So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together…
Let the world be surveyed by one who knows and feels that men are destined for eternity, and what aspect will it wear if not that of the valley of vision, through which the prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to pass? On all sides are the remains of mighty beings, born for immortality, but dislocated by sin. Can these be men, creatures fashioned after the image of God, and constructed to share His eternity? What disease hath been here, eating away the spiritual sinew, and consuming the spiritual substance, so that the race which walked gloriously erect in the free light of heaven, and could hold communion with angels, hath wasted down into moral skeletons, yea, disjointed fragments, from which we may just guess its origin, whilst they publish its ruin? It is not that men are the spectres, the ghosts, of what they were, as made in the likeness of God, and with powers for intercourse with what is loftiest in the universe. They have gone beyond this. It is in their spiritual and deathless part that they have become material and lifeless: it is the soul from which the breath of heaven has been taken: and the soul, deprived of this breath, seemed turned into a thing of earth, as though compounded, like the body, of dust; and dwindled away till its fibres were shrivelled and snapped, and its powers lay scattered and enervated, like bones where the war has raged and the winds have swept. If we had nothing to judge by but the apparent probability, so little ground would there be for expecting the resurrection of these souls, and their re-endowment with the departed vitality, that if, after wandering to and fro through the valley, and mourning over the ruins of what had been created magnificent and enduring, there should come to us, as to the prophet, the voice of the Almighty, "Son of man, can these bones live?" our answer could be only the meek confession of ignorance, "O Lord God, Thou knowest." But we go on to observe that the parable is not more accurate, as delineating our condition by nature, than as exhibiting the possibility of a restoration to life. It cometh frequently to pass, mere frequently, it may be, than shall be known till all secrets are laid bare at the great day of judgment, that, when the minister of Christ is launching the thunders of the Word, or dilating, with all persuasiveness, on the provision which has been made for the repentant, a sound is heard, if not by men, yet by the attendant angels who throng our sanctuaries; the sound of an agitated spirit, moving in its grave clothes, as though the cold relics were mysteriously perturbed. The prophesying goes on in the valley of vision; and there is a shaking amongst the bones, as close appeals are made to the long torpid conscience, and the motives of an after state of being are brought to bear upon those who are dead in their sins. And then may it be said that bone cometh unto bone — the different faculties of the soul, which have heretofore been disjointed and dispersed, combining into one resolve and effort to repent, and forsake sin — and that sinews and flesh knit together, and clothe the bones, the various powers of the inner man being each roused to its due work; so that, as there appeared before the prophet the complete human body in exchange for the broken skeleton, we have now a spirit stung with the consciousness of its immortality, where we had before the undying without sign of animation. But this is not enough. There may be conviction of sin, and a sense of the necessity that some great endeavour be made to secure its forgiveness; and thus may the soul, no longer resolved into inefficient fragments, be bound together as the heir of eternity; yet there may not be spiritual life, for the soul may not have been quickened with the breath which is from heaven. Accordingly, the parable does not end with the formation of the perfect body, figurative as that was of the reconstruction of the soul into a being aware of its immortality; it proceeds to the animating the body, and thus to the representing the quickening of the soul. The prophet is commanded to prophesy unto the wind, and then breath comes into the bodies which he had seen succeed the scattered bones. This part of the parable is expressly interpreted as denoting the entrance of God's Spirit into the house of Israel, that they might live; and we therefore learn the important truth that, whatever the advances which may be made towards the symmetry and features of a new creature, there is nothing that can be called life, until the Holy Ghost come and breathe upon the slain. And we have to bless God that, in this part also, the vision is continually receiving its accomplishment, It is the special office of the Holy Ghost to open the graves in which sinners lie, and to animate the moral corpse, so that the dead are "born again." There would be no use in our prophesying upon the bones, if there were not this Divine agent to revivify the buried: we might indeed go down into the sepulchres, and gather together the mouldering remains of humanity, and compound them into a body, and then, as by the strange power of electricity, work the limbs into a brief and fearful imitation of the living thing: but the active and persevering wrestler for the prizes of eternity, oh! the Spirit of God must be in every member of this creature, and in every nerve, and in every muscle; and let that Spirit only be taken from him, and presently would you observe a torpor creeping over his frame, and all the tokens of moral death succeeding to the fine play of the pulses of moral life. But there is one respect in which the vision, as thus interpreted, appears not to be thoroughly accomplished. We carry on our prophesying over the heaps of dry bones; and now and then there may be produced the effects of which we have spoken: a solitary sinner arises from his lethargy, and sets himself to the working out salvation. But what is there in any one district of the valley I nay, what is there in the combined districts of the valley, supposing that valley to include the whole earth, which answers to the starting up of an "exceeding great army"? In the valley which Ezekiel traversed, such was the result of his prophesying. What would be the parallel to this, if, at this moment and in this place, the parable were to be spiritually fulfilled? It would be, that, if there be still amongst you the tens, or the fifties, or the hundreds, of souls sepulchred in flesh, these tens, or these fifties, or these hundreds, would be roused by the announcement of wrath to come, and spring into consciousness that they have been born for eternity; so that, however at the commencement of our worshipping, the dry bones had been scattered profusely amongst us, at its clone the whole assembly would be one mass of life, and no individual would depart, as he came, "dead in trespasses and sins." It would be — we dare not expect so mighty a resuscitation, and yet days shall come when even nations shall be "born in a day," — that whatsoever is human within these walls would bear traces of a new creation, and man, woman, child, be "alive unto God" through Christ Jesus their Lord. And if the spiritual fulfilment were effected throughout the whole valley of vision, we should be living beneath the millennial dispensation, in that blessed season when all are to know the Lord "from the least to the greatest," and the knowledge of His glory is to fill the earth, "as the waters cover the sea." When commensurate with the marvellous quickening of the dead on which Ezekiel gazed: the spiritual sepulchres will be emptied, and the almost quenched immortality be everywhere reillumined.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.