones being transformed into a mighty army (vs 1-11). The “valley” where the vision is set (v 1) is the very location where Ezekiel had earlier received a message of judgment (3:22). This time, however, the message, which borrows some mind blowing imagery from military history, is dramatically different! This description of human remains left unburied “is reminiscent of many battle scenes and descriptions of battle scenes found in the earliest periods of Mesopotamian and Egyptian history” (IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, p722).
In the vision, Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. The bones come together and are clothed with sinews and flesh, but have no life (vv 4-8). Next Ezekiel is told to prophesy to “the breath” and the corpses come alive and stand up as a vast army (vv 9,10). The first thing he says is more “forthtelling” than foretelling, while the second – prophesying to the breath or spirit (in Hebrew the words are identical) – is surely a form of prayer. God’s will is made known through his Word, and his power is released by his Spirit in answer to prayer.
It’s a pattern that still happens today. We witness to others, and, while witnessing, we pray that the Spirit might breathe new life into those with whom we share the good news. Ezekiel shared God’s message of hope with his despairing companions (vv 12–14).
Father God, who gives life, I pray for . . . who needs to be lifted out of despair into hope. Give them your life, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, April – June 2015, written by Fergus Macdonald, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.