Can Dead Bones Breathe?

Do you see the condition of Ezekiel’s neighbors?

Ezekiel 37:1-2    The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.

Ezekiel was the son of a priest born approximately 600 years before Jesus Christ. His were perilous times in the land of promise. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been decimated by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom had a been continually threatened by the Egyptians. And all the above parties were suffering under the dominant hand of the Babylonians.

Around 597 BC, things went from bad to worse Nebuchadnezzar came marching into the Promised Land, and he left with two things. First, he took the sacred treasures and artifacts of Yahweh’s temple. Second, he took the best and brightest of Israel’s young men. Fellows like Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel were carted off to Babylon for retraining and repurposing.

However, although God had removed his hand of blessing from the nation of Israel, and though he had allowed the desecration of the temple of Israel, and though he had removed many lads from the land of Israel, he had not separated himself from his elect Israelite worshipers. Though men like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel were not in the land of promise, they were still under the ever-watching gaze of the God of promise. He was still their God, and they were still his people, even as they were residents of one his other magnificent cities — Babylon.

While in Babylon, God called Ezekiel to be his prophetic preacher. He then began to receive revelatory visions from the Lord. For approximately 23 years he ministered in what is known today as Bagdad, and he was persistent in calling all nations to recognize Yahweh before they experienced even more of his national judgment. This was especially true for Judah who had only received a tasting of the divine wrath to come.

Consequently, most in Israel and Babylon mocked the man and his message. Ezekiel’s sermon fell on deaf ears, his audience would not repent.

Ezekiel then witnessed the full fury of God. To date, Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Palestine, entered Jerusalem, stripped her temple, and set up his puppet government. However, the city had not be destroyed, businesses were still in operation, and the temple was functional for worship. But Judah “got too big for her britches” and foolishly rebelled against the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar. Consequently, there was hell to pay. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, then he marched into the Holy City, exiled many, killed many, desecrated the temple, demolished the city, tore down the wall, and left the weak and undesirable to live amid the rubble. David’s city looked more like a land-fill than the capital of Israel’s God.

Consider Israel’s state: No Land — It was under pagan ownership. No Seed … Their children were under pagan leadership. No Blessing — They were the laughing stock of the world. No King — Their’s had been stripped, abused, and paraded back to the Middle East. No Nation — Israel and Judah were no more. No Temple — Gone was the place where God met with man for sins to be remitted. Israel was dead, dried-up, dismantled, and without hope.

It was at this point that God gave his minister a new revelation. In his visionary state, Ezekiel was taken to a “Death Valley” of sorts, and there he saw something awful. A tremendous catastrophe had transpired in this valley; it was a hellish sight. Ezekiel studied an unclean and abominable place full of dead, dismembered, and decaying bones. In Jewish culture, dead bodies were to be quickly buried before the setting of the sun, but no such honor had been given to these deceased people. There they were, exposed and left callously strewn across the valley floor. No nursery glance would do; God led Ezekiel in, out, and around the corruption. It was “full of bones,” and they were “very dry.”

These bones were hopeless. These could not approach God. They could not call out for assistance. These bones could not aid in their re-creation, partner with God, or even respond properly. If a divine miracle would occur, it would have to be due to God’s sovereign choice and initiative. Fortunate for these bones … God so intended!

Do you see the gracious will of God?

Ezekiel 37:3     And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

This vision was not one of hell, fire, damnation, gloom, and doom. No, this was a message of Gospel-hope. It was God’s will that those dead, dried-up, dismantled, and without hope should be grace, educated, regenerated, rejuvinated, and resurrected.

It was then that Ezekiel heard God’s quarry, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” God asked, not because he needed more information or a second opinion, but to instruct his minister.

Ezekiel did not really answer God’s question, but he did respond in a very wise manner, “Oh Lord God, you alone know.” At this point, Ezekiel was not being sarcastic or dismissive, he was merely being wise and careful. He knew that which was impossible for man. He knew that which was possible with God. He knew not what God had intended for these dead, dried-up, dismantled, and hopeless souls.

