Monday, February 17, 2014

What is the valley of dry bones?

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

Ezekiel 37:1,2

The valley of dry bones? Ezekiel has a vision where the Lord takes him and sets him in the midst of a valley full of bones. The bones signify Israel, being scattered to the four winds, and being thought as of extinct, as a nation goes. When I read the words of this prophecy, I cannot help but think of the prophecy of Moses, a long time before, in Deuteronomy 30:
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
Deut. 30:4-6
God knew all along about the disobedience of Israel, and how he would use it to bring a light to the Gentiles, and how he would usher in the present age of grace, until the times of the Gentiles are through (Romans 11). But I find it compelling that God would tell Israel, through Moses that they were going to fail, and that in spite of that failure, God would bring them back, this time circumcising their very hearts, that they may truly know how to love God.
At Ezekiel’s time, it was of course, much later than Moses. Undoubtedly Ezekiel would have been familiar with the prophecy of Moses, but Ezekiel was a man who saw his nation in captivity, scattered to the four winds. His vision is singularly important to him, for in the vision, Ezekiel receives assurance from God that he is in charge, and will bring them back. Jeremiah received from God that he had determined seventy years against Israel, and then would bring them back from their captivity. Daniel reads Jeremiah, and finds this seventy years (Daniel 9), and this becomes part of the basis of Daniel’s prophecy. Second Chronicles, in its last chapter, also speaks of this seventy years, and also gives the proclamation of Cyrus, signifying the beginning of the end of the captivity, so we see repeatedly that the revelation of the seventy years is very important.

What indication do we have that the dry bones were more than this return from captivity? In several ways, we can confidently know that this vision of dry bones is yet future. First, in relating it to the prophecy of Moses, where Moses predicts that banishment will take place, then God will bring Israel back, and then he will circumcise their hearts and the hearts of the descendants. Have the hearts of the Israelites been circumcised? In no manner is this circumcision seen; hence it must be future.

Second, there is the vision of Daniel. Notice the order of events presented in chapter nine. Daniel first reads the prophecy of Jeremiah, and discovers that seventy years are determined against his people. Second, Daniel prays a great prayer of confession, and seeks the Lord’s direction. Third, Daniel is given the prophecy of the seventy-sevens, a prophecy which was to explain to Daniel that the times of the Gentiles was not going to be through for some time yet. This vision of seventy-sevens is taken with each week symbolizing seven years, thus making a total time of 490 years. Christ’s death is foretold here in Daniel, and some time after that, an untold amount of years pass, until Israel is to live out the judgment of the seventieth seven. Thus we do know that God intends to rescue Israel yet again, this time forever sealing them with circumcision of their hearts.

Third, Ezekiel foretells a regathering that simply has not happened yet. Read these words and see,
1) 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, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 9:13, 14)
2) This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. (Ezekiel 9:21, 22)
3) I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’” (Ezekiel 9:26,27,28)

Notice the order of events. First, I will put my Spirit in you. Second, I will make of you one nation, with one king, never again to be divided. Third, God will make an everlasting covenant and will make Israel holy, putting his sanctuary among them forever. Can we by any stretch of the imagination suppose this to have taken place yet? Israel is regathered, when she was beyond hope and reckoning of all men. She stands in the midst of hostile nations all about her, who are all pledged to drive her back to the sea, and extinguish her forever. Is it not curious that God seems to be the agent performing what few men, if any, looked for?

But the Israel today is definitely not the one prophesied about to Ezekiel. Surveys today show Israel to be an atheistic nation, perhaps more so than any other. They are not looking for their Messiah anymore, let alone the return of the Jesus whom they crucified. Not in any sense has God made them his people—but as I look at the regathering, I have a deep sense of awe, watching to see when the Lord God will indeed reveal himself.

There remains one important prophecy to discuss in this all too short article. That is the prophecy of Zacharias who has much to say of this last week of years. What of the Lord, and how will he reveal himself to Israel? “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10). Israel surrounded and about to be overwhelmed by their enemies, will at last recognize their Redeemer, and they will repent with many tears. At this time the partial hardening that Paul talks about in Romans is at last lifted, where he declares, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25,26).

And Zacharias goes on to tell us about that time, “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (Zachariah 14:3,4). The prophet goes on to tell us, “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zachariah 14:9). The valley of dry bones will be brought back to life, and God himself shall renew Israel, making it the center of attention for the whole earth.

Has God not told us the end from the beginning? What manner of people ought we to be, knowing all these things? We ought to live truly, as these things were reality, not caring for the things of this earth, but instead looking towards the inheritance that he has given us. In a sense, these unseen things are more real to us than our present world, and if we begin to live that way, what a change could be wrought in us, and also the world about us!

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