Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Most of us are familiar with that knee-slapping spiritual that musically celebrates Ezekiel’s famous dry-bones prophecy. In that prophecy, God had shown Ezekiel a vision of Israel which had ceased to exist. The nation’s people were all pictured as dry bones scattered “on the surface of the valley”- like the remains of slain soldiers from a long-forgotten battle.

God then asked Ezekiel if he thinks these bones can live again? Knowing only a miracle of God could accomplish that, Ezekiel responded, “O, Lord God, you know” (Ezek. 37:3). God then tells him to speak to the bones. When Ezekiel does they all come rattling together as skeletons, which are then covered with muscle and flesh – but no life comes into them. They were as corpses.

That’s when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again, this time to the breath, saying, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life” (v. 9). He does so, and sure enough, “the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (v.10).

Now, most students of the Bible have long seen a fulfillment of this prophesy in the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 after 2000 years of exile. And that the life-giving “breath,” which represents the Holy Spirit, is  noticeably lacking still in the regathered Jewish nation. They may be physically restored to the land, but they’ve not yet received the spiritual renewal that only comes through faith in Messiah Yeshua.

But recently many Christians have started to ask – were those bones on the valley floor just Jewish bones? And the answer is “no.” Because, as God later tells Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (v.11). Biblical history informs us that the “whole house of Israel” includes more than just the House of Judah (the Jews). It also includes the House of Israel, which is also called “Ephraim” after its largest tribe. Therefore, both kingdoms of Israel with all twelve tribes are represented in Ezekiel’s boneyard.

This understanding is reinforced by Ezekiel’s “two-stick” prophecy which immediately follows in the same chapter. In this prophecy, God states, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the [ten] tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick in My hand…and I will bring them into their own land” (Ezek. 37:19-21).

Taken together, the two prophecies confirm God’s promise to physically and spiritually restore both kingdoms of Israel from the dustbin of history. And to reunite them again in the land of Israel.

Well we know Judah has been resurrected and is now back in the land. But what about Ephraim? Their kingdom has been missing for almost 2700 years since Assyria destroyed that nation in 722 BC and took them away. Where are those bones?

It is the conviction of the author, and many others, that Ephraim too has arisen. And, unlike Judah, has even received the breath of life and been walking around for the last 2000 years. God has just been hiding them, as they say, in plain sight. They are none other than all those saints who have come out of the nations to believe in Yeshua who are called “Christians.” Having believed in Yeshua, Israel’s Messiah, we have been raised up with him. And our “bones” miraculously rejuvenated by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This understanding that we are the missing Ephraim, as shocking as it might be for some, is seen prophetically in the story of the patriarch Joseph. This son of Jacob, who God had sent ahead to Egypt to preserve the family from famine, is clearly a type and shadow of Yeshua – who is also the head of the body of Messiah. But in the story, if you recall, when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain they did not recognize him. They saw him only as an Egyptian prince, a foreigner. It wasn’t until Joseph had tested them to see if they’d repented of their jealousy and rejection of him – and he’d dealt with any unforgiveness he had towards them for sending him there – that he revealed who he truly was. Then there was much weeping and hugging.

As God did with Joseph, He did with Yeshua. He used his brethren’s rejection to send him to “Egypt” – to find us! And in us He has preserved “the Bread of Life” all these centuries. So that when the brothers reunite there’ll be bread for Judah, too. As Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive for a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7). And as Paul told us,  “For if their rejection [of Messiah] is the reconciliation of the world, what will be their acceptance be, but life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15).

But here’s the dilemma. The Jews, who are still missing their promised  spiritual life, are physically back in the land. While we, who have received that breath of life, are still in “Egypt.” And blocked from joining Judah for a number of reasons. Not the least being that the Jews still see “Joseph” as an “Egyptian.” So how will God bring us together? Because Ezekiel’s promise to all of Israel’s dry bones, couldn’t be clearer: “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord” (Ezek. 37:14).

I do not see how this final reunion can take place without a massive supernatural salvation event to bring Ephraim home to Israel. That’s when I suspect most of Judah will finally recognize “Joseph” – in us! Just consider what God has been doing over the last 50 years. He has begun to awaken many Jews to the gospel. He has also awakened Ephraim to his Hebraic roots and given us a supernatural love for the Jews and Israel. As a result, many unbelieving Jews have put away their jealous anger (which we had compounded through our anti-Semitic ignorance) and are now accepting that love. As well as us!

All this was foreseen by Isaiah: “Then [Judah’s] jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those [in Ephraim] who harass Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13). And if you go to the beginning of Isaiah’s prophecy you discover what will massively trigger this reconciliation. It will be a second exodus: “Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand, the remnant of His people who will remain” (Isa. 11:11).

It seems pretty clear to me that God is planning a stupendous conclusion to Israel’s restoration. That there is another worldwide exodus ahead – this time for us. One that will dwarf the Jewish return in the past century. Indeed, one that will even dwarf the Red Sea exodus under Moses. Listen to this prophecy by Jeremiah: “Therefore, behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they shall live on their own soil” (Jer. 23:7,8).

All of this throws new light on a curious request Joseph made on his death bed. After assuring his brethren that God would one day bring them back to their promised land, he made them swear, that when they left “to carry my bones up from here” (Gen. 50:24). Which Moses was faithful to do when he came to take Israel home.

Brothers and sisters, I am convinced we are those “bones of Joseph.” And that God is about to initiate a second exodus to bring us back to Israel. For like Judah, we were once dead and buried because of our sin. But, unlike Judah, we had also suffered another death when our forefathers caused God to declare, “You are not My people, and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:9). That’s why, as descendants, we found ourselves “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, made strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world” (Eph. 2:12). But through Messiah, God has mercifully redeemed a remnant of Ephraim. In Yeshua, we are now declared “Abraham’s[chosen] offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). And it’s time for us to realize who we really are, and get ready to go home.

In past generations, this understanding had not been given to us. So, we came up with all sorts of end-time theologies to differentiate the salvation of Jewish Israel from the salvation of the church. Not realizing we’d both be part of the same glorious salvation and enthronement in the kingdom of God.

But keep this in mind, too. Our deliverance is not the only salvation at stake here. I believe God will use our miraculous return from the four corners of the earth to be the catalyst that breathes life into Judah. For we carry the very breath of God that will no doubt be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophesy: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life” (Ezek. 37:9)

That’s when I believe Jewish Israel will recognize “Joseph.” And we will see that same emotional scene of reconciliation dramatically repeated, this time on the world stage. For God “will pour out on the house of [the son of] David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced [lit. “the Pierced One”]. And they will mourn for him, as they mourn for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).

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