Ezekiel’s “Valley of Dry Bones” Prophecy: Its Two Stages (Part 1)

When discussing the restoration of Israel, the discussion of Ezekiel’s vision of “The Valley of Dry Bones” is always included.  However, what many people don’t stop to think about is that this vision is broken up into two parts.

In his vision, the prophet Ezekiel is taken in the spirit to a valley where he is placed in the middle of a huge amount of worn, dried-out human bones that are scattered throughout this valley, and if that is not bad enough, he is then told by God to prophesy over all of these dry scattered bones.

The LORD says to him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:1-3) And Ezekiel is looking at all these bones, and probably scratching his head and thinking the same thing most of us would have been thinking in that situation.  But the LORD asked him a question, so he responds by saying, “O LORD God, Thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:4), which I have concluded is the biblical way of saying, “I have no idea.”  But if you read through this prophecy, what you will discover is that it is divided up into two parts: a physical restoration and a spiritual restoration.

STAGE 1: THE PHYSICAL RESTORATION

To begin, God tells Ezekiel what to say over the dry bones:

Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.  And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6)

Interestingly, God mentions twice that He is going to put “breath” in them.  The first time, He says that “I will cause breath to enter you,” and the second time, He says that He will “put breath in you.”  So are these two breaths the same, or are these two different kinds of breath?  As we continue analyzing this passage and what happened in history, keep this question in mind.

So what happened after God told him to do this?  The prophet tells us,

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. (Ezekiel 37:7-8)

In this first stage, the bones, sinews and flesh all come together and formulate physical bodies, but the text says, that “there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8).  Now hold on, God just mentioned that He was going to “cause breath to enter them” and to “put breath in them,” so what happened?  Now looking back at this process of bringing the physical entity of Israel together, it was a lot longer process than most people think.

 GOD SENDS FISHERMEN.

For example, in the book of Jeremiah, God prophecies that He would begin the end-time regathering of His people by sending “fishermen” after them.

“Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.  Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them….” (Jeremiah 16:14-16a)

Now was it just coincidence that a number of Jesus’ early disciples were, in fact, “fishermen”?  Actually, it wasn’t.  The restoration of Israel was not something that was going to happen all at once.  For example, in one parable about the Kingdom, Jesus says,

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which  a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)

The mustard seed is not only the smallest seed, but it also grows extremely slow, so obviously in using this as a picture, the Lord was trying to get across the idea that the kingdom was not suddenly going to come, but that it would happen over a long period of time, two thousand years, in fact, and we are now nearing the end of that time period.  Unfortunately, though, there were still many people who expected it to come suddenly so they could watch it happen.

What in Christianity is called “the church age” is, in reality, God reaching back into the nations of the world to bring back to Himself all of the descendants of the various tribes, as well as all of us Gentiles (non-Jews), together to formulate one new kingdom, or what Paul calls the “One New Man” (Ephesians 2:15).   This kingdom, though, would not consist of only one nation, but all nations.  For example, in the book of Daniel, we read,

And I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, Glory and A KINGDOM, that all peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14; emphasis added)

Notice that it says “A KINGDOM,” singular, was given to Him, which is comprised of “all peoples, nations, and men of every language.”  Therefore, this is not a “national kingdom,” as we are accustomed to thinking about kingdoms, but an international kingdom.

Paul also called this redeemed, restored international Kingdom of Israel (i.e., “the Israel of God,” Galatians 6:16) by other names as well, because he didn’t want people to think their relationship with the Lord would be the same as their relationship to Caesar, so he used phrases like “in Christ,” “the body of Christ,” or “the church” (Gk. Ekklesia), which was a political term already used in the Greek Septuagint for the nation and people of Israel, and it was a term already familiar in Greek and Roman culture.

But since we are now near the end of the restoration process, I believe that the “fishermen” that is mentioned here can also be seen to refer to the Zionist movement.  For example,

  • In May 1881, in response to the Russian pograms, groups of Russian Jews came together to form the Hibbat Zion (“Love of Zion”) movement, and later on in that same year, the first wave of Jews emigrated into Palestine (or what is now Israel).
  • In 1882, Leon Pinsker anonymously published his book Auto-Emancipation in Germany, arguing that history has shown that the Jews cannot assimilate into the various nations; instead, they need their own land.
  • On February 14, 1896, fourteen years later, Theodore Herzl, who would become the head of the World Zionist Organization, published his renowned book Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”).
  • Then in 1904, a second wave of Jews emigrated into Israel to help establish it into a homeland.

GOD SENDS “HUNTERS.”

