The Promise of Life in the Holy Spirit -The Day of Pentecost
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Ezekiel 37:1-14
May 23, 2021

The Prophet Ezekiel had quite a vision that is recorded in Ezekiel 37. What a great vision it is for the Day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Hand of the Lord was upon him. He was brought by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley (Ezekiel 37:1). The hand of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord go together. Who sits at the right hand of the Lord? Jesus does. Who is the right hand of the Lord? Jesus is. The Holy Spirit and Jesus go together.

Ezekiel was in this valley. He looked around and what did he see? It was full of bones, human bones. The bones were very, very dry, and disconnected. The hand of the Lord led Ezekiel around this valley, among the bones (Ezekiel 37:1-2).

It must have been painful for him. He was walking around in the midst of so much human death; to know that these were dead by virtue of the awful coming together of human rebellion and God’s wrath, even among the people of Israel.

Yet, then a question breaks the silence. Then a question breaks Ezekiel’s thoughts and sorrow-filled feelings. It is a question asked by God Himself: “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).

The question is put to Ezekiel as son of man, that is, son of Adam. It is put to him as such, for it is only to Ezekiel as son of Adam that this question can be put; this question about whether the children of Adam can live again after death. This question was appropriately put to Ezekiel as the son of Adam so that a subsequent Son of Adam could answer it; Jesus the Son of Man.

Can these bones live? Ezekiel answers: “O Lord God, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3).

Before we go on, let’s talk for a moment about how the English translates the names of God here. The words in English don’t exactly capture what Ezekiel said in the Hebrew.

In the Hebrew, Ezekiel uses two words for God. One is of the word which can say as Adonai. It is customary to translate this word into English as the word “Lord,” with a capital L and lowercase o r d. The other word as a name for God is the word we can pronounce as Yahweh, or as some do, Jehovah. The custom here has been to translate this word into English as Lord with a capital L and o r d in small caps. So Ezekiel says in Hebrew: “O Adonai, Yahweh, you know.” Or O Lord Lord. But Lord Lord doesn’t sound to good in English. It sounds redundant and doesn’t really unpack much meaning for us. So the English translations try to address this by saying, O Lord God. But this doesn’t really capture the meaning of the Hebrew.

So let’s do this. The word Adonai can mean lord in the sense of master. Yahweh is the covenant name of God for Israel. so Ezekiel says, “O Master Yahweh, or we could say, O Yahweh my Master, you know.”  

He is speaking to God as He has come to Him in the covenant, by the covenant name, Yahweh. This is the name God gave to be known by way of promise, His promise of faithfulness, by which God brought and gave Himself to Israel to be held onto.

And Ezekiel is speaking to God as Yahweh reverently and in faith as the one who is His master. This is appropriate for it is this Yahweh, by His hand and by His Spirit that has placed Him in the midst of these bones and put to Him the question: can these bones live. And so only Yahweh the Master, Ezekiel’s master, our master, has the answer. O Yahweh, my master, you know.

Only Yahweh can answer His own question because the answer escapes us. We want to be able to say yes to the question with all our hearts; with all the energy and industry of our beings. But in the final analysis, being able to say yes to the question, is not in our power to say; it is beyond us. It is an answer that we cannot give. It is an answer that only God can give. So we can only hope and trust for the answer from the Master, Yahweh. Praise God He has answered.

As Ezekiel looks to Yahweh for the answer, Yahweh tells Ezekiel to preach. Prophesy over these bones, son of Adam. Prophesy and say to them, “Hear the word of the Lord,” that is, the word of Yahweh (Ezekiel 37:4). Preach the good news of the Lord’s victory over His own judgement against sin. And now preach to them the good news of the Lord’s victory over death. Peach to them the promise so that they may live.

Now what was Ezekiel told to preach to the bones? Here it is: “Behold, I will cause spirit to enter you and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:5). The English says “breath” here. The Hebrew uses the word ruach, which is the word for spirit. God will give these humans back their spirit, that they may live. How God does this comes next.

So Ezekiel prophesied as Yahweh told Him to do.

Is the preaching of God’s word an idle preaching? Is it just words? Let us not think so. Let us not take it as such. For God does not intend the preaching of His word to be just words, with no power. If we take them that way, then they will be just that for us, for His words are received by faith. But He fills His word also with power to accomplish what it says. It is as Yahweh said through Isaiah the prophet:

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).

So Ezekiel preached as commanded, and things started to happen. He is standing among the bones in that valley. The valley is silent. But now there is a sound. It is small at first, but then grows and continues to grow. The bones are moving and coming together, bone to bone, and it is causing a rattling sound. The bones are not moving by their own accord, no. They are moving by virtue of the preaching as Yahweh commanded, which is full of the almighty and eternal Spirit of Yahweh.

