Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished We are completely cut off.'Ezekiel 37:11(NASB)
In chapter 36 the Lord made a beautiful promise to His chosen people, Israel. Despite being divided as a nation, driven from their land, deprived of their king and dispossess of their Temple, God pledged to restore His people to their land and to unite their divided kingdom. He promised to bring them back to their homeland with enormous blessings and to re-establish a redeemed people, under the sovereign rule of His servant, David.
Ezekiel was not addressing individual Israelites. His prophetic word was to the nation as a whole. He was calling Israel to be a holy nation - separate from the world and set apart to God. He was calling the entire nation to holiness, and challenging them to fulfil the collective role to which they had been called.
So broken was the nation and so sterile and lifeless were God's people that His promise of restoration appeared to be impossible. But nothing is too hard for God and throughout His word we see Him taking impossible situations, working a mighty work and turning them into incredible blessings.
The barren wombs of Sarah and Hannah, the immense walls of Jericho, the shocking condition under Egyptian slavery and the intransigence of the great Pharaoh resulted in the birth of Isaac, the prophet Samuel, the salvation of Rahab and the Messiah of Israel. God took impossible situations and opened a door into the promised land, produced an escape-path through the Red Sea and brought Israel into an everlasting covenant relationship with the Lord their God and in Ezekiel 37 we read of another impossible situation that God will use for good.
In this passage, God's promise of national restoration and a return to the land is immediately followed with his vision of a valley of dry bones. He saw large numbers of human, bones strewn over the surface of the ground. Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to these dry bones - twice. First, they are to listen and respond to the word of the Lord in the physical realm and then they are to respond in the spiritual sphere. The scattered bones are to be joined together as a physical nation first and live in the material world, after which they are to hear and respond spiritually when the Spirit of God breathes new life into the nation.
Ezekiel is left in no doubt as to whom the bones represent. God told him, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. The dead dry bones symbolised ALL Israel.. i.e. the northern kingdom of Israel AND the southern kingdom of Judah. But then comes Israel's response to God's call, "Behold, 'Our bones are dried up", they mourn. "Our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.'
In response to Ezekiel's prophecy is a sad and anguished statement from the whole house of Israel, which describes the desperate state, both physically and spiritually, in which Israel found herself then and which continues today. She was cut off from God and without hope in the world.
The nation continues to be estranged from God and admits in this verse, that they are wretched and miserable, poor and blind - in deep despair and DEAD in their sin. God's righteous judgement on the nation, due to their prolonged apostasy, has caused them to be cut off from God.. and together they bewailed their hopeless state.
The prophecy of the dry bones speaks, of a physical restoration of the whole nation of Israel followed by its spiritual resurrection. This is a passage about the national resurrection of the whole house of Israel, which will happen at the end of the 'great tribulation'. This is not a prophecy about the justification of individual people coming to faith in their Messiah, but the whole nation - the lost sheep of the house of Israel being brought back to their land and collectively coming to faith in their Messiah. It is about the breath of new life being breathed into the dead corpse of the entire house of Israel.
Today.. national Israel may be in the land, but they can be likened to a valley of dead, dry, dusty, dispersed bones. There may have a semblance of being God's people, but they are dead in their sin and utterly hopeless. They may know about the God of Israel. They may be able to quote from the Torah. They may celebrate their feast days and practice keeping the Law, but they do not know the Person and Work of their Messiah and king - Who alone can breathe new life into their stony, cold, dead hearts.
Israel may have been physically 'reborn' in 1948 when the modern state of Israel came into being, but they will remain spiritually dead - dead in trespasses and sins, until that day when the entire nation, repents of their sin, calls out for their Messiah to save them - THEN they will be made alive. They will be born again. On that day the whole house of Israel will be spiritually enlivened and made a new creation in Christ, for His greater praise and eternal glory.
Heavenly Father, it is amazing to realise that for thousands of years the nation of Israel has been like a valley of dried-up bones.. dead in their sin, estranged from You and scattered throughout the world in unbelief. But it is equally wonderful that You have never faltered on Your plans and purposes for Your chosen people and that the day is coming when the whole house of Israel will repent of their sin, return to You, call on the name of the Lord Jesus and be saved. Continue to protect and care for Your people who are still living in unbelief and we bless the day when You pour out Your Spirit on all flesh, take away their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Hasten the time we pray, when Your name will be glorified throughout the world and lifted high by the whole house of Israel - this we pray in Jesus' name. AMEN.