Year A – Lent 5 – Ezekiel 37:1–14

Ezekiel 37:1–14 – The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Summary – This important passage in Ezekiel is well known. God promises a renewal of Israel. This is set in the time of the exile. Key leaders (like Ezekiel and Daniel) have been deported to Babylon. Israel has been displaced, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BC). Now Israel’s future is questionable. They are like dried out bones, dead in the grave yard. Their hope is lost and they seem to be cut off from God’s purpose. So, God asks the prophet, Can these bones live? The prophet takes the simple way out: “O Lord GOD, you know.” By this vivid illustration God shows the prophet that He is not done with Israel. So Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones. As a result of the Spirit, these dead bones become a vast army before the eyes of Ezekiel. This passage joins together resurrection and return from exile. God then promises that He will bring them back to the Land of Israel and put His spirit in them, so that they know the Lord has acted.

Insight – People can’t live without hope. Despair is no place to lay your head. While God justly chastised Israel in the exile, He also will fulfill His promises. God gives His people hope through His Word here through Ezekiel. Israel’s hoped-for future of resurrection in the Land was in jeopardy. How would God fulfill these promises (originally made to Abraham)? As it turns out God literally brought Israel back to the land (in Nehemiah’s day) and had the city and temple rebuilt. Then (as we open the pages of the NT) we find that God in Christ comes to Israel. Jesus comes as the True Israel (Matt. 2). He did what Israel was to do by being obedient (Is. 53) and God did what He promised to Israel (Ez. 37, Dan. 12) (in Jesus): raise True Israel from the dead. “In Jesus” is resurrection, now (John 11). This is how God gives His people hope. What was to happen on the Last Day was brought forward in the middle of history. The apostles taught it this way. They were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Jesus will baptize with the Spirit, just as the prophets promised. This culminates in Pentecost. Now all those who trust in Jesus are the new Israel who are united in baptism-faith to the resurrected Jesus (Rom. 6:3). We have Life in Him. Therefore, we, individually and collectively, have resurrection Life through faith in Jesus.

Child’s Catechism – How did God fulfill His promises to Israel? By sending Jesus to be true Israel.

Discussion – What are some ways we can bring gospel life to a dead world?

Prayer – God of the living, through baptism we pass from the shadow of death  to the light of the resurrection. Remain with us and give us hope that, rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit who gives life to our mortal flesh, we may be clothed with the garment of immortality,  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.