• The BaptistWay lesson for May 18 focuses on Ezekiel 37:1-14.
The Valley of Dry Bones prophecy in Ezekiel 37:1-14 probably is the best-known passage of the book. Of particular importance, this vision was shown to Ezekiel as a means of communicating how God would continue to work through him and his people.
It was not necessarily something he was commanded to report verbatim to the people, but something to give him assurance in what he already had done and would continue to do. When we look at the passage from this perspective, our concern is less about historical significance or whether or not this happened physically. Instead, it becomes more about seeing it as a personal “mountain-top” experience for Ezekiel as a prophet and servant of God.
As we look at this vision, we can take several lessons away from the way Ezekiel responds: We should not make assumptions about what God knows; we must place trust in his processes; and we must seek out the communal implications of our individual spiritual experiences.
What God knows
The answer to what God knows is, of course, everything. He is omniscient. That does not mean we can know what he knows if we simply ask; rather, it means we can trust his knowledge when ours is lacking.
That was the position in which Ezekiel was placed after being shown this valley full of bones. “Son of man, can these bones live?” (v. 3), God asked him. His response: “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (v. 3). Maybe, deep down, he was hoping this was true. It’s our nature to want the best and to hope things work out like we want. As a result, it can become easy to assume God also wants what we want. Surely, Ezekiel knew these bones could have lived if it was what God wanted; but he makes no assumptions, and neither should we.
Trusting his processes
As the vision unfolds, a strange process commences. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones (v. 4) with the promised result being they will come to life (v. 6). After doing what God commanded, Ezekiel notices the bones miraculously began to come together, that tendons and flesh appear on them and skin covers them, “but there was no breath in them” (vv. 7-8). Part of God’s initial instructions included the promise he would “make breath enter” (v. 5) the bones. This is the same kind of breath God breathed into Adam during creation (Genesis 2:7) and signifies the special activity and life than can only come from God.
What a disappointment it must have been when Ezekiel saw no signs of life after doing what God commanded him to do. Thankfully, God was not finished. Ezekiel is then told to prophesy to the breath (v. 9). After he responded obediently, the bones came to life and stood on their feet, forming a “vast army” (v. 10).
What a strange vision and outlandish process. The pragmatic side of me wants to write it off as craziness and question its usefulness. I have to remember that spiritual experiences often do not have pragmatism as their goal. Their goal is to inspire, build faith, increase trust and ultimately provoke to action.
One of the spiritual experiences influencing our college students is called Passion. Young people flock to these annual events to experience whole weekends of passionate, high-energy worship, teaching and preaching. If we are not careful, we can allow experiences like this to overshadow their intended purpose. I’m encouraged by one of the songs to emerge out of this movement that simply requests in the chorus: “Let what we do in here, fill the streets out there.” This should be our goal and prayer behind any experience we have with God.
Sharing our experience
Ezekiel realizes how his experience is to be shared when God finally connects the bones with Israel (v. 11). God’s people again will experience life as he brings them back to their land. The breath breathed into the bones will pulse through the people, and God’s Spirit will be among them (v. 14).
As New Testament Christians, we would be remiss not to note the theme of resurrection inherit in this vision and application (vv. 12-13). It is evidence that what God ultimately did through Jesus was something he already was exposing his people to during the time of Ezekiel. Surely, neither Ezekiel nor Israel would have connected this vision with Christ’s resurrection; but Ezekiel’s sharing it stands as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and timeliness thousands of years later.
I became a Christian in a small Baptist church in Southeast Texas where Sunday night church was alive and well. The folks who came to Sunday night church were the heart and soul of the congregation. Every once and a while, we would have “testimony time” during the evening service. This was not simply an excuse for the pastor to take a break from preaching. It was an opportunity for people to share the spiritual experiences they had with God.
You may not do it from a pulpit or even in a church; but if you’ve benefitted from what God knows and trusted his processes throughout your life, then you have an experience to share. Who do you know who needs to hear it?