From Bones To Birth

by Joseph Hunting

Nothing could be further removed from life than a heap of human bones. Some years ago I gazed in wonder at a huge pile of human bones in what is known as the Charnel House at Santa Katarina Monastery. These were the bones of monks who had died over the centuries and their bones were just piled up on one heap and a pile of skulls on another. The Father Superior thought there would be no problem regarding who had whose bones in the resurrection as the monks had shared everything they possessed during their lifetime!

That pile of bones reminded me of the vision that Ezekiel saw "in the midst of the valley which was full of bones" (37:1). Those bones, too, were scattered and were very dry. Like the bones in Santa Katarina, they had been there a very long time. That which follows as Ezekiel's vision unfolds makes fascinating reading for it describes the miracle of Israel's resurrection as the nation that is very much alive today.

Ezekiel describes a progression of events that followed a great upheaval. Just what the catalyst was that triggered off the amazing series of events is not stated. The prophet merely says, "As I prophesied there was a noise, and behold a shaking". Could this "noise" and "shaking" be the great upheaval in world affairs brought about by World Wars One and Two? This period could well be the catalyst that resulted in the rebirth of Israel in 1948.

Be that as it may, what follows is truly astonishing. Bones come together, "bone to its bone", then sinews, flesh and skin cover them, "but there was no breath in them". Everything that could be done was done except national resurrection. It wouldn't be unreasonable to liken this situation to the period between the UN decision of November 1947 which voted for a Jewish state in Palestine and the actual rebirth of the nation on May 14th 1948.

The next stage in Ezekiel's vision seems to confirm the timing of the foregoing events. "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel" (37:10-11).

There need be no speculation regarding the events just described by the prophet. Firstly, immediately following Israel's national resurrection, the nation became "an exceeding great army". Although inadequately armed and hopelessly outnumbered, the new-born state fought off five well-equipped armies that swept over the borders within hours of the nation's birth. Not one military strategist thought that Israel could survive more than a week or two, and many politicians hoped that it wouldn't. The world looked on with astonishment as the impossible happened and Israel flung each of the invaders back across its borders . An "exceeding great army" indeed!

Secondly, Ezekiel makes it quite clear that this miracle refers to the rebirth of the State of Israel and not any other fanciful interpretation, for he states: "these bones are the whole house of Israel" and not the Church, Britain or America. All twelve tribes of Israel were represented in the miracle.

If that miracle arrests our attention -- an event that happened forty years ago -- it would be reasonable to enquire if the remainder of Ezekiel's prophecy has relevance for today. When viewed as a whole, chapter 37 is a progressive prophecy. Some of it has been fulfilled and is now history. Some of it is being fulfilled and some remains for yet future fulfilment.

Prophecy Now Being Fulfilled

During the forty years much has taken place in the land of Israel. Many wars have been fought and are still being fought. Jerusalem has been reunited as the eternal capital of the State and the population has grown from half a million in 1948 to four million in 1988.

Ezekiel prophesied: "Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel." In the early years of statehood waves of immigrants came from almost every country bringing their diverse cultures and languages with them. One of the most amazing homecomings was the return of the Yemenite Jews on "Operation Magic Carpet". Then more latterly Israel airlifted over ten thousand Falasha Jews from Ethiopia. These are just examples of the spectacular opening of the graves of the nations. What stories could also be told of the Jews from Morocco and refugees by the thousand from Arab lands.

And it would be fair to say that the following prophecy is still in the process of fulfilment" "Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: AND I WILL MAKE THEM ONE NATION IN THE LAND UPON THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL ..." (37:21-22).

Prophecy Yet to be Fulfilled

The conclusion of Ezekiel's prophecy of Israel's rebirth focuses on the great Messianic age. Following immediately after the present regathering "one king shall be king to them all and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore at all.

"Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people and I will be their God.

"And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes to do them.

"And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

"Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

"My tabernacle also shall be with them: yes, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (37:22-28).

Search the history books. Has there ever been such a miracle among other nations as the rebirth of Israel exactly as foretold by God's Word? Magnificent as this has been, Israel's future restoration to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be the greatest miracle the Eternal has ever wrought for His people and will climax the end of this age with the return of the nation's long awaited Messiah-Redeemer-King.