A Study of Ezekiel 37:1-14
We begin in Acts, chapter 1, verses 1-4. Here we read about a whole series of exciting events.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Before Pentecost the disciples were hiding from fear of persecution. But on Pentecost they were suddenly changed into a bold group of witnesses. The sound from Heaven was as the sound of a mighty strong wind, and it drew a large crowd of people. Then Peter began to preach a bold sermon, and at the end of that sermon Peter said, in Verse 36,
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, (even) as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added (unto them) about three thousand souls.
The Lord Jesus told the disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then they would be His witnesses. Peter preached one sermon, and in one day God added about three thousand souls to the army of Christ. That number grew by leaps and bounds in the following weeks, and months, and years to an exceeding great army.
Did you see Who was doing it?
God says in verse 39: as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Just like when God told Ezekiel: Prophesy unto These Bones, and again God raised up an exceeding great army.
Let’s turn to Ezekiel 37:1, and let’s look at this similar story:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
God took Ezekiel to “The Valley of the Dry Bones”. God carried Ezekiel out in the Spirit, which means that God showed him a vision, and this vision was a parable of some kind.
It had to do with a resurrection for sure, but what does this resurrection in the valley of the dry bones represent?
What is this a parable of?
There are only three possibilities.
Could it be that this resurrection represents the return of the nation of Israel from their captivity in Babylon?
NO! This is not possible, because God calls them in verse 9, “these that were slain”, and God said four times in verses 12 and 13, “I will open your graves” and “cause you to come up out of your graves”. The captives in Babylon were not slain, and they were not in graves. Besides, when the captives returned from Babylon they were not “an exceeding great army” for the Lord, and most of them became apostate as quickly as their forefathers did.
Could it be that this resurrection represents the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day?
NO! This is also not possible, because God says, “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God”, and God said that we are going in the grave with a natural body, but that we are being raised with a spiritual body. I cannot understand what a spiritual body is, because it is not of this world, but that is the name God gives it in the Bible.
What could this parable mean?
How many resurrections are there?
There are TWO resurrections: The resurrection of our soul is called in the Bible “the first resurrection”. That is the moment when we become Born Again. The resurrection of our spiritual bodies on the Last Day is called in the Bible “the second resurrection”. Since this parable of “The Valley of the Dry Bones” cannot represent our second resurrection, it must be a picture of “the first resurrection”. In other words, it must be a picture of salvation.
Have you not always thought, when you read this story of “The Valley of the Dry Bones”, that these were people who have died and only their bones were left?
But that is not so at all.
God did not say to Ezekiel: “Can these bones live again?”
NO! God said: “Can these bones live?”
First of all, what does this valley represent?
In the Bible the way this particular Hebrew word for valley has been used is a fertile cleft in the earth where either: from man’s perspective God’s blessings are apparently present, or from God’s perspective where the Gospel is present.
Did you notice that the bones in this valley were on the surface of the ground?
They were not buried, but they were lying there as if these people were slain in a battle. And these bones were very dry; in other words, these bones were very DEAD.
When were they killed, and what battle was that?
When was the first battle?
The first battle was in the Garden of Eden between man and Satan. And when Adam ate of the fruit of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” Adam died spiritually, and with him all his posterity died. Every one of us came out of the loins of Adam and we came into this world spiritually dead, very DEAD, and in total rebellion against God.
That was the material God used, dead bones.
That is exactly what God is picturing in this parable. God demonstrates in this vision: “This is how I make My very great army alive. I am doing all the work, and I get all the glory. And this is how I make them alive: In Two Steps.” First God makes people alive as sons of Adam, but then they are still spiritually DEAD. They are still dead in trespasses and sins. Then in the second step God makes His people alive as sons of God by indwelling them with His Holy Spirit, just like at Pentecost.
In the first step God said: “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” God is hereby indicating that we were formed in our mother’s womb by the Word of the Lord. Conception in the womb takes place not just by a biological union of a man and a woman, but it is also an act of God Himself. New life in the womb is created by God Himself. This is what God has declared in the Bible and that is why we have to hear this Word of the Lord. That is why God commanded Ezekiel: “Prophesy upon these bones”. To prophesy means to declare the Word of God to people. And God takes all the credit for the first miracle of creating a new life.
But then they are still spiritually dead people. God indicated in verse 8: “but there was no breath (life) in them”.
Without God the Holy Spirit living in us we are unsaved, dead in trespasses and sins, & on the way to Hell.
