ELDER G. BEEBE AND SON: – if it is not asking too much, I would like to have your views on Ezekiel xxxvii. 13, “And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed, saith the Lord.” I think your views would satisfy a great many brethren on that subject. I am glad to say that, as far as I know, we are as an association, once more in peace.
W. W. CARROLL.
Marietta, Ga., March 10, 1881.
REPLY. – The Prophet Ezekiel was among the captive Israelites in Babylon when the hand of the Lord was upon him, and carried him out in the spirit of the Lord, and set him down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones. These bones were very many, and very dry. In this remarkable vision, the lifeless and seemingly hopeless condition of the captive house of Israel was strikingly set forth, and in verse eleventh, God said unto the prophet, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.” But hopeless and dead and dry as they were for their parts, and so far as their parts were considered, utterly lost, yet God, on his part, was able to revive, quicken and raise them up, clothe them with sinews, flesh and skin, put breath and his spirit within them, and cause them to stand up as an exceeding great army before him.
The primary application of this vision figuratively set forth the deliverance of Israel from Babylonish captivity; a deliverance which on their part they have no more power or ability to effect them dry bones have to resurrect themselves and live. The utter inability of the people of Israel to deliver themselves, was felt and knowledge to buy them. Some of them, it is true, could remember Jerusalem and wheat bitterly at the remembrance of the sweet privileges they had once enjoyed, when they could go together into their beautiful temple to worship God; but now, environed by the strong and towering walls of their haughty captors, they saw no prospect of deliverance. Now they were set down to weep at the remembrance of the sacred enjoyments which by transgression and idolatry they have been driven from.
Yet helpless as they were, and hopeless as their condition seemed to be, the prophet had for them a cheering message from the Lord, who still remember his covenant with the patriarchs, and for his own sake, and not for their sake, would deliver them, as he informed them in the preceding chapter. Their deliverance from captivity and restoration to their own land by the power of God was to be in a way that should make them remember with shame their own ways of rebellion and idolatry, and demonstrate to them and to all who should witness it that their deliverer was God unaided and alone. As none but God has power to raise the dead, and cause dry bones to live, so their deliverance from Babylon and return to the cities of Judah should be as set forth by the vision of the dry bones, exclusively by the power of God; therefore when this deliverance should be performed, all who should witness it should know that it was the work of God alone.
The law, or covenant of works, under which the carnal Israelites were held, provided for them temporal blessings of corn, wine and oil, protection from sword, pestilence and famine, and perpetual national prosperity, as long as they faithfully obeyed the precepts which the covenant enjoined on them; but if they transgressed the stipulations of that covenant they should suffer the penalties provided, and be cut off from the protection and die. According to the provisions therefore of that covenant, when for their transgressions and idolatry the government was broken up, their king taken away, their throne vacated, their temple desecrated and destroyed, and the people carried away into captivity, nationally they died; and as their captivity was long in Babylon they were like the bones of those who have long been slain, which were dry in hopeless of ever being restored to that National Life and prosperity which they once enjoyed in the land of their nativity.
As Israel and the flesh were typical of the spiritual people, the church of God under the gospel dispensation, their disobedience and chastisement finds a corresponding anti-type in the disobedience and chastisement of the children of the new covenant, who are slow but sure to find that “If they so to the flesh, they shall of the flesh meet corruption.” And, “If they live after the flesh, they shall die.” Not that their eternal life which is preserved in Christ Jesus, and hid with Christ in God, can die; for that his immortal, and shall never perish; but as the children of Israel were still the whole house of Israel, as well when in the valley of dry bones, as when raised up out of their graves, even so the disobedient children of God may be carried away into captivity, and mingle with the dead, far from their spiritual consolations, having no power in themselves to quicken and revive themselves, but must wait until the tedious years of their bondage shall be ended, and the jubilee trumpets proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and the bringing of the weary prisoners out of the prison house is. Then shall they hear the voice of their gracious deliverer saying to them, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and cry shall give the light.” – Eph. v. 14. “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city,” &c. “Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, 0 captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.” – Isa. lii. 1-3
