1 Kings 7; Ephesians 4; Ezekiel 37; Psalms 87-88
SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel has been promising new leadership, a restoration to the land, and moral and spiritual transformation. But just as his earlier announcement of the fall of Jerusalem was met with considerable skepticism, so now his announcement of blessings to come meets with the same. Their nation is shattered, their cities destroyed, and many of their people are scattered abroad, living as exiles in foreign lands. It is hard to detect even a glimmer of hope. They cry, in effect, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (Ezek. 37:11). In Ezekiel 37, God provides a vision and an object lesson to engender and nurture that hope.
The first is the vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-14). Ezekiel is shown these “very dry” bones and is asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3). The bones represent the Israelites in exile. The northern tribes have been in exile for a century and a half. The exilic community in Babylon where Ezekiel is living has been there a decade. The bones are very dry indeed. First Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones. Miraculously, the bones come together and are covered with flesh and skin—but we have moved only from skeletons to corpses. Then Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the “breath” (rûah, which equally means “Spirit” and “wind”). Now the corpses come to life and stand on their feet—”a vast army” (Ezek. 37:10). In other words, although preaching of itself effects some changes, what is required is the sweeping power of the Spirit of God. Within the metaphorical world, this is nothing less than resurrection from the dead (Ezek. 37:12). The meaning of the vision, however, is that God will pour out his Spirit, and the exile will end (Ezek. 37:14).
The second part of the chapter is devoted to the object lesson of the two sticks (Ezek. 37:15-28). The first stick represents Judah; the second represents the northern tribes of Israel. Ezekiel stands for God. As he puts the two sticks together, so God declares that in the promised restoration there will no longer be two kingdoms, but one. “There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms” (Ezek. 37:22). Once again, the promise of inner transformation surfaces: “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezek. 37:23). Most important of all, the promised Messiah will lead them: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd” (Ezek. 37:24).