Stirring of the Bones
“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:4).
by Todd Alexander
The prophecy to the bones is the first of seven events on the timeline of this
prophecy. It is the moment that begins the restoration of Israel, one of the most dramatic events of the closing of the Gospel Age.
The seven stages of the “valley of dry bones” prophecy are: (1) Prophecy to the bones, (2) Noise, (3) Shaking, (4) Bones coming together, (5) Sinews, flesh, and skin but no breath, (6) Prophecy to the four winds, and (7) Breath
comes into them and they live (Ezekiel 37:7-10).
“The word of the LORD” to the bones signals the start of the ingathering of the scattered Jewish people from all over the world. It marks the beginning of God’s restorative work regarding the Nation of Israel, but also of powerful creative work. It is a restorative work, God returning His people back to His land and into a covenant relationship with Him. It is a creative work in that God prepares a new heart for his people, which will be given at the prophecy’s end.
“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do
them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
The command to fulfill Ezekiel’s word of the LORD to the bones was surely given to our Lord Jesus Christ shortly after his invisible return in 1874 AD. As Jehovah’s master workman, it is fitting that our resurrected Lord Jesus
Christ would again take the role of the Creator’s master builder and execute this amazing restorative and creative work — at the same time that Jehovah and our Lord Jesus Christ are finishing the New Creation.
The Oath-Bound Covenant
Isaiah records a powerful and unconditional oath made to Israel by Jehovah. This oath is important to the valley of dry bones prophecy
because of its reference to world events that occur during our Lord’s Second Presence; the Time of Trouble.
“This is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains may depart, and the
hills be removed, but my lovingkindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, saith Jehovah that hath mercy on thee” (Isaiah 54:9-10, RVIC).
The two phrases “I have sworn” and “have I sworn” come from the Hebrew word sheba, the Hebrew word for the number seven. This is the only scripture that contains two instances of this Hebrew word.
With this word of prophecy, Jehovah seals an oath to His people of Israel with a double repetition — perhaps to emphasize its verity. This may be God’s method of confirming that the seven stages of the valley of dry bones
prophecy will lead to the establishment of His oath-bound covenant with Israel.
It is set to begin fulfillment from the return of Christ forward. The reference “the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed” associates the fulfillment of this oath-bound covenant with the complete restoration of Israel coincident with the destruction of other nations.
Today we see Jehovah’s lovingkindness toward Israel. Soon, after Israel’s ascent among nations, Israel will experience Jehovah’s promised covenant of peace. This is the promise, this is the wonderful reward to Israel, because of Jehovah’s mercy.
Bones Are The People
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Troubling for a door of hope” (Hosea 2:14-17, RVIC).
The timing and action of God speaking comfortably to Israel in this prophecy correlates to Ezekiel’s prophetic “word of the LORD to the bones.” Both prophecies commenced in 1878 AD, the beginning of God’s work of regathering the Jews to His land of Israel.
In 1878, the establishment of the city of Petah Tikva (Hebrew for “Door of Hope” in Hosea 2:15) was among the first visible signs of God’s regathering of the scattered Jewish people from all over the world. Today, with a population of 250,000 Israeli citizens, it is the fifth-largest city in Israel.
There are three critical ingredients to the establishment of a nation: the people, their language, and their land. Between 1878 and 1948, Jews from over sixty countries came to the Promised Land. They would learn a new
language and cultivate land that was barren for almost two thousand years. As a nation, they formed a democracy, developed a leading social architecture, laid the foundation for a thriving economy, developed a strong military, and would become a leading technological player among the nations of the world, all in just 72 years from their national beginning. But
prophetically, this is just the beginning! David Ben Gurion posited, “A state does not exist until its principles are internalized inside every person’s heart.”
Though the principles of modern-day Zionist Israel are alive and strong in the heart of most Jews in Israel today, as a nation, they have yet to receive a new heart from God, a new life, and a new national relationship with the God of their fathers.
The Two Fig Trees
Jesus cursed the fig tree in 33 AD and set in motion the demise of the Nation of Israel. In 1878, 1845 years later, Jesus set in motion the fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy for the miracle of the restoration of the Nation of Israel. In 33 AD, Jesus observed that fruit was missing from the fig tree (a metaphor of Israel’s missing spiritual fruitage). As an object lesson, Jesus
then cursed that fig tree and the leaves shriveled up and died in just 24 hours. This was a prophetic signal respecting the fall of Israel just 35 years later in 68-70 AD.
1948 marks the new beginning that Jesus prophesied about in his Great Prophecy of Matthew 24:32-35 and Luke 21:29-30. 1948 was the appointed time for reversing his curse of the fig tree; its fulfillment began with “leaves” (national life) and ends with the “fruit” (a new national heart of flesh) of Jeremiah 31:31-34. The events referred to in Jesus’ Great Prophecy of Matthew 24 take place throughout the harvest of the Gospel Age, over more than 150 years.
The Prophet Amos perhaps provides a prophetic nod to Jesus’ parable of the fig tree: “I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith Jehovah thy God” (Amos 9:15, RVIC). That planting of the fig tree in the land preceded the appearance of their leaves of national life in 1948.
Isaiah provides another prophetic “periscope” to what we see happening in Israel today. “Therefore will Jehovah wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for Jehovah is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; thou shalt weep no more; he will surely be gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear, he will answer thee. And though Jehovah give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be hidden any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand,
and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:18-21, RVIC).
Nations Rejected the Jews
Between 1882 and 1914, 2.5 million Jews left Eastern European countries and Russia. Most arrived in the USA and built thriving Jewish communities which, in turn, became rich in the arts, sciences, and popular culture.
A fraction of those emigrating Jews went to the Promised Land of Israel. Later, during the onslaught of WWII, many Jews who tried to follow those who left earlier had nowhere to go, because the USA and Canada had closed their borders to them.
