You may remember an old spiritual: “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…O hear the word of the Lord…the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…” and so on. That old spiritual song is taken from a vision God gave to the prophet Ezekiel in the 37th chapter, this morning’s Old Testament lesson.
Ezekiel pictures the people of Judah to whom the Savior has been promised, trudging to Babylon in chains, a long line of POWs. They are probably thinking: “Stick a fork in us. We’re done. Our nation is as good as dead. Our hope of a coming salvation is dead too.” They say: “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone. We are cut off.”
But the God who brings life out of death gives a vision of hope to Ezekiel. He shows Ezekiel a valley covered with bones, very dry bones – the bleached and scattered bones of men long dead.
The Lord asks the prophet: “Son of man, can these bones live?” as in, “So whadya think? These guys gonna get up and walk around anymore?”
The humble prophet replies: “O Sovereign Lord, You alone know.”
So at God’s command, Ezekiel prophesies – speaks the word of God – over the white and scattered bones. Suddenly there is a rumbling, shaking and rattling. Scattered bones come flying back together until the floor of the valley is filled with fully assembled skeletons.
Then, as the prophet watches, tendons and flesh begin to blanket the skeletons. Now the valley is covered with countless bodies – but still lifeless.
Then, just as God once breathed into Adam the breath of life, so the breath – the wind – the Spirit of God (the word for breath, wind and Spirit is the same word in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament) – the breath of God enters these bodies. They spring to life – a mighty army!
The Lord explains it to Ezekiel. We might first think of the resurrection of all flesh on the last day. But the Lord Himself says that this is something that happens before the last day. He says, “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” He promises His people: “I will put My Spirit in you and you will live.”
No matter how dead and done for they figure they are as the chosen people of God, God can still breathe life into them. God can still bring them back from their captivity in Babylon. God can still settle them in the land of promise again. God can still raise them up from the grave of their hopelessness. God did just that. God brought His people home again.
What God did for His ancient people, bringing them to life as a nation, raising them from the grave of their captivity, He has also done for you and me.
Paul says in Ephesians: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins…but…God…made us alive with Christ.” Jesus said: “The hour is coming and NOW IS, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” This is what happened on Pentecost and happens still. People hear the voice of the Son of God – the preaching that Christ lived, died and rose again as our atoning Savior – and the Holy Spirit uses that Word to bring them to faith, to a new life with God – and dry bones live again!