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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Can Dry Bones Live?

Dry Bones

Quisimodo Geniti, the 2nd Sunday in Easter

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament Reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the thirty-ninth chapter with special emphasis on verses twelve through fourteen which read as follows:


“Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  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.””[1]


Thus far the Scriptures.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen


                Imagine for a moment a big field full of old bones. For those of you who grew up on a cattle farm, you might recall the dead pile and all the bones that would get strewn around after a few years of rotting by the coyotes, dogs, kids or whoever. There is not much that is very lively about a field of bones. The sight is forlorn. Depending on the exact circumstance, the air may even be filled with the stench of decay. The place reeks of death. Surely, a sign such as this drives home the futility of trying to repair or restore these bones to life.

                The bones, God says, are the people of Israel. They are dead, their flesh decayed, their remains are scattered all over the place. And even if we were to go and sort all these bones, lay them in order, nothing would change their state. They would still be dead and gone. There is no hope in such a predicament. The prophet Ezekiel knows this, as would any person of even modest intelligence. However, he does not doubt the ability of the Lord and says as much, “O Lord, you know.”

                Clearly, it is within the power of God Almighty to raise the dead. After all, we celebrated this very thing last Sunday when we celebrated the victory of Christ over the grave. God is the One who made life, creating the animals of sea, sky, and land with a simple Word. Death a trifling thing for the God who is behind all reality.

                But there looms here a question of why. This passage presents a prophetic vision from God, as such, this does not constitute a historical event as such. So, then, we are left with the question that often lurks behind such visions: what do they mean? Adding to the potential confusion here is the fact that Old Testament prophecies often have two meanings and historical fulfillments nested within each other. Let me explain.

                This reading today gives a prophecy of Ezekiel. Unlike some other books of the Old Testament, Ezekiel gives us a specific date for his prophecies. He says early in the book that he was first given the Word of the Lord in the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin.[2] If you remember your Bible history, Ezekiel was one of the people of Israel, specifically of the remnant of Judah, who was sent into exile after the Babylonian Empire conquered Judah. There were several waves of exiles that were sent to Babylon from Judah over a few decades. However, Ezekiel was likely sent into exile at the same time as Jehoiachin, who was deposed and sent into exile in 598 BC. In other words, Ezekiel’s precise date keeping lets us know that the day he received this vision was July 31, 593 BC.[3] That is, this was 593 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus or 2617 years before the present.

                As I mentioned already, this was during the time when the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon and many of its people were sent into exile. Knowing this historical fact, we can see the first layer of meaning in this vision from God: this prophecy in the nearest sense referred to a future restoration of Israel and a return of the people from exile to their home in the promised land.

                This did take place. Cyrus the Great, emperor of the Achaemenid (First Persian) Empire, decreed that the exiled Judeans could return home in 538 BC. They were led back by such people as Ezra and Nehemiah, and the history of this is recorded in the books of the Bible of the same names.

                However, there is something uncomfortable with reducing the prophecy of Ezekiel here to only refer to that historical event. After all, the outpouring of the Spirit of God did not take place there nor did the graves of Israel get opened and the dead did not rise upon their return.

                Such things did occur connected with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. When our Lord died, the graves of the faithful were opened, and many appeared in Jerusalem during the day of our Lord’s death.[4] More still, the Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit, and, indeed, He was poured out on the Church on the day of Pentecost.[5] In other words, the greater and fuller meaning of this prophecy is found in our Lord Jesus and what He has done.

                In Christ we have been restored to our homeland, that is, we have been grafted into God’s own Kingdom, Israel, through Word and faith. More still, the Spirit, by Christ’s work and command, has been poured out on us believers. Though we only have seen the foretaste of these things, we know that they are fulfilled in Christ. On the last day, the full spread of humanity will be raised and death itself will be no more and there will be no sorrow or suffering, no powers that will send us away from God, no sin or devil or world to lead us astray. On that day, through Christ, we will no longer be strangers in a strange land, exiles in a world foreign to us and our God, we will instead be in our own land, fully in the Kingdom of our Father and there we will now the fullness of His blessings.

                Ezekiel gives us these strong words of promise, words that show that the enemies of God, whether they be Babylon, the world, the devil, or sin, indeed, any power no matter how great is unable to resist the plans and desires of God. And, thankfully for us, our God desires nothing more than to grant us healing, life, restoration, and pardon, long foretold, and now realized for us in Christ Jesus.


In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.


The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] Ezekiel 39:12-14 English Standard Version

[2] Ezekiel 1:2

[3] The Lutheran Study Bible, p.1309

[4] Matthew 27:52

[5] Acts 2:1-4

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