Updated: Oct 4, 2021
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on 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.”
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.
This is the optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for Pentecost Sunday, Year B 2018. Act 2:1-21 may replace it. It will next be read aloud (if chosen by the priest) in church by a reader on Sunday, May 20, 2018. It is important as it is the words of the prophet Ezekiel telling how dried lost souls could be reborn to new lives. The glory of God to renew humans born of death, offering them eternal life, is the symbolism of this prophecy. It foretells how the Holy Spirit would fill the disciples of Christ on Pentecost (also on a Sunday), marking them for eternal salvation.
I published a “bus stop sermon” that placed focus on this reading, the last time it came up in rotation. That was on May 24, 2015. It was a sermon relative to all the readings of Pentecost Sunday, Year B, with references to Ezekiel’s vision of dried bones made then that are still applicable today. If you want a longer commentary to read, I recommend clicking here [no longer available]. For now, I plan to be shorter, offering only slightly new views that have come to me about this reading.
I don’t think there are too many serious Christians that are unfamiliar with this reading from Ezekiel. It is a favorite of mine, because it offers a classic example of how a prophet answers a question coming from God: “You know LORD.” As Sergeant Schultz used to say on Hogan’s Heroes, “I know nothing.” Why try to match one’s tiny brain to the Mind of God?
In a world of simpleton heroes, I cannot see a Nazi POW guard as fitting that bill.
A good Saint has no answers other than the ones God gives him or her. Apostles are closer to being simpletons than scholars; but having access to the Godhead and being able to fully understand what God shows them (in dreams and visions) makes them be more like savants … without any credentials from prestigious institutions. After all, when one’s ego has been sacrificed, one’s human brain ceases trying to figure anything out.
That is what faith is all about, be that divinely inspired or blindly misguided. The brain is useless either way, as one will always counter faith with thoughts of doubt.
In this reading, God told Ezekiel, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel.”
As a prophet of Judah, driven into exile in Babylon, Ezekiel was shown the future by God. Dried bones filled a valley before Ezekiel, which reflected the past. The Israelites – both Israel and Judah – had lost everything promised to them by God, through Moses, by breaking their commitment to the Covenant. The dried bones symbolized the death that had befallen the priests of the One God. They received the Promised Land and only their dried bones were left to cash that windfall in.
The whole of the house of Israel was meant to be multitudes of servants to YHWH. All had failed, save the few prophets God kept sending to warn those priests who worshipped kings and queens … those who worshipped the gods of worldly things.
A well in the ground draws physical water out, which is a necessity for keeping sinews, flesh and skin moist. It only last a while. Then you need to draw more.
The underlying message in this vision shown to Ezekiel appears loud and clear when viewed through the lens of the Pentecost Gospel message of the “Advocate” that will be sent. That presence will be the “Spirit of truth.” It is clearer when viewed through the Acts 2 reading of the Holy Spirit rushing upon the disciples, giving them the abilities of that Spirit of truth. It is refined in our eyes by the words of Paul to the Roman Jews (an optional reading that will be omitted if Ezekiel is chosen) that says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” The “breath” God told Ezekiel to prophesy about is all of the above, as it told of the Holy Spirit being the life for the dead.
“The Holy Spirit is coming,” said Ezekiel (paraphrasing). It came as Jesus of Nazareth. It has remained ever since in his Apostles in Christ.
A truth is that Man is born to die. This is why mankind is called mortal … from Old French “mort – al,” meaning “characterized by death.” Being born of death mean a soul is constantly in need of new bones, new sinews, and new flesh with new skin, so it can find comfort in a new home. Being born of death always leaves behind dried bones, after the softer tissues have returned to dust. It is the breath of the Holy Spirit that God that brings eternal life to dried bones.
Ezekiel must be seen as alive, amid a scene of death. As such, Ezekiel was filled with the Holy Spirit. He had been in that valley of death before his exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He personally knew the breath of life that comes from complete servitude to God.
God told Ezekiel, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” Ezekiel was the living proof of that promise of eternal life from divine breath. Thus, as a prophet of the LORD, God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”
Prophecy is better when spoken with conviction, not the probability of prediction. Ezekiel knew the breath of God.
The reincarnation of souls into new bones, new sinews, and new flesh with new skin was why God told the prophet Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
Dirty (worldly) souls cannot go to the spiritual realm for eternity. They go temporarily, for judgment and processing for a return to the earthly plane. They need a new physical body then; but, more importantly, they need someone holy to shine a light on the way to eternal life when they are born anew and grow amidst the influence of sin.
Man needs prophecy. God sends prophets to meet that need.
The lesson is simple. There are two types of souls: Those blinded by the illusions of a worldly existence; and those baptized by the Holy Spirit. There are two types of mortals: Those living in darkness, destined to death (and repeat); and those living in the light of the Holy Spirit, destined to eternal life.