God said in Romans 8: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Therefore, God had to perform the second miracle, and put His Spirit within them, in all of them. This specifies that all these people that are raised up in this valley, do not represent all the people in the world.
NO! Not everyone in the world will be saved, only those whom God intends to save.
Adam was formed out of clay. God declared that we all are formed out of that same clay.
The question might be raised: Why did God use “bones”, instead of “clay”?
Well, because these people whom God is going to raise up in this valley are not representing just anybody; these are going to be the people whom God loved from before the foundation of the world. God is first going to give them an Adamic body, then at some time in their human life God gives them His Spirit and makes them Born Again, and they become the Body of Christ. God says in Ephesians 5:30
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
In this parable of Ezekiel 37 God started out with bones, instead of clay, because clay would represent all of mankind. When God declared of the Lord Jesus, “A bone of him shall not be broken”, did you ever wonder: Why would God make this a condition 1500 years earlier in Exodus 12?
What has this detail to do with the Gospel?
The answer is now clear: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. “A bone of Him shall not be broken” does not mean that we would not be physically harmed, but it means: once we are saved we will not be spiritually broken.
Then God said to Ezekiel: Prophesy unto the Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9-10)
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the Spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
In the verse above, I substituted the word Spirit for the words Wind and Breath, because in the Hebrew text it is all the same word. That same Hebrew word has been translated Spirit much more often than Wind or Breath.
What is the meaning of verse 9?
Does it mean that Ezekiel could now command God the Holy Spirit to enter into these dead bodies?
Can a human being command God?
Perish the thought!
God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the Holy Spirit the Words of God Himself, and Ezekiel simply obeyed. This was not Ezekiel commanding God the Holy Spirit, but God carrying out the revival of these dead; an action that He had planned already before the foundation of the world. And God was using Ezekiel as the instrument through which He carried out His plan of mercy.
God showed in this vision a dry valley; not only were the bones dry, but the valley also was dry. And God pictured the people whom He has elected unto salvation. These are the slain that God mentioned in verse 9. They are His people who were still in Adamic bodies, but spiritually blind and deaf, and lame, and dumb. The Prophet Isaiah pictured this same setting in Isaiah 35:5-10.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Ezekiel wrote: So I prophesied as He commanded me.
Why was it at all necessary that Ezekiel prophesied these Words from God to the Spirit? It is to underscore that God abides by His own laws. God declared in Rom 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
In these words God declared that salvation, of which faith is an evidence, comes by hearing the Gospel preached, and the capability of hearing spiritually comes through the word of God. What an incredible honor God has bestowed upon us by giving us this privilege to be instruments of mercy in His hand, through which He reaches others unto salvation. To reach those others who are spiritually blind and deaf, and lame, and dumb, but who are beloved of the Lord, need to be contacted by those who have already received the gift of salvation. That is why God wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18,
2 Corinthians 5:18
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
When we become saved, God imposes His will upon us, and we will proclaim the wonderful works of God. Just like on Pentecost, the Apostles were compelled to go out and preach the wonderful works of God.
The work “of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ”.
The work of God the Father who before the foundation of the world selected a Bride for His Son.
The work of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself our sins because we could not help ourselves, and paid the full penalty for those sins, which was the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.
The work of God the Holy Spirit who opened our spiritual ears and eyes so that we could believe that we have received eternal life, and instilled in us a desire to be obedient servants of Christ.
The grace of God that changed us from enemies of God to sons of God, and changed us so that our faithfulness to God is not by law, but out of gratitude.
Look at the wonderful result of Ezekiel’s obedience in preaching to the dead: The Spirit entered into those dead bodies, and they stood upon their feet. This was a picture of salvation: The dead were made alive; they received a brand new soul.
They stood upon their feet. (Revelation 11:11)
It was an exceeding great army.
But what is an army for?
It is to fight battles against the enemy. But battles are fought in this life, here on this earth. In the life hereafter we do not need an army. All the battles have been won, and are done and over. When God makes us ready for the Great Wedding Feast, there will be no more battles, and we will have everlasting joy in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
This exceeding great army included the disciples on Pentecost, and it included the three thousand who were saved on that day, and it included the Saints who were saved after that day, and it includes US. Everyone who in the past became saved is part of that exceeding great army. It is the army of the Lord of Hosts. Sometimes you read in the Old Testament this expression: “The Lord of Hosts”. Literally it means “The Lord of the Armies”. We are on the Lord’s side doing battle against Satan and his fallen angels.
But are we qualified to be a witness and to do battle against Satan and his angels?
