Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ezekiel 37: Sticks And Bones

Restoration is the name of the game in Ezekiel 37.  Employing bones and sticks, the prophet uses props to demonstrate that God is going to reverse time's arrow of entropy to build things up rather than break things down.

Ezekiel's vision of the valley of very dry bones is memorable.  The spirit of the Lord takes him to a place where he surveys a vast number of bones from long dead people.  God asks him, "Can these bones live?" (vs. 3).  Ezekiel very wisely responds that God knows the answer to that.  What happens next is like a scene from a Hollywood movie!  As Ezekiel prophesies to the bones, they start moving and coming together, forming complete skeletons.  Then sinews and flesh come upon them.  Finally, Ezekiel preaches to the breath, and it enters the bodies and stands them up on their feet, alive again!

The message here is that "the whole house of Israel", with some of its tribes considered long dead, is going to be brought up from its grave and come to life again.  This prophecy of resurrection could either be understood on an individual basis or as a parable for the nation itself.

Likewise, Ezekiel's fiddling with sticks is about fixing something that went wrong in the past.  The prophet is directed to take two sticks, one representing Judah and the other symbolizing Israel.  After writing these names on the stick, Ezekiel is to join them together as one stick.  God's word to them is: "I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms" (vs. 21 and 22).

The king that the Lord has in mind to rule over this newly restored kingdom is said to be David.  Jesus, as a descendant of David, is the One that Christians believe Ezekiel was referring to.  The Lord concludes this chapter with a promise that the new Israel will be what the old was always meant to be - a place of Emmanuel, where God Himself will be with them, in deep relationship with them: "My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (vs. 27).

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