3. The Valley of Dry Bones Prophecy
What’s God Doing with Israel and the Church?
In our last study, we talked about the prophecies that God would regather Jews back to the land of Israel. One of the questions that sometimes arise is that the prophecies we mentioned could have been spoken about the seventy-year servitude to Babylon that began at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. That is a valid argument, but some of the prophecies we viewed spoke of God’s bringing the Jewish people home from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:12; 43:5-6, Jeremiah 23:7-8; 29:14). There are other, more specific prophecies, e.g., there would be so many people that it would be difficult to find room for all the people to live in the land:
9"When I scatter them among the peoples, They will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back. 10"I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; And I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them (Zechariah 10:9-10).
These passages are being fulfilled today with the government needing to rebuild ancient towns in areas that are claimed by the Arabic people that have been living in the land for a number of generations. Criticism from the twenty–two Arab League nations was brought to the United Nations about Israel’s building on land in East Jerusalem, land that is claimed by the Palestinians. This territory was captured by Israel in the June 1967 war known as the Six Day War after Jordan, which occupied east Jerusalem, fought against Israel along with Syria and Egypt. All Arab armies suffered a significant defeat, and the borderlines were redrawn to the River Jordan. Since 1967, the land of Israel has seen a great increase of population just as the prophet Jeremiah prophesied:
See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return (Jeremiah 31:8).
Prophecies of a Prosperous Nation
Not only do the ancient prophecies speak of many returning, but also the prophets spoke of great prosperity coming to the renewed nation:
10Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ 11For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. 12They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. 13Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. 14I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty (Jeremiah 31:10-14).
I have been many times to and from the land of Israel, leading and teaching tours focused on what God is doing in His land, and one of the things that a visitor learns is the importance of water in the Middle East. In the prophecy above, Jeremiah prophesied that the renewed nation of Israel would be like a well-watered garden, and that is exactly what we see in the modern land today. In 2004, Israel relied only on groundwater and rain, but since then, Israel has built four seawater desalination plants which produces forty percent of its fresh water. Israel now leads the world in well-watered agriculture with a thriving export business, which sends their fruits all over Europe and the world. It is already a prosperous nation, which is what the prophet Jeremiah also prophesied:
For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it” (Jeremiah 30:3).
Since 1516, Palestine had been occupied by the Ottoman Turks. To those Jews living in the 1800s, the thought of returning to their land and these ancient prophecies being literally fulfilled must have seemed like an impossible pipe dream. In the 1880s, Alexander III of Russia began persecuting the population of Jews across his empire in what became known as the Anti-Jewish pogroms. This resulted in more than two million Jews leaving Russia, searching for where they could go. In 1903, The British government offered the Jewish people a state in what was then British East Africa, an area now called Kenya. This offer was seen as a way to protect the Jewish people. The proposal was turned down by the World Zionist Congress. They could not conceive of any land but the ancient homeland that God had given them in an everlasting covenant:
8He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, 9the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. 10He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 11“To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit” Psalm 105:7-11).
As we will see, there is an unseen hand directing world events to bring about God's Word to be fulfilled entirely. When the First World War broke out in 1914, the British war effort became desperately short of certain organisms found in horse chestnuts that were used in British explosives. The problem was solved by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a Jewish chemist living in Britain at the time. He developed a synthetic acetone that greatly helped the British war effort. He was also credited with suggesting a strategy to turn back the armies of Ottoman Turkey from Palestine. When the British government asked him what he wanted in return for his services, his reply was for a national homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people. It was just a little while later, in November 1917, after the Ottoman Turks were defeated in Palestine by the British army, that the British government issued the famous Balfour Declaration, stating its position to favor a homeland in Palestine for Jews. The dream of all Jewish people was finally realized; they could return to their own land, thus fulfilling many prophecies in the Scriptures.
Even with all the prophecies of a return of the Jewish people to Israel, there are those who believe that Israel has been broken off for good from her covenants of promise. Some say that the prophecies concerning the land of Israel are for the church and that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan. This doctrine is commonly called Replacement Theology (also known as Supersessionism). Those who believe in Replacement Theology think the Jews are no longer God's chosen people and that the covenants God gave them have been rendered null and void due to their rejection of the Messiah. They say that God does not have any specific plans for the nation of Israel and that prophecies, such as the Vision of Dry Bones, are for the Church and not specific to Jewish people. But is that true? Let’s look at that prophecy and see what it says:
1The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And 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.” 7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
How would this apply to the Church? How would this prophetic word refer to the nation of Israel?
Some suggest that these words are spoken to the church about spiritual renewal to those stuck in formal religion, i.e., those who go to church but are dry and lacking in vitality and spiritual life. I agree that the church can spiritualize these words and use them to speak to the hearts of those needing yet to be born-again of the Spirit (John 3:3), but that is not the true heart of God’s reason for including these words in Holy Writ. The text continues by explaining categorically that Ezekiel’s prophecy is toward the Jewish people languishing in their dispersion from God’s land of Israel:
11Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14I 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 37:11-14).
The Lord spoke very specifically that, when the time was right, He will bring the Jewish people back to the land He has promised them as an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:7-8). He said, “I will settle you in your own land” (Ezekiel 37:14). Verses 15 through 20 speak of God’s making the twelve tribes into one nation in the land; whereas, for many centuries, the tribes of Israel were separated into two nations comprised of Israel and Judah. This is exactly the situation in the land of Israel today, i.e., they are one people group brought back from the nations of the world to their own land.
21then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
The Lord continues to speak to us through the prophet Ezekiel by telling us that, when they return to the land, they will enter into an everlasting covenant with God (v. 26):
25They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26I 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. 27My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever’” (Ezekiel 37:25-28).
The Lord further states that His dwelling place will be with them (v. 27) and that the nations of the world will know that He is the One who makes Israel holy with His sanctuary among them forever (v. 28). The prophet then continues through chapters thirty-eight and thirty-nine, telling us of an attack from the north upon the renewed nation. For the sake of time, we won’t get into the details of the attack, but towards the end of the prophecy, the Lord spoke something very significant to us living in the end-times:
25"Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. 26They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. 27When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. 28Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. 29I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD" (Ezekiel 39:25-29).
Right at the end of the prophecy about an attack from the north, God spoke that His intervention occurs during the time of regathering of the Jewish people home to their land. He specifically says He will not leave any Jewish people behind in the nations from which He is gathering them (v. 28), and further to that, He says He will pour out His Spirit upon them (v. 28).
We would do well to stop and think through these words of Scripture, because it is this writer’s belief that these words will be fulfilled literally. The implications are enormous because, at this time of writing, January 2019, it is estimated that there are more than five million Jews living in the United States. If this passage of Scripture is to be fulfilled literally, what will motivate more than five million Jews to emigrate to Israel? Will the Lord allow something political to happen that will force Jewish people to return to their land of Israel? Certainly, in Europe Jews are already enduring persecution resulting in many emigrating to the land of Israel. Is that same kind of situation yet to happen in the USA?
It may be that the prosperity God has brought to Israel is a factor in their return. Whatever the reason for their return, God is fulfilling His Word and will continue to bring Jewish people home to their land. In our next study, we will look at the exciting prophecies that will take place over the next several years before the Messiah returns.