Bones, Bonds, Breath, and Battle
Ezekiel 37:1-14 presents a poweful picture of God restoring a people to his purpose. It's context clearly points to a historic meaning: 'These bones are the whole house of Israel ... I will bring you into the land of Israel'. God spoke to the tribe of Judah when they were captives, having been exiled in Babylon, promising to restore them to their land.
The picture painted to portray this restoration is a graphic one:
1. BONES: In Ezekiel 37:7, we read: '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'.
2. BONDS: In addition to bones, we read about connective tissue in 37:8: 'And 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'.
3. BREATH: More than just bodies, these collections of bone and tissue needed to come to life: Ezekiel 37:9 Then 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'.
4. BATTLE: Once alive, the prophet indicates that they formed a great army, ready to accomplish God's purpose: In Ezekiel 37:10 we read: 'So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army'.
What is the application for us?
First, what God does with Israel in restoring them from death to life is a picture of what God does with us through salvation. In Ephesians 2:1,5 we read:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins … But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead. Not just Princess Bride 'mostly dead'. Dead dead. And like the Breath of God making dry bones live, God brings us to himself by his Spirit and makes us alive.
Second, there is an ecclesial application. In the same way that the dead bones were made alive and joined to each other, God makes us living stones and joins us with each other. In 1 Peter 2:5 it says, 'you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house'.
What does this mean for us as a church? We need all four of the components mentioned above:
- Bones: foundational doctrine
- Bonds: faithful relationships
- Breath: filled with the Spirit
- Battle: focused on God's purpose
Like the valley of dry bones, we need the work of God to make us what he has called us to be. How we get there? Remember the beginning of the story. When faced with the valley of dry bones and the question of whether or not they could live, Ezekiel asnwered, 'Only you know Oh Lord'.
But God told him to prophesy to the bones that they would live. And he did. In a similar way, God calls us to speak bold words of faith to those things that look dead. Remember:
The promise of restoration comes in the dry desert of death.
So speak God's word boldly to the dark and dead areas of your life that need the breath of God.