Pentecost Sunday May 31, 2020
232, 231, 236, 224
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Amen. +
The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”
Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”’” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Also 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.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, 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. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the work of God the Holy Spirit,
Wow. Today’s text sounds like a scene right out of an Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings movie. As Ezekiel describes this valley full of dry bones, we imagine a fierce battle having taken place in which many soldiers died and their corpses were left exposed to the elements. Beast and bird alike picked the bones clean of any flesh, muscle or ligaments. Picked clean, the bones were left to bleach by the sun’s rays. As Ezekiel looks upon them, he says that indeed they were “very dry.” We might say that there wasn’t an ounce of life left in them or that they were deader than a doorknob.
At the time of Ezekiel, the Old Testament Children of Israel had been humiliated by the Babylonian Empire and taken away from their homeland for 70 years of captivity in Babylon. In their defeat and captivity, the people began to despair. They felt like they were a dead nation and Babylon was their grave. The LORD was picturing their condition with this vision of the valley of dry bones. The LORD said to Ezekiel, “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.’” The Israelites felt like they were dry, lifeless bones without hope.
When is the last time you felt like you were in a hopeless situation and life was sapped from you? Maybe it was a troubled marriage, dealing with an unbelieving friend or a wayward child, a bad health situation, or a sinfully addictive behavior. Whatever the situation may have been—we can understand how the Israelites felt, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.”
Where can hope be found for such dry bones? Our hope is only to be found in the LORD’s word, through which God the Holy Spirit works, raising a great army, and causing us to know the LORD. May God the Holy Spirit work mightily through His word in our hearts and in our lives.
On June 6, 1944, 156,000 allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. Of them, 4,414 died. Now, imagine visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and standing over the graves of those 4,000 fallen D-Day soldiers, demanding that they listen and obey you? Would those 76-year-old remains of our fellow Americans listen to you? Or what if it was the President of the United States speaking to them. Would they listen to him? Of course not, because the dead do not listen—they are dead.
But when the LORD speaks, something different happens because His words have POWER. We see that power in creation as the LORD speaks and it happens. We see it in Jesus as He speaks to the wind and waves, and they listen and obey. We see it when Jesus tells a dead 12-year-old girl and a 4-day-dead Lazarus to arise. When God speaks, things happen because His Word is backed by His power.
When Ezekiel spoke to those dry bones, he spoke the Word of the LORD. “So I prophesied AS I WAS COMMANDED; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over.”
When we find ourselves in a hopeless situation, so often we are tempted to look to the world for solutions to our many problems—be it our job, our marriage, our family— or of much greater importance, our faith and our church. We are told that the educated and wise of this world have the answers and will give us hope. But can their words, be they ever so educated, give hope to dry bones? The psalmist knew where to turn, “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.” (Psalm 119:50) It is the Word of the LORD alone that has power to give hope to the hopeless.
As Ezekiel begins to proclaim God’s Word, there is suddenly a great noise and rattling as bones come together, tendons reformed, muscle appeared, and skin covered those once dry and lifeless bones. Now they looked like a living being. But still there was something missing, wasn’t there. At the end of verse 8 we read, “But there was no breath in them.” These bodies were just like Adam after God had formed him from the dust of the ground. It wasn’t until God breathed into Adam the breath of life that he became a living being.
The LORD again called on Ezekiel to proclaim His Word. Verses 9-10, “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.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. At the word of the LORD the breath of life entered those lifeless bodies and they became living beings!
The breath that the LORD was depicting in this vision, is His life-giving Holy Spirit. The LORD explained in verse 14, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.” It is God the Holy Spirit who would give life and hope to Israel’s dry bones.
As we look at the world around us, we see countless people that are like those dry bones with tendons, muscle, and skin on them. They look alive but they don’t have the breath of the Spirit in them. They are physically alive, but spiritually they are dead. And we all were in the exact same condition. Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians that we were born into this world “dead in our trespasses.” (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13) We may have looked alive, but spiritually we were lifeless and without hope.
What changed? God put His Spirit within us and we came to life! Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” (John 6:63) God the Holy Spirit, through His Word created faith in our heart in Jesus Christ. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) The Holy Spirit breathed spiritual life into our dry bones creating faith and giving us a living hope in the living God. Because the Spirit worked through the word of the Lord, we became a spiritually living being with faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
What a sight that must have been! That valley floor, once littered with dead men’s bones, was now filled with an army, ready for battle. The Hebrew is very emphatic about the size of this army—“an exceedingly great-GREAT army” we might say. What was once a hopeless and lifeless situation, was now full of vitality and strength, with an army ready for action.
This is what the Holy Spirit does when He works through the Word. He creates a living army of the LORD. Not an army assembled to fight crusades and battles on this earth, like many of our nation’s veterans have fought. No, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). The enemies we face are spiritual enemies. Spiritual enemies poised to strike at our faith. We see and hear these enemies every day. The voice of the enemy says the Bible is a fairytale, that God didn’t create us but that we are here by chance. The voice of the enemy says it is silly to trust in a God that you cannot see and cannot prove exists. The enemy says that you have to decide what is truth to you, while Jesus says “Thy Word is Truth.”
Is there any hope against so great an enemy? Can you withstand? Can your children and grandchildren withstand the assaults of the wicked one? Remember that the Spirit has raised an exceedingly great army. Led by the Word, the Spirit equips His army to the teeth. Among the weaponry that the Spirit equips His army with for these daily battles, He gives us “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) This is why we have our children memorize the Scriptures. We want them to be able to wield that sword of the Spirit, defending themselves and fighting back all those who assault Jesus and our faith in Him. We see the Holy Spirit assembling this army on Pentecost when He brought 3,000 souls to faith and they were baptized. And the Spirit continues to assemble that great army wherever the Gospel is preached. From dry, unbelieving bones, the Spirit working through the Word raises up an exceedingly great army of believers who have HOPE!
The Israelites thought they were without hope and abandoned in Babylon. They viewed Babylon as the grave of their dead nation. But God said He would raise them up and return them to their homeland of Israel and Jerusalem. “Then,” the LORD said, “Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it.” They had hope for a future, because the LORD said He would do it. This is Jehovah God who makes and keeps all His promises.
Therein we find our hope too, don’t we. Our hope is centered in knowing the LORD. Through His Word, He has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts, creating faith. By faith we know the LORD, giving us hope—hope that doesn’t disappoint, because God doesn’t disappoint. The Children of Israel returned to Palestine from Babylon, just as God said they would. On the third day, Christ rose from the dead, just as He said He would.
In your hopeless situation, know the LORD who has revealed Himself to you in His Word. Know that the LORD is merciful and gracious, long-suffering Know that “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Know that the LORD overcame your greatest problem of sin through Christ and has promised to bring you to the homeland of heaven. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) By the working of the Spirit through the Word, our dry bones have hope because we know the LORD.
May God the Holy Spirit who has given life to these dry bones, continue to strengthen and build us up in our hope of the life for this world and of the world to come. AMEN!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.