The disciples were qualified when they on Pentecost received the Holy Spirit. From that day on everyone who has become saved, has received the Holy Spirit, and has become qualified to be a witness and is automatically enlisted in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But in reality, are we the ones who are fighting against Satan and his angels?
NO. Not on our own strength. We cannot take on Satan. We are only instruments in the hands of God. It is God who works in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure, so that God gets all the credit.
This army stood upon their feet.
What is that representing?
It means that they were alive and active in whatever task they had to do. Think, for example, of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. In Revelations, chapter 11, God gave us the parable of the Two Witnesses who represent that part of the New Testament Church that remains faithful to the Word of God. Near the end of time the Two Witnesses are killed, which means that the true Gospel has been silenced. And then we read in Revelation 11:11,
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
Just like in Ezekiel 37, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet and continued again their testimony, and instilled great fear upon them, which saw and heard them.
Now God applied this parable to a group of people, who is called: “The Whole House of Israel”.
Prophesy unto the Whole House of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11-14)
God said in verse 11: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel”.
Who, in verse 11, are these people called “the whole house of Israel”?
Here is one principle we should get used to: In our interpretation of the Old Testament we must apply what God has revealed to us in the New Testament God has told us in Romans 9, that “They are not all Israel which are of Israel”, and God has told us in Galatians 6, that “Peace and mercy be upon the Israel of God”, and in many other places in the New Testament God made it clear that “the Israel of God” is not strictly the Jews, or the blood descendants of Jacob.
NO! “The Israel of God” represents “the Remnant chosen by grace”, which is the whole Body of Christ, and which includes all the O.T. Saints, including Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and includes all the New Testament Saints down to the very present day. The term “the whole house of Israel” that is used in this parable stands for “The whole house of Christ”, because the Lord Jesus Christ is also called “Israel”.
What do they say?
Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off; we are left to ourselves. In other words, they realize that they are DEAD, dead in sins, under the judgment of God, and on the way to eternal damnation. That is a hopeless situation. Those who remain unsaved are too proud to come to such a conclusion. Only those who are “the Remnant chosen by grace” would come to this conclusion that they have been living a life worthy to be under the wrath of God.
But there is hope for them. God said to Ezekiel in verse 12:
“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, O my people”.
“O My People”. How beautiful do these words sound in the ears of those who realize that they were on the way to Hell. How wonderful to hear God say: “O My People”.
Is God saying that to me?
Is God saying that to US?
God says in verse 12:
“…Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.”
If “the whole house of Israel” stands for “the whole house of Christ”, then the land of Israel must be the Kingdom of Christ. That is indeed what we read in Colossians 1:13.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
When we became saved God translated us into the Kingdom of Christ, into the “land of Israel”.
But there were no graves in the open valley.
Why does God say “I will open your graves”?
Does this not remind you of the raising Lazarus from the tomb?
Indeed it is. And that is the reason why God introduced the graves at this point. We know that the raising of Lazarus in John 11 was a picture of what salvation is. This resurrection of Lazarus applies to each one of us who has been saved. We have not been in a literal grave, but we have been in a condition called DEATH. The Lord Jesus spoke of that in John 5:25.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
This verse does not speak about a future resurrection. Jesus said “it is happening now” when the spiritually dead shall hear the message that the Son of God was crucified for them, then they that hear shall be made alive, spiritually. For them salvation has come.
Is it possible that our formerly DEAD condition was considered as a grave?
That is why God said in Romans 3: “Their throat is an open sepulchre”.
That is why Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres”.
Indeed, our formerly DEAD condition was like a grave. People who are spiritually dead are locked in their grave of a stony heart.
God says here in Ezekiel 37 that He is going to deliver us from that bondage to that stony heart. He will open our graves and bring us into the land of Israel, His Son.
If His Spirit is in you, then you have been saved forever.
But someone might object: But then there is no more deterrent against sin.
They are wrong. They have underestimated the power of the grace of God who is capable of changing the heart of a criminal to the heart of a lamb. Look at the words in the previous chapter:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Furthermore the Lord Jesus said:
“If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”
If we love the Lord Jesus Christ we will strive to obey His commandments.
1 John 5:3
…and his commandments are not grievous.
Let me finish with this:
1. Do I strive to obey God in all things?
2. Do I pick and choose, to convenience myself? Do I call this: “obedience”?
Are we as parents satisfied when our kids obey us in most areas?
NO! Not at all!
Do we still call it obedience?
Of course not.
Therefore, it is not obedience unless we desire to obey God in all things.
By Alfred J. Chompff