It would only be after God had sent them “fishermen,” that according to Jeremiah’s  prophecy, He would then send the “hunters” after them.  And it is because of the sequence of “fishermen” and then “hunters,” that I feel it better describes our end of the restoration process than in the beginning with the original disciples.

and afterwards I shall send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and from the clefts of the rock. (Jeremiah 16:16b)

Indeed, the “hunters” did come in the form of Hitler and the Nazi party.  Adolf Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, and shortly afterwards, they began the process of setting up the system for dealing with “the Jewish Problem,” and by 1945, just twelve years later, Hitler and the Nazis would have systematically murdered six million Jews (i.e., “the Holocaust”).

ISRAEL BECOMES A NATION.

After the war ended and the events of the holocaust became widely known, the United Nations, met in November 1947, to vote on whether to accept the Jewish petition to make Israel a “Jewish state.” The resolution passed, therefore, fulfilling the biblical prophecy that Israel would be born in one day:

Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things?  Can a land be born in one day?  Can a nation be brought forth all at once?  As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.  “Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?” says the LORD, “Or who shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God.  (Isaiah 66:8-9)

Then, six months later, on May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion officially announced the birth of the nation of Israel.  Indeed, the nation of Israel was “birthed” in a single day.

INTERESTING PARALLELS AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE

But in researching the events that led up to the rebirth of the nation of Israel,  I discovered some interesting parallels between what was going on in Jewish and Christian history at about the same time periods.

AMONG THE JEWISH PEOPLE

AMONG CHRISTIANS

1882 – In Germany, Leon Pinsker publishes his book Auto-Emancipation anonymously. 1892 – Richard Spurling, Jr., holds a revival in his Baptist church, in Liberty, TN, during which some there spoke in tongues.
1895 – Theodore Herzl witnesses an anti-Semitic act in Paris, France, that births in him the idea of a national homeland. 1895 – B.H. Irwin begins teaching a “third blessing” called “the baptism of fire,” a teaching that split the Iowa Holiness Movement into two.
Feb. 1896 – Herzl publishes his renowned book Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”). Summer 1896 –  During the Schearer School house Fire-Baptized Holiness Revival, there is a Holy Spirit outpouring and many people speak in tongues.
Aug. 1897 – Herzl organizes the First Zionist Congress.  It establishes the World
Zionist Organization.
1901 – Topeka, Kansas, Revival under Charles Parham.  One of his students, Agnes Ozman, was the first there to speak with tongues.
1904 – The second wave of Jewish emigrants enter into the land of Israel. Aug. 1906 – 09 – Azusa Street Revival where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was experienced by many different people.
November 1947 – The United Nation meets and officially votes to grant the Jewish petition to make Israel a Jewish homeland; and six months later, on May 14, 1948, Israel officially becomes a nation. 1949 – The beginning of the evangelical ministries of Billy Graham; in 1950, the Wheaton College Revival; and in 1951, Bill Bright began Campus Crusade for Christ.
June 7, 1967 –  The Jewish people reclaim the city of Jerusalem. Summer 1967.  The beginning of the Jesus People movement, communal homes, coffeehouses, and Christian “fellowships.”

The point here is that God has been actively working with both the Jewish people and the Christians over the years.  He has not been working with only one group, but with both.  Growing up in the church, I had never heard of any of these parallels being discussed, and as I said, it wasn’t until I was researching the events that led up to Israel becoming a nation that I discovered these parallels.

Interestingly, as a teenager, there was a Christian coffeehouse that I use to attend, called “The Master’s House,” where musicians or local bands would come to play, and there were also refreshments and a pool table there inside.  The Jesus People movement and their music was a big influence on me during my teen years.

Also, there have been many Christians across the United States who have been praying for revival, but at the same time, there have been many Jews in Israel who have been taling about rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.  Is it possible that God could be waiting to correlate the largest outpouring of the Spirit with the rebuilding of the Temple?  Could the rebuilding of the Temple be the time when the prophecy in Joel would be fulfilled in its fullness for both Jews and Christians alike?

And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, an even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  (Joel 2:28-29)

This prophesy in Joel is given within the context of Israel’s restoration, and in the times of the last days since right after this statement, Joel writes,

And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, an columns of smoke.  The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  (Joel 2:30-31)

The Day of the LORD is quickly approaching.  It is not here yet, but the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all flesh, Jew and non-Jew alike, precedes His coming judgment.  Could this and the rebuilding of the Temple be the next two events to correspond?  I will discuss this further in part two of this study.

 

 

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