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The Prophet is here by vision instructed of the Lord, in order that he might preach yet more pointedly to the house of Israel. Many blessed views are here opened of Christ's kingdom.
In this vision the mind of Ezekiel seems to have been so carried out, that like the Apostle Paul, be hardly knew whether he was in the body or not. 2 Corinthians 12:1-3 . The Prophet is here led by the Spirit into a valley, probably, thereby signifying this lower world. He is brought to see the valley full of bones; to show, perhaps, the universal state of all men by the fall. The lifeless state the whole was in, no doubt intimated their dead and ruined circumstances. And the Prophet is caused to take leisurely service of the whole, by being directed to pass around them, that the impression on his mind might be strong. Reader! observe when the Lord is the teacher, how he teacheth to profit.
The Lord's question is very striking. The Lord asketh, not for his information, but for ours. The Prophet's answer is truly modest and becoming. Humanly speaking, the bones could not live. But with God all things are possible. If, as the Lord himself afterward explained the vision: the circumstances of his people were to be well understood by the Prophet for the instruction of the Church; how gracious and condescending was it in the Lord, thus to explain by figure the leading truths the Lord meant to teach.
When the Lord commanded the Prophet to prophesy or preach to the dry bones; had he been one of our modern preachers, who call themselves rational Christians, and affect to despise all doctrines their understandings cannot comprehend and explain; I fear the Prophet, instead of obeying the Lord's command, of prophesying to them would have presumed to have reasoned with his Maker of the absurdity of so doing. Reader what doth every Preacher, and in every congregation upon earth, do but the same thing, of preaching to dry bones, whenever he stands up between a living God and dead sinners, in holding forth the word of life?
Here we see a true descendant of Abraham, who against hope believed in hope. He simply did as he was commanded. He bid the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, and the promise then was the same as it now is, they that hear shall live. But what astonishment must have taken possession of the Prophet's mind, when he saw the shaking of the bones, and heard the noise, and found the principle of reviving come upon them! Reader! and is not this uniformly the case, whenever at any time the Lord sends his servants, the ministers of the Gospel to call sinners that are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, to a new and spiritual life in Christ Jesus. Every faithful servant of the Lord, may on this occasion, as Peter did on the healing of the cripple, at the gate of the temple, when disclaiming all merit from such an act of power, he referred all into the glory of his adorable Master: why marvel ye at this, or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk; the God of our fathers had glorified his Son Jesus. Acts 3:12-13 . Reader! do further observe, amidst the effects of the Prophet's preaching: though there was a noise and shaking, and bone came together to bone, and sinews and flesh; yet there was no breath in them. And what do we learn from hence, but that after all man's preaching, except God the Holy Ghost, by his spiritual influence puts life in the soul; there is nothing effectually done to a work of saving grace. Sinners may shake under the word, human strength, like the sinews and the flesh, may make a stir; but the quickening power in the new birth of the soul; this is wholly of God. Ye must be born again, at once shows, where grace alone is, and from whom alone it comes. Reader! what saith your experience to this statement? I do not ask you what preaching you sit under, or what sermons cause a shaking in your soul. But I would very seriously desire you to ask the question from your own heart; (and oh! that the Lord may by his teaching enable you to give an answer of peace;) are you born again? Have you known that blessedness of having part in the first resurrection, on whom the second death hath no power. Revelation 20:6 .
How sweetly this teacheth both ministers and people, not only where to look for divine influences, but how in faith to ask them. The Lord Jesus hath commanded his people to ask the gifts of the Spirit; and numberless parts of scriptures testify the blessed efficacy of such prayers. Matthew 7:7-11 ; John 16:23-24 ; Ezekiel 36:37 ; Song of Solomon 4:16 . And oh! what sure and gracious consequences must follow from the out-pouring of the Holy Ghost. Isaiah 44:3-5 .
