May 20, 2018
A Powerful Picture of Pentecost!
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you, and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Think back over the course of your life. Can you remember a time in your life; can you remember a situation in your life which left you feeling totally and completely helpless? I can. It was August of 1992. Hurricane Andrew had just cut a path of sheer and utter destruction that was thirty miles wide and went all the way from the east side of the state of Florida to the west side of the state. Brenda and the kids rode out the storm in Orlando. They came home again on Wednesday of that same week. As we walked around the parsonage and church surveying the destruction one of my children looked up at me and said, “Daddy, can you fix it?” I stopped and said, “No. Daddy can’t fix this.” I have never felt so helpless in my life.
Go back to that situation in your life that left you feeling totally and completely helpless. Can you image how you would have felt if someone came up to you and asked you to “fix” it? If you can imagine that situation in your mind then you already have a good understanding of what the prophet Ezekiel must have felt as the Sovereign Lord had him walk through a valley full of dry bones and asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Even though these words of our text were written some 600 years before the New Testament day of Pentecost our goal this morning is to see how the events recorded here in our text places before us: A Powerful Picture of Pentecost. We are going to focus on two powerful things this morning. First we will focus on the powerfully petrified bones that we read about in our text and see what those bones represent. Secondly we will focus on the power of God’s Holy Spirit as He works through His powerful Word.
The prophet Ezekiel was a prisoner of war when he wrote these words of our text. In 597 BC the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept across the rebellious kingdom of Judah and carried some 10,000 Jews into exile— including the prophet Ezekiel. For the first seven years of Ezekiel’s ministry in exile in Babylon his God-given task was to quell the exiles’ hopes of a quick return to Judah and Jerusalem. Because of their own sin God’s Chosen People would be disciplined by the Lord at the hands of the Babylonians. Judah would be completely conquered. Jerusalem would be completely destroyed. Once that powerful message of God’s Law finally penetrated to the hearts of God’s people guess how they felt? Devastated, helpless and hopeless probably sum it up pretty well. Or, as our text reveals to us God’s people described their situation thusly, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Was there anything the exiles could do or say to change their own situation? No, there was not. Did they have the power in and of themselves to regain their life, their health, their hope? Again, the answer is a resounding, No!
Now, my friends, take the physical and political situation these exiles found themselves in here in Ezekiel chapter 37 and broaden that focus out to include a spiritual and eternal dimension. Now you have a picture that describes the natural sinful condition of the entire human race. This natural sinful condition is accurately portrayed in the opening verses of our text when we read, “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.’” These words of the prophet Ezekiel automatically remind me of the words that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians. As Paul described the natural sinful condition of the human race he used these words, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
There are those in the Christian church today who say that in order to become a Christian you must personally invite Jesus to come into your heart and accept Him as the Lord of your life. It’s your choice. It’s your decision. If you don’t invite Jesus into your heart then they say that you can’t be saved. My dear friends, that is not what the Sovereign Lord teaches us in His Scriptures.
To say that you have to first decide to invite Jesus into your heart and then you will be saved is the spiritual equivalent of saying to dried up powerfully petrified bones that they have to decide; they have to choose whether or not they want to come back to life! That’s impossible! That’s exactly why Ezekiel answered the Lord’s question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” by saying, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
Since by nature we are all these powerfully petrified bones, since by nature it is impossible for us to bring ourselves from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive — how then can we be saved? Are we left to lament with the Israelites of old, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off”? No, my friends, not at all! Look at verse 4-6 of our text. We read, “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD”’”
The only way for powerfully petrified bones to be brought back to life is through the power of the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord God! Notice how God Himself emphasizes this in our text, “I will make breath enter you…I will attach tendons to you…I will put breath in you…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” The fact that you and I are Christians, the fact that we are spiritually alive is purely because of the power of the Lord our God— a power that comes to us when God the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through God’s powerful inspired Word.
The Scriptural teaching that the only way for us to be brought to faith, the only way for us to be converted, is through the power of the Holy Spirit is certainly not a new teaching, my friends. In Ezekiel this truth is described in these words, “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet— a vast army.’” Now compare those words of Ezekiel with the words of Luke recorded for us in Acts chapter two. When Luke described how 3,000 people were brought from being spiritual dead in their transgressions and sins to being spiritually alive in Christ he said, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting…All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-2, 4). Whether it was in the Old Testament era or in the New Testament era the conversion of a soul is always ascribed to the power of the Holy Spirit.
For the most part I have not told you anything today that you did not already know. As a member of a Lutheran congregation which strives to faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture without adding to it or subtracting from it you know that the gift of saving faith in your heart is just exactly that— a gift! It is a gift that has been worked in you through the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Word. We know that, my friends. We believe that. We teach that to our children and our grandchildren. What we all too easily forget, however, is that like Ezekiel of old we are daily walking through a valley of bones— bones that are “very dry.” What we all too easily forget is that like Ezekiel of old the Sovereign Lord Himself has said to us: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!’” By the grace of God we have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. By the grace of God we have the gift of God’s holy Word in our hands. Let’s use them my friends! Let’s do everything we can to share God’s powerful Word with the people who are closest to us. Let’s do everything we can to share God’s powerful Word with people all across the world. Whether it was in the days of Ezekiel or in the days of the apostles or in our day today the only way for spiritually dead people to be brought to life is for people like us to bring them into contact with the power of God’s holy Word. Through that powerful Word the Holy Spirit points them to the cross on Calvary’s hill. Through that powerful Word God the Holy Spirit gives them the ability to believe and to trust what Jesus has done to save them from their sins. Through that powerful Word God the Holy Spirit gives them the gift of saving faith— which brings them the gift of eternal life.
Twenty-six years ago I felt completely helpless as my child surveyed the damage and destruction left behind by hurricane Andrew and then looked up at me and said, “Daddy, can you fix it?” But never, my friends, never do we need to feel helpless when we survey the damage, the devastation and the death that sin has brought upon our world, upon the human race and even upon our own lives. The powerful picture of Pentecost that we see here in our text for this morning assures us that even the most powerfully petrified bones can be brought to life through the power of God’s Spirit working through His Word.
May God grant that as we bring out prayers to the Sovereign Lord that we will include the petition: Come Holy Spirit and do your work— the work that only you can do!
To God be the glory!