Resurrected and Reunified
“You shall know that I am the LORD, when I … 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” (vv. 13–14).- Ezekiel 37
From the opening chapters of Genesis, a close connection is made between life and dwelling before God in the land of His blessed presence. Adam and Eve enjoyed intimacy with the Lord and life before Him while they lived in Eden. But when they broke the covenant, they were cast out of God’s presence and subjected to death (Gen. 1–3). Israel’s punishment for breaking the covenant was exile—being kicked out of the Promised Land where the Lord granted life to His people and sent among the Gentiles to experience slavery, suffering, and death (Deut. 28:64–68). Paul spoke of life outside of the “covenants of promise” as life “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
Consequently, the ancient Jews who lived in Babylon understood themselves to be essentially dead. This notion of death in exile forms the backdrop against which we can better understand today’s passage. God takes Ezekiel out to a valley and shows the prophet a mass of exposed bones (Ezek. 37:1–2). Ancient Near Eastern peoples viewed unburied human bodies with particular horror, so the sense conveyed by the image is the old covenant people of God as dead and unclean in their sin. Moreover, the fact that Ezekiel sees only bones conveys the fact that the nation is really and truly dead. It is not going to be able to bring itself back to life. These are not bodies that have only been lying there a few minutes, and so it is possible that they might not really be dead. No, these bodies have been there a long time and have almost fully decomposed. Only God can help them.
The Lord promises that He will bring these bodies—the nation of Israel—back to life by His sovereign act (vv. 3–6). Moreover, He says the proclamation of His Word will accomplish their resurrection. God has Ezekiel prophesy over the bones, and at that point they are restored to life and given the Holy Spirit (vv. 7–14). The Lord is saying that He will restore His people through the foolishness of preaching. As part of this restoration, Israel and Judah will be reunited as one nation in God’s hand under David, namely, the Messiah (vv. 15–28).
Christ Jesus fulfills the teaching of today’s passage. Resurrection was central to His ministry (John 11:1–44; 20:1–18). He began His work in Galilee, the former northern kingdom of Israel, gathering in the descendants of that kingdom along with the descendants of Judah in Judea (Matt. 4:12–17). Finally, He decrees that the proclamation of the Apostolic gospel is the means of bringing dead sinners back to life (Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Cor. 1:21).
Under the fuller revelation of the new covenant, we see that the resurrection of Israel finds its fullest realization in the resurrection of the saints in the new heaven and the new earth. As Christians, we are the Israel of God, the one community of believers united by faith in Jesus Christ that is made up of believing Jew and believing Gentile alike. Our resurrection and inheritance of the restored creation—through the resurrection of Christ—fulfills Ezekiel.
Passages for Further Study