Come to Life! Sunday School Lesson on Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones
How can we put life into things? Can we bring things to life out of nothing? Aside from a few simple “magic” tricks, it is impossible for us as humans to bring things to life, but our God gives hope, renewal, and new opportunity! This lesson discusses the vision of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones, reminding us that God has a plan in all things. He can bring the dead back to life and gives us new life in Jesus. With Him, we have hope!
Sometimes we try to do things on our own power, and life becomes exhausting. We want to feel powerful and capable, but in the end, we only have life because God gives it to us! We can hope in the most hopeless times because our hope is in Jesus. He defeated death so that we can have new life. Ezekiel saw dry bones coming to life and had hope for God’s people of Israel. We know that we have hope for things in our lives, because God gave His Son for all people!
Passage: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade
Materials Needed: Construction paper; paper plates; magazines; glue; markers or crayons; tape; scissors; decorative supplies; cups; string; ; Bibles.
Lesson Opening: This is an interesting passage from the Bible, featuring a strange and rather macabre vision. Ezekiel saw a vast group of dry bones come to life and move! This can make for some fun skeleton-themed activities, though. Open with some games or discussions to spark thought and introduce themes. Some possible ideas include:
- “Do-overs?” Illustrate how hard it might be to create something out of nothing or to start over on things. Show an elaborate artwork or Lego/block creation and explain that it took a long time to build. Knock the creation down, and consider how tough it might be to put back up. For a simpler object lesson, squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, and ask students if it’s possible to put it back inside.
- Whose skeleton is this? Show students pictures of skulls or full skeletons. Invite them to guess what animal the skeleton belongs to, based on the bones.
- Body part musical chairs: play musical chairs with a twist: instead of simply sitting in the chairs, call out a specific bone or body part, and have students touch that body part to the chair to earn a spot. For older students, consider using scientific terms for the bones.
- Put it together! Find (or make!) a jigsaw puzzle, if possible, one with a skeleton. Invite students to put the pieces together to create the whole. To make this a competitive activity, split the group and have teams race to put their puzzles together.
- Bone facts: discuss interesting details and facts about bones (what they’re made out of, how many we have, which body parts contain the most, etc.).
- Breath-powered: have students play a new variation on “air hockey”: seat pairs or teams of students across a table from each other, and provide students with straws and ping-pong balls. The goal is to use the straw to funnel air and blow the ping-pong ball across the table to roll over the opposing team’s side. The air will give “life” to the ball, just as the Holy Spirit breathes life into us!
- Listen to or sing the classic “dem bones” song that comes from this passage. Additionally (depending on audience), consider the classic cartoon short “Spooky Scary Skeletons.”
Tell students that today’s passage is an interesting Old Testament story about a prophet who was called to preach to a pile of dry bones! It’s a remarkable scene involving a dry skeleton that comes to life. Just as God breathed life into the bones, He gives us new life and hope, no matter what happens.
This passage is a strange one, with the vision of dry bones and instructions to bring them to life with prophecy. But there are some great Godly reassurances to be gained through these verses, along with an interesting story. Have students take turns reading the verses, or read them aloud to younger children, and pause to explain and consider what the components mean.
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” -Ezekiel 37:1-3
Explain who the narrator of this passage is. Ezekiel was a prophet who spoke to God’s people of Israel, during a very low point in their history. The nation was split and the people had been conquered by other countries. God gave Ezekiel special messages to talk to the people about things that were happening and things to come. Here, God gives Ezekiel an interesting vision in a sort of dream. Ezekiel sees a whole valley filled with dry bones. God asks if the bones can come to life, which seems like something only the Lord would know.
Ask: Can you think of a way that something could receive new life, or be brought into greater life from being still, stale, or sick? What do you normally think of when you think about bones or skeletons?
Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” -Ezekiel 37:4-6
This seems like rather a strange instruction. God asks Ezekiel to preach to the bones! He invites the prophet to talk to the bones, telling them to listen to the word of the Lord. God promises to give life, breath, and flesh to the bones, and to prove His Lordship by bringing life into what was dead. But we know that God always keeps His promises, so surely something is about to happen!
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.
Ask: Have you ever tried to build something or put it together? Is it challenging?
Note that Ezekiel didn’t have to piece the bones together or find which ones connected. All that he had to do was speak to the bone heap, and it came together! The bones fit together and skin came over them, but they still did not fully have life in them. Where will that come from?
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. -Ezekiel 37:9-10
Invite students to consider what their breath can do. Blow bubbles in a glass of milk? Blow up balloons? Force paper windmills to go around in circles? Our breath can be pretty impressive. But God’s inspiration is far more so!
God’s breath creates a great army out of these bones. He breathes life into them, and they stand on their feet ready for anything! This breath is the Holy Spirit, and it’s the same breath that gives us life! God breathes into our lives and makes new and wonderful things out of who we are and what we do.
Ask: How do you think God gives us new life as Christians? Where do we see His “breath” at work?
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” -Ezekiel 37:11-14
In this particular vision, God told Ezekiel, with a strange dream, about the hope of a renewed Israel. He wanted His people to know that they were not done forever. A new part of their story was still to come, and He would bring life to make it happen. But there’s even more going on here. God is also giving a prophecy about the great Resurrection. All who have died will come back to life, if they believe in Jesus. We know that death is not the end. God will bring us back to life and we will be in Heaven with Him, even when we die, because Jesus has redeemed us and made us something new.
Also, we have hope for our lives now, because we know that God cares about us and is with us no matter what. Sometimes life might seem challenging, and we might even get to where we feel like it’s hopeless. But the Lord loves us. He will make all things right again in our lives, if not now, then someday. He promises to be near us and to give us His comfort and peace, even in the toughest of circumstances. We can take heart and hope in His holy presence!
Ask: When do you think this assurance would make you feel better? How can you remember it?
Close with prayer, thanking God for giving us new life and hope, and asking Him to remind us of His peace and presence.