As the names Babel and Babylon signify confusion, so they are used in the scriptures not only to portray metaphorically the organize powers of darkness which have assumed the name of the church of Christ, but also to represent the confusion in which all the children of God become involved whey depart from the doctrine of Christ and the order of his kingdom. It was said to Saul, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” – 1 Sam. xv. 23., and in Isa. xiv. 16, “They shall go to confusion together the makers of idols.” As Israel, in the type, was sent to Babylon or confusion for disobedience, stubbornness and idolatry, and under the chastening hand of God, held in hopeless bondage and to every vestige of former life and religious privilege disappeared, and they were, like the valley of dry bones, without life, comfort or activity, so when the churches of the saints depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, when they turn away their years from the truth, and are turned into fables, or when they become Luke warm, careless, indifferent and neglectful of their obligations as disciples of Christ, when worldly minded and unappreciative of the privileges of the house of God, they lose their visibility as churches of apostolic faith and order, and like soul that is lost its savor, their only fit to be cast out and trodden under foot of men; and while “God setteth the solitary in families, he bringeth out those who were bound in chains; the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” – Psa. lxxvii. Their name is obliterated from a book of life, or record of the living in Jerusalem. Having sold their birthright privileges in the church, and to the fellowship of their kindred and the household of the faithful in Christ Jesus, their spiritual enjoyments are withheld, and they’re taken away from their home in Jerusalem, carried by their captors into Babylon, infusion and bondage, and there are held until, like Ephraim, they are filled with their own way. Cut asunder from the privileges of the saints, they have their portion, while thus cast doubt, with hypocrites, in a land of death, where there is weeping, and gnashing of teeth. In their captivity their bones wax dry, and there is no power can revive and restore unto them the joys of salvation short of that power which can raise the dead, as signified in the vision of the prophet and declared by our Lord Jesus Christ, “For as the Father raised up the dead, in quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” – John v. 21.
We do not understand that the resurrection of the dry bones in his vision was designed to set forth the general resurrection of all mankind, the just and the unjust, which is spoken of by the apostle, Acts xxiv. 15. Nor of the final resurrection of the saints when God shall change our vile body and fashion it like a glorious body of our risen and exalted Redeemer; for the figure is applied, by God himself, exclusively to the whole house of Israel. Whether we apply it to the carnal or spiritual and anti-typical Israel, in either application, a restoration is implied, to a life which they had before they were slain; and to which God would restore them when he would open their graves and raise them up, and cause them to stand up before him in a militant state, and exceeding great ARMY.
It is very true that all mankind, in their natural condition, are as destitute of spiritual life in themselves as the dry bones which Ezekiel saw were represented to be of natural life, and equally as destitute of power to quicken themselves, by any means which they could use, or proffers that they could accept, or conditions that they could comply with, as the dry bones were; and the raising of them up, clothing them with flesh, and inspiring them with vitality, is as impossible with them as the final resurrection from the dead at the last day is impossible to be accomplished by any other than by God himself.
It will be observed that the resurrection of the dry bones, whether applied to the carnal or spiritual Israelites, did not make them Israelites, although it made them manifest in that relation. They were the whole house of Israel no less when in the valley of death, then when raised up and made alive. And further let it be remembered, that every one of the whole house of Israel was raised up, and stood alive before the Lord; not a single bone of Israel was left in the valley of death. So all the dear children of God who had strayed in the dark and cloudy day shall be gathered from all their wanderings, and “All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away on godliness from Jacob.” – Rom. xi. 26. It is therefore justly said of them all, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.” – Hosea xiii. 9.
Let us briefly review the text. God commanded the prophet to say to the whole house of Israel, while they were held in captivity, like dry bones in their graves, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” This message from the God of Israel the prophet was commanded to address to God’s people, and to say unto them, “O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” When the flat of the Almighty issues from his imperial throne, no opposing power of sin, death or hell can successfully resist the execution of his commands. Dry bones, over which death has long held its ghastly dominion, at God’s commanding word are rescued from the powers of death and leaped forth into life. Bone to his fellow-bones returns, and clothed with flesh and revived with vitality, responds to the life-inspiring voice of God, who speaks to them by the prophets. And when this quickening power of God has opened the graves and delivered his slain from death, clothed them with flesh, and put his spirit in them, then, but not until then, shall they know that their deliverance is of the Lord. Then shall the whole house of Israel stand up, an exceeding great army, thoroughly convinced that their salvation is of God.
Let us consider the bearing of this vision on the Israel of God at the present time, believing as we do that “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.” – Romans xv. 4. We see that carnal Israel in the type, for their disobedience to the precepts of the covenant which they were under, and for their idolatrous propensities and indulgences, were reduced from a high state of prosperity to the lowest degradation of Babylonish captivity, and driven out from all land flowing with milk and honey, and from great prosperity, magnificence and splendor, to the most abject vassalage and hopeless captivity, and so held until their condition was fitly compared to a valley of dry bones, lifeless, baron, inactive, unproductive, and utterly cut off for their parts; until, instead of presenting the glory of Jerusalem, the perfection of beauty, their splendor had departed with a fading flower, and the revolting and sickening shadow of death held an unresisted dominion over them.
