What does Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones mean? God explains it to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37, verses 11-14.
How about that? The entire vision is symbolic. Ezekiel wasn’t at the scene of battle from years earlier. The vision of the valley of dry bones, God says, symbolizes the people of Israel, who had long since died to God. Yes, some people of Israel had lost their lives when the Assyrians and Babylonians invaded their land. But God, through this vision, is addressing the spiritual condition of the people. He says that the Israelites were at that very moment crying out to God because they were feeling dead inside. They express their feelings of hopelessness, of being cut off.
Maybe you know the feeling. That’s what the prophecy means when it describes dry bones. People can feel like life is hopeless, like they have no means for changing their situation, and they feel cut off from God. That’s what the people of Israel felt like, and that’s what so many people feel like today. Of course, Israel, as we have seen in many chapters in the past, including last week in chapter 36, got into their situation of being cut off from God and feeling dead because of their own choices to rebel against God. And God has regularly called them out for that.
But here in chapter 37:1-14, the vision is only about restoration. God is not avoiding talking about their sin. Instead he is choosing to focus this vision on renewal. He says that he will not only give them a new life through the work of his Spirit, but he will bring them back to the land of Israel. This is an important concept to note because after the Assyrians and Babylonians decimated the land, they also exiled the people. Like Ezekiel, many of the Israelites had been carted off to and had been living for years in foreign lands. God now promises to not only deal with their spiritual death, but also to give them once again a physical home.
Then, he says, they will know that he is the Lord. There it is, the key phrase of the book of Ezekiel. God wants to be known by his people. Please don’t read that phrase and let your eyes glaze over or your mind to get distracted. I know that we have heard this phrase too many times to count in our study of Ezekiel. But God repeats it so many times because it is a concept that is very important to him. He wants to be known.
Do you really know him? Do you really have a close relationship with him? Or do you feel dead inside and disconnected like the people of Israel? God wants to breathe new life into you! What can you do to experience that new life from God?
First, return again to the amazing promise in verse 14, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.”
What a wonderful message of hope for people who feel broken and in the depths of despair. God is saying here, “I want to heal you, to be with you. I want to see you flourish, and I will help you flourish!” This is a message that speaks of hope, life, and flourishing, specifically because God is actively making it so.
As we fast forward a bit through the history of the nation of Israel, we can see how this promise comes true when the people return to the land and rebuild, as described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. But that the was physical fulfillment of the promise. What about the spiritual fulfillment of the dry bones coming to life through the breath? What about the Spirit of God giving them life? How does that happen?
From an Old Testament perspective, the idea that God would fill his people with his Spirit is rare. Only a few people in the entire Old Testament experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Leaders like King David. Some prophets, like Ezekiel. The Spirit certainly filled people, but it was uncommon. In Ezekiel 36 & 37, God speaks of a time when his spirit would fill the hearts of all his people. But when?
In the next post we’ll learn when.