Ezekiel Chapter 37 is well-known for the "vision of the dry bones." This vision is sandwiched between two other very significant chapters in Ezekiel -- Chapter 36 which speaks of the return of the Jews from all nations back to their homeland, and Chapter 38 which prophesies the end-times, including the War of Gog and Magog (which is becoming more and more relevant in our day, especially with the Russians and Iranians on our northern border!).
Although the vision of the dry bones can be applied metaphorically to many situations in our lives that were once “dead” and that God has brought back to life, we must never forget that this prophecy was written specifically for the Jewish people – “the whole house of Israel” (Ez. 37:11-14).
If we look first at Ezekiel 36, we see that God has four specific plans for His people:
1) He will bring them back to their Land; 2) He will sprinkle clean water on them; 3) He will give them a new heart; 4) He will give them a new spirit.
Before Israel was officially born in 1948, God had already begun to fulfill His promise of returning His people to the Land of Israel. Here are the dates marking the early and continuing waves of this return, known in Hebrew as “aliyah” (which means “going up”):
The First Aliyah 1881-1903: 25,000 immigrants arrived from Russia, Romania, and Yemen.
The Second Aliyah 1904-1914: 35,000 immigrants arrived.
The Third Aliyah 1918-1923: 37,000 arrived from Russia, Poland, Romania, and Latvia.
The Fourth Aliyah 1924—1929: 80,000 came from Eastern Europe.
The Fifth Aliyah 1930-1939: immigrants came from Eastern and Central Europe.
The Aliyah of the Second World War 1939-1948: 130,000 arrived.
Operation Flying Carpet 1948-1950: the Jews from Yemen returned.
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah 1950-1951: the Jews from Iraq returned --among them my father!
Operation Moses 1984 and Operation Solomon 1991: Jews from Ethiopia returned.
The Aliyah from the Former Soviet Union 1987-2005: close to 1,000,000 new immigrants arrived.
Aliyah Continues Today!
Immigration has not stopped, even though at present the numbers are much smaller. The return of Jews back to the Land of Israel will indeed continue. It is not dependent upon us or any nation around us, because this truly is an act of God.
It's important to remember as well, that our Israeli Arab brothers and sisters who believe in Messiah Yeshua, who are joined to the olive tree of Israel are included in the promises to our nation and are destined to receive the life that flows out from this tree of blessing.
The Valley of the Dry Bones
In Ezekiel 37:1-2, it says that the hand of the Lord was upon Ezekiel, as He placed him in the valley to see this very disturbing vision of dry bones. Nothing is more lifeless than a very dry bone. When I visited the Nazi death camp, Belzec, in Poland, a camp where 600,000 Jews were murdered, I shuddered as a piece of dry bone was placed in my hand from the remains of one of our Jewish people murdered there.
God then asks Ezekiel a simple question: "Can these bones live?" When the prophet replied, "Lord, You know” he was really saying, "Lord, I don't know, but You know, and You are able to do it." How many times in our own lives do we see the “dry bones” around us -- people walking around with no hope, bitter and hardened hearts, and total despair?
In verse 4, God tells the prophet, "Prophesy to these bones!" In other words, “Declare the Word of the Lord over the dry bones!”
What was God's Message to the Dry Bones?
In Ezekiel 37:5-6, the Lord declares that He is going to breathe life into the dead bones, beginning with a physical restoration that will lead them to know that He is the Lord. The Hebrew word used here for "know" refers to a very close relationship.
In verses 7-10, Ezekiel prophesies twice! First, he declares the Word of the Lord and the dry bones are joined together, then sinews, flesh, and skin are added, until there appears a great pile of bodies, but still with no life.
The second time, he prophesies to the breath. We see this same word for “breath” used in Genesis when God breathed into Adam and gave him life. Man was created from the dust of the earth, but was without life until God breathed life into him.
When Ezekiel prophesies as God commanded him, the final result is the pile of bodies coming to life and standing on their feet as a great army.
We Have Lost Our Hope
In verse 11, the people of Israel say, "We have no hope...our hope has been cut off and lost." This is the expression of a people who have nothing left to hold on to, who are alone, without protection, and desperate.
Also in Isaiah 49:14-16, Israel feels that God has left him and forgotten him. But in Exodus 4:22, God calls Israel, "My son, My firstborn."
I Will Open Your Graves
The Lord says in Ezekiel 37:12 that He will open their graves and bring His people back to the Land of Israel. This prophecy shows us that God will bring His people from death to life. When we see the horrifying photos of the piles of dead bodies in the concentration camps, as well as the living survivors who looked like skeletons, it is easy to recognize the correlation with this verse, as we stand in the restored nation of Israel.
Rabbi Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, spent 6 years as a young boy in the concentration camp, Buchenwald, suffering greatly from cold, hunger, pain, sickness, beatings, and solitude. But his grandfather was a rabbi and had told him to memorize Ezekiel 37, which he did while in the forest, ghetto, and concentration camp.
I Will Put My Spirit in You and You Will Live
This verse, Ezekiel 37:14, is inscribed on the walls of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Yes, God promises that He will put His Spirit in His people, He will place them in their own land, and they will know the Lord.
The apostle Paul talks about the restoration of the Jews in Romans 11:15, "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be, but life from the dead?"
Celebrating 70 Years of God's Faithfulness to Israel
As we celebrate 70 years of God’s faithfulness to Israel, we recognize that our nation has developed in a miraculous way, with extraordinary achievements in agriculture, technology, innovations, Nobel prizes, and a strong defensive army. But there is coming a time when God will breathe His Spirit into His people, and they will truly know Him.
We are the generation that has been called to proclaim to our people the promises of God. Like the prophet Ezekiel, we are to position ourselves in the middle of the valley of dry bones -- a place where there is no life or hope -- and to believe and prophesy, that God can and will raise them from the dead.
-- Dani Sayag