God gives tarnished souls the gift of the breath of life in new human forms. It is the spirit of mortal life that comes with a baby’s first breath, replacing the amniotic fluids of the embryonic environment of the mother’s womb, whose maternal waters fill the lungs of an embryo that awaits its own soul and its own life. The breath of life in a newborn is the rebirth of an ageless soul into the worldly plane; but it is only a temporary permit. It begins another journey to find the God of life and be born again through the breath of the Holy Spirit.
With each new life a mortal must choose. Do I live for me? Or, do I live for God?
This lesson of Ezekiel is it prophesied the coming of Jesus the Messiah. Ezekiel was shown a vision when new bodies would be offered eternal life. He had a dream of what was to come. Ezekiel was a Saint because he did what God told, without asking questions. God blessed his servant with eternal life, through the Holy Spirit. He lived a prophecy that could be fulfilled in others; but all have to make a decision that allows them to receive the Spirit.
The lesson is the same one that Christians know of Pentecost. Just as the Holy Spirit came like a rush of wind into their bodies, dividing their tongues with inspired abilities, it was God saying to Ezekiel, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” The difference is living for death to come and living so others may live.
In his vision, Ezekiel then stood as the Messiah, filled with the Christ Mind. He saw the return of the exilic Jews to Jerusalem – to the valleys surrounding that place, where their dried bones had been left. Lost souls were shown to return to the site of their graves and their lost lives, seeking to regain those worldly possessions.
Those lost souls would fill their rejoined bones, their new sinews, and their new flesh and new skin. Jesus would be sent to breathe the Holy Spirit upon those returning Israelites. Jesus of Nazareth would give those dead men walking another chance at redemption and salvation. Jesus would come saying, “Follow the LORD and find eternal life. Follow me and receive the Spirit.”
The new bodies would fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy – ‘“I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,’ says the LORD.”
The Israelites would stand again on the soil that was once Israel and Judah, in a rebuilt Jerusalem, with a new Temple. Like the mortals reborn, so too was the land they once enjoyed. However, that body of land was inhabited by a Roman spirit, so the Jews were like a possessive spirit cohabiting Galilee and Judea.
Jesus came telling the Jews, “The kingdom of the LORD has come near.” The kingdom of God is not on this soil. Jesus was Christ the king in a heavenly realm. He was designated to rule within the minds of God’s priests. That state of Roman domination made dried spirits seek a warrior Messiah, not a humble rabbi. The moral of their decision can be seen in the new State of Israel today: The land is just as godless today, as the world is Satan’s domain.
Some showed interest in Jesus of Nazareth. Some felt threatened by him. Some followed him and received the Spirit. Some refused and became dried bones once again.
The question remains: Do I live for me? Or, do I live for God?
The Day of Pentecost means (from the Greek) “The Fiftieth Day.” That number of days is how long it took the freed Israelites to leave Egypt and receive the Holy Covenant. God breathed His Holy Spirit onto stone tablets; and He sent the Law to mortal beings through His servant Moses (an Ezekiel-Jesus Messianic prototype). The mortals of death that were slaves of the Pharaoh were given the promise of salvation through that breath of life that was-is-will always be The Law. The Israelites gave an oath of agreement.
They failed to live up to their end of the bargain. They lost the gift of land … their seminary to become mentally trained priests that would serve only the One God. God saw that failure, which he showed to Ezekiel. Still, God would give the Israelites another Covenant, with a higher reward than soil and dirt. The same offer is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ, because through receipt of God’s breath of life one has proof of Jesus Christ as Jesus Christ. The ability to live the Law comes without needing to think about anything.
God says, “Act,” then you act. You know nothing better than following His instructions. You live for God’s instructions.
The Easter season has ended. It stretched over the last seven Sundays. That span of time is meant to reflect the freedom of Jesus of Nazareth, bound by the original sin born in his soul [Adam]. He was born to serve the LORD, from his inception. He was given over as the sacrificial lamb of Salvation; and he was returned to be with God forty-nine days later. Pentecost is the day Jesus Christ returned to serve the LORD in Saints.
Jesus was arrested on a Sabbath, he rose from death on a Sabbath, and he spent five Sabbaths breathing the Holy Spirit into the Saints that he would leave behind (as Him). Seven Sabbaths are forty-nine days. On the Fiftieth Day, as Israelite pilgrims gathered to celebrate their receipt of the broken Covenant, the Messiah of God returned twelve-fold, offering a New Covenant, which was the breath of obedience within … not memorized from writings and oral lessons without.
This means Pentecost is personal. It is when one signs his or her mortal life away in service to the One God, gaining in return the eternal life that comes from becoming the Messiah reborn. The Day of Pentecost signals when one stops living for self and starts living for God, as His Son Jesus Christ. No one is forced to make the decision to live for God. However, be forewarned that living for self will lead to some dried bones being left behind, at the end of another selfish time on earth.