Ezekiel 36:25-27 is an Old Testament promise of sovereign grace. God promises to sovereignly save His own, promising what we’ve described as the three-fold gospel: a new heart, a new righteousness, and a new holiness (regeneration, justification, and sanctification). Then in Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Word paints a picture of this gospel promise in the Valley of Dry Bones.
From Unfolding Grace:
“Israel needs new life. They are spiritually dead; the judgment of exile is itself like a judgment of death. They are separated from God, the very source of life and love. Like the rest of humanity, they need new hearts. They need a new spirit They need spiritual life. And they are utterly incapable of doing this on their own. So God promises what only He can do: to breathe new life into them and raise them from the dead.
Only a God of unlimited power can do this, and only a God of infinite grace will do it.”
Wednesday, July 28th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Ezekiel 34-37
Focused Passage for Reflection - Ezekiel 36:25-27 / Ezekiel 37:1-14
Reflecting on the Text:
“Can these bones live?” That is the question God posed to Ezekiel in this passage, and in a sense, it is a question he poses to us. No, we may not be standing over a valley scattered with dry bones, but the question still resonates. Is there any hope when all seems lost?
God’s people who were exiled in Babylon would have asked that question. All seemed to be lost. They had been taken far away from their homeland, the promised land. They were in captivity and likely wondered if they would ever return. The prospects certainly looked dim. But in that hopeless setting, the Lord sent His prophet to preach a message of repentance, calling the people to return…to Him.
It was a message that was meant to be played out on two fronts. Yes, the Lord spoke of a physical return to the promised land, but that physical return was always a picture of their spiritual return to Him. To repent was to return and to return was to repent. But in Ezekiel 36, the Lord promised that He would be the one to affect their return. By an act of sovereign grace, He would give them a new heart (for Him), He would cleanse them of their uncleanness (and give them a new Christ righteousness), and finally, He would place His Spirit within them to guide them (in holiness). It was a spiritual promise that would also be played out in the physical realm.
So the Lord gave a physical picture of new life…and of returning. It is the picture of dry bones coming to life before the prophet’s very eyes. God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” It must have seemed like a crazy question. Is there hope when all seems hopeless? But rather than answering based on what he saw, Ezekiel responded according to sovereign grace. “O Lord God, you know.” In other words… “O Lord God, if they are to live then it is up to you.”
So the Lord commanded Ezekiel to preach the Word over the dry bones. It must have sounded pointless, and it was, apart from the power of God. Which sounds a lot like preaching today. And yet we trust in sovereign grace. We trust in the power of God…and we preach.
Then as summoned by the Word, the bones formed bodies. But the bodies still needed a power source. So the Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, that the breath would breathe over them. It is a picture of the Spirit of God, the power source of true life. And behold, the bones became a great army.
Again I ask, is there any hope when all seems hopeless? Is there any hope for me? Is there any hope for my loved ones? Some of us seem to be looking out over what looks to be a valley of dry bones. Maybe we feel distant from the Lord. Maybe we feel spiritually dead. Maybe our loved ones are spiritually dead, and we are desperate for them to live.
Is this you? If so, the Lord is asking “Can these bones live?” Our minds may tell us no, but the Word of God is calling us to join in Ezekiel’s response. “O Lord God, you know.” In other words… “O Lord God, you are a God of sovereign grace. If I am to live / If they are to live, then it is up to you. Breathe on us the breath of life. Put your Spirit within us, that we may live.”
Questions for personal reflection:
Do you have a family member or friend whom you have been praying for to know Jesus? Do not give up. Though it may seem hopeless, our God is a God of sovereign grace. Find hope in this passage and persist in prayer.