Subject: God’s Work of Salvation – Dry Bones Come to Life
Ezekiel 37:12 “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel..”
When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke two weeks ago to the Unites Nations against the Iranian nuclear deal, he emphasized the re-birth of Israel is the fulfillment of a dream to reestablish the homeland that is their refuge from their history of persecution: “For a hundred generations, the Jewish people dreamed of returning to the Land of Israel. The establishment of Israel made realizing that dream possible. It’s enabled us to embrace Jews who’ve come from the four corners of the earth to find refuge from persecution. They came from war-torn Europe, from Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union, from a hundred other lands. And today, as a rising tide of anti-Semitism once again sweeps across Europe and elsewhere, many Jews come to Israel to join us in building the Jewish future.”
No other nation has lived through such a never-ending flood of intense persecution like Israel. The northern kingdom was brutalized by the Assyrians in 722BC, the southern kingdom was decimated by the Babylonians in 586BC. The Persians took control after Babylon, and then the Greeks came through and turned their country into a Hellenistic culture. Then the Roman Empire controlled Israel with a campaign of intense brutality, culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and the ensuing massacres at Masada. In 636AD, Jerusalem was taken by the Muslims under the leader Muhammed, with the Dome of the Rock built in 691AD right on the spot where Israel’s most sacred place once stood, the Temple Mount.
Israel experienced the greatest onslaught of evil targeted against her people when Nazi Germany was born. In 1933, there were over nine million Jews in Europe. By 1945, the Germans murdered nearly two of every three of them, as they carried out their planned “Final Solution”, ending with over six million Jews massacred by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust – simply because they were Jews.
But it was fifteen years ago that Netanyahu gave an even more famous speech on Israel’s rebirth as a nation. At the 65th anniversary the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, the Prime Minister proclaimed that Israel’s rebirth was a direct fulfillment of the prophet Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones coming back to life: “The Jewish people rose from ashes and destruction, from a terrible pain that can never be healed,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “Dry bones became covered with flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet, as Ezekiel prophesized: ‘Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves.”
Netanyahu often quotes the Old Testament in his speeches. He comes from a family who made Bible study a priority at home, and since his youth he has studied the Tenach, the Hebrew Old Testament, which records the history of Israel and its people. But these verses spoken by Ezekiel in 570BC, on dry bones coming back to life, have a much deeper meaning than the national restoration of Israel. In fact, the Jews repopulating the Holy Land today are not the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
If we back up and start in chapter 36 of Ezekiel, God described His work of salvation on Israel, where He makes it clear with the statement “I will” that it is by His power He will bring spiritual salvation one day to Israel. And how does He accomplish this? How do the ‘dry bones’ of chapter 37 come back to life? Listen to Ezekiel 36:25: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you.”
There, in the Old Testament, is the exact same rebirth in the heart of a sinner that God explains in the New Testament. It is the work of God through the atoning death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. He promises to not only continue this work of salvation in individual Jews and Gentiles, but one day for the nation of Israel! This is the only way for each of our ‘dry bones’ to come back to life.
The apostle Paul explained God’s work in the New Testament: “You He has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1). As Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15). This is the Bible’s message: God delights in bringing the dead back to life!