As was the case with the ancient Israel, their temporal prosperity, peace, safety and comfort were inseparably connected with their obedience and fidelity, so in the provisions of the new covenant, under which the anti-typical Israel is held, it is ordained that if the saints live after the flesh they shall die; but if they through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, they shall live. – Rom. viii. 13. Under the present as well as under the former covenant it is expressly affirmed by him who has “sworn by his holiness that he will not lie unto David,” that “If his children for sake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then why visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will and not utterly the that take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” – Psalm lxxxix. 30-33. In the message if reprove sent to the angel the church of the Laodiceans, it was said by the Amen, the faithful and true witness, “As many as I love, I review and chasing some be zealous, therefore, and repent.” – Rev. iii. 19. And the psalmist has described the withering effects of the rebukes of the Lord: “When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth.” – Psa. xxx. 11. It was thus when Israel by the review of the Lord were driven out from Jerusalem, and Kerry captive to Babylon, or to the valley of death and the same is implied in the review which was addressed against the Laodiceans: “I know that works, that thou are neither cold nor hot. So then, because thou art luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” How striking the change of the church, which fluttered herself that she was “rich, and increased in goods, and had need of nothing.” Unconscious of her real condition, until the rebuke of the Lord consumed her imaginary beauty, and presented her as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
Without bringing any railing accusation against any of the churches or angels of the churches, may we not seriously inquire concerning the state and condition of the churches and pastors of the present time? Will a prayerful investigation assure our hearts that there is nothing of this apathy, luke-warmness, vain-glorying, and unwarrantable self-assurance of prosperity, while ease, languor, indifference and inactivity prevail, and the affairs of the church are neglected, and the solemn assemblies of the saints but seldom attended? May we not indulge in the thought that our doctrine is sound, our articles of faith are orthodox and scriptural, and our general walk and deportment unimpeachable, and that we are in all these particulars rich, and increased in goods, and have needed nothing, while in regard to heartfelt emotions of spiritual life, and day becoming activity in the cause of God and truth, we are as barren and dry as the bones which the prophet in vision saw? Was it not to the saints in a drowsy condition that the Holy Ghost, by the pen of the apostle, addressed the startling admonitions? “Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” – Eph. v. 14-19. “And that, knowing that time, that now it is high time to await out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the days of hand; Lotus therefore cast off the work of darkness, and let is put on the armor of light.” – Rom. xiii. 11, 12. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and send not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” – 1 Cor. xv. 33, 34.
When only the framework of a church is visible, like bones that are very dry, and the inquiry is pressed home to the living servant of the Lord, “Can these bones live?” the response can only be given in the words of the prophet, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” We may remember seasons when the house of Israel flourished like the garden of the Lord, when the cheerful songs of the sanctuary in sweet devotion flowed out, when the saints were joyful in glory, and sung aloud upon their beds, when the high praises of God were in their mouth, and a two-edged sword was in their hand (Psa. cxlix. 5, 6); but when the gold became him, and the most fine gold changed, we have wept when we remembered the Zion, and the solemn question has returned, “Son of man, can these bones live?” The prophet to the servants of the Lord, looks dark and gloomy, and they ask, What will it avail to prophesied to these dry bones? Surely, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” – Psa. cxxvii. 1. No words of the prophet could make any impression on the bones, nor did God command Ezekiel to quicken and give them life; his work was to prophesy and bear the message which the Lord commanded, and in obedience to the command, “Prophesy upon these bones,” and declare what God would do for them. “Say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
Were it not for the blessed assurance of God’s power and purpose to redeemed Jacob, and restore Israel from captivity, and reclaim his people from all their wanderings, even Paul might plant and Apollos water in vain; God alone is able to give the desired increase. How futile would be the labors of even prophets and apostles, if no other power was provided for building up the waste places of Zion than their feeble labors. The Prophet Ezekiel might have continued to prophesy to the whole house of Israel until the state, or to the end of time, without moving, shaking or quickening a single bone, had not the Lord God displayed his almighty arm, made bare the salvation of his chosen Israel. Therefore he says to the whole house of Israel, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into a land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.,
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 11.
June 1, 1881.