See, Reader, how the Lord himself hath graciously explained this vision to the Prophet. Whether, as some read it, the subject refers to the restoration of Israel from Babylon, temporally considered; or, to the recovery of his people, from the graves of sin; spiritually interpreted; or, to the final and complete resurrection of the whole Church of God eternally and forever at the last day; in either, and in every sense the subject is most blessed. And though the people of God are apt to despond under their dying frames and dying circumstances; yet, the recovery being in the Lord himself, the thing is certain, and the vision sure. The Lord undertakes, and it is he which promiseth. He saith, I will open your graves, I will cause you to come up out of them. I will bring you into your own land. I will put my Spirit in you. It is I the Lord which will do all these things. And when these things are done, then shall ye know that I am the Lord, and that the Lord have both spoken and performed it. Reader! if through sovereign mercy, you and I arrive at last safely to heaven, to whom think you shall we then ascribe the wonderful works? Surely there, free grace will then have all that glory. All self-righteousness will be heard no more. And can you assign a single cause why the Lord should not have the glory now?
As the Prophet was taught by vision, the wonderful subject of Israel's recovery through grace; so here by figure, he is taught also the wonderful union that is one day to take place in that family, that is now so scattered and divided. And this will be, whenever it is accomplished, as complete a miracle, and as much to be referred solely into sovereign grace as the former. We have reason to believe, that our elder brethren the Jews, are at this moment scattered over all the parts of the habitable earth. Two of the tribes are so lost, that no man hath even a conception where they can be. Here the Lord promiseth their being brought home. And, no doubt, when the time arrives for the accomplishment, the method of the Lord's bringing it to pass will be as wonderful as the thing itself. Perhaps (for I do not presume to say as much, but only venture to suggest my humble opinion,) some open display of the Lord's power will precede the great event; and the nations of the earth will behold the Lord's love to his ancient people, in the plan of his mighty operation. So that when the fulness of the Gentiles are come in, the Deliverer will arise out of Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And some gracious, glorious manifestation of sovereign power, will incline the heart of him that is a Jew! untaught by human means, and human, instrumentality, from every part of the known world, in one and the same time to seek after David their Prince, even the Lord Jesus Christ, that he may be King over them. Oh! what a wonderful day of God will this be! See those scriptures, Zechariah 8:23 ; Isaiah 11:10-16 ; Hosea 3:4-5 ; Micah 4:1-4 , etc.
READER! make a long pause over this most blessed Chapter; look up for the renewal of that Holy Spirit to shed his influences upon you, who put breath into those dry bones the Prophet saw; that so the glories of the doctrine here taught may appear fully to your view, and their saving effect be fully felt upon your mind. Consider this lower world! Is it not indeed a valley, and full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness? By nature, and by practice, the whole world is dead in trespasses and sins. Who then but God the Spirit can put life into those bones, that they may live? Come, Lord, we pray thee, with all thy sweet and genial influence upon the souls of thy people, and while they groan under a sense of sin, and the oppressions of the enemy, do thou, Lord, put thy blessed Spirit in them, that they may live!
Chiefly, ye ministers of my God! learn from this divine subject, and of the Lord's own preaching by the Prophet; in whose strength all spiritual labours must be carried on with the least hopes of success; and on whose blessing depends the fruit of all your ministry. All the congregation of the faithful are in themselves, simply no other, than those bones of the valley. The dead in every Church-yard, long buried there, are no more dead to any bodily act, than the dead in trespasses and sins are to any spiritual exercise, And when we behold a minister of Christ addressing his flock, he is to all intents and purposes, as much as the Prophet in the valley, calling upon the dead to hear the word of the Lord; or as one in the Church-yard would be, in bidding the dead around him to arise at the sound of his voice. Both are alike incompetent to any energy. And the recovery of either must be a miracle. If these things were but properly impressed upon every Preacher's mind, with what earnestness would he plead and wrestle with God in prayer, before he entered upon his labours, for a blessing from the Lord! Will such an one (if peradventure he should condescend to read these observations,) forgive me, if I close the Chapter with an earnest exhortation, that this solemn view of the subject may have its proper weight upon his mind. And oh! that the Lord the Spirit may induce every heart, so engaged in holy things, to be continually looking up to him for his blessing, both upon himself and his people. Lord, I would say! breath upon the dry bones of the valley, and bid them live; then shall we know that the Lord hath spoken it, and the Lord hath performed it!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter