The Feast of Pentecost
May 30-31, 2009
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Dear Friends in Christ,
We might remember the old spiritual - “Ezekiel connecta dem dry bones”. But of course the old spiritual gets it wrong. Ezekiel doesn’t connect anything. God does it. God does it again and again. In Genesis 1 God created man by forming his body from the dust of the ground. But the man did not live until God breathed in him His Own breath. Only when the breath of God was in man did He become alive.
Words like breath and wind are closely connected to the words for spirit. In some cases they are the same words. The animals live because God commands it by His Word. But humankind is different. We live because the breath of God is in us. That is the Spirit of God makes us alive. This happens on two levels. We are made alive on a physical level. We are given a life to live in this world, this universe. But this life is only temporary. God’s Spirit, breathed into us, also makes us alive before God. It does this by connecting us to Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection for us.
Ezekiel was a prophet in Babylon. This was odd because gods in the ancient world were assumed to be local. Yahweh, as God in Jerusalem was assumed to have no power in Babylon. But God shatters this myth. During the time of exile, during the time when there was no temple in Jerusalem, God raised up both the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, in Babylon.
The vision of the dry bones is a picture of Israel. They are a dead nation. Their cities in ruins. The Jewish people did not believe that they would survive as a distinct nation. But God explains that He will raise them from the dead and breath once again into them the breath of life. They will be created anew. The picture here in Ezekiel is intended to remind us of Genesis 2. God formed man from the dust of the ground. Now God reforms man from the dry bones laying on the ground. Again, man comes to life when God breaths into him. This would point to the restoration of the Jewish people after seventy years of exile in Babylon
But there is a deeper meaning to this text. The Jewish people were intended to be God’s living people. They were to live before Him and the before the world. They were to live before the world as a witness to God, so that in them, the world would see God. The Jewish people were to be a witness to the world until the day when God would recall people to Him from all the world. For God’s people are not only one earthly nation. God would call all people to Him.
Just as it requires God’s breath to make man alive in a temporal sense, it requires God to breath into man for him to be alive in an eternal sense. Faith in God is never apart from God breathing life into us. We say in the explanation to the Third Article that “I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him...” We cannot because we are dead. We are dead in trespasses and sins. We are in fact born dead. We call this original sin. David speaks of this in Psalm 51 where says that he was a sinner from his very conception. This is the reality also that Ezekiel was confronting the valley of the dry bones. It wasn’t so much speaking of the literal dead, but the people in exile in Babylon. The dry bones represent people who alive on this earth but dead before God. They were dead before God because of their sins. But God would again breath life into them and they would live.
God breaths life into man every day. We normally don’t see it. But every so often God shows this power. He let’s us see it to remind us what is really happening. The most dramatic example would be Pentecost, which we are celebrating today. There was the sound of a great rushing wind. Many people came to see what this was about. I am reminded of Moses who had to go see the bush that was not burned up. They people came to the sound. They didn’t know what to think, until Peter got up and explained it to them. This was God the Holy Spirit coming upon His people, and empowering them with the Word of God, so that life could be breathed into God’s people. As I said this happens everyday. On that day, they were allowed to see it happening. Why? So that they would listen to the Word of God which Peter preached to them.
After Peter preached, what happened? They baptized 3000 people. The Holy Spirit had brought these people to see their sins and confess Christ. All through the book of Acts, Baptism is connected with the giving of the Holy Spirit. Every baptism is a little Pentecost. There God remains hidden behind water. But He is there, acting, breathing life into us. We go from being the dry bones to being the living sons of God.
Always connected with this is confession of our sins. Notice in the book of Acts, at the end of Peter’s sermon, the people were cut to the heart. They were convicted in their own hearts of the sins. They knew that something had to be done. Were they to flee the wrath of God? No. They were to embrace grace of God. They were to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Baptism, the breathing of life by God, the Holy Spirit into man is always connect to forgiveness. For sinners, there is no life in God without the forgiveness of our sins. It is sin that makes us dead. It is God removing that sin that makes us alive.
The Feast of Pentecost. We call it the birthday of the Church. It is the day when God made people alive by breathing into them the breath of life. He did that through baptism. He did that by forgiving their sins. Pentecost did not end. It continues to this day, in the Church which was created on Pentecost. It continues in the forgiveness of our sins. It continues in Baptism where we are raised from the dead. God is still breathing into us the breath of life, just as in the vision of the dry bones. For we, in our sins, are the dry bones. And we are made alive by the breath of life breathed into us, by God the Holy Spirit.