• Let Us Pray:  O Lord, we pray as the hymnist wrote: O Holy Spirit, enter in.  And in our hearts Your work begin.  Your dwelling place now make us.  Sun of the soul, O Light Divine, around and in us brightly shine.  To joy and gladness wake us, that we may be truly living.  We bring these petitions before You, Lord God, Holy Spirit, You who reigns with the Son and the Father, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Introduction: Today is the celebration of Pentecost, the birthday of the church! 
    • If you recall in reading throughout the Gospels, Jesus was forever contending with the lack of understanding His disciples had with the words He was saying and doing.  In fact, at one point, Jesus was so frustrated, 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding[1]?” This kept happening because the disciples did not yet have the Holy Spirit to testify the truth into their soul.  Without the Holy Spirit doing this work of continuous testimony in our soul, we would soon be lost because we wouldn’t have the truth in us. We would fall for each of Satan’s lies. We would do whatever we feel like doing, most likely what is contrary to God’s word.  But, because of the Holy Spirit working in us since our baptism, we are part of the Holy Christian Church; the Communion of Saints as we confessed a moment ago in the Apostles Creed.
    • The coming of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost was a fulfillment of prophesy for these latter days.  We heard a few moments ago the reading from the NT Book of Acts which described an event which occurred in Jerusalem during the feast of weeks (Lev 23:15-16).  People from all over came to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast God initiated for the Israelites to keep annually.  This feast was seven (7) weeks after the feast of first fruits (Lev 23:11).  While these people were in Jerusalem, all of the sudden, there was this loud sound like rushing wind.  Then, the appearance of tongues of fire rested on everyone’s head.  Those with the tongues of fire were filled with the Holy Spirit and suddenly able to speak in other tongues or languages. Regardless of where someone was from, they heard the word of God in their own tongue. (Act 2:1-13)
    • This same event was also fulfillment of Jesus’ words after eating the Passover with His disciples for one last time.  Jesus said on the night He was betrayed, 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.[2]” 
  • Background: That brings us to our text for today from the OT reading - 14 And I will give my Spirit into you, and you shall live. Also, you will be put in your own land. And, you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it, says the Lord.[3]”  I translated the Greek word, πνεῦμά, as “Spirit”, but did God mean Spirit or breath in Eze 37:14?
    • If you check the back cover of your bulletin, the definition of the Greek: πνεῦμά is listed: 
      • πνεῦμά can mean a current of air, such as a breath or a breeze.  It can be used by analogy or figuratively.  For example, a spirit, the rational soul, or by implication), a vital principle or mental disposition. 
      • Either πνεῦμά means one of these concepts or πνεῦμά can mean angel, demon, or God.  Classic Christian doctrine would state that πνεῦμά is a particular person of the Triune Godhead, that being the Holy Spirit.
    • Perhaps you can appreciate the struggles bible translators have sometimes when a word in the original language of the Spirit-inspired author must be translated into a different language.  We could go to the Hebrew in this example from the Book of Ezekiel, but the Hebrew word there translated into the Greek:πνεῦμά has the same multiple meanings.  Since we have this dilemma on which definition to use, let’s first look at reasons to interpret πνεῦμά as Spirit in v14.
      • The scriptures interpret the scriptures.  Additionally, we need to interpret each verse of the bible in the context in which it was written.  Ch#37 of Ezekiel started with the Lord moving Ezekiel into the middle of a valley. This valley was littered with bones. The prophet Ezekiel wrote in v1 – “…[God] brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord…”.  This is the first occurrence of the usage of the word πνεῦμά in ch#37.  I think you would agree this portion of v1 wouldn’t sound correctly if it read, “God brought me out in the breath of the Lord.”  I supposed God could have blown poor Ezekiel into the valley, but that probably would not have ended well. ☹