And then Ezekiel looks, and tendons and ligaments are growing on the bones, holding them together. And the muscle tissue grows on them and then the skin. They are no longer skeletons, but flesh and bone, looking like the humans they were; looking like the humans they are.

But they are not yet complete. They have flesh and bone but something is missing. So Yahweh says to Ezekiel: “Prophesy again. Preach the word again. This time, prophesy to the ruach, the Spirit. Preach, son of Adam, preach to the Spirit” (Ezekiel 37:9).

So Ezekiel does so. He does so as son of Adam. He preaches to the Spirit. Come O Spirit, come and breath your life on these slain, these life-less humans, that they may live.

So once again Ezekiel preached as Yahweh commanded him, and it was not an idle word. It was the word that had the power of life. For as he preached to the Spirit at Yahweh’s command, the Spirit came and breathed on them and gave them the breath of life. They came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:10).

I wonder how Ezekiel was able to contain the powerful emotions he must have been feeling as he was now standing there in his vision surrounded by these once dead, but now alive again in the Lord. They were looking at him, blinking their eyes, looking at each other; recognizing each other; rejoicing in the life given them now by Yahweh in the Spirit through the word. This is the same hope and joy we have in Christ as Christ fulfills this vision in Himself and all His people.

What does this vision mean? The Lord tells Ezekiel: “The bones are the whole house of Israel.” They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off from life in God” (Ezekiel 37:11). But our Master Yahweh says: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit, my ruach, within you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:14).

And so another Son of Man has come. His Name is Jesus. He was anointed with the Spirit. He offered Himself in the eternal Spirit as the atoning sacrifice for all the sons and daughters of Adam (Hebrews 9:14). For all the sons and daughters who say, our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are indeed cut off from life in God.

But Jesus, the Son of Man, took upon Himself the sin of all the sons and daughters of Adam, that resulted in their being cut-off. And He Himself was cut-off for them, in their place, that they may be brought in again.

And Yahweh looked on as Jesus bore the sins of us all, as the prophet says: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). So on the third day, the Lord raised Jesus from the dead, the first fruits of the sons and daughters of Adam to live in resurrection from the dead.

And as we saw last week, Jesus is now exalted to the right hand of God. And from there He sends forth the preaching and pours out His Spirit.

He is Son of Man who preaches to the Spirit: “Go, O eternal and almighty Spirit. Go forth from the Father in my Name. Go to my people. Cause them to preach and to hear the good news of my victory.”

And He says more to the Spirit: “And fill the good news with yourself. Work in them sincere repentance. Proclaim to them forgiveness won and freely given by me. Give them faith in this good news. Give them hope in the midst of the valley of trouble and sorrow, of the shadow of death, in which they must walk. Sustain them and uphold them by the word and from within. Speak to their ears with God’s word and the good news of salvation. Speak to their hearts Spirit to spirit to cause them to believe that they are children of God in the redemption accomplished by the Son of Man” (Romans 8:16).

And so Jesus says to the Spirit, “Fill their spirits with yourself, O Eternal Spirit, and bring me, the Son, and the Father into their innermost being to make our home with them (John 14:23). And knit them together in me and my word, in the One Spirit, as one people (Ephesians 4:1-6).

But then Jesus, the Son of Man says more. “On that last day, when I stand once again upon the earth and preach, I, the Son of Man will preach to you, O Spirit. And I will say to you: ‘Give life to these mortal bodies, that they may live.’”

And this is what the Holy Spirit will do, on the last day, when the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, stands and prophesies that we may live again in Him, the Spirit will give immortal life to our mortal bodies. It is as Paul says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Indeed, as the Spirit dwells in you through faith in Christ, you have eternal life now. On that day you will be complete in the immortality the Spirit will give to your body.

This is all true for you as you believe the word of Christ proclaimed to you and taught, and the word which you have received along with the water in Holy Baptism, and the word which you receive in the Holy Supper of Christ’s own body and blood. The Gospel, Christ’s word of promise, His words of institution, are not empty words, but deliver what they say.

The Spirit works in them to cause you to believe what they say. As you believe what they say, the word of God delivers what they say, forgiveness, life, and salvation. And the eternal Spirit is given, who dwells within us, and will reverse our mortality in resurrection and everlasting life.

What a wonderful vision Ezekiel saw. What a reality of joy beyond words we have in the fulfillment of that vision as we believe in Christ through the Gospel. Christ, our brother, and our Lord, gives the Spirit to us. And we too live and shall live in the Spirit, who is the Lord and giver of life. Thanks be to God! Amen.


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