Many skeptics and unbelievers scoff at the concept of hope and view hope as futile. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of men.” The character of God provides proper grounds for hope.
Ezekiel ministered in the darkest days for the people of God. From a human perspective, no hope existed for God’s people. The people of God were defeated, despondent, dispersed, disunified and dispirited. Ezekiel quoted an expression that summarized the attitude of the people: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off” (Ezek. 37:11). After proclaiming the judgment of God upon sinful people, the prophet proclaimed a message of hope involving new leadership, new covenant and restoration of the people to the land. In this hopeless situation, only a miracle of God could revive and renew the people of God.
How does Ezekiel describe the miracle that renews the hope of God’s people?
First, God’s Spirit creates the new people of God. Ezekiel 36:25-27 functions as one of the key passages regarding the Spirit in the Old Testament and the background for the scenes the prophet described in chapter 37. Ezekiel highlighted several aspects of the Spirit’s work. First, the Spirit regenerates. Notice the promises: “I will sprinkle clean water on you. I will give you a new heart. I will place My Spirit within you.” When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the necessity of the new birth (born of water and Spirit) in John 3, He said this was something the Jewish religious leader should understand. Ezekiel 36 proclaimed the necessity of the new birth in the Old Testament. People do not become part of God’s people through hereditary, human achievement or goodness. God produces a child of God by giving an individual a new heart.
Second, God’s Spirit gives new life (Ezek. 37:1-14). God transported the prophet to a valley full of bones. The comment, “they were very dry” describes the total absence of life. In response to God’s question about the possibility of new life, the prophet wisely answered, “You know.” God directed the prophet to preach to the bones. (Many preachers feel like Ezekiel as they preach to apparent lifelessness.) God restored life to the bones in two stages. As the prophet preached, the bones came together and became fleshed again. Then, the breath or Spirit of God entered the reassembled bodies and they came to life. The Word of God and the Spirit of God produce life.
Third, God’s Spirit produces unity (Ezek. 37:16-23). After the death of Solomon, the one people of God divided into two nations. Jeroboam I, Solomon’s labor manager, led a breakaway movement that resulted in the establishment of the nation of Israel or the Northern Kingdom. Rehoboam I, Solomon’s son, became the king of Judah or the Southern Kingdom. The division weakened the people of God against attack by outside forces. Ezekiel prophesied a time when the two nations (two sticks) would become on single stick. The emphasis is upon God’s miraculous activity in bringing unity in the context of division. Disunity is a major reason for the defeat of God’s people today.
Fourth, God’s Spirit establishes the new covenant (Ezek. 37:24-28). Ezekiel detailed several aspects of the new covenant of peace. First, God’s people will have one shepherd. Jesus claimed to be the one shepherd of the one flock of God (John 10:10). Ezekiel described the one shepherd as a new ruler from the Davidic line. Second, the central focus of the new covenant is personal relationship with God (v. 27). The New Testament uses the same language in highlights in 2 Cor. 6:11 and Rev. 21:3.
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