Dem Bones, Dem bones, Dem Dry Bones:
Can These Bones Live?
An old Negro Spiritual, “Dem Bones” picks up on a really wild story in the Bible about a valley full of dry human bones scattered everywhere. The prophet Ezekiel is writing the story and he tells us that God carries him off and puts him down in the middle of a valley of bones. And as he is standing there looking over the piles of scattered bones, God asks him if he thinks the old bones could come to life! Ezekiel doesn’t know, he doesn’t have a clue. So God tells him to prophesy over the dry bones. Ezekiel prophesies and amazingly the bones rattle and rustle around and come back together into skeletons. Then flesh and muscles grows over the skeletons and dead people appear lying all around the valley where all the dry bones had been.
Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again and ask breath to breathe into the dead people so that they might live. So Ezekiel obeys and prophesies again as God commanded him and the dead bodies come to life and stand up and become a large army of people. I told you it was a really wild story.
The story is from Ezekiel 37 and reads: “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Oh Sovereign Lord, You alone know.’
Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath to enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin: I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath: prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them: they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.
Then He said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone: we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Oh My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them. I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people will know that I am the Lord,…” (Ezekiel 37:1-13a)
The ten “lost” tribes of Israel were carried off into captivity by the Assyrians 2,700 years ago. Over the centuries they intermarried and lost their Jewish identity and were scattered throughout the world. Only the two tribes of Judah remained. No person in their right mind could believe that after nearly three millenniums those lost tribes from antiquity could be found and be put back together again! But in this story where old scattered bones are brought back together and breathed upon so that they become living people, God is proclaiming that He can and will do just that. With God nothing is impossible.
After Ezekiel finishes his story about the bones coming to life God gives him another picture lesson that says the same thing. – that none of the tribes of Israel will be lost forever. God has Ezekiel take two sticks and write the names of the two tribes of Judah on one stick and the names of the ten lost tribes of Israel on the other. Then God instructs Ezekiel to join the two sticks and hold them together in one hand as one and prophesy over them that they will all be one nation together again in their own land and they will give up their sins and serve God. (Ezekiel 37:15-27) Of course this perfect vision may not happen until Jesus comes again. But according to Gods’ Word it will happen!
The miracle of the bones coming to life is a promise made by God just for Israel isn’t it? Don’t some of the rest of us need a miracle from God too? We have children who have gone wrong or health issues that drag us down. Money problems that never stop or betrayals that we never expected. We’ve waited a long time for answers and finally all our dreams have dried up and scattered and all our hope is dead. We have our own personal valley of dry bones!
But God has made us some promises too! He has promised to breathe new life into the dry bones and valleys of our lives. Let’s listen to just a few of His many promises to us. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) “And all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22) “Whatever you ask in My Name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) “Exceeding great and precious promises have been given to us that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witness…” (Acts 1:8)
God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones first before He brought them back to life. And God tells us to pray in faith over our problems and then He will answer. Isn’t it amazing that we are privileged to be co-workers with God. Our prayers and our faith are important to God. He has chosen to use them in His work.
Scripture says that whatever we ask in prayer believing we will receive. That’s a pretty heavy promise. But sometimes we keep praying and believing and praying and believing and nothing seems to happen. Years pass by and still the answer doesn’t come. The dry bones in our valleys are still scattered and dead.
Let’s keep praying and believing. Let’s remember that the dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley aren’t living yet, even though Ezekiel saw the miracle ahead of time. That promise to Israel may not be fulfilled until the end of the age. That may be a long time to wait. And some of our prayers may not be answered until after we die. We may have a long time to wait too. But our prayers will be answered. God will breathe new life into our dry bones. We need to keep the faith.