Jan Paron | October 4, 2021
“Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ez 37:6 NKJV). Perhaps, the central focus of the dry bones oracles of 37:1-14 and the book itself, rests with Israel’s knowledge of Yahweh. The identification formula occurs twice (vv. 6, 13) and ends with a similar clause in verse 14. Through the three, self-naming clauses the Lord uncovers His relational identity to Israel. In turn, His self-revelation seeks to shape the very community of those whom He calls “my people” (v. 13b). In this manner, His self-identification reveals Him as omniscient Creator (v. 6); omnipotent, all-powerful God (v. 13); and Covenant Maker and Keeper.
Examining the Lord’s self-revelation in verses one to fourteen, His nature progressively unfolds from Creator to Keeper to the one God who calls Israel to love Him with all their heart and soul (Dt 6:5). With this first, Ezekiel recognized Yahweh’s character as omniscient from Him knowing the very destiny of His people. In the prophet’s first oracle the Lord asked whether the dry bones representing the house of Israel could live to which Ezekiel replied, “O Lord God, You know” (v. 3). By His own word, God created man in His own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27). The omniscient Yahweh in His unlimited understanding of the destiny for His chosen from His creation, once again spoke life by His word that He will breathe into them (Ez 37:5; cf. 36:27). The titles of Sovereign God contrasted against the son of man (v.3 NLT) displayed Yahweh’s sovereign divinity against humanity’s failed state. Only through His sovereign action would they live. His breath would transform them to His image of holiness purifying from their uncleanness (36:29; cf. Mt 1:21), thereby shaping His community to glorify the Name they profaned (36:21). The covenant Yahweh made with Israel in the Old Testament anticipated the better covenant in the New. That same Yahweh incarnated in Jesus, the union of God and man, also manifests the same omniscient nature. As God, Jesus possesses all wisdom and knowledge hidden in Him (Col 2:3). His all-knowing character (Jn 21:17) still shapes the community of those engrafted in the vine (Rom 11:31).
His self-revelation as omniscient Creator (Ez 37:6) next uncovers Himself as the omnipotent, all-powerful God to Israel. In verse 12, Yahweh spoke to the exiled through Ezekiel saying, “O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (NKJV). To the captured who saw themselves as dried bones without hope in exile as a dead nation, Yahweh who calls Himself the Almighty throughout the Bible (i.e., Gn 17:1), has all power to restore them to their land. Further, He provided for them as their divine King by delivering them from bondage in Babylon. Second Chronicles 6:22-23 explains that the Lord stirred up King Cyrus to release the exiled back to Judah, also fulfilling Jeremiah’s 70-year timeline of their capture (Jer 29:10).
Thus, the Lord God visibly showed Himself as their omnipotent, all-powerful God. The Shema in Dt 6:4 opens with “Hear, O Israel.” Nonetheless, hearing suggests obedience involving all the heart, soul, and strength for the whole of Israel to Yahweh. To carry out hearing, it requires doing as individuals and community in covenant with Yahweh. In time, Israel broke covenant with Him and repeated their sinful behavior. In the New Testament, Jesus repeated the greatest commandment of the law, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Mk 12:29), marrying it to the New Testament scriptures. The omnipotent Yahweh continues to manifest Himself in Jesus, whose Spirit tabernacles within the believer displaying His power in our lives. This requires those in Christ practice the Shema, hearing and living out our love for Him with all their heart, soul, and strength in covenant.
In the last self-naming formula, Yahweh reveals Himself as a Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper. People from the Ancient Near East (ANE) worshipped many gods. Israel followed suit and betrayed the marriage covenant with Yahweh practicing idolatry, abandoning Him prior to captivity. Impurity from idolatry may have been one of the most offensive to the Lord. In Ez 6:9, He described their adulterous heart as crushing Him. Thus, Yahweh sent a divine judgment on Israel, but He kept His covenant with those He chose. As Covenant Maker and Keeper, He proves He is the Lord by His spoken word and accomplished deed to them. It also establishes an eschatological component to the fulfillment of Israel. Brueggemann called the regathered to Israel a generation of promise for that reason. Further, Yahweh also demonstrated the knowledge of His identity to surrounding nations by returning Israel to their land. Had God not kept His promise, it would have left generations to come without hope for redemption. Through the re-establishment of the house of Judah would come the Son of David, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
In summarizing His self-revelation, one sees His multiple natures from omniscient, omnipotent, and Covenant Keeper. In a missional capacity, the totality of His character represents the inherent purpose of grace in returning the disobedient nation to their land extended to humanity across the ages.
“‘Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord’” (Ez 37:14).
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