The prophet Ezekiel was among the captives taken to Babylon following the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. At Babylon, he delivered God’s messages of things near-future and far-future to fellow captives.
Among the first of his prophesies is the destruction of the temple which destruction was fulfilled in the days of his ministry. Ezekiel’s last prophecies shall not be realized until Christ’s millennial kingdom. The text before us speaks of a time which precedes Christ’s return. It is in a time in which the house of Israel shall be gathered from all countries (v. 14). This gathering is not the return of the captives to Judah from Babylon which took place approximately 40 years after Ezekiel’s ministry ended. The contingent from Babylon which re-inhabited Judah and Jerusalem at that time cannot be characterized as the whole house of Israel (v. 11).
Ezekiel was transported into the far future in which he was shown a valley which was filled with bones (v. 1). Ezekiel noted that the bones were many and that they were very dry. Through the eyes of Ezekiel, we see the bones of a people who had perished in the very distant past.
All who read this scripture hear the Lord ask Ezekiel: “Can these bones live? A dried up bone is a dead bone. There has never been a single instance in recorded history in which a dead bone has come to life. Ezekiel knew this to be true but he answered: “O Lord God thou knowest.” Ezekiel knew God. Ezekiel knew that the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can do the impossible.
This scripture exists for God’s purposes. The Holy Spirit moved Ezekiel to record these words such that all men might know that God can bring life to that which is dead. New Testament believers know this to be true because we are evidence of the impossible. We have passed from death unto life. We shall not perish because we believe the Son has suffered death for us (John 3:16).
The Lord directed Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. Ezekiel was instructed to speak to the bones such that the bones might hear the word of the Lord (v. 4). In verse 7, Ezekiel stated that he did as the Lord instructed. The picture before us is that of Ezekiel speaking to the bones in a time which was far to the future — a time that would be many years after Ezekiel’s earthly ministry ended. Verse 7 is past tense because the future is as the past with God. The Lord is the maker of time and is not constrained by it. Only God limits God. All that God says shall pass comes to pass as He has spoken. Today, Ezekiel prophesies to the dry bones though the written word which God has preserved. In 1948, the Lord moved the United Nations to re-establish a nation in the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
New Testament believers of one hundred years ago would have had no cause to believe that they were living in the time in which Ezekiel would speak to the dry bones. Not so, today. The Jewish population of Palestine has grown from approximately 80,000 in 1922 to 6.8 million today, an 85 fold increase. The dry bones most certainly have gathered.
The bones heard Ezekiel speak. Ezekiel saw the bones come together. He saw sinews form upon the bones. Next, he saw flesh and skin. In verse 8, Ezekiel states that which he did not see. He did not see the breath of life. The Lord instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind and say, “O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (v. 9).
In verses 11-14, the Lord explained the vision to Ezekiel. The Lord would take His people from the grave and place them in “your own land” (v. 14). While flesh and skin have been placed upon the bones, the Lord has yet to give a new heart and a new spirit to Israel. What the Lord promises to do for Israel is that which He has done for all New Testament believers. All who are born again have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and filled with the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things and brings His words to remembrance (Jn. 14:26).
Ezekiel 37:14 shall not be fulfilled until Israel knows that the Lord has performed it. Israel shall not know until Israel receives the Spirit and becomes as New Testament believers.
God is speaking to Israel of today. The Lord would have all Israel look upon that which He has done and believe. Believe, be filled with the Spirit, and live.