The Word Made Fresh
1Then the hand of the LORD carried me away in spirit and set me down in the middle of a valley filled with bones. 2I was made to walk all around and among the bones, a countless number, lying dry on the ground in the valley. 3The LORD asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I replied, “O LORD God, you know.”
4The LORD then said, “Preach to these bones. Say, ‘Dry bones, hear what the LORD has to say. 5The LORD God says to these bones, I am going to make breath enter you, and you will live. 6I will connect you with tendons and make muscle tissue grow on you, and cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live, and you will know that I am the LORD.’”
7So I preached what I had been told. While I was preaching there came a noise, a rattling sound, as the bones began assembling, bone to bone. 8As I watched, they were connected with tendons, muscle tissue was filling in around them and skin was covering them; but they were not yet breathing. 9Then God said, “Preach to the breath. Preach, son of man; say to the breath, ‘The LORD God orders you to come from the four winds. Breathe on these dead and make them come to life!’” 10Again, I preached what I had been told, and breath entered them. They came to life and began to stand on their feet, a great and terrible army.
11Then the LORD said, “Son of man, these bones represent the entire nation of Israel. They keep saying, ‘Our bones are dried out. Our hope is gone. We are finished.’ 12So, preach! Tell them, ‘The LORD God says, I am going to open your graves and raise you up. For you are my people, and I will lead you back to the land of Israel. 13You will know that I am the LORD God when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, for you are my people. 14I will put my spirit in you, and you will revive, and I will resettle you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done this.’”
15The LORD’s word came to me, saying, 16“Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘For Judah and the Israelites that belong to it.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, for Joseph and the Israelites associated with him.’ 17Join them together as one stick and make them one in your hand. 18When your people ask, ‘Show us what you mean by these,’ 19tell them this is what the LORD God says: I am about to take Joseph’s stick, the one in Ephraim’s hand, and the Israelite tribes connected with it, and I will lay the stick of Judah upon it and make them one stick in my hand. 20When the sticks on which you have written are in your hand where they can see it, 21tell them this is what the LORD God says: I will take the people of Israel away from the nations to which they have gone. I will bring them together from every direction to their own land. 22And I will make them one nation in the land and on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule over them all. For they shall never again be two separate nations, two kingdoms. 23Never again will they pollute themselves with their idols and other detestable things, nor with their sins. I will rescue them from all the mistakes into which they have fallen, and make them clean. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God.
24“My servant David will be their king. They will have but one shepherd, and they will carefully obey my laws. 25They will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which their ancestors lived. They and their children and grandchildren will live there from now on, and my servant David will be their king. 26I will make an agreement to be at peace with them, an eternal agreement; and I will bless them and multiply them and establish my sanctuary among them forevermore. 27My dwelling will be with them. I will be their God and they shall be my people. 28Then all the nations will know that I, the LORD, have made Israel sacred when my sanctuary is permanently among them.”
1-10: Ezekiel has another “out of body” experience in which he is transported to a valley littered with bones. God asks him if the bones can live, and Ezekiel’s unusual and wise answer is “O LORD God, you know.” He is then told to “preach to these bones,” and tell them God is going to restore them. When he does, the bones come together with a great rattling sound and are enfleshed in a sequence that would inspire a special effects studio in Hollywood. Ezekiel has to prophesy again to make breath enter them so they will live and stand up. There he is, in a remote valley, surrounded by the living dead. That’s quite a trip.
11-14: The meaning of the experience is explained. The bones are the people of Israel, scattered now around the world and cut off from life in covenant with God. God will bring them out of their grave-like existence and return them to their home so that they will know that God is still God.
15-23: God gives Ezekiel another object lesson to present to the people – two sticks representing Judah and Israel. He is to hold them together as an image of what God wishes to do; reuniting the kingdom once again under one king.
24-28: That king is David, of course, or one belonging to David’s line. God still longs for Israel to live in a covenant relationship with him in a nation in which everyone is respectful and obedient to that covenant. God wants to bless and multiply them and dwell with them as a sign to all the nations. This is what God has wanted all along, isn’t it?
God never gives up completely on God’s people. John the Baptizer burst on the scene hundreds of years later, crying, “Repent! The kingdom of heaven is near at hand!” Every now and then we should take stock of our relationship with God and repent of those things we have allowed to hold God at a distance.