      • Another place in Eze ch#37 where πνεῦμά appears is in v6.  God will give His Spirit into us after He first constructed us in a physical sense.  Jesus-deniers want to say humans evolved from some lower life form.  Do you really think over the period of millions of years our ancestors decided, hey, wouldn’t it be great to have opposable thumbs so we can grab things?  Maybe if we can get everyone living at the time to concentrate on growing a thumb, we can in a few generations grow a thumb!  If that were true, wouldn’t we have human skeletons with hands that didn’t have thumbs?  We might find one without thumbs, but virtually 100% of the human skeletons ever found intact had thumbs.  God repeated the creation story of Genesis here in v6 when He described adding sinews, flesh, and skin to our skeleton He designed and built.   But a skeleton with all these additions isn’t really living until it is given a spirit.  The word πνεῦμά in v6 is interpreted as “breath” by the ESV, but we can keep the body of a dead person going by forcing it to breath.  However, does that mean the body is alive?
    • Now let’s look at reasons to interpret πνεῦμά as breath in v14.
      • Going back to v4, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dead bones which littered the valley he was in.  In v5, Ezekiel does just that - Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live[4]. At this point we could play paper, rock, scissors to determine whether his usage of πνεῦμά should be interpreted as spirit or breath, but I think v5 was setting up for v6 that we just explored.
        • Let’s take a step back for a moment and recall how God created Adam.  We read from Gen 2:7 - then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature[5].  The Greek word interpreted by the ESV as “breathed” is ἐνεφύσησεν.  {‘Sorry to not have included this word from the Greek in the outline.}  A more appropriate translation for ἐνεφύσησεν is “blew”.  God blew the breath of life into Adam, and he had a living soul. I do agree with the ESV where it rendered “breath”, which is our now familiar Greek word, πνεῦμά.  In other words, God blew His own breath into Adam, and Adam came alive!  God doubles down on the creation account of Gen ch#2 in our text for today in Ezekiel ch#37 with the breathing life into dead bones.  Do you see why it is so important to make sure you understand and believe the creation account found in the early chapters of Genesis?  If one cannot accept God’s word that the heavens and the earth were created in six, 24hr days and then rested on the 7th, 24hr day, one will not believe what was written in Ezekiel.  Jesus used the exact same word, ἐνεφύσησεν, when He blew on His disciples after the resurrection and said in John 20:22 , “Receive the Holy Spirit.” How will anyone believe that if they didn’t believe God’s creation account in Gen ch#2 and recreation in Eze ch#37?
      • A second reason for interpreting πνεῦμά as breath is found in the second half of v9 - Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”.  Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to the four winds of the earth and blow breath into slain.  V9 has a bonus in it in that it contains the both the Greek word προφήτευσον, which a variant that means to blow toward versus blow into, and also the Greek word, πνεῦμά. 
      • Once Ezekiel prophesied in the name of the Lord, breath blew into the congregation, they came to life, and then stood up, all in v10.  Again, as with v9, we have both Greek words, which can only mean that the Spirit of the Lord blew into the mouths of the people, and as a result, they had the breath of life in them.  This verse here is probably why the 3yr Lectionary series included Eze 37:1-14 into the celebration of Pentecost, given how the Holy Spirit literally blew into the disciples’ room.  Incidentally, the Greek rendered as “wind” in Acts 2:2 is a form of the word, πνεῦμά.
  • Analysis: Let me reread Eze 37:14 from my interpretation of the Greek - 14 And I will give my Spirit into you, and you shall live. Also, you will be put in your own land. And, you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it, says the Lord.”  Whichever interpretation of πνεῦμά you think is best here, it is important to look at the compassion God is showing on us.
    • Apart from life being given to us, we are spiritually dead.  Ezekiel was brought by the Lord to some valley, the location of which I have no clue.  In v2 he observed - And [God] led me around among [the bones], and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.  This verse is probably from where we get the expression “bone dry”.  When a body dies, it returns to the dust from which it came. The bones become dry.
      • But, being spiritually dead is not having dry bones.  In the memorial for Lynette Johnson held last Sunday, we talked about being dead in trespasses and sin.  A portion of Ephesians was read which I repeat here - 1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air (ἀέρος), the spirit (πνεύματος) that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind[6].  The Apostle Paul made it clear at the start of Eph ch#2 that, apart from Christ, we are all dead in trespasses and sins.  We are like the dry bones which littered the valley Ezekiel was brought to by the Lord.  Dried out, dead bones.  And like those bones, there was no way we were going to come to life on our own.  A person has to first be living and conscious before they can make a decision on whether to come to life.  They would then need the ability to come back to life. We have neither of these working for us apart from Christ.
