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

I. THE REPRESENTATION GIVEN US IN THIS VISION OF THE MORAL CONDITION OF OUR WORLD. Bones — dry bones — unburied bones — very many of them — what a crowd of suggestive thoughts seem to be called up by this picture! A bone — who likes to look on this dishonoured relic of life? What a recoil do youth and beauty feel at being told that "to this complexion they must come at last"! But the bones the prophet saw were, on our spiritual interpretation, yet more painful to contemplate; they represented the bones, not of a dead body, but, so to speak, of a dead soul, scattered members of the immortal part — God's image defaced, corrupted, broken into dust and fragments. Furthermore, to complete the picture of death and desolateness, the prophet adds, "and they were very dry." They had not only remained a long time in this state, they were bleached and crumbled in the sun, and all vestige of the human thing was gone. The application of this lies upon the surface. God made us men, but sin has changed us into skeletons. Observe, further, the vision seems to point to the utter shamelessness of the unconverted state. The bones were in an open valley, or champaign. There may be those who sin in secret, those who defraud and plunder by means of locked up and secret ledgers, who concoct their mendacious schemes in chambers dark as the unsunned and unfrequented sepulchre; but the many hardly care to hide their iniquity, they leave the pestiferous breath of corruption to go up from the valley, and seem to glory in their shame. And how unblushingly does vice walk our streets, and lying enter into our commerce, and sinful and foolish jesting dishonour our entertainments, and the offer of cheap excursions affront the sanctities of God's holy day! And whey justify themselves who do such things. Even concealment — that homage which bad men pay to the divinity of virtue — is deemed uncalled for. "They are dead in trespasses and sins," and desire that none should bury them out of our sight. Another mournful spectacle which the vision exhibits of spiritual death reigning around us is its universality. It is not in the midst of the valley only, in the crowd of cities, and in the feverish stir of courts, the haunts of dissipation, or amidst the thickly nestling families of the outcasts that we meet with these relics of spiritual corruption. Wherever we pass, with the prophet, round about, in the retirement of the village, in the seclusion of the cloister, in the calm privacies of family and domestic intercourse — sweet Auburn, mighty London — it is all one — there is not a house in which there is not one dead.

II. THE MEANS TO BE EMPLOYED FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE WORLD FROM ITS SPIRITUALLY DEAD CONDITION. "Can these dry bones live? Can your faith grasp the great fact of these bones becoming men?" And the answer which the downcast man of God would return, would be in substance Ezekiel's answer — "O Lord God, Thou knowest." "Judging by past results, judging by present evidences, judging by any standards of human likelihood, I should say these bones will continue bones. I see not hope or sign of life among them. Every form of moral inducement fails. Mark here, the ministry of the Word is God's great agency for the world's conversion. The days we live in are fertile of expedient and project and bold thought. Every sun that rises finds a thousand busy minds planning and devising something for the good of mankind, The philanthropist's calling is absolutely overdone; and by education, by cultivation of e taste for the arts, by shortened labours for the sons of toil, and open doors for the repentant criminal, by reformatories, dormitories, penitentiaries, and industrial schools, everybody has his scheme for mending the world's present condition. Amidst this multitudinous assemblage of human remedies, all good in their way however, it is a great repose to the mind just to see what is God's remedy. He interferes not with our social machinery, our commerce, our science, our philanthropy, or our laws — these may all go on as before; but He has His own cure for the moral disorders of mankind; and where that cure is left out of sight, God will bless no other. And that is, to prophesy upon these bones and say unto them, "O ye dry bones, hear ye the word of the Lord!" And at this part of the vision the minister of God finds his lesson, He has a pardonable preference for the great promising fields of labour. True, he must go where he is sent, but he would not choose a valley of bones if he could get an auditory of living things. But the tenor of his commission runs — "Preach to the most ignorant, and dark, and hopeless; speak to the dead; even in the place of tombs and at the very mouth of graves; prophesy upon these bones." Neither are we to be tellers of smooth things when we prophesy, to shrink from calling people by their right names and addressing many among them as spiritually dead; for you see there God's own instructions to the preacher — "Say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear ye the word of the Lord." And this is our confidence when we speak — that it is the word of the Lord.

III. THE SUCCESS WHICH SHALL ATTEND THE USE OF ALL HEAVENLY-APPOINTED MEANS FOR THE CONVERSION OF SOULS. We may not omit to observe here, how, under every dispensation the dead and the hopeless are the objects of the Almighty's care. They are the tempted among disciples, the heavy laden among sinners, the weeping among the prodigals; it is among the reeds the sorest bruised, and among bones the "very dry," that mercy finds occasion for its most tender and bright displays. Let us see this principle acted out in the vision. There was a noise and a shaking. To two out of the three proposed interpretations of the vision suggested at the outset these effects seem applicable enough. Thus we can have no difficulty in imagining that a great political commotion should be stirred up on the first proclamation of Cyrus for the return of the Jews to their own land; whilst for the other interpretation, or that which applies the vision to the resurrection of the body, we have the later New Testament confirmation, that the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. But what fitness have these terms for our spiritual rendering? Much every way. There is no resurrection to spiritual life, whether in a nation, in a family, or in an individual soul, without both a noise and a shaking. Yes, the chariots of the Redeemer never have been noiseless chariots. There was a noise in Judea when John preached the baptism of repentance; there was a noise at Athens when Paul preached the doctrines of the resurrection; there was a noise at Ephesus when the craftsmen saw the danger which threatened their silver shrines. And is there not often a noise in families when the prophesying is just beginning to take effect, when some solitary member of a household comes out from the rest, and with a lofty disregard of the results, resolves to cast in his lot with the people of God? Ask yourselves, have you ever been shaken from these sandy and unstable foundations on which so many are building their immortal house? Have you over been shaken from those unscriptural and hollow creeds which are the only answer many have to make to the fears of death, the terrors of the grave, and the heavy indictment to be preferred against them at the last day? Or, lastly, have you ever felt a shaking in yourselves? Have you ever known what it is to have the heart to sink, and the knees to smite, and the tongue to falter through an oppressive sense of your soul's danger and urgent need? If so, be of good cheer; at this time there was a shaking in you, the bones were beginning to move, and flesh was beginning to come up, and over the face of your regenerate soul the Spirit of God was moving and imparting to you the first breathings of spiritual life.

IV. THE LAST SCENE OF THIS IMPOSING SPECTACLE. See in this feature of the prophet's vision, a type of that halting stage in the Christian life, in which all external forms of godliness are kept up without any growing experience of its power; living, indeed, in shape, but having no breath in them. Seeing there was no breath in these risen forms, the voice said unto Ezekiel, "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 up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." We want more breath in our body, more of that which distinguishes the skeleton from the man and the religious automaton from the thing of life — and this is to be obtained only by our prophesying to the wind; by one and all in the church and in their closet offering that fervent petition, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

(D. Moore, M. 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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