In 1897, Theodore Herzl’s opening statement at the first Zionist Congress included: “We are here to lay the foundation stone of the shelter of the Jews.” In retrospect, Zionism created the “new Jew,” not the Jew who was trampled on throughout Gentile history, but the Sabra: a rugged individual, confident in his/her ability to succeed. Today the Jewish people are pouring their heart and soul into their own culture instead of the culture of their gentile host countries. They are experiencing the cultural richness of living in their own land and of speaking their own language. They finally live in the cities of their ancestors with the ability to invest in their future and in
the future of their children.
European Jews Were Divided
Some European Jews were philosophically against creating the State of Israel because they did not want to “force” God’s hand. Many of the ultraOrthodox Jews also refused to support the effort because it was founded by the secular Zionist movement. But Hitler changed that, and today the ultraOrthodox Jewish community (8% of all Jews in Israel) represents the fastest growing demographic in Israel.
The ultra-Orthodox are called Haredim (plural) after the Hebrew word khared which means “those who tremble before God.” The prophet Isaiah recorded a wonderful prophecy to those who tremble at God’s word. “Hear
the word of Jehovah, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hate you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, have said, Let Jehovah be glorified, that we may see your joy; but it is they that shall be put to shame” (Isaiah 66:5). The Prophet Zechariah seems to indicate that the Jews closest to the word of God during Jacob’s trouble will be the first to opt into the New Covenant relationship with the God of their fathers. “And the chieftains of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in Jehovah of hosts their God” (Zechariah 12:5).
The word “Israel” means “to struggle with God” (and men). Herzl’s work provided a psychological point of motivation in the Jewish consciousness. His Zionist idea grew into a movement which would attract all types of
Jews from around the world to this tiny nation, sanctified by God and given to His returning people. The land promised to Israel was God’s land (Joel 3:2). It was a land without a people, waiting for a people without a land. Herzl’s work rattled throughout Jewish culture and ignited the soul of emigrating peoples. God was speaking comfortably to His chosen people!
The Jewish national anthem Hatikva (The Hope) was written in 1886 with
only one verse: “As long as within our hearts The Jewish soul sings, as Long as forward to the East to Zion, looks the eye — Our hope is not yet lost, It is
two thousand years old, To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem.” It is different from other national anthems because it does not glorify a nation’s battle, conflict, or victory. Instead, it is contemplative, written in a minor key, and impossible to march to.
The Sabbath Legacy
Throughout the Jewish diaspora, the benefit of the Sabbath was almost without equal in both its purpose of family unity and in its ability to preserve Jewish memory. The Sabbath kept a dispersed people united in their diaspora and ready to receive the promised restoration.
No other ethnicity or nation in history prescribed a day of rest. The Jewish Sabbath implied a powerful social ethic in that it demonstrated that the laborers were equal to their employers and that both are equal before
God. Throughout history, the Sabbath was a time for rest and spiritual reflection. While the Gentile nations defined nationalism by their power, the Sabbath helped define Jewish nationalism, even in their diaspora, as a desire to triumph over materialism. The contemplative Sabbath, as well as Jewish culture and tradition, developed an innate spirituality in many Jewish people that helped them focus on the importance and development of faith and family instead of merely on worldly wealth. Still, the LORD gave the Jewish people the ability to gain wealth. “But thou shalt remember Jehovah thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as at this day”
In addition, the Jewish repetition of “next year in Jerusalem” allowed them, throughout the diaspora, to picture themselves in Jerusalem in their mind’s eye. By the time God’s favor returned to the Jewish people, they could already envision themselves being in the land.
In ancient times, the seeds of the miracle of the restoration of Israel were planted within Jewish tradition. Jews who kept and preserved those traditions faithfully throughout the Jewish diaspora prepared the generations of Jews since 1878 to receive the return of God’s favor and
effectively act on it.
An awakening in the worldwide Jewish consciousness occurred in 1891 (five years before Herzl wrote his pamphlet “The Jewish State”), by a Ukrainian Jew named Hayyim Nahman Bialik. He wrote the poem “To The Bird” to an imaginary bird that recently returned to him from a trip to the land of Israel. (The full text of that poem is included on the back of the timeline foldout inserted in this magazine.) Many Jews, both in Eastern Europe and around the world, saw Bialik’s powerful poem as a reminder of the promises of their own return to their Jewish homeland found in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the Psalms. In the modern voice of his lovely poem, Bialik reminded the Jews that they had a home in the Promised Land. In some ways, he laid the groundwork for Herzl’s Zionist idea in Jewish consciousness.
The blessings and difficulties which followed the Jews throughout their diaspora kept many of them separate from the temptations of earthly power which seduced Christianity. In addition to keeping the Sabbath as a sacred time to enrich the soul, the Sabbath has also “kept” the Jews by providing natural insulation from the corruption of their Gentile hosts
and captors. Whether they knew it or not, the bones (the Jewish people) were activated by the word of the LORD when it was given in 1878.
Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones contains the seven-step process of the restoration of the Jews to their land, the restoration
of the land itself, and, in the end, their restoration back to a covenant relationship with the LORD of Hosts, the God of their fathers. “It
shall come to pass that, like as I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so will I watch over them to build and to plant, saith Jehovah” (Jeremiah 31:28, RVIC).
Have you seen the bones come together? Do you see the sinews, flesh, and skin powering a mighty nation right before your eyes? Watch and wait for the prophecy to the four winds and get ready to behold the majesty of our God!
See the insert “The Miracle of the Restoration of the Nation of Israel,” with the poem “To the Bird” on the back, by Hayyim Nahman N. Bialik (1891).
Categories: 2020 Issues, 2020-May/June, Todd Alexander