June 2020 Beacon
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.’” (Ezekiel 37:1-3)
Ezekiel’s third vision stands as a powerful statement of God’s power to re-create a community. The landscape is filled with bleached bones to which Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy. As he does, the bones are restored to life.
These bones had been lying idle for so long, they were dried out by the sun. Could they live again? Ezekiel knew that God Himself would be the answer to that question.
God directed Ezekiel to prophesy over these bones. They were to “hear the word of the LORD!” So Ezekiel spoke God’s word, and there was a noise – a rattling sound. The bones came together. Tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them – but there was no breath in them. The scattered bones became whole skeletons, but they were not yet alive.
God promised restoration to the slain nation of Israel. It would come when He would give them the breath of life. The Hebrew word is ruah. It is translated breath, or Spirit of the Lord, or spirit, or wind. In the context of the vision, the meaning of the word is breath. (The dead come to life and are given “breath.”). “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)
Israel’s national resurrection could not occur apart from the work of the Spirit of God. Many believe that the absence of breath in the bodies indicates that the Jewish people will be returned to their homeland physically alive but spiritually dead in their relationship to God, prior to the nation coming to know the Messiah. Obviously, this return looks beyond the return from Babylon to the end times. Jewish people will come to Israel from around the world. They will enter the land in unbelief. In the midst of war against them, this desperate nation will recognize Jesus as the Messiah. He will rescue them and cause breath to enter them and they will come to life as a vast army.
Do we need the breath of life? God gave the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (which means “fiftieth”). Some think He did this to contrast with the law, which was given 50 days after the exodus from Egypt. The law was an external means of restraining Israel from sin, but in the new era of the church, the Holy Spirit would provide internal power for believers to live righteously.
Is it time for the church to cry out like David did when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing Spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12) The Holy Spirit can re-create a church community.