December 5 Sermon Resource

Valley of Dry Bones

  • Main Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Accompanying text: John 11:25-26


Baritone Gregory Porter’s current hit “Dry Bones” is among the many songs that use the imagery found in the book of Ezekiel, especially chapter 37 — the lyrics include:

‘Cause these dry, dry bones

Gotta rise up, gonna rise up…

There’s healing in the air…” (1).

The chapter’s setting is a valley full of corpses whose flesh has long since rotted away —bones piled upon bones, lifeless, hopelessly mangled together. God leads Ezekiel among them, giving him a gruesome close-up view. Is Ezekiel afraid? God had just explained to Israel through him, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (36:26 ESV), but now this macabre desolation. What does it all mean? God, who knows the answer to the question, asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” (37:3), and he tells him to prophesy that the bones will come to life again. Two miracles happen. First, the rattling bones re-assemble into skeletons, and then sinews, flesh and skin cover them. They become bodies but there’s no life in them. Second, just as with Adam in Genesis 2:7, life is breathed into them. They get up on their feet and become a great multitude, a strong army. 

God himself provides Ezekiel with the interpretation of the apocalyptic vision: “Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:13-14). The grave is not the end of human story. There is the hope of life after life. There is renewal, redemption, and restoration to come.

Thoughts re application today

“…there is no agreement in the church today about what happens to people when they die. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is also confusion in the wider, non-Christian world not only about the fate of the dead but about what Christians are supposed to believe on that subject…This is all the more curious in that the New Testament itself…is crystal clear on the matter. In a classic passage, Paul speaks of ‘the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23). There is no room for doubt as to what he means: God’s people are promised a new type of bodily existence…This expression of hope, hope for the resurrection of the body…” (2).

In God’s explanation of the vision the collective people of Israel declare, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11). Comparisons can be made to the state of the world today. People are spiritually dried up, dead without the life of Christ. Ideas of hope slip away and get lost in despair. Communities are fractured like a people cut off from the vision of a lasting future. Thus, Ezekiel’s vision is as relevant now as it was to the exiles in Babylon.

The GCI Statement of Beliefs notes: “Jesus Christ, as he promised, will come again to judge and reign over all nations in the kingdom of God. His second coming will be visible, and in power and glory and will bring the final end to evil. This event inaugurates the resurrection of the dead and the reward of the saints”. (3)

In his poem Resurrection the American poet Hermann Hagedorn imagined the Second Coming of Jesus:

“…We rose at last under the morning star. 
We rose, and greeted our brothers, and welcomed our foes. 
We rose; like the wheat when the wind is over, we rose. 
With shouts we rose, with gasps and incredulous cries, 
With bursts of singing, and silence, and awestruck eyes,

With broken laughter, half tears, we rose…

Like babes, refreshed from sleep, like children, we rose, 
Brimming with deep content, from our dreamless repose…

They sat and listened to the brooks and birds, 
And watched the starlight perish in pale flame, 
Wondering what God would look like when He came” (4).

As we await the coming of the Lord, who is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), through the Spirit we live the life of the resurrected Christ within us and count ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

Scripture Resources

  • 1 Corinthians 15:12-57
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Romans 8:11-25

GCI resources

Footnotes and references

  2. Tom Wright, Surprised by HOPE, SPCK in the UK in 2007:159

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