God intended to do something gracious. He had brought Ezekiel here to see his love, power, and salvation. God was about to show his sovereign, prevenient, monergistic grace to these souls and all who watched.

Do you see the command of God?

Ezekiel 37:4-6    Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel was commanded to “prophesy” to the bones. He was told to preach, and he was told what to preach. God gave the message, and Ezekiel was to be the messenger. And the message was about what God would do:

  • He will supply the message
  • He will supply the breath
  • He will cause the life
  • He will lay the sinews in order
  • He will cause the flesh to come back
  • He will cover them with skin
  • He will put breath within
  • He will cause them to live
  • He will cause them to know him — the Lord.

Now, at this point, many would be tempted to say, “Uh God, what good will this do? They are  dead. Wouldn’t such preaching be foolish?” But Ezekiel trusted in God; he obeyed and declared God’s words.

Do you see the work of God?

Ezekiel 37:7-10    So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel preached, and God went to work. There was a strange noise and wonderful commotion. In response to the “foolishness of preaching,” God started bringing the bones together. God dressed them with ligaments, muscle, and skin. At this point, they were simply better-looking corpses, for there was no breath in them. However, God took care of that as well. Ezekiel preached to the breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath …” (Ruah – breath, spirit, Spirit of God)  I don’t know exactly where you come from, but come. He then saw the answer to his prayer. Ezekiel witnessed revival; those dead, dried-up, dismantled, and hopeless were perfectly transformed. They were now an army of worshipers, standing tall and eager to glorify their Creator, Recreator, Savior, Lord, and Friend.

Do you see the promise of God?

Ezekiel 37:11-14     Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

God then summed up the vision-experience and meaning. There would be no confusion over the meaning of this vision. Ezekiel was to recognize that the “whole house of Israel” was dead. All of them were corrupt. There was no one righteous, not even one. But he was to see that bones would be made alive, they would be resurrected from their graves, and they would brought back to the land, because they were God’s people. Better days were coming.

Spiritually, this happened to many who were recipients of Ezekiel’s ministry. Physically, it was not kept with all those who heard his Gospel word. Many like Esther and Mordecai remained in Babylon and the surrounding regions. Many died in the land of Babylon.

Spiritually and physically, this happened to many who were in national Israel. Later, a host will return under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel.

Spiritually and physically, this could have happened with the reinstitution of Israel in 1949.

Spiritually and physically, this will happen to those who are in spiritual Israel. God, in the NT, tells us very specifically, over and over again, that the “whole house of Israel” is his church. (1 Peter 2:7-10)  God will open graves and raise his elect. There will be life after death. They will get Jerusalem, Judah, Israel, and the entire world. Zion will come down, and the New Heavens and Earth will be realized as we are reunited with our King forever. All is restored. God’s people get the land, the seed, the nation, the blessing, the sanctuary, and their King. (Look below at Ezekiel 37:15-28)

Do we really believe in Total Depravity?

Such is the condition of all our friends and neighbors. There is no one who seeks God in their own. All are rebels. All suppress, reject, and replace God’s gracious revelation. Without God’s sovereign touch, all are dead, detached, dried out, lifeless, and hopeless. Do we really believe this?

Do we really believe in Sovereign Grace?

We too are dependent upon the predestination and providence of God. He must choose to take the first step, the last step, and every step in between.

Do we really believe in Prayer-Bathed Preaching?

We are the wise and blessed who receive God’s message, preach/teach/evangelize, and pray for God’s Spirit. God does his work through his means; he does his work through his men; he does his work through his Wind. The church that would be fruitful must be an assembly of Word and prayer. Do we really believe this? Let’s prove it together.


Ezekiel 37:15–28     The word of the Lord came to me: 16“Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 24“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”




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