Lessons from the Valley of Vision
Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD…

The primary object of this chapter was to encourage the Jews to expect their restoration from the Babylonish captivity. At the time of the utterance of this prophecy they were scattered among the cities of the Babylonish dominions without any existence as an independent nation. But as the bones in the valley of Ezekiel's vision only needed the quickening process described in the narrative to become a living army, so the Jews only needed the interposition of God on their behalf to become again an independent nation. The meaning of the vision is explained in verses 11 to 14. But there are three other meanings that it is regarded as conveying. Applying the vision to the nominal Christian Church, it teaches that if any of God's people have lost their spiritual life, and so their capacity for usefulness, the Holy Spirit can quicken them, and so restore to them their power for efficiency, making them an army for Immanuel. Applying the vision to the human race, it shows us God's method of awakening into spiritual life the dead in trespasses and sins. A third view looks upon the vision as teaching the resurrection of the body at the last day, especial reference being had to the bodies of believers.

I. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH A PICTURE OF THE SPIRITUAL STATE OF OUR RACE; "dead in trespasses and sins." The scene presented to Ezekiel's sight in vision was a valley full of bones. They were "very dry." For a long time they had lain under the scorching heat of an eastern sun, until they were ready to crumble into dust. Here we have symbolised the condition of our race. Men are "dead in trespasses and sins." Spiritual life is departed. Sad as the picture may appear, it is not overdrawn. Scripture testimony is true. All flesh is corrupt, Man is born in sin and shapen in iniquity. "There is none righteous," naturally, "no, not one." It is all-important for us to maintain this doctrine now. For there are those who would persuade us that man is not wholly corrupt; that the race is improving; that there are germs of good in us; that by the cultivation of his faculties, a man may subdue vicious propensities and become virtuous and holy. Why did Christ come to this world? Not simply to leave us an example of perfect holiness, but to atone for sin. He died to save us from a death from which we could not save ourselves. But take away any necessity for the atonement of Christ, and the love of God does not appear so great as the doctrine of man's depravity makes it appear. This doctrine of original sin is one too humbling to man's pride to be received without remonstrance, and the deep-rooted opposition to it is one proof of its truth. Who likes to be told that by nature he is wholly corrupt, and void of spiritual life? Christianity is the great civilising power in the world today, but in the most Christianised countries there is ample evidence of the universal prevalence of sin. There is no hope for the world from itself. As Ezekiel looked forth upon the valley of desolation, God said to him, "Son of man, can these bones live?" and he answered, "O Lord God, Thou knowest." We ask, "Is it possible for the millions of our race now in ignorance of the Gospel, in darkness about a future state, never having heard of the only way of salvation, to be enlightened and all brought at last to worship the same Lord and trust in the same Saviour as ourselves?" We look around us: we see that in a Christian land, like our own, the masses of our fellow creatures, with all the spiritual advantages they possess, are careless about salvation and treat the Gospel as if it were some cunningly devised fable. "Can these dry bones live?" They cannot save themselves; they are powerless to procure themselves spiritual life. Looked at from a human standpoint, the work is an impossibility. To Him who created a world out of nothing, there is no impossibility in restoring to life, whether the dead in sins or the dead in body. Be it ours to follow the directions of Divine Providence, and patiently to wait for the exertion of God's almighty power.

II. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY GOD GENERALLY EMPLOYS IN THE WORK OF QUICKENING THE DEAD IN SINS; THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy unto the bones, and say, "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." Thus it appears that the dry bones were fit subjects for prophecy. They could hear the Word of God and understand it. Remembering that the dry bones primarily represented the Jewish nation, we see the propriety of the command. And taking the dry bones as representing the human family, we see an equal propriety in the vision. Our business is with the command, not the results. We are to use the means, and leave it to God to prosper them. Ezekiel's was a message of life (vers. 5, 6). The Gospel is a message of life. We are told to go and preach to every creature. This preaching has been the human instrumentality chiefly employed. Yet Christianity triumphed over the religions of heathen Greece and Rome; it superseded the subtle philosophies and hoary idolatries of the East; it destroyed the worship of the barbarous Gauls and Germans, and rough savages of Northern and Eastern Europe, and has ever since maintained its hold. Yet the world still speaks of the foolishness of preaching, and wonders that such simple means should accomplish such great results. Let people say what they will, the power of the pulpit is the greatest of human instrumentalities employed to bring about the conversion of the world. The press cannot supersede it, and never will; for in the living voice of a man in sympathy with his mission and burning to save souls, there is a power that the lifeless page can never exercise. It is a divinely appointed institution. God honours it. In this valley of vision, there was one prophet commissioned to declare God's will. Now it is different. One was enough then for the work to be done. But the command to preach Christ's Gospel was given to all His disciples. Ezekiel was prepared to deliver his message, and it would have been grievous sin in him to refuse to do so. So now the disciples of Christ, who are called to preach His Gospel, are prepared for their work. God gives physical, mental, and spiritual gifts to His servants. Ezekiel had the message which he was to deliver, given him, and he dared not announce any other. Had he done so, punishment from God would have been richly deserved, and speedily inflicted, and there would have been no resurrection of the army. And if a preacher preaches any other Gospel than that of "Christ crucified," not only does he expose himself to the punishment of unfaithfulness in a matter of such transcendent importance, but also he will be of no use in saving souls. Many are the ways in which God's servants, divinely commissioned to preach the Gospel, perform their task. Each man for himself must give up his account to God of the way in which he has fulfilled his commission, and ought to do his duty unmoved by the frowns or favour of men. All are not learned as Apollos, or zealous as Paul, or loving and persuasive as John in later life. Like the diversity in the plumage of the feathered tribes; like the variety in the hues of flowers; like the perpetual variation in the shapes of the fleeting clouds, so is the variety endless in the gifts and manner of the divinely commissioned preachers of the Gospel. So long as God owns His servants' labours, let us stand by, and murmur not against His ambassadors.

III. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH A VIEW OF THE DIVINE AGENCY EMPLOYED IN THE WORK OF QUICKENING THE DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS: the power of the Holy Spirit. What was the result of Ezekiel's prophecy (vers. 7, 8)? Ezekiel might prophesy, but all his prophesying could not give them life. The change which had been accomplished was not done by Ezekiel's prophesying, but by the power of God. Thus it was the Holy Spirit's power that made that army of slain men to live. Similarly, when God's servants preach the Gospel message to the spiritually dead around them, they feel their utter helplessness to quicken them into spiritual life. As the bodies of Ezekiel's vision had the form of living beings before the breath entered into them, so men may be like Christians in their outward behaviour, but lack their spiritual life. To give this is the work of the Spirit. Oh, recognise the power of the Spirit, Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity. All the preaching in the world will he useless to give spiritual life to a single soul unless He put forth His power. Trust not in the preacher whoever he may be, but in the Spirit. Already in answer to faithful prayer the Spirit has descended, and dead souls have been quickened, and are an army for Christ doing His work For the vision of Ezekiel showed that the dead when raised became a living army. Their life was given them that they might fight against and subdue God's enemies: they were not simply to enjoy life themselves. And when by the Holy Spirit's working, sinners are led to trust in Jesus and gain spiritual life; they are at once effective soldiers for Christ, and able to lead others to serve under the same gracious King.

(T. D. Anderson, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,

WEB: The hand of Yahweh was on me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Yahweh, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

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