Day 13: Bones of the Dead (Ezekiel 36 & 37)
As we continue to pray for Vietnam in the month of May, we are called to pray specifically on this 13th day in relation to "the bones of the dead."
The prayer request states,
"The burial of a family member is often not a one-time process in many Vietnamese families. Because the worship of ancestors is so important, many Vietnamese people go to great lengths to preserve the bones of the dead. The body is first buried in a regular casket at a location given by a fortune teller. After three years, the body is exhumed and the bones are cleaned, perfumed, and placed in a small ornate box for reburial.
Pray for God to reveal the truth about the eternal resurrection of the dead to the Vietnamese people, and for Vietnamese Christians who must decline traditional rituals to find ways to show the love of Christ to their families.
Pray that God would destroy the bondage of superstitions and idol worship and reveal HIS truth to them."
Reflecting and praying over a people worshiping dry bones takes me to reflect upon Ezekiel 36 and 37. Ezekiel 37: 1-14 states,
"The hand of the LORD was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'
I replied, 'Lord GOD, only You know.'
He said to me, 'Prophecy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Lord GOD says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live. I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you, and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am YHWH.'
So I prophesied as I had been commanded. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattleing sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I looked, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord GOD says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live!' So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.
Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Look how they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.' Therefore, prophesy and say to them: This is what the Lord GOD says: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them, My people, 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 now that I am YHWH. I have spoken, and I will do it.' This is the declaration of YHWH."
This section of Scripture is sandwiched between:
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land..." - Ezekiel 36:26-28
"Then they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden.'" - Ezekiel 36:35
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them and will set My sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD - Ezekiel 37:26-28
These Scriptures provide us with a beautiful depiction of restoration in the Old Testament. We see that as sinners, we are all like a pile of dead bones that have no way to give themselves life. There is one that has that power, one that can remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. This is pointing towards the work of Christ on the cross and referencing the Holy Spirit that is given to each Christian. Ezekiel 36:28 states that this is how we will live in the land, which is a reference to man being exiled from the garden of Eden in Genesis 3 after sin entered the world. In order for God to remain Holy, He must be separate from sin. This reference to the land implies that once we are made pure by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are washed clean and allowed back in the presence of God...i.e. looking for a return to the promised land....i.e. the garden. We then see great comfort following the dry bones passage informing us that God will make a covenant of peace and establish an everlasting covenant. Let us rejoice that God's people will be restored to the land and dwell with Him forever!
John Mark McMillan - Skeleton Bones: