These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 37 ~ Sep. 7-13
Ezekiel 35-48, Joel
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27
The most beautiful thing about the Old Testament is that Jesus’ fingerprints are all over it. The imagery and symbolism displaying His life and the gospel pop out from the least expected places to surprise and delight us. And at the same time we see the “far,” New Testament application, of Old Testament passages, we can also see the “near,” or immediate application the passage has for the Bible characters the story is literally happening to. It’s like getting two lessons in one.
God sent this vision to Ezekiel the night before the messenger came with word of the fall of Jerusalem. The people of Israel were devastated and fearful, and this vision was meant to comfort and reassure them.
The valley (1) represented the areas of the world to which Israel and Judah had been (or would shortly be) exiled. As the skeletons were scattered all over the valley, so God’s people were scattered in various parts of the world.
The bones (2-3, 11) are a picture of death. With exile impending, Israel felt that all hope was dead and gone. The fact that the bones in the valley were “very dry” means that they had been there for quite a while, just as Israel would be in exile for seventy long years. It was the death of life as they knew it.
The prophecy (4-10, 12-14, Jeremiah 3:12, Isaiah 54:8, Psalm 30:5) this time, after so many prophecies of God’s coming wrath, was a prophecy of hope and restoration. God would breathe the breath of life and hope back into Israel. He would raise them up out of the grave of those pagan lands and resurrect them to a new life back in the Promised Land.
Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. (Jer.)
In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Is.)
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Ps.)
What a kind and compassionate God! He justly executes judgment, but graciously forgives sin when His people repent.
The first layer of our lesson today was the “near” application– the literal, immediate application to Israel. From that, we’ve learned that God will not tolerate idolatry, that He is patient with His children, but does discipline them, and that He is merciful and forgiving towards Israel.
The second layer of the story is the “far,” or New Testament layer. It takes those attributes of God and redemption that we’ve just learned about in Israel’s story and shows us how Jesus “fleshed them out.”
The valley (1) could be anywhere. People are scattered over the whole earth just the way the bones were scattered across the valley.
The bones (2-3, 11, Ephesians 2:1-2a, John 15:16; 6:44, Hebrews 11:6, Romans 6:23) are people who are still dead in sin and have never come to repentant faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s take a look at Ephesians 2:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.
Prior to salvation, we are spiritually dead. Just like a corpse can’t move, act, think, or decide, we can’t do anything to choose God (Jn. 15), or please Him (Heb.), or decide on our own to get saved (Jn. 6).
And not only are we spiritually dead during our time on earth, but eternal death awaits us when our earthly lives are over (Rom.). Without Christ, we are born dead, live dead, and die unto eternal death.
Gives you kind of a hopeless feeling (like the Israelites had) doesn’t it?
The prophecy (4-10, 12-14, Matthew 13:57, John 11:25-26; 3:6-7; 16:7; 20:22, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 6:4, Ephesians 2:4-7, 2 Corinthians 1:22)
Just like God sent the prophet Ezekiel -“Son of Man” (God calls him this 93 times)- to his people with the good news of the hope of new life, He sent His Son -also called the “Son of Man” (87 times in the New Testament)- the greatest prophet (Matt.), not just to proclaim the good news of new life, but to become that good news by giving His life on the cross so that we might not die, but live.
Verse 6 says: And I will lay sinews upon 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.”
At Lazarus’ tomb, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11)
Just as Ezekiel prophesied to the bones (7-10) and they were born again from the dead, Jesus preached, “You must be born again.” (Jn. 3:7). And just as the bodies in verse 8 were fully fleshed out but had no spirit in them, Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:6)
Ezekiel prophesied to the breath and it entered the dead bodies and brought them to life. You may have a footnote in your Bible on the word “breath” in verse 5, 6, 9, or 10 that says “or spirit.” The Hebrew (the Old Testament was written in Hebrew) word ruah is the same for “breath” or “spirit.”
In John 16, Jesus prophesied to His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and fill them: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
And in John 20: “…he [Jesus] breathed on them [the disciples] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Interestingly, the Greek (the New Testament was written in Greek) word pneuma means both “spirit” and “breath.” You probably recognize this Greek word as the root of our English word “pneumonia,” a disease of the lungs, or “breath.” The branch of theology that deals with the study of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. When 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” the word translated “inspired” is theopneustos, or God (theo) breathed (pneustos). It is not until the Holy Spirit, the breath of life, enters us that we are “raised to walk in newness of life.” (Rom.)
As God said to Israel in verses 13-14, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
so He says to us in Ephesians 2, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
“and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor.)
Something Borrowed, Just for You
We have seen the “near” application to the Israelites, and the “far” application to the gospel, so what is the “now” application for us? What can we “borrow” from this passage to do in our own walk with the Lord?
We are to follow in the footsteps of Ezekiel and Jesus and preach (share) the gospel of the resurrection to new life to dry, dead bones, and pray God to do His mighty work of raising sinners from the dead.
Can these bones live? Oh, Lord God, You know.