Article of the Month

September 2012

 

  THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES   

 

The modern history of the nation of Israel is a very exciting series of events. Only Israel among earth’s many nations went out of existence for two millennia and has then been restored to its statehood and its land. This alone should bring the attention of the world to the possibility that something uniquely important is happening.

Israel, of course, will be the earthly nucleus for Christ’s Kingdom which will soon rule the whole world for its blessing. As Zechariah summed it up (8:22, 23)

 

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:  In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

The poor world at that time will be in such desperation for answers and for dealing with the collapse of its society, that the manifestations of God’s dealings with Israel will provide a new and real hope for what will seem like a hopeless situation. (Ezekiel 39:7, 25-29)

 

—  The Parable Prophecy  —

 

Israel’s restoration has been gradual, and it will continue to be so until the day when God intervenes on their behalf, and they will receive “life” — the promised New Covenant of blessings. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In Ezekiel 37 there is a prophecy in the form of a parable. In the first 14 verses of this chapter, the step-by-step restoration of Israel from the 1800’s until a date yet future is explained. In verses 1-10 we have the parable. In verses 11-14 we have a brief summary-interpretation of it.

Ezekiel sees a valley of “very dry bones.”  The Lord interprets these as “the whole house of Israel” which had been existing without statehood, even without hope.  (verse 11)  Ezekiel is asked, “Can these bones live?”  This is a natural question for Jews who for centuries were scattered among other nations, hated and persecuted. Can, indeed, a long-extinct nation which lost its territory come back to life? Ezekiel gives the right answer:  “YOU KNOW, O Lord God!” And this is what gives God the opportunity to make His promise; “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” (verse 12)

This is not speaking of the awakening of individuals from their graves.  It is speaking of the nation, the people of Israel, scattered Jews having been “buried” in the societies of other nations. This verse is the promise that, though “dead” for two-thousand years, Israel would be restored to its homeland.

Beginning in verse 4, God instructs Ezekiel to prophecy to scattered Israel, to the “bones,” to “hear the Word of the Lord” regarding what would take place. In verse 5, God states the FINAL OBJECTIVE first:  “I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.”  Of course, Israel will not live until it is in the bond of the New Covenant under the tutelage of Messiah.  It will take several steps to get them there, but the objective is LIFE — life that will then spread to all the other nations of the earth.

 

—  The Four-Step Process  —

 

The first step (verse 6) is, “I will lay sinews upon you.”  Bones, of course are not connected.  In order to begin having some unity, they must have sinews — connective tissue. When this happens, they start to look like a body instead of like a pile of disconnected bones. The Zionist movement of the 1800’s is probably the sinews of this prophecy. Jewish hopes for a return to their homeland inspired careful planning — planning for language unity, for buying land from the Arabs, for sending pioneers back to start planting the land to make it habitable, and for planning for convincing politicians of the nations and also rich Jews to support such an undertaking. Yes, the Zionist movement connected the bones and made them look like they might someday amount to something.

The second step (verse 6) is, I “will bring flesh upon you.”  Bones, even with sinews, have no power to move. Flesh (muscle), however, gives the skeleton the ability to move.  The pogroms of Eastern Europe and the holocaust of Naziism gave the Jews incentive and the need to move. As early as the 1870’s Jews began returning to the land of Israel, settling in kibbutzim and, showing Jews worldwide that moving was not only possible, but happening.

The third step is skin. (verse 6)  Skin is unifying. It is the protective covering for the body.  This is the step that makes Israel LOOK like an individual.  The “skin” is the statehood achieved in 1948. But this is yet not the objective.  In verses 7 and 8, Ezekiel reviews the process we have examined; but he laments at the end of verse 8, “but there was no breath in them.” How crucial this is! How Israel, even today with its place among the nations knows THERE IS SOMETHING MORE! There is yet LIFE — that relationship with God for which they have longed, that day when their Messiah will fulfill all of the wonderful things prophesied about him.

 

—  The “Wind”  —

 

In verses 9 and 10 we have a prophecy which connects with a New Testament prophecy.  It explains the circumstances and timing of when Israel will receive life or breath.  Ezekiel records the words of God:

 

“Prophesy unto the wind; prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.  So, I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived; and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”

 

This prophecy links to the prophecy of Revelation 7:1-3 which mentions the holding back of the “four winds” until God has finished and glorified His Church. (See Article of the Month for May, 2012.) By comparing these passages we have a reason for the delay in Israel’s receiving the New Covenant, and we have a promise as to the time when this event will happen.  The delay is to allow for the completion of “The Christ.”

 

  First, Wrap Up the Old Age 

 

The “four winds” prophetically serve as a marker for the final cataclysm in which political, social, economic, and religious systems will meet their doom.  As Revelation 20:11 and 12 symbolizes it, the old heaven (religious order) and earth (social order) must flea away. There will be no place for them if the “new heavens and earth” (II Peter 3:13) are to prosper.  Once the old ways of doing things have failed and collapsed, the way will be opened for the “judging” (the process of restoring) of individuals to begin.

Thus, the “four winds” represent the final trouble upon and eradication of our old ways of doing things. It is the trouble which will finally set man in a mood for and in a need of seeking God. In this trouble, our Ezekiel prophecy says that Israel will receive breath or life: They will be accepted into the bond of the New Covenant; they will accept Messiah; they will be delivered from their enemies in a most miraculous way. (Ezekiel chapters 38 and 30)  According to Revelation 7, the true Christian Church of 144,000 will be, by that time, all selected and glorified with their Lord.  It is they who will form the new (but invisible) government for the earth, and they will function through the newly life-given Israel as the visible center of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

 

  The “Rich Man” 

 

Israel once enjoyed God’s exclusive favor, but they lost it due to their disagreements with God. (Amos 3:1-3) Since the time of Jesus’ first advent, Israel has suffered a “blindness” and estrangement from God.  (Romans 11:25-27) During this time God turned to Gentiles in order “to take out of them a people for His name.” In other words, God is, since the first advent, selecting His Church, and until this is complete, the “four winds” cannot blow. But Acts 15:13-17 assures us that this selection from amongst the Gentiles will conclude with God’s restoration of His people, Israel, for the very stated purpose “that the residue of men might seek after the Lord” — the blessings through Israel ultimately to the whole human race.

When Israel, before Jesus’ time, enjoyed the blessings of having God’s dealings with them, they were characterized as a “rich man.”  Jesus built a parable upon this concept, found in Luke 16:19-31. The parable predicts the time when the “rich man” would be “in hell” (= oblivion). This condition is the equivalent of the “very-dry-bones” period of Israel’s two thousand years of dispersion. The parable also pictures the favored Gentiles as a man named Lazarus — exalted now to a position of relationship with God. The “rich man” pleads for the water of truth in order to understand his abandonment. (Luke 16:24) Jesus probably took this symbolism from Zechariah 9:11 which shows that Israel would eventually be released from this “pit wherein is no water.” Israel today is in the process of being extricated from that “pit” — from the oblivion (“hell”) condition it has suffered for two millennia.

God’s own summary of the matter is found in Ezekiel 37:12-14:

 

“Behold, O My People, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves and shall put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land.  Then shall ye know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it.”

 

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