    • It is God who must put life in us.  He, by His Spirit, blows the breath of life into our soul.  He puts the skeleton into position, adds the flesh, gets everything in order, but then adds life to us.
      • Apostle Peter pointed this out in his sermon on Pentecost.  Peter quoted from the OT book of Joel 2:28-29 - 17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
        • In Joel ch#2, there is a variation of the Greek:πνεῦμά. But, we know we can interpret πνεῦμά to be “Spirit”, because of the Greek words in context.  For example, the Greek rendered as “pour out” indicated God the Father will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.  Just as it was the situation in Ezekiel ch#37, all flesh is dead without the Holy Spirit. When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, He later made clear for them to “…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.[7]” In Joel ch#2, it is clear, the variation of πνεῦμά means God will pour out His Spirit, and that pouring out is part of baptism.
        • I alluded back to last Sunday’s memorial for Lynette and the text for the message was from Eph ch#2.  The portion I read a moment ago noted what being spiritually dead looked like.  However, that’s death and not life.  God is all about giving life.  He doesn’t want us to be dead like dry bones.  Listen to the next few verses of Eph ch#2 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus[8].  God in an instant; in the twinkling of an eye, took Lynette and breathed His Spirit into her so that she lives even as we sit here in church this morning.  God poured out His Spirit on the first Pentecost, and ever since then, we have been in the latter days of this Age.  The sinfulness of this Age seems to be getting worse, but that doesn’t change God’s love for us, nor the plans He has for us now and throughout eternity.
  • Response: With all this great news about God’s love for us and the pouring out of His Spirit upon us, what should we do with this understanding?
    • Since we have life in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we should stop living like dead bones.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans - 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness[9].
      • Jesus went to the cross to save all of us from eternal death.  In fact, He went there to save all of mankind – anyone who ever lived, was living, and who was yet to live.  Unfortunately, not everyone will come into heaven and sit down at the Lamb’s High Feast.  There will be dead bones littering the floor of hell, because those people did not receive the breath of life and then turn from their sinful ways.  The only sin not pardoned from the cross is the sin of denial that Jesus is Lord.  It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to our soul concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement.  We can keep doing what sinful things we were doing, or seek the power of the Lord to turn from our sinful ways and live. He will provide the breath of life.
      • Those who believe in Jesus and what He has done for them had their dead bones buried with Christ through baptism.  Again, quoting Paul - Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life[10].  Yes, we died with Christ when we were baptized and we are also raised with Him from the dead. No more dry bones for those in Christ!
      • Paul continues - Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus[11].  Lynette is gone from our presence.  However, she is alive to God in Christ Jesus.  The experience she has had will be the same experience we in Christ will have. Jesus died, but then rose from the dead. That means He cannot die!  Death has no power over Him.  And because He lives, we too live, and will live with Him eternally.
    • We have the Spirit of life breathed into us.  Let’s carry the Spirit of Life wherever we go, equipped with everything good, and forsaking the bad which lurks within us! 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen[12]


 


[1] Mat 15:16 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+15&version=ESV

[2] John 15:26-27 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+15&version=ESV

[3] Original translation from the LXX at https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/eze/37/1/t_conc_839014

[4] Eze 37:5 from ESV at https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/eze/37/1/t_conc_839005

[5] Gen 2:7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+2&version=ESV

[6] Eph 2:1-3 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=ESV

[7] Act 1:4b-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%201&version=ESV

[8] Eph 2:4-7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=ESV

[9] Rom 6:12-13 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=ESV

[10] Rom 6:3-4 from ESV, IBID

[11] Rom 6:8-11 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=ESV

[12] Heb 13:20-21 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+13&version=ESV