Friday, June 26th, 2020
An everyday aptitude word problem for you, I do hereby present: If you were to see a sign in a restaurant that says Limit Two Refills, how many times total will they allow you to fill your cup?
Answer: It depends entirely on what type of restaurant you’re at. In some finer establishments, they will not allow you to fill your own cup at all, as only the servers may do so. The answer in such hoity-toity restaurants would be zero; but you won’t go thirsty. In more pedestrian eating establishments, you would be allowed to fill your cup a maximum of three times. Your first filling counts as an initial filling; and the next two are your refills. One initial filling plus two additional refills equals three fillings total.
Bam! You nailed it; didn’t you? Good job!
I do apologize if I just insulted your intelligence. Please bear with me. I’m going somewhere very biblical with this — biblical and beneficial.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 is a well-known and oft-depicted prophecy, even if you do not recognize the reference immediately. Most people who have a little familiarity with the Bible think of this particular prophecy when they hear the name Ezekiel. It is the prophecy of the Valley of Dry Bones. Like your cup at a self-serve restaurant with a limit of two refills, the Valley of Dry Bones is a prophecy that is filled or fulfilled three times. It has already been fulfilled twice. And some glorious day the prophecy will be fulfilled a third and final time. For the sake of this blog-cast, the first filling I will call the immediate fulfillment, the second, the intermediary fulfillment, and the third, the ultimate fulfillment.
Now, to the text we go. The hand of the LORD was upon Ezekiel, who was brought out in the Spirit of the LORD and set down in the middle of a valley. It was a valley full of bones. Ezekiel was led by the Spirit on a tour around and among the bones. There were many bones and lots of skeletons there. They were not buried but just lying there. And they must have been dead a long while, because they were very dry. Then the LORD asked Ezekiel an aptitude question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And Ezekiel responded with what might have been the equivalent of “I have no idea.” Ezekiel said, “O LORD God, you know.”
Rather than recite the whole account, I will pause here. After you finish with my blog-cast, why don’t you go and read or listen to the rest? Ezekiel 37:1-14 is where to go. It’s very interesting.
For my current purposes, I want to tell you that God does not leave Ezekiel clueless about the identity of the dry bones. The LORD outright tells Ezekiel in verse eleven that the bones are “the whole house of Israel.” The LORD goes on to quote the Jewish exiles, who had been lamenting, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.”
Very importantly, please notice that the Jewish exiles were not actually, physically dead. Many of their relatives and friends may have died; but they themselves had not. They were the living remnant. The exiles quoted by the LORD were still breathing. They were actually alive.
Therefore, the vision given to Ezekiel was figurative or symbolic. Do not miss that. The very dry bones represented the despairing and despondent house of Israel, who had lost all hope and counted themselves as good as dead. But they were not actually dead.
God gave Ezekiel the vision so that he could tell the whole house of Israel what God was going to do. God would soon revive their lost hope and restore them to their homeland.
The immediate fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon (and the general vicinity) back to their ancestral homeland. You can read all about that in the biblical books of Nehemiah and Ezra. So Ezekiel 37 had an immediate fulfillment.
But wait, there’s more!
This Dry Bones Prophecy was fulfilled again in the 20th century, especially shortly after World War 2. If you knew nothing about the return of the exiles from Babylon and only knew the more recent history of the establishment of modern Israel, Ezekiel 37 would still describe what happened perfectly. Therefore, the re-establishment of Israel in 1947-48 is the intermediary fulfillment of this prophecy. Again, notice that the prophecy is still figurative or symbolic in nature. After the Holocaust, God revived the lost hope of the surviving Jewish people and restored them once more to their ancestral homeland.
But wait, there’s one more!
This Dry Bones Prophecy can also be read literally. Someday God will literally, physically bring the dead back to life. Even those long dead will literally, physically be raised again to life and, I should add, to final judgment. Indeed, Jesus has already been vindicated by his resurrection. His resurrection occurred long ago. And Scripture says that Jesus is the firstfruits of a wider resurrection, the first of many to follow. Therefore we anticipate a future, ultimate fulfillment of Ezekiel 37. The question is not whether you will be resurrected. You will. The question, instead, is whether you will be raised in vindication of your faith in Christ or raised to face condemnation for your obstinate sin.
Now, if you have the time and interest, please read or listen to Ezekiel 37.