Ezekiel’s dry bones
So last Sunday I preached on Ezekiel seeing God’s shekinah glory in chapter 1. This week my text will be Ezekiel 37. This is one of the most familiar passages in the book, and yet it’s not quite about what most folks think it’s about.
Ezekiel sees a vision of resurrection. He sees the dry bones of a vast army lying unburied in a valley. Then YHWH commands him to prophesy to the bones and then to the wind/breath/spirit. Sure enough, the dry bones rise again to new physical life. The passage has Genesis 2 all over it. Just like God breathed life into Adam, God breathes new life into the sons of Adam. (I take the phrase “ben Adam” to refer both to “son of man” and “son of Adam”). The Creator will be the Re-creator.
But notice the interpretation of the vision.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ “
One day YHWH will restore Israel. Because of the exile, Israel was dead like those bones. They had no Davidic king, no land, no home, no temple. God’s plan is to restore His people.
The vision is not about the resurrection as much as the restoration of Israel. Resurrection is a metaphor for Israel’s restoration. But how is it that God goes about restoring Israel? Here’s where the metaphor comes alive so to speak. God restores Israel through the resurrection of Jesus, who is true Israel (Gal. 3). Jesus’ resurrection shows that God will one day resurrect all Israel to be saved. Already, but not yet.